August 15, 2005

August 8 -- Domaine du Viala, Paraza France

Todays adventure began at 9:30 when the Hamilton and Morris families drove to Pont du Gard, about 2 hours away. This aqueduct was built from 32-56AD by the Romans. Its three levels of arches cross a river and the structure towers 143 meters above the the river. Long after the Romans left it continued to be used as a bridge across the valley.

As you walk from the museum and gift shop buildings down to the river you pass the oldest olive tree in the world. This 1000 year old tree was transplanted from Spain. We have no idea why, but figured that it would be a great backdrop for a picture of Brian and the boys phooning. (Unfortunately our photo was rejected becasue both Patrick and Christopher were phoon-deficient.)

The highlight of todays adventure was going upstream and renting kayaks to paddle the 8kms down river to paddle under the Pont du Gard. Julie and Damian decided to skip and spent their time visiting the museum and just hanging around. It was about a 15 minute drive up to Collias where we rented kayaks through Kayak Vert. Christopher and Brian teamed up in one kayak, Suzanne and Emily in another. Patrick and Matt each had solo kayaks.

This stretch of the Gard is a popular lunch and swimming area. As we wound through canyon bends we would come upon groups of people swimming and playing in the river. Being the south of France, some of the women were topless. Didn't seem to bother the boys (or Brian) one bit. Finally we came to the Pont du Gard. It was truly a memorable experience paddling under this ancient structure. By this time it was getting a little later that we wanted it to be and we had to hurry to paddle that last kilometer or so to the drop off point.

We got home about 7:30 and the cooks were cooking up a storm! We invited the owners to join us and they brought the wine-all of it was from their grapes or their neighbors. The food of Languedoc includes a lot of seafood and very fresh ingredients. I can't describe how wonderful it was. The cooks were a young couple who spoke decent english (they had lived in the UK for awhile).

Sitting outside with good friends, eating wonderful local food prepared just for us, drinking wonderful wine made from grapes grown just a stones throw away---life doesn't get a whole lot better.


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