Our sightseeing continued with a journey to see Pont du Gard and Avignon. Pont du Gard, a massive Roman aqueduct, spans the River Gard. It is a short drive 30 minutes or so north from the house in Fourques.
The structure itself is amazing in its size and in the construction. The stonework, particularly visible near the bottom, was remarkable. Large blocks of perfectly shaped, hand-hewn rocks are stacked together without the aid of mortar to form arches that have stood the test of time. Even with the precise construction, we’re guessing that there must have been no major earthquakes in the area. There is a more modern road bridge, built in 1743, grafted onto the bottom of the structure where the stone looks to have been cut, rather than hewn. Cutting the stone had to be much easier! We learned that the construction of Pont du Gard took 15 years to complete and was built around 19 BC. Pont du Gard was part of a 50 km long aqueduct system that took water from springs near Uzes and transferred it to Nimes. It was in use carrying 35,000 cubic meters of water a day for a century and a half.
From Pout du Gard, we headed to Avignon. As this was still a French holiday, entrance to the sights was free. All told, we figured we saved close to 100 euros in entrance fees due to the coincidental overlap of our visit with the holiday. We paid for it with sore feet and tired legs from climbing endless steps and traversing miles of cobblestones.
In Avignon, the major sight we visited was the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). This is the largest Gothic palace in the world. The palace was home of the Catholic popes in the 14th century. The structure is expansive and impressive, though relatively austere in its interior. The spartan interior stands in contrast to the ornate interiors of the cathedrals of the era and the current home of the Pope in Vatican City. Large, cavernous interior spaces surround a large, deeply shaded interior courtyard. There was little doubt that it was good to be Pope.