Avignon – Pont du Gard – Barcelona
May 31, 2019
We departed Avignon early this morning and started our way towards Barcelona. About 30 minutes into the trip we made a side stop at Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct built over a river valley. Apparently, the aqueduct was built using no mortar and relied on the principles behind the keystone and arches to bear the weight of the structure.
We were able to walk down to the river, and even swim if we wanted. It was a bit chilly, so we passed on the swim! The water was quite cold, probably around 60 degrees or so. Side note, I keep having to translate metric measurements unto ones that I can understand. Some people on the tour mentioned the water was about 15 degrees…Celsius. Also, all of the road signs are in kilometers and the speed limit signs in kph. We also had to think about how much a ½ liter of wine would be when we split a carafe of it.
After spending about an hour roaming around the area, we headed back to the coach and were back on our way. Our tour leader Emma lead a fun game of “Name that TV Show/Movie” based off the theme song. We got 28/40…at least better than half! We took a lunch stop at a travel stop just off the highway. Emily got a tomato/basil panini, 3 small beignets, and a diet coke (which over here is called “Coca Cola Light”…see question below). I got some focaccia along with a chocolate filled beignet. It was absolutely amazing. Definitely had to thank the Lord for creating our sense of taste! I must have been making lots of funny “yummm” noises when the lady picked up my focaccia (it was the biggest one after all!), as she chuckled a few times. To drink I got an Oasis, which is an orange drink. I’d liken it to Sunny D but with more juice and not as sweet.
At this point we’ve met quite a few of our fellow travelers. They are all very nice and great people to travel with. It seems like we have about 8 people from Australia (2 from New South Wales, 2 from Tasmania, 2 from the Sydney region, and 2 from Melbourne), 2 from New Zealand, 1 from Canada (British Columbia Island), 9 Americans (2 from Columbus, OH, about 5 from LA, 2 from college in Tucson, AZ) and a family from the Philippines. Our tour leader Emma is from Australia, and our bus driver Jean is from Paris.
We finally arrived just a few hours later in Barcelona! It was pretty drive there–a few times we got a glimpse of the ocean in the distance. Vineyards almost exclusively lined the highway about the whole way down into Spain. Upon arriving we checked into our hotel and got about an hour of free time to “freshen up” as our tour leader Emma always says. We used this time to do as much laundry as possible and start getting things to dry. It turns out that it’s better to do laundry in small bits than one large batch…it took forever! We then headed out to take a short driving tour of the city. Emma said that Barcelona is much more spread out than Paris, so we wouldn’t be able to see as many sights in one bit like we could with Paris. At the start of the tour we were told that the region of Catalonia, in which Barcelona lies, has wanted for a long time to separate from the rest of Spain. We saw several Catalonian flags flying outside peoples balconies in support of the separation. Apparently, though, the Spanish president is not allowing this despite many protests and Catalonia’s annual “National Day” during which thousands march to show support for independence.
We ended up driving past the Columbus Monument, which was built by the Spaniards mainly because it was the Spanish king and queen who financed his voyage to discover the Americas. We were told the Spanish like to think that Christopher Columbus was Spanish, but he was not. We passed the Palau Nacional, which was the main site of the 1929 World’s Fair. The fountains in front of this structure were mesmerizing and beautiful!
We also drove past Barcelona’s version of the Arc de Triomphe, which served as the entry gate and exit gate for greeting and bidding adieu to visitors for the 1929 World’s Fair. We were then taken up Montjuïc to see a beautiful overlook of the city. It was amazing to see the whole city spread out over the valley, with the Mediterranean just to the south.
After this quick tour, we headed to dinner provided by our tour to a restaurant called Mussol. They brought us several tapas we could share at our table. They included some Croquetas (our favorite Spanish food!!!!!), a grilled bread that was slightly sweet but also a bit garlicy, and a salad. For the main course I got charcoal-grilled Montseny botifarra sausage with “all-i-oli” sauce and Santa Pau beans. The beans were fantastic! The sausage was good as well. For dessert we had a chocolate fudge cake with ice cream, which hit the spot! I also had a fantastic sangria to go with dinner. That still leaves us a small list of foods to get tomorrow–tapas and churros!!
Step Metrics: 6,541 steps; 3 miles; 293 cal; 1h 9m time
Q: Why is it Coca Cola Light instead of Diet Coke?
A: Here is how Coke’s website describes it: “Coca-Cola Zero provides real Coca-Cola taste for variety-seeking consumers. Coca-Cola Zero is sweetened with a blend of low-calorie sweeteners, while Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame. As for Coke/Coca-Cola light, in certain countries, the term ‘diet’ is not used to describe low-calorie foods and beverages. In these countries, we offer Coke/Coca-Cola light. The sweetener blend used for Coke/Coca-Cola light is formulated for each country based on consumer preference.”
Q: What is the T symbol when going through the toll booths in Spain and France?
A: The automatic toll collection is in operation on lanes at tolling stations that are signposted “Telepeaje”, “VIA-T” or “T”. A device then registers the amount of the toll and you can pass through without having to wait. These devices are available from banks in Spain, when you also have an account at the bank, and are thus only a truly viable option for those who vacation in Spain extremely frequently or live there full or part time. As I mentioned in the previous post, a similar automatic toll collection system exists in France called the télépéage.
Q: What does the word “Rappel” mean below the speed limit?
A: Translated “recall” or “remember”, in this context it means that you are still in that same speed zone both before and after the sign, so it’s just reminding you of the limit, not informing you that it is changing to a new limit.
Q: Why are there wind socks just off the highway? Also why are there warning signs for them?
A: In France they erect actual large windsocks in crosswind prone areas to indicate the strength and direction of the wind. Most countries also have a “Dangerous Crosswinds” warning sign which features a picture of a windsock on it. One source indicated that in Spain, every 2.4 miles there are windsocks planted on metal poles in the median strip, and that helicopter pilots watch the wind socks so they can land quickly and evacuate the injured to nearby hospitals in the event of accidents.
Q: Is Tarragon spice named after Terragonia, Spain? Or the other way around?
A: Probably not. Legend holds Terragonia was named for Tarraho, eldest son of Tubal in c. 2407 BC; another attributes the name to ‘Tearcon the Ethiopian’, a 7th-century BC pharaoh who campaigned in Spain. There is no mention of the spice in the naming of the city. Additionally, Tarragon is native to southern Russia and western Asia. Today, its primary producer is France. So that means the region was probably not known for an abundance of Tarragon.
Q: Are all main highways toll roads in France and Spain?
A: No, but they are the quickest routes. You can avoid the toll charges if you plan carefully. Many of the national routes are free and of a similar standard to the toll roads, but may not be as well maintained or have as fast a speed limit. For example, in Spain, the journey from Bilbao to Zaragoza can be undertaken partly on the NA-129 saving €21 but adding 34kms and half an hour to your journey albeit on a much prettier route. The European toll vs. non-toll highway structure seems similar to US Interstate Highways (tolled) vs. a Standard US Highway or State Highway (non-tolled).