Monday, June 6, 2016

Week two in the Tour

        After an eventful first week ending in Luchon, I would arrive in Toulouse in time for a second shot at the Opera. It was my first time attending such event. 
        Our seats were in the nose bleeds which at first I didn't mind but it became uncomfortable after the first half. During intermission a couple of us snuck down to the very first row. From a different perspective the opera became much more entertaining. I appreciated the actors ability but not speaking French made it a little difficult to fully understand what it was about. A big culture difference from the US I to notice was not only their tolerance but admiration of a naked women in the opera. Early there were a couple topless scenes but during the second half one women stripped completely down. I payed very good attention for the rest of the show.
        On Monday we visited a 400 hectare farm in the country side, an area that resembled Tuscany. We discuss much about policy and comparing the large scale farms in the US. Last week when we visited the Chamber of Agriculture they made it seem like they helped farmers every step of the way, however, the owner of this "large scale" farm told us working with them is very difficult. He wasn't aided with subsidies as he was told when converting from conventional to organic farming. Makes you wonder if chamber of Ag are just like another politicians. Later that day we toured Carcassonne and the extraordinary castle that surrounds the old town. It was like stepping into Game of Thrones. The shear scale of it indulged me in reminiscence. 
       Tuesday we visited an ecology research center in the Pyrenees. One of their main focus was salamanders. Deep in a cave in a mountain we examined and played with different species of cave salamanders. It was very intriguing seeing how they live in complete darkness. Our tour guide, a doctor heading the program, gave us a very in depth history and current research seminar. It was a little too much as this man was obviously very passionate about the creatures. 
         Wednesday we had a late start. Our trip was to the waste water treatment plant. This was particularly my least favorite. I have been to a plant as such before and seeing it for a second time wasn't anything I wanted to do. The following day we left for the Cévennes Mountains. There our professor had many connections with local politicians and farmers. This was my favorite time during the program thus far. All the different rural Ag production systems was very fascinating and something I had never seen before. The area was beautiful as well. One thing that remains current in France and that is the emphasis on tradition. This trip was an over nighter with the following day we visited in my opinion the greatest farm I've seen. It was nestled in a rural valley with a grain mill from the Roman times and a drinkable natural spring. The most unbelievable aspect of the property was that it only cost €11,000. After viewing organic bee production, which may have been the coolest Ag production of the trip so far. There they still practiced the tradition bee hive with native bees. I respect the desire to continue unique traditions. If not for people like that farmer those would all be lost to museums and history books. The long drive home awaited after a full day. Everyone seemed to be either on edge or asleep. Week two came to a conclusion. 
European Cave Salamander

Traditional Bee Hive

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