We visited Avignon for a week in May when Louie attended a "pumpkin conference" there. We arrived a couple days early and did some sightseeing. The city is known as the City of the Popes, since no fewer than seven popes resided here during the Middle Ages (14th century). According to some accounts there were as many as nine, but only seven were later recognized by Rome.
Outside the Wall
The walls surrounding the city are still intact and well-preserved. Parking lots literally surround the walls, some of them free. It seems easy to find a parking place, making it easy for people to visit Old Town.
Inside the Wall
A fairly large Old Town is enclosed within the walls, containing a vibrant shopping area, main square filled with restaurants and outdoor cafés are found scattered throughout the area. There is a substantial residential area within the walls as well, making it a truly living downtown area.
Many churches can be found and it wasn't unusual to see that they had recently been sandblasted, making them white and clean. In the lobby of the town hall, Hotel de Ville, we found a botanical exhibition showing various garden flowers as well as wildflowers. We walked through the city a number of times, following different suggested paths.
Up on top of the wall closest to the Rhone we found a wonderful park with views of the river as well as an island. One day while I was doing Tai 'Chi in this park a couple of Chinese in their 20's stopped and asked if they could take my picture, assuring me that I was doing it very good. I imagine that the picture of an elderly lady doing Tai 'Chi in a park in Avignon is now being shown at home in China! We even found a modern iron sculpture just inside one of the many entrances through the wall.
According to Wikipedia, Avignon became the residence of the Popes in 1309, when the Gascon Bertrand de Goth, as Pope Clement V, unwilling to face the violent chaos of Rome after his election (1305), moved the Papal Curia to Avignon, a period known as the Avignon Papacy. It remained under papal control for 350 years. The building now houses a museum and a convention center. Here are pictures from a tour we went on.
Standing next to the Popes' Palace is a Roman Catholic cathedral and French national monument. It is believed that there was a basilica here as early as the 4th century which was destroyed by the Saracens in 731. It was rebuilt and consecrated in the early 1100's.
This indoor market is a must-see. The entire front above the entrance is a living garden. Inside can be found a wide variety of foods from fresh vegetables to fish. There are a few eateries and of course it is easy to buy a cappuccino or espresso. A few mornings we picked up some delicious baked goods at one stall to have with our cappuccino at another. These pictures were taken before the rush hour -- it was extremely bustling a little later.
We found this delightful street just inside the city walls on one of our many walks. A river is channeled through the city and we saw four water wheels remaining from the 23 found in 1817. These remind passersby of the fabric print dyers that made their fortune here in the early nineteenth century. It is today a rustic area and quite alive with night life in the evenings.
The famous "Broken Bridge" in Avignon. It was finished in 1185, inspired by St. Bénezet (patron saint of architects) and was 900 m (2950 ft) long. The bridge was very strategic as it was the only fixed river crossing between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea. This of course helped the town to prosper and was probably why it was chosen as the popes' residence. It was frequently damaged by floods and rebuilt. It was finally abandoned after a catastrophic flood in 1668. Now only 4 of the original 22 arches remain. There is a famous song about the bridge, Sur le pont d'Avignon.
Everyone is furnished with an audio-phone programmed in different languages. Just punch in the number of the exhibit and listen to an explanation -- better than a guided tour since you can listen again or skip an exhibit.
On the farm Le Château du Bois is a lavender museum we visited, about 20 km (12 mi) from Avignon. It was well worth the visit. We saw different stills that have been used through the years to produce the valuable lavender essence the area is so famous for. Some were portable to be used direct out in the field as the lavender was harvested.
Even here they used audio-phones programmed in different languages to serve as our own personal guide through the museum.
Back to the Airport
We did some sightseeing on the way back to the airport, but because it was rainy we only looked from the car window.
Back to Gothenburg
Our week to an end, we landed safely in Gothenburg.
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