After our bike tour of Languedoc, recounted in previous blog posts, this was a two day break exploring Avignon, on foot. It was a sunny, warm weekend and there was plenty going on. It was the weekend of June 21st, the Fete de la Musique in France and many other countries, when anyone can take part in free music concerts (http://makemusicday.org/). We took full advantage and watched several street performances, a lunch time classical music concert in a church, free Salsa lessons and a brilliant percussive marching band parade. But there were also plenty of magnificent buildings and sights and some lovely food and drink.
Just about the first item on our to-do list was to visit “the bridge” made famous in the french song “Sur le pont…”. We arrived quite early and paid a modest entry fee. We were not early enough to avoid mixing with a coach party, one of whom lost her hat by a combination of natural forces, namely the mistral and the river. We watched with a crowd of 30 or more as le chapeau floated slowly away.
Included in the entrance fee for the bridge was a very absorbing presentation and video of a major technical investigation into the origin and history of the bridge. The 3D video produced by the investigation is freely available on the web (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2baech_le-pont-d-avignon-en-3d_news) and shows what the bridge could have been like in 1550. Legend had it that at one time the bridge had 22 arches and the investigations appear to support this. The river currently flows in 3 channels past Avignon and historically, in times of flood, must have been immensely wide needing, and probably eventually washing away, many of the arches.
Our other major excursion was into and round the Popes Palace. This was both immense and fabulous and I felt a degree of pity for the peasants that must have had to pay for it, over the years. But it is well worth a visit.
The palace building was started in 1252 and became the Papal residence in 1309. For a period of about 70 years Avignon, not Rome, was the epicentre of Western Christianty.
We found the Place de l’Horloge to be an excellent place to eat or take a coffee or glass of wine and watch people. There were often street performers there and the whole area had a lively buzz. The city walls are another impressive feature of this attractive city.