A tourist at last
18.03.2013 - 18.03.2013 14 °C
In 1309 things got a bit hectic in Rome and Pope Clement V decided that things weren't safe - this was before Berlusconi and his bunga bunga parties you have to remember. Looking for a safe haven, the holy father chose Avignon and for 68 years this was the home of the Papacy. Just think, if they hadn't moved, we'd have been in the middle of all the excitement of the election of the new Pontiff!!!
Instead, today saw Hugh and I behave as "proper" tourists for the first time and travel around 40 minutes or so to the capital of Provence (something that they share with Marseille) and our chance to have a look at Avignon. It was an easy trip and the assistance of "Sally" - the voice of our GPS - was much appreciated. Once we got into the city itself, things got a little hairy. We knew that park and ride was the best option as the city itself is not welcoming to cars but we got a bit confused. After a bit of exploring - around some one way streets - we found a car park on the far side of the Rhone and got a bus to the walls.
Avignon is a beautiful city and has protected its heritage with pride - as it should We found the Pont d'Avignon without trouble and had a good explore. The interesting thing about this very old bridge is that it doesn't actually cross the river and only four of the eighteen pilons remain but it's incredibly famous and well worth a look.
We met a lovely couple from Portland on the bridge and had a chat.
Making our way up from the bridge, we battled the souveneir shops and found the Place des Palais des Papes. A gorgeous area sitting in front of the old papal palace. It was time for a coffee - any excuse to sit and watch the world go by - and we've worked out our orders now. We order deux caffee un creme (small coffees with milk) and Hugh orders a single espresso and tips it in to strengthen up the dose. It seems to work!
The Palais de Papes was magnificent and was a wonderful indication of the splendour of the papacy - even if it was only in situ for 60 years. The buiding became a military barracks in the 19th century and restoration of former glories began in the 20th century but it is easy to get the sense of its papal glory. Not too hard on the knees and well worth a good explore.
Lunch called us after we left the palais and we made our way into the centre of town and found a cafe. Hugh was concious of the fact that we were eating too much and we decided to order a lighter meal at a cafe in the square. Hugh had a quiche Lorraine and I had a Croque Monsieur - both with salad and we avoided the temptation of wine and had soft drink as an accompaniment.
I was seriously tempted by the merry-go-round but restrained myself and contented ourselves with a walk through the town. Avignon is a gorgous place. Full of energy and self importance and worth a good luck around.
Thankfully, we found the bus to the carpark and without too much trouble we found our way back to the I'sle. We had the fun of our first visit to a supermarket on the way home and were able to collect some distilled water, some salad for dinner and other bits. It's funny how a supermarket becomes another tourist site when you're so far from home.
Tonight we've had chicken that we bought - cooked - from the market yesterdayy and salad bought today. We've had a local - Luberon - red and are about to have dessert of Tarte Pomme (apple) before crashing in bed. I love France!