“On the bridge of Avignon” or “Sur le pont d’Avignon” – you may be familiar with these songs. If so, I’m sure you are now singing them in your head. If not, go youtube it. We are partial to this version. So guess where we just spent a week!?
When we got to Avignon, we were tired. Just tired. Tired of traveling, tired of packing, tired of wearing the same clothes, tired of eating exactly two meals on repeat when we had a kitchen (pasta and eggs) cause we didn’t have the “other” small meal ingredient pieces to make anything else in our (small) repertoire. Life is good, but sometimes you just want to relax and stop looking at Roman ruins, and stop trying to find new restaurants and new foods, stop trying to navigate foreign roads (I mean seriously – I swear the google maps lady is not very clear in her instructions on exactly where to turn – we go the wrong way A LOT of times!).
When we last left off, we were in France, just north of Switzerland and west of Germany. We knew we wanted to make it down to the south end of Spain. It would be almost 20 hours in the car, and I didn’t just want to drive for days straight, or even just take only one or two nights in some cheap hotel on the motorway. So, we settled for heading part of the way. Far enough to get warmer weather, but close enough that we still had a language we are roughly familiar with (French), and food we love (crepes! croissants! baguettes!). We decided on Avignon as a base, and I was amazed at all the cool stuff to see nearby. Of course, given what I said above (tired…of…travel…..) we didn’t get to see everything, but we did actually do a few things.
First off: Avignon itself. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. It is the home of the famous Palais des Papes, where, for 67 years in the 1300’s, seven consecutive popes lived, until the Papal court eventually moved back to Vatican City.
We didn’t actually go in and tour the palais (see: tired, burnt out), but loved seeing it as we walked through the city. It was pretty spectacular in the evening.Avignon is also a walled city, and we enjoy a good walled city! We walked through and over the walls on a daily basis
As we climbed up onto the walls, we made it to Rocher des Doms, a park that overlooks the palais, the river and the Pont St Bénézet (the Bridge of Avignon).
I guess I might as well explain for those of you who (like me before I visited) don’t know why the bridge is so famous, and why it does not lead anywhere. The bridge was built in the 1100’s over the Rhone river, and was destroyed and rebuilt 40 years later. The bridge was costly to maintain, as the arches tended to collapse when the Rhone flooded. By the 1600’s, people had pretty much abandoned the bridge, and as arches collapsed, they weren’t repaired. Now only 4 of the original 22 arches remain. So why the song? It seems to have been written originally around the 1500’s – while the bridge was still in use and being repaired. A bit of a disappointing story behind the song – I guess it was just a catchy tune!
On the crepe front – we went to Jean Le Gourmand in the city center just about every day we were there. You just can’t beat their deal for €1 for an enormous (delicious) sugar crepe! Yes, please!
Also in Avignon we got to experience a cultural phenomenon know as “The Mistral”. Mistral is french for really, really windy (disclaimer: no it isn’t, but it should be). This wind blows down the Rhone river, and creates a strong wind. There is a lot more scientific complexity on what causes the Mistral, and if you want to know more, you can read the always helpful wikipedia article on it. Said winds are usually accompanied by clear blue skies and sunshine, so hey, we can’t complain too much. In fact, in the city of Avignon, the buildings blocked most of the wind. It was only when we walked on a bridge over the Rhone, on the way to our Airbnb, that we really felt the winds. Wow, did it blow then. I held tight to the kids so they didn’t blow away!
We saw a few other places while based in Avignon, but, just ran out of the time (and energy) to see everything on our list. We will just have to come back again! But first, I have one more Roman-themed post highlighting the places we did visit near Avignon – stay tuned.