Avignon – our next stop on this adventure. Avignon is on the Rhone River and we visited here while on a River Cruise in 2009. It was July when we were here and it was HOT and it was the peak of the annual Avignon Festival. This Festival has been going on since 1947 and showcases all kinds of entertainment – all of which spills out onto the streets of this small town and made our visit difficult. This time, being in March, the town is quiet – not a lot of tourists and the weather is lovely.
Avignon has a little more than 90,000 residents (FYI, Alhambra, where we lived for 40 years has about the same number) and has been around for a LONG time. Between 1309 and 1377 Avignon was the residence of the popes – seems there was some political problems in Italy and Pope John XXII moved there and started construction of the Palace in 1316.
Construction continued by succeeding popes through the 14th century with the Palace being completed in 1370. The historic center, which includes the Palace of the Popes, the Cathedral and the Pont d”Avignon became a UNESCO site in 1995.
The Ramparts, built by the popes in the 14th century still encircle Avignon. They are one of the best examples of medieval fortifications still standing. Originally it had 39 massive towers with several gateways.
Much has changed but the walls still remain a tribute to the strength when the popes were in residence.
We spent three days exploring, visiting museums, riding the mini train and generally having a very relaxing time.
One of the first things we discovered was the free parking lot that had a free bus into the city center! That certainly solved the parking problem and made the visits much more relaxing.
Most of the streets are narrow and provide for one-way traffic only.
Shops range from the local neighborhood stores providing basics for those that live near by to larger markets towards the city center.
Quite close to where the bus dropped us off, was Les Halles – a large indoor market that offers fresh produce,
meats and fish along with a variety of other goods. On the outside of the building is a “green wall” with some very mature plants. Beautiful.
We went to the Popes Palace but didn’t go it.
It is a huge 14th century building and we have been into large places with lots of rooms before, so it didn’t have a huge pull to get us inside. Plus any of the original furnishings are long gone so it’s really just a big building with lots of rooms.
On the river side of Avignon is the Pont d’Avignon. The original bridge, built in 1171 by a shepard in answer to a vision went across the river for a length of almost 3000 feet. Unfortunately, over the years, various troubles impacted the bridge and the river has destroyed much of it either during various battles or and it was abandoned in 1669. However, a section still juts out into the river and was made famous a French song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon – On the bridge of Avignon in the mid 19th century.
On the recommendation of our friends Tony and Gloria we booked into a restaurant called Les 5 Sens (The 5 senses). It took a bit of hunting to find the place as it is situated off a clothing shops street in what might have been a patio in earlier times.
To make things more difficult, the entire street was closed off with all the shops putting sales racks on the sidewalks and lots of people about.
It was well worth finding, as the meal was wonderful – see pictures.
All in all we had a nice visit and now it’s time to head on down the road.