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27 May 2005 @ 12:00 pm
Avignon: Yes, That Bridge  
I took a day in the big town as a contrast to all my rural adventures. The cosy Rue des Teinturiers was the highlight of the day but of course I also visited the famous bridge and the Papal palace.

Location: Avignon, Provence, France
Weather: Sunny and hot.
Date: May 27, 2005

Hotel de Ville
Avignon's town hall on Place de l'Horloge looks very French in the morning sunshine. It was hard to take a photo of because every few seconds another bus load of Japanese tourists would pass in front of it. The contrast to yesterday's trip to Rocher-du-Cire, during which I saw one other person, couldn't be greater. Notice how it says Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité above the columns. The spire with the golden pennant does not belong to the town hall but to a church, Église s'Agricol behind it.

Roman Sculpture
Musée Calvet was a happy surprise, not the least because photography was allowed inside. This is a Neoclassical statue in the airy Sculpture Gallery with a view to the uncluttered courtyard.

I love the way the French put statues and sculptures in niches on their houses. In this case it's Mary with baby Jesus. She is one of the most-loved motifs but there are plenty of non-religious ones too.

Church Ruin
I walked to Rue des Teinturiers for lunch. This is one of the first things you see there, a ruined church that used to belong to a monastery.

Rue Teinturiers
This is Rue des Teinturiers itself. Carved stones have been laid out along the side to prevent people from parking. They also make nice places to rest when your feet hurt from walking in the heat. It's a nice, shady street with tall trees along the side. My Rough Guide says it's the most atmospheric in Avignon and I agree.

The dyers for whom the street is named used the water in the Sorgue canal for dying and printing calico fabric. Further along the street some of their water wheels remain conserved today. I did buy a scarf here but, typically, it was from India.

Le Chat Gourmand
I had already eaten or I would have stopped at this restaurant for obvious reasons.

Chat et Fleurs
Speaking of cats, this one looks quite sullen. Maybe he didn't want his photo taken or maybe he just felt neglected by his human. I could hear her speaking on the phone through the open window.

The reason that Avignon has been inhabited since Neolithic ages is the natural cliff of Avignon near the confluence of the Rhône and Durrance rivers. On top of the cliff it was easy to defend oneself and it was sheltered from the catastrophic flooding of the rivers every spring. Nowadays its strategic value is negligible and the river doesn't flood nearly as often as it used to. But there is a small park on top of the cliff and the views across the Rhône are well worth the trek up the stairs. It was in the park on top of the cliff that I found this pretty, pink oleander in flower.

River Rhone
Finally I'm Sur le pont d'Avignon, as the song goes. The local name of the bridge is St. Benezet's bridge after the shepherd who is said to have had a vision about building the bridge. The view is toward the east, i.e. upstream. You can see a ferry crossing the Rhône in the distance. With the surrounding countryside this flat, it's not hard to imagine the river flooding frequently, particularly as the water level used to be much higher.

From Bridge
In this photo I'm standing at the end of the bridge, in the middle of the river, looking back toward Avignon. The little house on the bridge itself is a chapel to St. Nicolas, the patron saint of sailors. Behind that we see the tower that marks the beginning of the bridge on the Avignon side. The golden statue high up in the sky crowns the bell tower of the church Notre Dame des Doms, the Avignon cathedral. The twin towers on the right guard the entrance to the Papal palace.

Gate Clasp
On a gate leading to the lower level, I found this little dragon holding the latch.

Papal Palace
And here is a closer look at the fortified twin towers above the entrance to the newer part of the Papal palace.

The inside of the palace was not much to see. After the popes left Avignon in the fourteenth century the palace has been used for many varied purposes, including as military barracks. As can be expected, after more than 6 centuries, not much is left of the once splendid appointments. Now it's mostly cavernous and filled with loud flocks of school children.

Back on Place de l'Horloge, the statue of Molière sits outside the Opera House. I had dinner nearby, and wrote about the experience.

Night View from another Bridge
Walking back to the car after dinner, I crossed Pont Daladier and decided to stop for some night shots. This one shows the broken bridge and a river cruise ship on the water. In that direction the sky was not completely dark yet.

Avignon by Night
And I took one looking back at the town too. Above the dark trees, the Papal palace and cathedral look impressive lit up from below.

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