Where do I even begin with Avignon?
O, la, la! C’est tres magnifique! It’s bold and beautiful, with all the right amount of consumerism attached.
After a hideously slow eight hour trek down the motorway in Mowgali (my car, if you didn’t know) we managed to arrive late in Avignon, found our hotel, settled in, ate a lot and waited for a new day to come. And what a day.
For a Sunday it’s incredible how busy Avignon was. Luckily, our hotel is a stone’s throw away from the Palais des Papes or The Palace of the Popes and we got through the ticket office before the multitude of mass tours got there. Even though it had only just opened, 10 am it was pretty packed and at some points I did feel a bit like cattle being herded. But, elbow-y tour parties with ignorant guides (I’m sorry but seriously it is not necessary to use flags to beat another person) could not detract from what an incredibly unusual and somewhat bizarre building this Palace is.
With the building so obviously built, rebuilt, destroyed and rebuilt again, there are so many different types of architecture I couldn’t keep up. There was no uniformity other then chaos but that chaos added to the feeling of use and history of the building. It was strange how something that would usually piss off my inner OCD-esqueness actually made me acutely aware of how strangely perfect the Palace was.
Honestly, its truly magnificent. The gardens are being refurbished or perhaps more appropriately being excavated and therefore don’t look that attractive presently, but it will come. You can pop outside for a quick look but, apart from once again being discombobulated by the exterior which has had a makeover from all different eras from 14th century right up until the 20th century, the gardens are lacking.
One niggle of mine, and my dads was the lack of memorabilia throughout the Palace. With all the history of it, that comes with houses a number of Popes, not to mention that different uses it has had throughout time e.g. a prison and barracks you could argue (or at least we did) that there should be some more things to look out. Big rooms were left looking redundant because apart from one tiny piece of mural that was left from the 14th century nothing else was in there. It seemed a shame, but still worth the visit.
Bring on the Pont D’ Avignon, or Pont Saint-Bénéze which is a bridge, semi-bridge now that was started in the 13th century when Saint-Bénéze, a shepherd decided to take his stick and tell the people of Avignon the Lord had told him to build a bridge. So he did. Although not much remains of the original bridge which had 22 arches at one time, it’s still got a charismatic charm which lifts your hear (sorry for the gooey stuff). Sitting sur le Rhône (on the River Rhône) the four arches that are left allow you to walk a short way out into the river to, if you want to, wave at passing boats. You can get an audio guide, for free – bonus, that tells you the story of Mr Bénéze, the bridges construction and rather sweetly the story of the mini chapel that features within the bridge. A very intriguing story, and if you have the time the audio guide also plays you a lot of music that is relevant, apparently, to this famous Pont D’Avignon.
I know, there’s more. I apologise.
If you head back up the street to the Palais des Papes there is a beautiful, little park with some amazing panoramas of the Rhône. Little duck ponds with the cutest and literally I mean cute ducklings (yes I know there aren’t all year round but ahh), a beautiful cave kind-of fountain and a little restaurant with a friendly international atmosphere. It was a great place for a sit down, after taking in so much.
Our next few stops were museums. Out of the four I visited today, there were only two that really stood out for me. Both are incredibly arty, which is slightly strange for me, but worth the visit. The other two, even though I made the fuss of going were a let down and without the Pass which you can get with certain other tickets I wouldn’t have paid the full price for them (The Calvert Archaeology Museum and the Angladon Museum).
But, on to bigger and better things with the two museums we did enjoy. The first was the Petit Palais Museum, no prizes for guessing what the english name of the museum is…Full of religious painting from as far back as the 13th century this collection holds a massive amount of art for such a small price €6 full tariff, €3 with a pass (which are given to you on your Avignon Passion at each tourist hotspot). Although I’m not a massive religious art fan and there was a lot to see, almost too much, I didn’t find I got too overwhelmed with the whole place. There was a small amount of overwhelming when I reached room 14 and it told me that rooms 15 and 16 were down yet another flight of stairs, but I swiftly got over it and plodded on down. It really is a lovely museum and in some respects was really inspiring.
Of course my favourite museum had nothing really to do with religion or France, at least the bit I loved, at all. This was The Calvert Museum (NOT THE CALVERT ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM but the actual Calvert House), which is set in a beautiful privately owned home. You’re greeted by the nicest lady who lets you take photos with no flash and gives you a little book guide in your particular language. Lovely. The guide takes you through room by room starting quite sweetly with the entrance. Your move onwards into a world full of paintings, sculptures and a whole load of history. Whilst there is a lot about France my favourite rooms were about Ancient Egypt. It really is lovely. With canopic jars, and little figurines and some mummified cats and crocodiles – these few rooms were fascinating.
After that, well we pretty much got back to the hotel and slept for a couple of hours before we managed to get ourselves out of bed and off for dinner.
NOTE TO ALL: I am now the proud owner of a rather large blister, don’t worry no photos are shown, but please, please if you come to Avignon take a good sturdy and comfortable pair of shoes. Honestly. Ow!