Sunday, March 20, 2011

sur le pont.

Palais des Papes

RIght near the Palace
So, yesterday I went to Avignon with some other girls from IS. Evelin, Ebba, Jara and I made our group of four and a good mini road trip team.

Front of the Palace

Avignon is a little more than an hour north-west of Aix. It is a really small city, being only a fifth or so of the size of Saskatoon. I was amazed at how small it was. When we were looking at our map I was astonished how much of the city we had seen even though we walked so little. It was a cozy place.

inside the palace

This city has a very rich history dating back over five thousand years. Through out these years, culture, trading and religion have been crossing. Avignon was once a capital of the Cavare tribe and a trading post. Avignon is situated right on the River Rhone, which boosted the trading business. The city was glorified with the arrival of the Romans. By installing tolls on the very busy bridges, the city soon became even wealthier.

looking out over Avignon

The old part of the city is fortified with ramparts. I am not completely certain on this point, but I think you can walk all around the outside of the walls in about an hour. This is just how small the city is, granted the city has expanded beyond those walls and is now larger, but not by much.

really windy, but absolutely gorgeous out
Found a way up

Also being rich in culture, Avignon has a number of year round theatres. There is also the Performing Arts festival which takes place in July and also takes over the city. Apparently it is quite a big deal.


Our first stop was the Palace of the Popes. In the 14th century, Avignon was chosen by the papacy, making it the capital of the Christian world. This importance brought architects and artists to the city, who all left their mark.

found this grand old door to be
old and grand

To me, the Palace looked just like any other large medieval building. I kept thinking of it as a castle and not a palace. We definitely did not go into all of the rooms, and it took us well over an hour to do a walk through, without audio guides. I always marvel at how large the rooms are. I also thought about how cold these palaces and castles must have been way back when. Huge rooms made of stone, there is no way you could heat that sufficiently. I would never want to leave my bed, which would obviously be a huge pile of legitimate woollen blankets and animal skins, in the morning and put my feet on the icy cold floor. Which brought me to my final ponder: people must have been sick all the time. With cold floors like that, and there is no way that they could have had nice slippers like we do, there is no way their health could stay up to par.


Seeing as this was a palace for the pope(s), it was lavishly decorated. Now some 700 years later, which is completely mind blowing to me, some of the frescos are still visible in the walls. That is to say, the ones that are still left. Sometime in those 700 years, most likely in the later history than the early, people started removing the frescos from the walls and selling them to people. Even though the tiles did not survive the centuries, many rooms had been re-done and the tiling work was incredible. I realized that each tile was hand painted and did not just pop out of a machine along with a thousand other ones. So much effort and detail is put into making these huge buildings, it is almost incomprehensible.

also, there was breeze and incase you
were wondering...

Ebba and I were lucky enough to discover some stairs leading up to a tower where we got a spectacular view of Avignon. Sadly, other than being able to point out the famous bridge, there really was not much to see, landmark wise. But the sky was gorgeous!!

Evelin, Ebba, Jara and I
but not from the macheins...

After grabbing a quick lunch and lazing on some steps in the hot sun, we headed to our next destination, which at the time was extremely unknown. We winded up looking at the cathedral, which was very beautiful on the inside, but also like one of the many cathedrals I now have under my belt. We saw some break dancers while we lazed some more in the sun in a square.

the River Rhone
so nice out!!
these are views from the gardens

We made our way to the Dom Gardens and took in some more spectacular views. I guess I should mention that the Palace and the immediate surrounding area within the ramparts is on top of a huge rock/hill so once you get above the street level, you really do have a good view of Avignon and area. The gardens had a human sun dial, which we some how figured out how to read as well as a rather interesting rock outcropping lookout kind of thing that we enjoyed right to the top.

The bridge from a far

As we got closer to the main attraction of the city, we browsed the shops that started popping up everywhere. I got a free sample of some delicious nougat. Popular items of the area were those involving lavender. There were lavender soaps, candies, nougat, candles, you name it, it’s been lavender-ed.

Pont d'Avignon

If you are familiar with a French (and Canadian) folk song, then Avignon may mean a little something to you. “Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse” Should ring a bell, although if it does not, don’t sweat it.

looking back to shore

Le Pont Saint-Bénezet (aka Pont d’Avignon) is the famous half bridge. At the time that the bridge was built, the late 12th century, bridges were built for Saints. Legend has it that a man, Bénezet, had some kind of vision that he was to build a bridge crossing the River Rhone. It was supposed to be about a mile long from shore to shore of the river, even spanning over the Barthelasse Island. Legend has it that by some miracle Bénezet placed the founding stones for the bridge himself, helped by the power of God, or something along those lines (one story had him shrugging them into place). Through out the audio tour I listened and listened to see if the bridge was ever fully completed, and I do not think that it was. However, it was a lot longer than it is now. At the time the bridge made travelling easier as well as added some attraction to the city. Nearly a millennium later (crazy isn’t it?), the bridge is a World Heritage site (just as the ramparts are) and is simply a historical tourist attraction.

clutching an audio guide i am
about to have some serious
wind problems

Back to the song.

“ Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse. Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, tout en ronde.”

curls with stood the windy day.


“On the bridge of Avignon, we are dancing, we are dancing. On the bridge of Avignon, we are dancing, all around.”

potentially riding
The Drop of Doom, etc.

The bridge is actually too narrow to dance on, and the people never did dance on it. But, they used to dance under it. Avignon was full of crime and debauchery, which ended up kind of driving the popes away, and the island was a popular place for all these naughty going ons, which is how the people could be found dancing under the bridge.

wind in my favor

Evelin and I did have a short dance on the bridge, it is kind of necessary.

Pont d'Avignon

That concludes the day in Avignon.
it doesnt actually lead to the
palace, but it looks like
it does

I did take photos, but well, I can barely get this thing typed up. Tomorrow I might be able to get the photos posted, but not tonight.


  1. Le Pont d'Avignon looks exactly how I pictured it :)
    Also, glad to see your curls are sturdy! I have alot of memories of you walking up to my place in the mornings only to find your hair ruined.. :P

  2. Ugh, what a frusterating period of my life. SO glad I grew out of it.
    That was before I knew how to curl my hair with my straightener. Now my curlz can last for DAYS!!

  3. Looks like it was a beautiful day and a lovely old city.
    No, I was not wondering...You may recall that there are similar photos of me in Cuba.
    I will have to tell the Fr.Im.K's that you danced "sur le pont d'Avignon." It was one of their favorite songs.

  4. Interesting, I never really knew what a rampart was. Learn something every day.

    Nice to green grass in the background, everyone is pretty tired of winter here.

  5. i was having wind problems in cuba too..not too bad though.
    and the grass is green here ALL YEAR LONG. im tired of winter too. TOO MUCH RAIN.