Lost in Avignon

It had to happen sooner or later.  We are using our Garmin to navigate the roads and roundabouts of France.  Wednesday we decided to explore the city of Avignon.  The heart of the city is still surrounded by walls.  Within the walls are many crooked, narrow, primarily pedestrian streets.  On Tuesday, the Garmin decided it didn’t like the detail view of the route anymore and switched en route to a much broader view.  I found this image much harder to interpret which roundabout exit she wanted me to take.

Avignon is a pretty large city and the streets outside the wall are anything but straight.  Things seemed to be going pretty well until all of a sudden I found myself going through one of the gates of the wall.  I have been to Avignon previously, so I knew this was a bad thing.  Driving inside the wall was your basic nightmare.  The streets were filled with people, bikes, motorbikes, delivery trucks blocking streets to make a delivery, and cars coming toward you on streets so narrow there was no hope of passing.  The Garmin lady was having a fit recalculating, wanting me to make impossible turns from one narrow street to another narrow street, and going for long periods with no route shown.  It seemed to me I was going in circles with no idea which direction to go to get outside the walls – and as Susan will tell you, I really wanted to get outside those walls.

After thirty minutes of driving around like this, I finally stumbled onto a Main Street that led me quickly through one of the gates.  And my luck changed because I came immediately to a large parking lot with lots of spots in a convenient location.  I have never been so happy to get out of a car in my life!

July is Theater Month in Avignon with numerous plays, ballet, movies, opera, music, etc performances in various venues all over town for the entire month.  I am sure that didn’t help my driving problems.  There are probably over a dozen performances each day.Posters for the various shows were everywhere and half the people on the street seemed to be handing out performance ads to the other half of the people.  Thank goodness we arrived before the crowds were in the streets.A pope lived in Avignon from 1309 to 1403.  This is the Papal Palace where the pope resided.  One of the major sites is the Pont d’Avignon of nursery rhyme fame.  It was built in the late twelfth century and was originally 3000 feet long with 22 arches of which four arches survive today (The island on the right did not exist at the time).  Ice and severe flooding kept causing the arches to cave in.  After the last failure in 1668, the bridge was not rebuilt.

We have also visited Arles where Van Gogh lived and painted.  There are a number of easels in town at the sites where Van Gogh painted.  Thus, you can compare the painting with the way it looks today.  Rick of course has a walk to see all the easels, and that was our first activity.Susan is wearing her Van Gogh inspired dress.The bridge, the tree, and the car are new, but the arch over the street, the steps, and the river bank are unchanged.Arles also has a Roman amphitheater.

After Arles, we visited the hill town of Les Baux.  The hill is topped by the ruins of a castle that was built into the rocks.Rooms in the rock were created by cutting out blocks of rock.  These blocks were then used to build other structures such as the tower on the left.The castle had an exhibit of sculptures in the style of the Italian painter Giuseppe Arcimboldo.The view from the castle was a patchwork of vineyards and olive trees.

You may notice a lot of blue sky in the pictures.  It makes for beautiful pictures, but is really hot.  We are getting home each night totally exhausted from the heat – but you can’t help loving Franch towns!

4 thoughts on “Lost in Avignon”

  1. That looks amazing, although getting lost within the walled area sounds so stressful! Thanks for sharing your travels.

  2. LOL. We had a similar driving experience in some walled town in Provence. Pure panic until we found our way out! Did you find Le cafe la nuit in Arles? We stayed in a 16th century boutique hotel in Villeneuve les Avignon, just outside Avignon. One time we were with a small 3M group led by our friend and 3M language society french teacher. We danced and sang on the bridge “Sur le pont, d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse”. Must have been hot in Les Baux. I remember all the boiries. You must be near Vaucluse, wine appelation, the wine we had at dinner on the ship. Great sundress Susan.

    1. Le Cafe la Nuit was part of Rick’s walking tour of the Van Gogh placards. We didn’t sing or dance on the bridge, but the audio guide played the song. It’s been pretty hot everywhere!

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