Friday, May 1, 2009

Avignon: Wednesday 29th April 2009

We returned to Avignon today as tourists. This year it is celebrating 700 years since the Popes came to Avignon. Due to unrest in Rome the Papal machine moved to Avignon for nearly 70 years until they convinced the Papacy it was time to return to Rome.

The Palais des Papes certainly has a number of large rooms – banquet hall, with an adjacent kitchen with a chimney big enough to handle the roasting on an elephant if needed, Grand audience hall – along with the Pope’s robe room, antechamber and bedroom.

Adjacent is the panoramic gardens with views over the city and as far away as Mount Ventoux. Some of the trees are so affected by the strong Mistral winds they need crutches.

Pont St Bénezet or as it is better known Pont d’Avignon is the other famous symbol of the city. Begun in 1185, it originally had 22 arches but about 1660 the people of Avignon got tired of the constant repairs needed due to flooding in the Rhône and it was abandoned. Today only 4 arches remain.

We went across to Villeneuve Les Avignon – once a haven from Papal Avignon, today it is a quiet satellite town. We parked on the outskirts and wandered through to Fort St Andre, high on the hill looking back over to Avignon.

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