Avignon


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Published: May 16th 2015
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This morning was mild with a forecast temperature of 30°+ so Tatiana served breakfast in the garden which was lovely. After breakfast we headed over the Pont Daladier ... again ... this time to visit the Palais des Papes (the Papal Palace of Avignon) that was created during the Great Schism - a split within the Roman Catholic Church during the period 1378 to 1417. Effectively there was a true Pope in Rome and an 'antipope' who ruled from Avignon. It's much more complicated than that, but I'm going to look it up again on Google if I want to remind myself of the details.

The Palace of the Popes is the biggest building ever built during the Gothic period. Built in less than 20 years, the palace stands in powerful testimony to the presence of the nine popes who lived in and reigned from Avignon in the 1300’s. Two popes were the primary builders of the Palace: Pope Benedict XII, who built the first pontifical palace and Pope Clement VI who extended the palace significantly during his reign.

More than 25 rooms are open to the public. We visited the Grande Audience Hall and the Consistory where hearings were held and the Great Clementine Chapel a huge ceremonial room which held official events and liturgical services. The Grand Tinel banqueting hall included a kitchen that was basically a huge chimney in which vast amounts of meat could be cooked on spits. The palace visit also took us into the frescoed private apartments where the pope lived and the Saint Martial and Saint John chapels, painted with frescoes by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti. We also had access to the rooftop terraces from which we could view the Palace, the city of Avignon and the Rhône River.

After our visit to the palace we walked down to the Pont Saint- Bénezet which was first built in the 13th century. The bridge suffered the ravages of the Rhône River and was damaged several times during floods and rebuilt. After the 17th century no further rebuilding was undertaken and today there are only four arches that remain.

From the other other side of the river the bridge was looking pretty good yesterday afternoon/evening and this morning. Unfortunately, as we walked closer to the entrance to the bridge (we purchased a combined ticket at the palace) we could see that there were some major works going on. Since we had our entry ticket anyway we walked out onto the bridge ... picking our way around all of the barriers that are currently in place. We don't know how long the work has been underway or when it is expected to be finished, but what a mess it all is at the moment! Very disappointing.

The plane tree 'fluff' in the air today has been ridiculous - it is like snow in the springtime! In the gutters the fluff has gathered together in great clumps. I read on the internet that exhaustive allergy studies have determined that very few people are actually allergic to plane trees it's just that their flowers are much more conspicuous than the grasses that are actually causing peoples' allergies.

Although it was quite hot we made the climb up to the Rocher des Doms gardens where we enjoyed more panoramic views over Avignon and the Rhône River. We walked back down the hill past the Cathédrale Notre Dame des Doms and the Place du Palais. It was definitely warm enough for gelato this afternoon so we ate ice-creams as we wandered back down towards the bridge.

We relaxed at the B&B for an hour or so before heading out to find an early dinner. We wanted to eat early before driving to Remoulins to see the Pont du Gard a 2,000 year old aqueduct that supplied the citizens of Roman Nimes with running water. We wanted to be there just before sunset so that we could take some daylight photos and then wait for the bridge to be lit up for some night time photos. Talk about one extreme and the other, last night we almost left it too late to find dinner, tonight it was hard to find a restaurant that was serving dinner at 6.15pm! We found a place that served some passable lasagne and then drove out to Remoulins.

Aaggh, we reached Remoulins easily enough, but then had to decide rive droite or rive gauche - left or right bank? We took the left hand turn and drove into the Mediterranean gardens that surround the environs of the bridge. It must have been very busy earlier in the day with it being so hot, but almost everyone had left by the time we arrived. We parked the car and headed for the bridge.

With plenty of time to scout out all the angles we checked the viewpoints from both sides of the Gardon River and up and down stream from the bridge. We selected a spot and set up our cameras and tripods and took a few late afternoon photographs of the bridge. Then we waited for the sun to set which it duly did at 8.56pm. As the light faded to dusk the frogs started calling to each other and other slightly spooky nighttime sounds could be heard along with the burbling of the river.

We deserve a medal for patience!! With the night closing in around us we thought seriously about packing up and driving back to Avignon without any night photos of the Pont du Gard. If not for a handful of other people waiting for the bridge to light up we probably would have pulled the pin. As it was we set ourselves a 9.45pm deadline. At about 9.30pm Bernie points to the left hand arch and says - is it just my imagination or is there a purplish glow? Hmmn, maybe there is a purplish glow and maybe, just maybe, it is getting stronger???

And then it went dark again and we thought that we must've imagined it! Damn it, maybe the nighttime light show doesn't start until summer? Just when we had all but given up on a light show it finally started in earnest at about 9.42pm ... just before the time limit that we had set. That's twice now that we have practically given up on monuments being lit up only to have the light show start with only minutes before we were going to pack up our gear. It just goes to show that perseverance pays off!

Of course we have torches in our luggage, but we didn't take them with us on this night photography outing. D'oh! Isn't it lucky that iPhones have a torch function?! Bernie then faced the challenge of driving us back into Avignon on the wrong side of the road AND in the dark. As if that wasn't enough it started to rain for an added degree of difficulty. Despite the rain we made it back to L'ilot Bambou without incident! Well done Bernie and thank goodness for Sat-Nav!!!

Steps for the day 21,271 (14.49 km)


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17th May 2015

such patience!
Yes you are both very patient. It is an amazing structure and great walking around that area. To think all those years ago they were able to devise a plan to bring water down the valley to the towns below. Must have been patient work for those people too! Phil took lots of great images there but we didn't persist with various lighting options as you have done. I am not so patient so the iphone is fine for my lesser efforts at photography! I do get some great images at times and the photoediting on the iphone6 plus is pretty good, but nothing to rival your efforts. A joy to the eye! Only a month before Jill and I head off to UK for a 6 week stay. I am mostly organised now apart from a final hotel booking at the end of our hol. We have 2 wks in Greenwich, a few days in Bristol, a short stay around the Cotswolds, Stratford Upon Avon weekend staying with our cousin (does PR for Royal Shakespeare Co), 3 weeks in our Haworth apartment (not Fern House) and a road trip around Yorkshire with our niece and aunties visiting cousins along with a short stay at Bowness on Windermere. I have been wanting to visit Hilltop Farm for years to check out Beatrix Potter's farm and finally am making it happen. So lots of plans for the itinerary and much anticipation of great times with our very special UK family.
19th May 2015

I love bridges too.
I do love taking bridge shots and most do look amazingly more romantic lit up at night. Great shots thanks to your perseverance. You're doing a great job 'blogging' Tracey. Cheers. Caroline

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