Palais des Papes by boxplayer

Palais des Papes

The stunning fortress / palace - the Avignon home of popes for much of the 14th century - it's massive.

I slept OK but Dave was rather grumpy when his alarm went off and, in trying to set it for a bit later, couldn't get it to work - failing batteries. So I set my phone alarm for 8. Then showered in what turned out to be a very good shower.

We were a touch later leaving than we wanted, so we grabbed a croissant from the boulangerie just by the station, and Dave got a black coffee from a kiosk on the way. We walked on to the Palais des Papes but there were no queues so we had time to eat the croissant and peaches sitting outside in the sunshine - a perfect blue sky with not a cloud in sight - the pattern for the next few days.

Got a combined ticket for the Palais and the Pont de Benezet (Pont d'Avignon). Unfortunately our little money off passes didn't actually count towards the combined ticket offer - so couldn't make use of that after all.

The Palais des Papes is the most impressive, massive 14th century papal fortress with ramparts, towers, vaulted chambers and some amazing wall frescoes. These were some of the loveliest things in there, but of course all the tourists with the audio guides stuck to their ears just walked past them with barely a glance.

We were in there absolutely ages - so much to see and walk through and the audio guides as usual lengthened the visit time. We were fairly tired and hungry and not a touch frazzled as we neared the end. The cafe on site was small so we decided against that and had a quick mooch in the shop - bought some tisanes for birthday presents.

Dave took what seemed like ages in the shop and I got a bit cross so cue mini argument. We wandered the hot streets not finding anything much until we came across the restaurant with the rather ridiculous name Restaurant O'Petitapetit. We got a table outside in the shade.

They had a formule of main course and dessert with coffee for 12.90 - so I had the smoked salmon brioche burger and Dave had the tiramisu salad. Not sure even now what made it a tiramisu salad ....

Then Dave had another speculoos cheesecake and I had a very lemony tart and the very nice waiter did me a cup of tea instead of coffee even though it was more expensive. Turns out he used to live in London - knew King's Cross when it was a slum he said.

We walked slowly back towards the Pont de Benezet (this is the famous Pont d'Avignon, but Benezet or Benedict in Occitan is its proper name). Still incredibly sunny and hot.

On the way found lots of tourist tat and souvenir shops, but as usual the souvenir shops on the continent have such better quality tat - tea towels and other linen, lavender, soaps, olive wood products. They also all seemed to do a line in chirping cicadas - a constant sound all around - they seem to live up in the big plane trees that line all the city streets

We found a shop selling pretty colourful jewellery and bought pendants for birthdays - along with a stall with a woman making metalwork jewellery and bought a hair barrette for M's belated birthday.

Finally got down to the bridge which of course was fairly busy but not too bad. Got another audio guide which related the interesting history of the bridge and wandered over it for great views over the river Rhone. There's also a odd chapel right in the middle of the bridge - it was all very beautiful.

But I got increasingly dehydrated with the sun shining full on so popped back to the ticket office to get rehydrated, buying a bottle from the vending machine. Popped back and watched the long video downstairs about the bridge. Dave didn't notice me and went outside - so there was some momentary confusion as we tried to find each other.

We walked back to the tat shops and bought little smelly wooden shapes for drawers, some absinthe and an absinthe spoon (for M again) and a pretty lavender tea towel.

Just by the shops, we found a nice looking restaurant, no 46. Initially we asked just to drink, but he said we needed to drink inside. So walked on a bit but realised it was later than we thought and decided to go back and eat and got a table in the cool shade outside.

We went for a plate of 12 snails to share, and then the fish ceviche. Then Dave had a tiramisu and I had the cheese board - tried the Luberon rose which was very fragrant and Dave had a red Chateauneuf du Pape. All very yummy and gorgeous in the evening warmth.

Then we wandered back towards the Palais des Papes square - this was very lively with jugglers, bad Chinese dancers, and other assorted buskers. We climbed to the front of the cathedral to watch the view and the setting sun. All the buildings were looking stunning in the evening light and rather enviously we watched a big table of diners enjoying an alfresco dinner on someone's roof terrace.

We sat for a bit watching the sun go down - along with lots of other people perching perilously on the rather low parapet with a big drop down to the square - health and safety - pah! As we were about to leave - one of those guys who dance around and in a big metal hoop arrived and we watched his impressive display for a bit.

Then walked down and along the main street - this now much busier than the day time. In Place de l'Horloge - there was all sorts going on - body popping, break dancing, sound systems, artists painting portraits, women doing corn rows. There were hundreds of outdoor tables all with lots of people dining. Got some fruit and water from the supermarket then walked back to the hotel.

Day marred by the terrible murder of the priest celebrating mass in Normandy.

O est pour l'oiseau
Sun through the window

26 July 2016
Avignon, France
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