"" Writer's Wanderings: Walking The Rest Of The Walled City of Avignon

Sunday, May 07, 2023

Walking The Rest Of The Walled City of Avignon

After a morning snack when we finished touring the Palais des Papes, we walked back up, yes up, to where the Avignon Cathedral is to see the inside only to find that it was closed between noon and two-thirty. As our hostess said when we told her, lunch time is very important to the French. We walked back down and decided that lunch would be a good idea too. 

We found a restaurant in the touristy square in the middle of the city by the theatre (opera, I think) where there is a two story merry-go-round. While we waited for our food, we discovered that we were sitting within view of several stops on our city walk. The square we were in was one and across from where we sat was the old town hall. I snapped pictures just as our food arrived. 

I had the fluffiest omelet ever accompanied by several romaine leaves sprinkled lightly with a vinaigrette. Bob had a hamburger and fries. He earned it all with the walking and climbing.

Next up was our bridge visit. The entrance is just inside the wall and upon entry and another security check of my tiny purse, we received audio boxes that could respond to you entering a corresponding number to various places on the bridge. The problem was the wind.

The ball cap I'd been wearing I took off and looped the lanyard through it so it hung from my neck with the audio box. Bob actually removed his trusty old bucket hat and put it in his pocket. At first we didn't think it was too bad but then it picked up again and was almost impossible to hear the audio with the wind whistling past your ears. 

St Benezet Chapel

The best I can gather from the history of the bridge, called the St. Benezet Bridge, is that in 1177 St Benezet told the pope he had a vision to build a bridge across the Rhone. Not wanting to defy heaven, the pope went ahead with the project that was finished in 1185. Because of the narrowness of the bridge, only one cart could go in either direction allowing for traffic control and the levying of taxes to cross the bridge.

The third pillar contains the chapel of St. Nicholas and below that was built the chapel of St. Benezet whose relics (probably bones) were kept there until later being distributed to other places. Over time, floods mainly caused the destruction of part of the bridge but today there are four surviving arches. It does make a picturesque scene on the river.

I hid the damage the wind had done to my hair under my ballcap as we left the bridge behind and started once again for the cathedral. I told Bob this would be the last climb up that way I would make whether we saw the inside or not. We had been up the night before to see sunset, then the morning walk up to the garden behind it, then the climb to go inside when it was closed. This would be the fourth. No more. Luckily the door was open.

As we came back down from exploring the cathedral and headed for our next stop on our GPS My City app, we heard church bells ringing loud and clear just above our heads. 

We were standing next to St. Peter's basilica. The bells were amazing and so was the inside of the church when we finally found our way in. 

Paintings were everywhere, even between the panels behind where I think the choir sat. The old pipe organ needed repair and they were having a campaign to raise funds to repair it. We dropped in some Euro coins. Bob loves pipe organs.

With only two places left on our tour that we hadn't seen, we decided we would head to our B&B and rest. We had all day tomorrow to get to them. A nap, some blogging, a shower and we were on our way to find dinner. We ended up at a restaurant our hostess had suggested but were a little early (before 7) so we ordered something to drink and waited. 

At seven, we went inside and got an English menu and sat with it on our table to indicate we wanted to order food. The waiter totally ignored us so we left the money for our drinks and went to what we thought was a Chinese restaurant. It turned out to be Vietnamese. We'd never had it before so we ordered somewhat blindly and hoped for the best. And it was the best. Great food and the waitress who didn't speak English did a thumbs up to see if we liked it and when it came time to pay she teased Bob about keeping the credit card for herself. Sometimes you don't need a common spoken language to enjoy each other.

After a good night's sleep, we spent the next day finding the water wheels on a little canal that goes through a part of the walled city. Only four of the original 23 wheels still exist. They were built in the 15th century to help in the dying and washing of silks and later in the 18th century for wools followed by cottons later. The three wheels that still had paddles kind of moved a bit gently with the water in the canal but none are in use for anything now.

Our hostess had mentioned the free passenger ferry that goes across to the island in the middle of the river so we walked around the wall on the outside until we found it. Walking on the outside was quite a contrast to the inside of the wall. Busy traffic and modern buildings, there is a whole other Avignon.

The ferry was easy enough to find and it took less than five minutes to cross the river to what they say is the largest river island in Europe. There is a nice promenade where the ferry lands and we walked in one direction and then came back the other way to walk to a restaurant we had seen from across the river. 

So the night before we'd had Vietnamese food. This lunch would be pizza--very, very good pizza. Let me tell you though, you do not eat quickly in France. A meal is to last. There are a few fast food places but I question how fast. We took a good hour and then some to get our food and eat it and by that time, the ferry was on its lunch break. At two it began again and we headed back to our B&B for our afternoon rest. 

Where would we eat this evening? My bet was on a French restaurant since this would be our last night in France for a while. We found the perfect one, Cafe St. Jean, and had the most wonderful veal with mashed potatoes, artichoke heart, asparagus and a couple of things we couldn't identify that were good. And I splurged on a flourless chocolate cake. Perfect! Also perfect was the service. Two of the waiters kept checking on us to be sure we were doing okay and that was after they did their best to translate the menu for us. It was a great way to end this part of our France trip.

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