The Pope(s) in Avignon

It’s our last day in France. Tomorrow we get up early, transfer to Marseille airport, fly to Heathrow, change planes, and arrive in Philadelphia in the evening.

So we decided to pack everything we could do into the day.

We walked off the boat early to spend the morning exploring behind the walls of the City of Avignon. Seven Popes lived here between 1309 and 1377. It’s high above the Rhone, and still has it’s medieval cobblestone streets and passageways. It’s also a trove of architectural treasures.

The gothic palace of the popes is an historical and architectural wonder. We climbed hundreds of steps to the grand halls, football field-sized dining room, kitchen and pope’s quarters. A setting fit for a…Pope.

From the Place de l’Horloge, the bustling city square full of locals, tourists, bars and restaurants, you can look up and see the famous clock with moving figures that revolve to the tune of Frere Jacques (Dormez-vous ?). We all started laughing simultaneously when Steve said, “remember Sid Caesar’s (Your Show of Shows) famous Bavarian clock routine – where the figures go absolutely haywire). As an aside, here’s a link to the original if you don’t mind falling down, laughing: Bavarian Clock

If you’ve recovered enough, let’s continue.

As you walk around the square and adjacent streets, and look up, you see the evidence that these old buildings once housed the local, specialty markets. Above you can see the original sign for the herb market. There were also signs for bread (pain), meat, and more. We also checked out the gothic Church of Saint-Pierre with it’s ornately carved entrance, and the synagogue for Avignon’s once thriving Jewish community. Check out the original mezuzah on the doorpost.

On the way back for a quick lunch, a reminder that we were in the heart of magnificent Provence. The aroma amazing.

A view from the coach as we made our way to Chateauneuf du Pape wine country of what’s left of the Pont d’Avignon — the medieval bridge that inspired the 15th century French folk song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” (“On the Bridge of Avignon”), still sung by kids all over the world. I didn’t know the lyrics, but the whole bus broke into song.

The rocky soil above the Rhone that produces the very special grenache grapes that become Chateauneuf du Pape wines. We made sure to get here as an homage to Marsha’s father who loved wines from this region.

The tasting was a special treat (for those of us who love the rich, earthy taste of these wines). We even tasted a limited white Chateauneuf du Pape that is not exported. The views, the charming little town crammed with wine shops, and the afterglow of the tasting put a huge exclamation point on our spectacular trip.

It was tough to say goodbye to this special corner of the world, but the memories, the tastes, the feelings, the fun we had together will stay with us always.

We are really happy we could share our adventure with you, and look forward to the next!

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3 Responses to The Pope(s) in Avignon

  1. Sue Sholtis says:

    Thanks for all of your wonderful posts. Some places I have been to and others that I now want to go! I have loved reading all of your thoughts and pictures.

  2. bob collins says:

    As always, I have enjoyed traveling along with u, another wonderful adventure. thank you, bob collins

    • jfdowshen says:

      Hey, Bob! We were just talking about you. Give us a shout so we can catch up. Let us know when you guys are down this way…conversely, we may by up your way some time this year.

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