The past few days here in Avignon have been fascinating and relaxing within the stone walls of the old city – this medieval vibe is lively with dancing in the town square on arrival. We watched and enjoyed the friendly atmosphere as people and onlookers let themselves go to the sounds of instrumental music and singing.
Avignon is well known for its beautiful bridge and the Palace of the Popes where seven French Popes ruled unchallenged from 1309 until 1377.
With audio cassette in hand, we wandered through the darkish maze of corridors that were richly decorated by skilled artisans and craftsmen. Back to the 14th century was both curious and overwhelming – art, sculptures, frescoes, history in front of us.
This is a great place to explore traditional French cuisine, also to watch the waiters move, tourists talk, children squeal, musicians play, shoppers smile. A curious place to find all sorts of things. Even Goose joggers ( a joke to amuse my children!!)
Sunshine and blue skies saw us eating out picnic style next to an old church, Ville D’Avignon. I managed to read a chapter of a French memoir that I bought back home. Bill took photos of the gargoyles and church steeple. We watched a woman sketch the ancient arches and fountains. School boys were throwing bread to the pigeons.
A half day tour took us to the hill top town called Gordes where we were almost blown off the mountain – the Mistral winds gusty and chilly. A very popular town with the tourists, Gordes has impressive vaulted, arcaded medieval lanes that tempt any person with a camera and money.
We explored Les Baux-de-Provence which sits on the spur of the Apilles with views across the Camargue. What a dramatic fortress site and again oh! so windy. Too many tourists for my liking. Bill and I enjoyed an ice cream. Later that afternoon, we headed over to the Post du Gard, built around 40-70AD. A curious and amazing engineering feat, this aqueduct is both spectacular and worth a visit. Glad I wore my comfy boots but I did notice a pair of lovers up on the bridge in black leathers and she wore dangerously slim high heels.
Provence is full of curious finds – Irish students studying theatre, the street’s homeless with their dogs lying in their trolleys, the two way confusing narrow streets, the single male sweepers vacuuming the cigarette butts and litter, the vendors selling their ripened cherries, the French who try to interpret what we are saying, the men gathered at the bar in Les Halles ( market) who can out talk any women. Curious – a secluded couple flirting with each other making funny, rude gestures and moving from corner to corner while we glanced their way. An unexpected couple. Curious – cash register confusion and a well hidden exit in the local supermarket. These and more make for some entertainment and insight.
On the way in the bus to Saint Remy, we encountered this Latino group of men playing cabaret style music outside a wonderful cafe called MichelMarshall. Inside having a cafe creme, Bill met a Californian woman who was a journalist for the New York Times. They both had much to say about the Trump government and politics. Her name was also Margaret and she had been invited by her sister whose friend owns a house in St Remy and comes to stay for 6 months of the year. How fortunate! Mmm.
Half your year in another continent! These retirees certainly know how to live the Provencal paradise. I can be tempted to browse through the Real Estate brochures on the stands, but feel certain there’s no place like Mapleton for climate, scenery and life style.
Anyway, I left Bill briefly in conversation with the journalist to purchase a scarf in one of the small boutiques. When I returned 15 minutes later, she was gone and he was sitting reading the New York Times, brought along for the ride from our Hotel. His two back pockets in his jeans carry the map and the free newspaper!
No trip to Provence would leave out Vincent Van Gogh’s sad time spent in Saint Paul hospital during his breakdown. He painted 150 canvases when he spent one year here at the St Paul de mausoleum hospital. There is a tranquility about the place despite the tragic circumstances surrounding Van Gogh’s death. I love his swirling brush strokes, emotion charged canvases and the way he captured the light and natural beauty of the countryside. Have you seen his vivid yellows, blues and shades of green? Looked closely into the luminescent quality of the light. Been touched by the curious idea that while inside the clinic, he painted his best work.
For now, my dear friends, it is 7.30pm and still much light available. We are opening up a small Cidre de Bretagne ( apple cider) and Cellier des Dauphins ( red wine) with a Rocher Lait ( delicious chocolate) ready for a good night’s sleep after one last stroll down the Main Street of Avignon. Tomorrow, it’s a car trip to Bonnieux. Exusez-moi. Au revoir.