avignon

Sunflowers in Provence

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While Province is well-known for the lavender fields, it is also covered in sunflower fields. Here is one of the many that we drove through when we were travelling in Provence. You can see them from miles away, bright yellow flag in the middle of the fields.

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The Pont d’Avignon (Pont St-Bénezet)

Cds 2005 06 29 10 12 29 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370Z Edit 2The Pont d’Avignon (Pont St-Bénezet), built between 1171 and 1185, is a famous medieval bridge in Avignon. It originally crossed the Rhone between Avignon and Villeneuve-les-Avignon. The original span is 900m, however over the years it suffered much damage due to floods. In 1668 it was finally abandoned, and now only four of the original 22 arches remain. You can still walk to the end of the bridge, where it dramatically stops in the middle of the river.

Cds 2005 06 29 11 52 14 OLYMPUS IMAGING CORP X450 D535Z C370ZThe name Saint Bénézet comes from, a local shepherd boy who was commanded by angels to build a bridge across the river. There is now a small chapel on the bridge, where he has been interred. I found the chapel a refreshing and cool break after the heat of the sun on the top of the bridge.

The bridge was very commercially important, since it was the only way to cross the river between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea. This of course resolted in the merchants using it to transport their goods.

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The well-known song "Sur le pont d’Avignon" (On the bridge of Avignon) speaks about people dancing on the bridge of Avignon. However they more correctly danced sous le pont d’Avignon" (Under the bridge of Avignon). They would have danced beneath the arches of the bridge on the (the Ile de Barthelasse , the island in the middle of the river.

I have included the words below:

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les beaux messieurs font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les bell’ dames font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les jardiniers font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les couturiers font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les vignerons font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond
Les blanchisseus’s font comm’ çà
Et puis encore comm’ çà

Aeroplane trip over Avignon

Today I did something I have never done before. Lois and I went for a ride in a four-seater aeroplane. We saw the brochure last night at the hotel and thought “why not!”, so off we went. We took off from the Avignon airport (which is basically a small building and a single runway).

The cabin of the plane is about the size of a mini, and the engine is probably not much bigger (I am still partially convinced that the engine is just a really long elastic band). The plane honestly needed about 100m runway to take off, and a bit longer to land.

The trip was fantastic, we flew really low over the whole area, giving me a wonderful opportunity to see the landscape from above and to take some great photos. We opted for the shortest trip –which is about 25 minutes. The longest trip is about 1 ½ hours, and goes all the way to Marseilles.

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Here are some vineyards; they are all over the area. The bright yellow in the middle is actually a sunflower field.
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A hilltop fortified village, of which there are many. You can literally have a several hundred meter drop out of your bedroom window. No sneaking out at night!
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This is the centre of Avignon, clearly dominated by the Papal Palace. Building started in 1305, when the papal court moved from Rome to Avignon. In the second picture, you can see the town square as well.

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The bridge on the right is the remains of the famous bridge "Le Pont St Benezet". This famous bridge was built between 1171 and 1185, with an original span of 900 m. See this post for more details.

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Finally, our landing and a quick pic of us at our aeroplane. It is not often that I get to sit in the front! The trip is expensive, but I really encourage you to do it – it was worth every cent.

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The Pape Palance

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The Pape Palace is the Palace that was built when the Pope moved his court to Avignon from Rome in 1305 (more correctly – he fled a corrupt court in Rome). It is an enormous building, looking down onto a large square, which is surrounded by cafes and street musicians. The palace is still used today, now as both a function venue (there are several very large halls, filled with tapestries from the time), and also as an amphitheatre (one of the squares has had raised seating and a stage added). A wonderful self-guided walk takes you through the palace, where you can view the halls, paintings and tapestries from Medieval France.

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