Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Pont Saint-Bénezet

A beautiful, ridiculous thing about Avignon:


The old bridge across the Rhone, which was never rebuilt after many failures. The river here was just too wild and unpredictable for medieval architecture to stand up to. It connected two kingdoms, as the far side of the bridge is now Languedoc, and there are still a big fortress where the bridge would have ended.


The Rhone isn't a peaceful river. It starts way up by Geneva, and is fed by the melting snows and glaciers in the Alps. Even just watching the water roll by for a few minutes revealed several huge trees, roots and all, battering the structure.


You do get a beautiful view of the Palais from the bridge. There's a small island in the center of the river that is a nice place to walk or bike around, with lots of park land and farm land and camping sites, making an unusual countryside retreat very close to the city.

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And yes, people come here to dance on the bridge. There's a silly nursery rhyme song that is a total Earwig and it will drive you mad, but people sing it and dance on the bridge.

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But there's great lore and legends about the bridge.

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A walk across the city brings you to the unique Rue des Teinturiers. It's a street where all the silk and cloth dyers set up shops along a canal, with huge water wheels bringing water into the factories.

The canal is quite fragrant, I can assure you that. Super sewage seepage. The remaining wheels are still churning, but the street now has a lot of galleries and small shops and boutiques, but the whole area is kind of shabby and run down.


There were also some interesting small museums. Lots of Renaissance art and Jesus paintings (which I can only take so much of).


Go? It's a great place to spend a weekend, especially if you like papal history or quaint old villages. It's a great jumping off point for the Rhone valley vineyards and small smaller cities to explore, and it's fairly close to Pont du Gard, which is one of my favorite places in the South. We stayed in a self-catering apartment, which I have long preferred over a hotel if only because I can streamline the mornings with copious amounts of coffee. Like I mentioned before, it is quite expensive to wine and dine here, but if you do your research you can find decent places. Tourism is a huge industry here, and people were generally very friendly and helpful and it's easy to get around.

Tomorrow: more adventures. Wine is involved, as are savage wild animals.

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