We are at a point in the trip where distance traveled in the right direction is more important than where we end up staying. Today we got lucky as we were able to get a good jump in our 4 day journey to Amsterdam, and stop at a place that has been on our list of places we wanted to visit. Avignon is famous for two things in the English speaking world, for about 100 years 7 popes of the Catholic church ruled the church from Avignon instead of Rome. The other is that every French language student learns to sing a children song about the Bridge in Avignon. Ton had told me about the song, and the other night Denise Cook also launched into it when we told her our plans.
We had a quick and easy 4 hour drive to get here, arriving at the municipal campground on an island in the Rhone River right across from the ancient city, and the Pont Saint-Benezat or the Bridge at Avignon just before the staff headed out for lunch.
When we arrived at the campground Ton almost aborted our walk into town. The campground here had a large commercial washer and dryer setup, and one of Tons top to do list items was washing our linen before we left. She wouldn’t agree to go to town until I went and confirmed that the laundry would be open late enough to get our washing done. Once she learned that it was open until 10 pm we were off and heading into town.
Avignon is a fortified city with most of the walls facing the river still intact. It also has a large cathedral and palace befitting its nearly 100 years as the center of the Catholic church. Even after the popes returned to Rome it stayed under Papal control until it was incorporated into France during the French Revolution.
We did a quick walk through town, and then to the Cathedral and the Palace of the Popes. The palace and the Cathedral were impressive, but we found ourselves drawn more to the gardens above the Palace.
By the way, the bridge used to cross the river, but was abandoned in the 1700’s because it kept collapsing when the Rhone flooded. The four arches and the gate house have survived and become the most famous tourist attraction in Avignon because of a children song.
With laundry looming over us we wrapped our quick tour of Avignon and took a small pedestrian ferry across the Rhone to return to the campground. So we are now 320 kilometers closer to Amsterdam, we have seen a town on our list of places to visit in France, and we have nice freshly laundered linen. Today was a pretty fun and productive day.