Saturday, June 30, 2012

Avignon Tourist Day

Thursday was another warm day in Provence, a perfect day to be a tourist in Avignon.

The French Flags were flying 

"Liberty, Equality, Fraternity"

The cornerstones of the 1789 French Revolution. Who can argue with them?

The Avignon City Crest 

It is on the Place de l'Horloge which is the huge café square next to our perfectly located Hôtel Mercure Cité des Papes.

After scouting out the sights on Wednesday, our agenda today was simple. In order, we would visit the Musée du Petit Palais, the Palais des Papes and the Pont St. Bénezet.

We would save Avignon's best for last -- its outdoor ambience and its people.

The Musée du Petit Palais

This is where Cardinals resided during the reign of the Avignon Popes. No vows of poverty were kept, from what I could tell.

Today it houses a huge collection of mostly medieval Italian paintings.

A Cardinal's Crest . . .

. . . and a couple more

As most of you know, I am on a crusade to bring gargoyles into fashion in Camarillo. Here are some fine examples that you need to envision sitting on the eaves of your homes back in California.

From the Musée du Petit Palais


On the Palais des Papes

Same place

With a neck tattoo?

Meanwhile, back at the Musée du Petit Palais it was time for a roll call of the saints . . .

St. Andrew 


St. Michael


St. Jacob


St. Kevin

St. Kevin?

No St. Kevin present apparently. We'll have to go to a military museum and find a "Tank."

We did run across two of our favorite saints in this museum . . .
Santiago of
Camino de Santiago fame

St. Agatha
Patron Saint of Catania

Yes, those are her cut off breasts that she is examining.

Martyrdom is not for everyone.

Madonna and Child

This was an extremely common artistic theme in medieval times.

So was this 

Is the baby Jesus sporting
a BoSox necklace?

St. Peter 

I prefer my Popes to smile a bit.

Nice Robe 

St. Francis of Assisi

An Action Shot of the Pope

Madonna and Child yet again

Remember, the hooded ones perform good deeds anonymously.

I see he hits his head on the
low European door frames too

Jesus is #1 in Avignon!!! 

It was sunny today

Medieval art was not all about Jesus and Mary. It had a dark side as well.

Head Bashing 

 Slaughter of the Innocents

"Off with this head!" 

Disturbing Floating Heads

There is a Big Surprise if
you can navigate this maze 

And Spanish bullfighting is so cruel 

Yeah, right.

Disturbing Horses

That reminds me,
I need a haircut

Having absolutely zero artistic genes in my DNA, I marvel at the wonderous works I saw today. I especially wonder how they were able to produce faces like in the next few photos.

What is coming out of his nose?


I'm Innocent 

Dark Eyes


Old Man 


Freaky Eyes

Now, that's just not right! 

Pope at Peace 

Worried Women



The Musée du Petit Palais is a splendid art museum, well worth seeing.

Next up was the . . .

Palais du Papes

Entry Door to the Palais du Papes
"Dead as a Door Nail"

Ever wonder where this phrase came from?

In medieval times, blacksmiths would painstakingly make nails one at a time. This made nails very valuable items to the point that whenever possible, nails were carefully extracted from wood to be reused as a cost saving measure.

Unless you were rich.

In order to show off how wealthy they were, medieval land barons would hammer exceedingly long, unnecessary nails into their portal doors and then bend the excess length over thus "killing" the nail. Therefore, when a visitor saw these now non-reusable dead door nails, he could instantly gauge the wealth of the owner.

Seven Popes and two Anti-Popes
lived here 

The seven Avignon, French Popes were:
Clement V . . . 1305-1314
John XXII . . . 1316-1334
Benedict XII . . . 1334-1342
Clement VI . . . 1342-1352
Innocent VI . . . 1352-1362
Urban V . . . 1362-1370
Gregory XI . . . 1370-1376

Following their return of the Papacy to Rome which created the Western Schism, there were two more Anti-Popes who resided in Avignon:
Clement VII . . . 1378-1394
Benedict XIII . . . 1394-1423

I need to read more about this, as I only have vague recollections from my sixth grade History of the Catholic Church classes at St. Phillip the Apostle School in Pasadena, California in 1958-59.

It may have been a slightly biased account of this period in Roman Catholic church history.

Avignon behind the window

The Popes loved big fires 

On an altar 

A Papal Crest 



The BVM atop the Cathedral
Notre-Dame des Doms 


Tourists enjoying the shade
in the square beneath the Palais 

Huge Ferris Wheel by the
Rhône River

Tight Squeeze 

But this would be a great place to teach pass rush techniques . . . "To get through the gap. GET SKINNY!"

I guess that means me too.

Leviathan, on the lower right,
swallowing the Damned

Another Floating Head 

The Palais des Papes was impressive though stark in its lack of decorations. A, real counterpoint to the art collection in the Musée du Petit Palais.

Now we were off to a little "dance on the Avignon Bridge.

The Pont St. Bénezet

This is the official name of Avignon's bridge of nursery rhyme fame.

We didn't dance but we did enjoy the strong winds blowing across the bridge that were cooled by the Rhône River.

Very refreshing.

French Sun Worshipper

Avignon's Hilltop
as seen from the Pont St. Bénezet

From near to far: the Musée du Petit Palais, the Cathedral Notre-Dame des Doms and the Palais des Papes.

The City Wall 

Chick Magnet 

Art that does NOT fit
the rest of Avignon's feel

Every Great Castle has to have

Beautiful Window Flowers 

University of Tennessee fan?

Art is all around this town including on the ground.

Palais des Papes

Palais des Papes

Hôtel Mercure Cité des Papes 

We opted to return to our hotel for a bit to freshen up after several hours walking in the heat.

I still wanted to get a haircut in France, since they are so expensive in Switzerland,, so I asked the stylish man behind our hotel's reception desk for advice.


For less than half of the Swiss price, I had a haircut and a beard trim.

143 days in Europe, three haircuts.

The first one was in Thun, Switzerland followed by one in Barcelona, Spain and now this latest do in Avignon, France.

How is that for continental?

Still hot!

It was late afternoon but it was still 93º F!

There was only one place to go to relax . . .

The Rue des Teinturiers

As I said yesterday, this is my favorite street in Avignon. It has tons of shade, a stream and a very Bohemian feel.

Tonight's events confirmed its place in the Avignon Rue Rankings.

Let's stop here at . . .

The Cellar of the Unwise

Is there a better spot in all of France on a hot June evening than this wine cellar?

Besides a good bottle of wine, it is . . .


Just when you least expect it, "The Camino Provides." While I associate this phrase with my Camino de Santiago experience in particular, it applies to life's unexpected surprises in general.

Tonight, all we sought was a quiet bottle of wine in the shade and a chance to "people watch."

We got all of that indeed but we also got to meet the highlight of our time in Avignon . . .


It started simply enough. Laurie wanted to order a bottle of dry, white wine in English.

Fortunately our delightfully happy waitress was having a spot of trouble understanding her. I say fortunately because Michel was sitting by himself working on his computer and heard our linguistic dilemma.

He turned to the waitress with a smile and said those three magic French words "vin blanc sec."

Three little words that attest to the power of wine and led to a great chance meeting.

We sat and talked for a long time about French wine, French culture, Michel's travels and his family. 

We even touched on Spanish bullfighting. He was good with it so I liked him even more.

It turns out that Michel was a little boy living in Normandy on D-Day! He vividly remembered the arrival of the American GIs to his city of Caen. While most of Caen was destroyed by carpet bombing, his family luckily came through WWII intact, but not their home.

We also found out that for years he lived in France's Réunion Island located in the Indian Ocean.

What an amazing life!

It is moments like these, meeting people of great interest with vastly different cultural experiences to tell, that makes travel truly worthwhile.


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