QC Blog: Avignon and Provence

Friday, January 6, 2012

Avignon and Provence

Lucky for us, the river level went down and we were able to set sail for Avignon that evening.  The ship sailed past Avignon first, so we could see the bridge of St. Benezet, better known as the Pont d'Avignon, and the town at night.  We started each morning with a generous breakfast in the dining room.  Hot tea (really hot tea) was served from a pot, and we could choose from eggs, waffles, thinly sliced hams, granola and yogurt, various fruit juices, to a great chocolate chip muffin that I just had to have every morning.  Then it was back to the stateroom to lace up our tennis shoes and get ready for the trip of the day.
Today's shore excursion was in Avignon, in an area known as the Provence, famous for their lavender.  We didn't get to see the lavender in bloom, but bought some wonderfully scented lavender soap here.  The walls that surrounded the town extend for three miles.

Inside the "old town" that has been preserved is the Palais de Popes (Palace of the Popes) where the Popes lived in the 1300's. 
It is a huge structure at almost 50.000 square feet.  They told us it took 20 years to build this incredible stone palace.  We were allowed to take pictures everywhere except the rooms where there was fabric on the walls, or in the Sacristy.  The flashes (just like sunlight) would further deteriorate the fabric, so it's not permitted.  The rooms were cavernous, and a fireplace took up an entire wall.

Next to that was a cathedral called Notre-Dame-des-Doms, that has a golden statue that was placed on top in the 19th century.
Naturally, on our way out of this elegant palace, there was a gift shop, that sold everything from wine to knightly gear to pens with the pope on top.  I bought a jelly jar cover with Avignon embroidered on top, to try and keep to my pledge that everything I bought would be fabric or flat (so it would fit in the suitcase). 
The Eglis Saint-Pierre is one of the most beautiful churches in Avignon, is located in the center of the city. It was built at the beginning of the 16th century. A few years later, in 1551, the wooden doors were added.  When we walked in the church, it smelled of incense and was breathtaking  It is famous for it's Gothic facade and the solid walnut doors.  Along both sides of the church are chapels dedicated to saints. 
I was so awed by the beauty that I only took one picture of the inside of the church. 
We walked through an indoor market, that had everything from chocolates to poultry and fruits.  We walked down the Rue des Teinturiers, a beautiful and picturesque street in Avignon, that runs next to the canal and saw the Chapelle des Penitents Gris, a monastery that is still active today and the Couvent des Cordeliers, Avignon's largest convent when it was founded in 1929.
 The street has giant plane trees, resembling the American sycamore tree.
On our way back to the boat, we walked the 'Rue de la Republique', the main street in Avignon.  There were stores and shops but we didn't have time to look at them.  I think we bought lavender soap on the way.  Once back at the boat, we set sail for Viviers while some of our cruise people went to a wine tasting at the Chateauneuf du Pape. That evening, Mark and Chrissie went on the Viviers walk.  They enjoyed it immensely.  It is a medieval town with a cathedral at the top of the hill, St. Vincent.  I was just too tuckered out to walk another step.

Next: Tournon & Tain L'Hermitage

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