We wake after spending large chunks of the night trying to get Loulou to sleep. Muschi and Paschi have trouble finding bread in the morning--the Rustrel bakery is closed and Muschi and Paschi end up driving all the way to Apt for bread. We set out a little later than planned for Avignon. The driving is a stressful (isn't it always, when you're trying to find your way in a new city), but we eventually park at the garage near the Palace of the Popes, and begin walking towards Les Halles, Avignon's permanent market.
Avignon has an arty, bohemian feel. The buildings are all a sun-bleached beige. Much of the time I have my eyes down, trying to follow the awkwardly chopped map in my kindle version of Rick Steve's Guide to France. When I do look up, I think, "gosh, it would be lovely to spend a summer here." It seems like a summer kind of city--meandering cobblestone roads, enticing little shops, multiple pedestrian zones lined with cafes--a lovely place to kick about and people watch.
We pick up Rick Steve's tour of the back streets of Avignon and follow it to the Rue de Teintures (Road of the Dyers). We see the chapel of the Gray Penitents and the old water wheel leftover from when the street was the center of Avignon's textile industry. It's now lunch time and everyone is getting a little testy. We sit down at a nearby restaurant and have a very good lunch. Paschi "wins" with his order of the vegetarian menu featuring a cup of gespatcho, an excellent quiche a la provencal, and a mousse made from squash. We leave the restaurant in an improved frame of mind and strike out for the tourist information center, where we pick up a better map of the city.
|Chapel of the Gray Penitents. See the two hooded figures above the door frame. The Penitents covered their faces to keep their good deeds anonymous.|
|A great bench/car barrier on the Rue de Teintures.|
|Metal art showing the monstrous Tarrasque being subdued by St. Marthe.|
|Lots of lovely texture.|
After seeing some posters for a drawing exhibit, Donnie makes the executive decision that we'll go to the the Calvet Museum, first stopping by the Natural History Museum, since it's along the way. The Natural History Museum is small, but has as enticing an array of fossils and stuffed animals as you could wish. We try as best we can to explain fossils to Maria. It's the first time she has been to a Natural History Museum since she learned to talk.
The Calvet Museum is exquisite.
|This painting shows Avignon in the distance as it was being built.|
|Toppled statue of Athena under a tragic Cassandra.|
|You have to love a museum with a comfy couch--the perfect place for a nursing break|
|In the museum courtyard.|
We emerge from the museum many hours later and head back towards the Palace of the Popes, stopping to give Maria a ride on the carousel at the Place d'Horloge. Maria rides the elephant and is in bliss--her usual state when on a carousel. I'm grateful that she comes off willingly after one ride--that doesn't always happened.
We take one last detour before returning to the car, stopping by the famous pont d'Avignon, the St. Benezet bridge. The Avignon Bridge was a hopping spot until it was knocked down by ice flows in the seventeenth century. There's a famous French nursery song about dancing on the bridge. The song has an infectious tune, and has been been playing in our heads in the days leading up to our Avignon trip. It's great to see the bridge in real life!
|Just across from the bridge.|
|In front of the St. Benezet bridge.|
|The Palace of the Popes|
|The Cathedral. The golden statue of Mary was added in 1854, when Church established the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.|
At last we get in the car and set out for La Grande Bastide. On the way, we wolf down a supper of hard boiled eggs, bread, and caneles. Meanwhile, Donnie puts on Mozar tand the sun sets purple and orange behind us.