Avignon and other parts
Have arrived now in Beziers after 3 nights in Avignon. Weather was just great in Avignon, no sleet, warm with blue clear skies and wisps of white fluffy clouds. Avignon is visited by all and sundry because of its connection with Papal history in the 14 century when the Popes shifted the throne from Rome to Avignon for some political reason that I can’t recall. A great old complex of buildings,the Palais de Papes, was constructed in bits and pieces over many years, and then, after the Popes went back to Rome parts were remodelled and demolished to accommodate different uses. Much of its interior decoration was defaced in periods of occupation as prisons and army barracks during the Revolution.
The Avignon Bridge is also a great landmark here. Homealone did not perform the song or do the dance on the bridge (Allthego knows the tune but not the words) as it is a bit unnerving walking out across it into the Rhone River. It is quite high and narrows, not much in the way of railing to stop one slipping off! There are 4 arches left from the original 24 that stretched across the river and the marshy areas adjacent to it. Washed away by flood over the years.
Our second day here involved hiring a car and travelling up to the Caverne du Pont D’Arc. This is a long story. So I’ll keep it short. What we visited is a replica of the cave that was discovered back in the mid 1990s containing numerous wall paintings of animals. These have been dated back 36,000 years. The cave had been closed by rock falls about 20,000 years ago. Our replica cave contains a ‘copy’ of the cave environment and many of the original cave paintings, done by a team of archaeologists and artists using the prehistoric techniques. The replica at 3,000 sq m is about a third the size of the real cave. Over a 100 million Euro has been spent on the site. It was opened only a month ago. It is a wonderful bit of modern-day interpretation and display. But one is sort of left wondering whether the replica does look like the original! We can’t see the original because it has been ‘locked up’ to the public. Only gurus and scientific sorts can see the real thing! The major impact of this discovery was discovering cave wall paintings dating back 36,000 years which involved the use of techniques which had only previously been discovered in caves dating back 18,000 years. Effectively pushing art history back 18,000 years. The photo below is a copy shot of one of the promotional bits from the Caverne, but it is pretty true to what was in the replica cave. These were just so ‘real looking’ animals. The cave paintings have been used as ‘form and shape’ guides for the ‘stuffed models’ of the animals, ranging from cave bears, cave lions, bison, mammoth and woolly rhinosaurus.
On the trip back to Avignon we took a route down the Ardeche Gorge. Now, Allthego is known for taking these sort of Gorge drives and Homealone is also known for getting a bit tense at these times. Well this gorge trip did not do a lot for Homalone’s nerves, even Allthego at the wheel got a bit on edge. Pretty steep drop and not much between us and the edge. Made Frogatts Edge look like a picnic. The major attraction here is the amazing natural arch over the river at Pont D’ Arc. Seems to be a popular spot for a paddle down the Gorge.
In Avignon we stayed at the Hotel de Blauvac, in a little side street not far from the centre of town and all the action for dinner. The Hotel is the restored 17th century mansion of the Marquis de Blauvac, only 18 rooms and a great place to stay. Not real flash but very comfortable. This guy had a nice house but there were a lot of Marquis around at this time as well, so not sure how important he was.
Our major excitement here was a fire. Allthego awoke around 3 am smelling some acrid smoke in the room, after sniffing for a while I thought ‘Yes , I can still smell smoke, better have a look see’. So I awoke Homealone, who after clearing her mind also thought she could smell smoke. And smoke there was out our window! We were 3 floors up, not quite a Towering Inferno, firemen arrived and duly put out the fire in the rubbish bins outside the hotel, those big plastic dumpster type things that people sleep in the US crime shows. Thankfully, no one was in the bins in our case. We didn’t sleep much after this. Nothing dull.
After Avignon we headed by train for Beziers and the Canal du Midi.