My love for Avignon was almost immediate and grew in leaps and bounds with every corner I turned. And unlike the other four towns and cities I visited in the South of France, my feelings went beyond mere admiration or appreciation. I felt a strong connection and chemistry with this place. I don’t really know why, but I think it has something to do with the way it embodied both my town and my countryside ideals: the perfect size (about 500,000 in the urban area), full of old beautiful buildings, full of history and culture, full of delicious things to eat, a mild and sunny climate that still has seasons, and a landscape of trees, hills and rivers.
I was being considered for a remote job at the time that I visited, and I strolled along the streets fantasizing about installing myself in Avignon and telecommuting from my corner bistro. It was an intoxicating idea, but alas, it wasn’t meant to be. I didn’t get the job, but at least my dream life wasn’t shattered until after I got back to Paris. And by then my weird change of heart had started to kick in and I didn’t mind sticking around up north after all.
Anyway, a few Avignon pix:
The first church I passed in this city of many, many churches happened to be one of the most gorgeous ones I’ve ever seen.
The priests were wearing old-school robes and the women sitting in the pews all had their heads covered with scarves. It felt like a scene from a Truffaut movie.
The church was built in the late 1500s but the interior was redone in 1739.
From the church, I headed to the nearby park with beautiful panoramic views.
Avignon is situated on the Rhone River at a section where it forks and then forks again, so the city is surrounded by waterways and dense greenery.
Just below the park, there’s a vast square, which is framed by ancient buildings, all of which are jaw-dropping.
There’s a cathedral topped with a golden statue.
And next to that, there is a compound that looks like a Lego castle.
It is the Papal Palace, whose construction began in the mid 1200’s. I had no idea until I visited, but Avignon was the seat of Western Christianity and the residence of seven successive 14th century popes.
I took a tour of the interior and it was just as epic as you’d imagine. Some of the rooms were still painted as they had been in the 1300s, including the pope’s chambers (which were off-limits to photography – below is another room instead).
I ended up visiting so many churches and cathedrals that they all started to blend together, but there was one more that stood out as exceptional.
I first came upon Eglise Saint-Pierre at night, in a tiny hidden square. It was lit majestically and sitting cozily next to a bistro humming with life.
The next day I took a peak inside and was blown away. Not bad, huh?
Living in Avignon would not be an unpleasant way to spend one’s days. I am grateful I got to visit for 24 hours.
I’m off to Luxembourg for an even shorter time – 9 hours – this Sunday. When I get back I’ll post pix from there as well as Madrid, Seville, and Sancerre. I’m a little behind…