Saturday, October 22, 2011

Trip Report - France 2011 - October 3rd - Avignon & Viviers

Avignon has had, as this website details, 20 centuries of turbulent history. Since the first prehistoric residents sheltered on the rocky outcropping currently known as the Roches des Domes and the site of the Palais de Papes, it apparently did not have many periods of peace until after the end of the Second World War.

The morning we visited it was tranquil. As we left the boat in the morning to enter the old city by the oratoire passage, the first thing I noticed is that the old ramparts were in remarkable repair.  They're not the original ramparts, but "new" ones started in 1355, and they completely circle the old city. We tour the Papal Palace, which is huge but largely empty,

A room inside the Papal Palace in Avignon

From the Papal Palace

Wall on South Side of Papal Palace
and afterwards we go on our own to walk through the park north of the Palace, which has wonderful views.  (My camera batteries failed here.  I realized I had had my camera on all morning, rather than turning it off between shots.)

It found it interesting that there was a Papal Palace in France. Apparently there were seven Popes who lived there, who preferred Avignon to Rome for many reasons. The first ones just lived in the bishop's old residence, which Benedict XII tore down and enlarged.  Then Clement VI, Innocent VI, and Urban V added to and altered it to make the present structure.  Whether they were good Popes or bad Popes depends on whose version of history you read. *

We found our way back to the ship and headed up the river towards Vivier. After lunch our guide, Cherifa,  gave us a lecture in the dining room.  Later, sitting on the top deck, I watched while the canvas cover and the bridge were both lowered so that we could sail under low bridges. The landscape along the Rhone was quite interesting, and the ship speakers often alerted us when we were passing significant landmarks.

At 7:30 our ship docked in Viviers, a small village with medieval streets and buildings, and our guide led us up through the deserted streets to the Cathedral. We pass a man and two women who look as if they are returning to work from a theme restaurant, and a cat. The cat follows us hopefully for a while.  It is very quiet.

Window of deserted building

Ancient door

View from the terrace in Viviers

I was trying to take a picture of the cat, but it kept moving. When I finally caught up with the tour group, something seemed strange.  My husband had been waiting for me and explained "That is a different tour group." Oops! 
The wrong tour group

We passed at least one other tour group on our way back to the ship, and the people we had passed on the way up (who turned out to be entertainers). Suddenly the empty village seemed quite crowded.

*For more information about the Popes at Avignon, you might want to read THE BAD POPES by E.R. Chamberlin or CHRONICLE OF THE POPES by P.G. Maxwell-Stuart.

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