In my prior post, I mentioned that I used Avignon as a base to visit other towns in the region, but I passed pleasant hours walking its medieval streets. Here are some of the places I think are worth a visit:
Palais des Papes – In the fourteenth century, the papacy was itinerant, moving from one papal holding to the next. When a French pope was elected, he decided to set up his residence in Avignon. Seven popes called this palace home, often expanding it to suit their needs. Some of the dimensions of the rooms were astounding – 150 feet long with no supporting beams. The Palais was decorated with frescoes painted by the Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti, many of which have been restored over the past 100 years, but there is still much to do. I bought a twin ticket that also allowed me to visit the famous bridge in town. I recommend the audio guide to get the most out of your visit.
Pont Saint-Bénézet – More familiarly known as le Pont d’Avignon, all that is left of the famous bridge are four arches of the original twenty-two. The bridge was built in the twelfth century, but it was already in ruins four hundred years ago. The Rhône river was prone to flooding, which changed the topography of the riverbed and weakened the footings. In addition, a mini ice-age in the late Middle Ages caused blocks of ice to form that battered the footings to dust. You can also visit the tiny chapel to Saint Nicolas that obstructs most of one end of the bridge. Here’s a much more complete account, recently published by a regular reader of my blog.
Rue des Teinturiers – Between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries, this street was the hub for a vibrant textile industry. The power of the Sorgue river turned waterwheels that powered the mills. Today, four still remain of the original twenty-three. But you can also find the remains of an ancient church, the still active Grey Penitents’ Chapel, and a gothic house, complete with gargoyles and turrets. That’s a lot for one street!
Square Agricol Perdiguier – The prettiest little park in Avignon is located right next to the Tourism Office. Vestiges of a gothic cloister are highlighted by abundant flowers. Right across the road is the Brasserie du théâtre where I had my morning coffee and croissant most days. Looking at this beautiful garden was a good way to start the day or spend a few minutes on my way back to my hotel in the evening.