24 January 2010

Sur Le Pont d'Avignon

Who likes children's songs? You may know the town of Avignon from a 15th
century French song sung about one of the town's old bridges. It is now a song that most French children know quite well. This is only the chorus, but see if you're familiar with it:

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond

On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there, we all dance there
On the bridge of Avignon
We all dance there in a circle

The official name of the bridge is Pont St-Bénézet, but because of the song, it is better known
as Pont d'Avignon. Built in the 12th century, the bridge spanned the width of
the Rhône River until a major flood in 1668 caused all but 4 of the original 22 arches to fall.

The Chapel of Saint Nicholas remains intact on top of the bridge,
where Rhône boatmen would stop and worship their patron saint- St Nicholas.
Driving up across a modern bridge towards Avignon, you really get the
feel of a Medieval city, guarded by a thick, stone wall. The weather wasn't perfect,
but it added a very mystical feel to our approach.

Note the grand entryway in the background.
There are 39 huge towers total along the wall, all looking like little castles in themselves.

The 14th century wall has been very well preserved and restored.

The Rhône River passes right by the city. The wide, calm waters are perfect for barges,
smaller boats and crew practice.

Outside the walls of the city.

The many small, twisting side streets were quiet. And since it was quite chilly out,
this guy knew window gazing from his warm apartment sounded just right.

We had a bit of snow- a little late for Christmas, but still a very welcome thrill.

Place d'Horloge is the main square in Avignon, with many restaurants,
the city hall, opera house and toddling children. The medieval clock tower overlooks the square.

Of course, the sales in France are still goin' strong, and people have yet to tire of shopping. Well...except for this guy..."Screw it, gimme a drink."

The construction of this enormous Gothic building, Palais des Papes, began in 1316, after Avignon came under the rule of the popes. The Palace was home to many popes up until
the French Revolution. Heavily raided during the war, there is very little original art left inside.

The Chapelle de Saint-Michel et Tous les Saints was built between 1369 and 1378
in the middle of a cemetery for the poor....hmmm.

We were back at the Palais des Papes at the end of the day just
in time to hear a marching band perform.

People appeared from every direction, emerging from the tiny, narrow passageways
and gathering 'round to hear the energetic tunes.

We took our leave of Avignon with a last
glance at the famous Pont under a cloudy but wondrous sunrise.

. . . .

Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse, l'on y danse
Sur le pont d’Avignon
L'on y danse tous en rond