Saturday, 20 February 2016

Avignon, southern France

I had exactly 1 hour and 40 minutes to visit Avignon. It was a bit like being Cinderella, as I was tied to the A15 bus schedule and needed to be back in time for the dogs' afternoon meal and walk... So, I planned my trip to the minute.

Fortified 13th-century walls are kind of what it's all about here. Oh, and some bridge... 

The walls are pretty cool and astonishingly intact but, once you're inside them, there's some pretty amazing modern architecture. I spotted an art deco cinema on a side street and had to go take a closer look, being that it's one of my favourite styles. It's the fonts really, that do it for me. 
And then, back on the main drag – Cours Jean Jaurés – there was this amazing art nouveau building, just sitting there like it was no big deal. I was aiming for the bridge though: real name Pont St-Bénézet. I wasn't going to have time to make a visit to the Palais des Papes worthwhile, but it looks impressive and there's a crazy building opposite. That is, everything about it is just ridiculously enormous: the decorations, the scale of the façade and the way there aren't any windows above street level. I wish I could tell you what it was (if you know, please tell me!), but I pretty much just scuttled past, following the signs for Pont St B. I'd used up some of my precious alloted time by shopping. I know! Quelle horreur! But there are a lot of shops lining that Cours Jean Jaurés. Just warning you, is all.

There's a €5 admission to get into the bridge bit, but once you've paid full price to get into one of the historic landmarks in this town – and there are several, including the Palais and a number of museums – you get a stamp on your admission ticket and this gives you a discount to all the others if you visit the same day. The entry fee also gives you a hand-held audio guide, which was useful. 

Obviously, once upon a time the bridge went right across the Rhône and over the two islands in the water here, but seiges and floods have taken their toll and now there's just this spur. It has a sweet little chapel on it, where a plaque announces it's been the site of 'many miracles'. 

There are various extras in the gatehouse: a downstairs exhibition and cine area, for instance. I recommend you go with a more generous time allocation, because it was about this point that I realised I'd need to hoof it back pronto to get that bus... 

Just a tip: the bus lets you off on the road opposite the entrance to Avignon. But to get the bus back, you need to go inside an implausible-looking building to the left of the Gare Routière, where, voilà!, all the different bus lines park up.

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