22. May, 2016

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WEDNESDAY 18-05-16

We awoke to a blue sky, it was a lovely morning as we made our way across to the unisex showers at Camping Manon, 3km from Orange town centre.

Having had breakfast and made ready for the road we left the campsite feeling that although a bit tired the campsite offered good value for money. If we'd been staying longer we could have made use of the petanque pitch and tennis court, not that we play tennis but we can hit a ball over a net with a racket.

We didn't have far to travel to Avignon, though of course our satnav bought us here via toll roads. I swear whoever wrote the software for this thing has shares in the French toll road system.

There was a bit of frustration with the traffic to find our campsite, Camping Pont du Avignon (GPS:N43.956554º E4.802202º) , on an island in the middle of the River Rhône, but we arrived in one piece. Our original plan was to use an Aire here, but reading up on it this morning I spotted that whilst most Aires for motorhomes are free, the two here charge. In fact for just two extra Euros a night we could have the security of a campsite as well as hot showers and electricity.

Having parked up I decided that our towels were due a wash and took them over to the shower block to do the necessary. Having done so I hung them out to dry over the spare wheel carrier on the back of the vehicle. That done it was in to town.

From the guide books there appeared to be two attractions, the bridge and the Palace of the Popes. If there are more, then I apologise to the Avignon Tourist Office www.avignon-tourisme.com .

Walking across the modern road bridge about half a mile from 'THE bridge' further along the river we began clicking away. To our right there were huge river cruising boats but I really couldn't be bothered to cross a very busy road on the bridge to take a picture of them.

First we 'did' the famous  bridge of Avignon, Pont Saint-Bénezet, only €4 each (old-gits rate). The original bridge had 22 arches stretching from Avignon town to Villenueve on the other side of the river. Between those communities on each side was a long, thin island running along the middle of the river, in fact, right where our campsite is, hence the need for the bridge to be so long. Unfortunately the bridge suffered flood damage on numerous occasions in its long history, the last and most damaging was in 1668. It was never rebuilt after that leaving just four spans. In fact it doesn't reach across to anywhere now and looks more like a seaside pier.

Thanks to The Chef's research, supported by a bit from 'Rough Guides, France' it now looks as if the original lyrics to the famous song should really say "Sous le pont" (under the bridge) rather than "Sur le pont" (on the bridge), and that refers to either the local populace, who would, on feast days, dance under the bridge on the island in the middle of the river, or of the rogue clientele of a tavern situated there, dancing with glee at the arrival of more potential victims. That's the problem with research, it can take away the romance of such a song.

Next it was a fairly short walk to the Palace of the Popes www.palais-des-papes.com . Not my cup of tea at all really, but I know The Chef would want to look around the complex and so I went in with her and endured it. Annoyingly no photography or videoing was allowed in the 'painted rooms'. Now I have a real problem with this, they've taken my money, now I want something in return. I absolutely understand why they would not want flash photography in rooms where there are oil paintings as, over a period of time, the bright light from the flashes effects the paint, but a ban on photography at numerous locations throughout the tour doesn't sit well with me, but I am in a foreign country and so will respect their rules, even though it's through gritted teeth.

It seems that with factional strife in Rome, and encouragement from the scheming Philippe IV of France, Pope Clement V moved the papal court to Avignon in 1309. Here it remained until 1377, during which time his successors transformed the modest Episcopal building into the present magnificent palace. Its heavy fortifications were vital to defend against rogue bands of mercenaries. Today it is empty of the luxurious trappings of 14th-century court life, as virtually all the furnishings and works of art were destroyed or looted in the course of the centuries. Some fortifications they were then.

It seems the Popes themselves had a really good time living there, supported by their secret mistresses, whilst the poor no doubt went hungry and without their oats.

It all went over my head, but when you're a tourist you have to endure these things.

Having completed that tour we had a wander round the town before it began to rain, four hours ahead of what the online 'BBC Weather' had predicted. This meant that on our return to the motorhome our towels were well and truly wet as they hung there looking all forlorn.

This evenings meal was mince in a lovely gravy, boiled potatoes and peas. Ok so it won't win The Chef any prizes but it was Luvverly Jubberly.