Sunday, July 22, 2012
Woke up at 8:30am. It was sunny and windy.
Today we will be visiting Avignon. We caught the 8:44am train at Arles and in 20 minutes, we were there! So were about a quarter of a million other people – July is the Avignon Film Festival.
Avignon is often called the “City of Popes” because of the presence of popes and antipopes from 1309 to 1423 during the Catholic schism. This is one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts, its historic centre, the palace of the popes, Rocher des Doms, and the bridge of Avignon. Everyone goes here.
At first glance, this city is a mess! Posters advertising plays and films are plastered everywhere! With the wind blowing as it was, the city also had a lot of these posters flying through the air. My DH loved the energy of the place. I found the dozens and dozens of kids handing out flyers annoying! However, I admit that some of their costumes were interesting.
The lady at the Tourist Office suggested we go to the Avignon market. We got lost almost immediately. Eventually our search for the market turned into wandering around the city and we saw some interesting sights.
Eventually, we did find the food market. Unlike the other markets we have seen in France, this market is indoors. Any food that you can image was being sold here – breads, pastries, cheeses, meats, spices, candy, etc. The food looked and smelled amazing!
Around 1pm, we were hungry. We spent about an hour looking for a cool place to eat. We finally settled on Les Dommions, a nice restaurant in the square right before the Papal Palace. Being very touristy, we figured the food would be mediocre and the prices inflated but really — how long does one look for a restaurant in a strange city with no internet to check out Yelp? My DH ordered salmon. I ordered Penne Pesto. Overall, the service and food were good.
After lunch, we toured the Papal Palace and its gardens.
As we were leaving the garden around 5pm, my DH saw the Petite Train of Avignon parked in the Palace courtyard. This train ride offered a 40-minute tour ride the city. It looked like fun so we paid the fare and jumped on!
What sights we saw on this ride are really not important. The city is small and most of the sites we had already seen while we wandered. What was interesting to us was how the driver was able to maneuver this train (3 mini-cars) through the narrow and crowded streets of Avignon without hurting anyone or taking out one of those tacky gift shops! In some cases, we were less than six inches from the walls of stores and closer yet to live tourists. Also, the train became a magnet for all those people with the flyers for the shows and films! However, this ride did give us the opportunity to see their wild and crazy costumes! It was truly a circus of a major magnitude. My DH loved it!
Around 6pm, with two hours to go before the last train back to Arles, we stopped for dinner at Bistrot d’Tartines (as recommended by Rick Steves). Their specialties are tartines – toast with a topping. My DH ordered Tomato and Mozzeralla. I ordered Chicken Salad. Both were excellent!
We caught the 8:22pm train back to Arles. Twenty minutes later, we were back in Arles and I was pushing the button on the taxi stand in front of the train station — this time we noticed it right out front by the main glass doors. After about five minutes I noticed a Train Station Attendant in the terminal. I thought, what the heck – I will ask him it this button really works. I walked back in the terminal, leaving my DH to wait for the taxi. I was lucky – the Attendant spoke English and told me “No, it does not work. You need to call the number on the box” in his youthful French accent. This guy looked just like Steve Perry from the 80’s rock band Journey — thin with long, long, long, straight hair (I had a crush on him when I was a teenager, so I know). I explain to him that I have no phone. “Is there anyone here who can help me?” I asked. He offered to call the taxi for us.
I go to the door and do the “Come here, Sweetheart” motion with my finger. My DH meets me in the terminal and I explain the situation. My DH says with an astonished look on his tired face “What? He was just going to leave us standing there? These are glass doors! Couldn’t he see us?” I said, “I don’t know.”
The Train Station attendant calls us a taxi on his phone. We thank him profusely. As we get into the taxi, we recognized the taxi driver – he has driven us over the bridge before! My DH says to him is French, “We are good friends now!” He agreed. We all chuckled.
Even thought the wind was a bit too much and I didn’t like all the trash in the streets, Avignon was still a great city to see. I would love to see it again when it is clean.
Quote of the Day: “I take you to all the best places, don’t I?” – DH in response to my complaint about all the trash lying about in Avignon.