The Provençal town of Avignon was our next destination – an historic fully encircled walled town has been an important centre of trade over the centuries. It is perhaps most famous as home to the ancient bridge of the French children’s song Sur La Pont d’Avignon. The bridge, also known as Le Pont Saint-Bénézet once consisted of more than 20 arches spanning the Rhône. Over the centuries most of the arches have been washed away in successive flooding. Today all that remains are four arches and the Saint Nicholas Chapel – honoured as the boatmen’s chapel.
Within the city ramparts lie the remnants of its former glory days of power and influence, as home to the papacy during the 14th Century. The magnificent Palais des Papes, the largest Gothic palace ever built, was erected by Pope Clement V, who had refused to settle in Rome after his election in 1309. Over a period of 90 years there were a series of 7 Popes and several antiPopes who resided here. Today, despite being primarily an empty shell, it was certainly a fascinating place to visit to gain an insight into the extent of wealth, influence and the grandeur of the lifestyle of the papal court. On our tour we climbed over two hundred steps and explored the remnants of the frescoes and papal tombs etc.
Today the city is an energetic, bustling city which owes much of its prosperity to tourism. The streets and laneways are filled with lots of enticing shops and sidewalk cafes. After exploring the Popes’ Palace it was time for ice-cream and some serious gift shopping. Found some amazing chocolatiers, patisseries and biscuit makers. I also found a charming toy shop but my very favourite shop here was the Fragonard Parfumier Boutique Fragonard are famous for their extensive range of fragrances created in Grasse in the hinterland of the Côte D’Azur but they also had a lovely range of linen and some fashion accessories too. Our main purchase was a set of gorgeous Eurpoean Cushion covers for Gareth and Shel. We were surprised on our return to the ship to find that this was also a favourite stop for Dianne and Keith too and that they had purchased some table linen which we had admired too. It will look lovely in their new apartment at Twin Waters.