We arrived in Avignon yesterday at 12:00 and thankfully our hotel was only a short distance from the train station. Speaking of train stations, we had an interesting time leaving Arles for Avignon. The train ride itself was unexceptional and short, only twenty minutes but trying to leave the station was another story. While we were waiting for the train, the baby girl and I noticed a group of gypsy women hanging out on the platform smoking cigarettes, talking and laughing. Apparently we weren’t the only ones who noticed because the railroad personnel soon came to us and others, politely asking for tickets and making it clear, politely, that without a ticket, you were not welcome on the platform. I think that this was a game between the authorities and the gypsy women over who had the power and who was in the right and the gypsy women were not about to give in, the railroad gentlemen politely told them that the Avignon police were coming to peacefully escort them away from the platform and they walked away laughing.
Once on board however we weren’t moving because the gypsy women in small pairings were running back and forth in the cars and out, this time over the loud speaker, the conducted stated that we were experiencing a delay because the police were definitely on their way. I told the baby girl that this was going to be in tomorrows edition, our train held hostage by a band of 8-10 gypsy women. They weren’t dangerous, just completely dismissive of the law. At least they seemed to be having fun thumbing their noses to the French railway, I was glad that the car had air conditioning because yesterday was the start of even hotter temperatures. We are going to melt way in the next few days. The train eventually started moving, no one was arrested and the game between the gypsies and the authorities was for another time, without us as the audience.
The baby girl and spent all day walking throughout the city of Avignon. It is grand, I felt very comfortable here, more so than in Nice and Arles. Nice was way too over run by tourists, cars and overbuilt, it I think lost its charm of twenty years ago. Arles, I really loved for its huge archaeological riches and tiny winding streets but I felt that the city itself was fatigued from all of the weight of history.
Avignon, I have the sense of sunlight, wide open squares, happiness and a feeling of well-being that permeates the air. We arrived very hungry and the hotel’s owner’s wife Sylvie recommended Ginette’s and Marcel’s Bistro de Tartines. A tartine is an open-faced sandwich which is wildly popular here. The baby girl had a smoked salmon with creme fraiche, capers and lemon. I had pesto, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese melted under the broiler as my tartine. We ate them under the Bistro’s parasols in the Place, there was a fountain and a beautiful black dog jumped into the fountain to cool off.
Afterwards we simply walked, we made our way up to the Rocher des Doms, which is the rock of the Doms, the highest elevation in Avignon. I took many pictures, the surrounding countryside was beautiful, the far off mountains majestic, it was breath taking. Right below us when we descended was the Palais des Papes, the Pope’s Palace, it represents centuries of power struggles between the church and the nation state and even between two church leaders themselves. It is vast and beautiful, to think of all the wealth designated to buildings these monuments to God when there was so much poverty back then, there still is so much poverty in this very world of today. It makes me sad to see the sharp contrast of all this wealth for a few while the majority have little.
As we kept walking throughout the different areas within Avignon, I kept taking pictures of whatever visually intrigued me. Hopefully when I get back home in a few days and upload them, my pictures will tell a complementary story to go with my words.
This morning after breakfast, the baby girl and I will be walking to the marche, I have to see it. The marche in France are one of my favorite places to visit, the sights, the noise, the aromas in the air, I love it. After the marche, it’s lunch followed by more walking until it is time for our 16:15 train to Lyons.