This past Saturday we loaded onto a bus at 8 a.m. to spend the day in Avignon. We began our day walking through the Palais du Papes, an immense fortress where popes resided during the 14th century. Pope Clement V refused to move to Rome after his papal election in 1305 and began the Avignon Papacy. Looking over the entire city, the palais graced us with breathtaking views of the city and surrounding countryside.
We spent much of our day wandering the winding streets of old town, stumbling upon various attractions along the way. Our first stop was a street vendor selling old French textbooks that appeared to be more like tiny novels; I purchased one that described the science of memories in the 1950s. Next, we found a record store selling Stephen Graphelli, Yves Montand and Django Reinhardt records. These are my favorite musicians featuring Montand as the classic crooner while Reinhardt and Graphelli innovate with their swinging jazz manouche. Finally, the most serendipitous discovery of our day was a street in the shopping district covered entirely by umbrellas. I think all Avignon citizens must wander to that street when they’re feeling sad because even only a few minutes there brightened our already beautiful day.
In the afternoon we explored the extensive Musée Calvet, featuring classic works from the renaissance period and modern paintings by Soutine. If you are visiting Avignon, this is a must.
Later that evening, we returned to the Palais du Papes to see their light show. In the next 45 minutes, I watched the history of Avignon unfold around me on the walls of the courtyard. Not only did I learn more of the city’s history, but I was also dazzled by the gorgeous animations depicting the life of past popes and feudal life in the 1300s. Overall, a lovely day trip well spent.