Pretty much every English kid of my age would have learned this French song in skool, without ever giving it much of a thought, nor really knowing what they were singing about.
When the chance came to actually put my feet upon this famous (apparently) bridge, I couldnt resist. I even learned the dance (although there is no video proof of this fact, fortunately).
The old city of the Pope, before he headed off to the luxury of Rome, is stunning. The old papal residence is the first thing you see if you arrive in the city centre from the underground car park. You walk up a flight of stairs, eyes blinking into the brilliant sunlight and you see this:
The architecture is incredible, from wherever you find yourself in the city you can see something dating from a period of history long since forgotten by the vast majority.
A walk around the city shows you largesse of a style rarely seen these days, certainly indicates that the phrase “how the other half live” was as relevant then as it is now.
Above the main square is a beautiful park where in days of yore the Pope would walk and repose, as well as checking out his grapes growing for his papal wine and admiring the views over the city.
The bridge, the famous bridge of Avignon is also visible from up here, what you can’t see here is that the bridge stops well before reaching the other side of the river. What point a bridge that doesn’t cross a river you may well ask, but as I (and myriad other tourists milled around a half finished pont the answer was obvious. Tourism.
Originally the bridge did actually reach the other side and was used daily, but after many consecutive winters where the Rhine was in spate and washed away the final third, the city finally gave up and built a newer, better bridge capable of withstanding the winter floods. It fell into ruin and was about to be pulled down until somebody realised the pull of the tourist Euro, and up it stayed.
From the bridge, the view back up into the city is just as spectacular, as well as the views upstream showing the new dam built to control the annual flooding.
Avignon is like many cities with a well known tourist attraction. Its overpriced, full, busy and loads of tourist tat for sale. It also has some incredible architecture, some beautiful open spaces to walk in and take in the stunning views over the area. If you’re in the area I’d certainly recommend popping in for a visit.