Yesterday I was planning on getting up at 8 to take an early-ish train to Avignon, but I woke up (barely) at 6:40 and decided I didn’t want to wake up at 8, so I turned my alarm off. Then I woke up at 8:14. Grrrr. Seriously, why is my body deciding to develop an internal alarm clock when I’m on vacation?? It’s never had one before!
I still didn’t have time to make the earlier train, so I took my time getting ready and going online. I made the 11:30 train and also decided against trying to go to Aix-en-Provence. In France, I have to buy seat reservations for my train trips, despite having a Eurail Pass. It was 9 euro for a 35 min train ride in second class (I would’ve paid 15 euro for a second class seat on a 4.5 hour train ride from Barcelona….but I paid 20 euro and sat in first class!). And I would have had to have another seat reservation for Aix and then another to get back to Marseille. Waste of money.
So I explored Avignon and had lunch at an Irish pub. I am really over French food. Except baguette sandwiches. Yum! Then I made my way to the Palais des Papes, which was the Papal Palace when the papacy was based in Avignon in the 1300’s. It was based there instead of in Rome. It was a cool place. There are still some frescos there and paintings on the walls. It never ceases to amaze me to be looking at (not to mention standing in) things that are 700-800 years old! It reminds me of something our cab driver in Lagos said: everything in Europe is old and everything in the US is new! So true! Before I went to Ireland in 2012, I used to think things from the 1700s were old. Now I’m all, whatevs…so not impressive! Ha!
The Palace is the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages, as well as one of the best examples of International Gothic architecture. In one of the rooms, the original terra cotta tile floor remains. And in quite good shape. It was the only 14th century flooring still in existence in the palace. Each tile was decorated differently. I took a photo, not realizing that was one of the rooms we weren’t supposed to photograph. I knew we couldn’t in rooms with frescos, but someone was standing in front of the no photos sign in that room! Whoops. I felt terrible.
I also stood in the room where the conclaves were held. In 1274 Pope Gregory X decreed that cardinal electors should be locked in seclusion cum clave (with a key) and not permitted to leave without a new Pope. So in the palace they had the conclave room. That was pretty cool.
After the Papal Palace, I went to the St. Benezet Bridge. It is a bridge over the Rhone River. Or, well, half over it. It is a bridge that stops in the middle of the river! It was initially a wooden bridge that a shepherd named Benezet said that God told him to build. So he got people to build the wooden bridge between 1177-1185. That bridge was destroyed 40 years later and was subsequently rebuilt with 22 stone arches. This was difficult to maintain and would be destroyed when the Rhone flooded. In the middle of the 17th century, the bridge was abandoned and there are only 4 surviving arches. Those 4 are believed to have been built in 1345 during Pope Clement VI’s papacy in Avignon. The bridge has two chapels, an upper and a lower and St. Benezet is interred in one of the surviving arches in the bridge!
After that I wandered a bit more, bought some lavender things (I mean, you can’t be in Provence and not buy lavender, right?), and postcards. I got stamps and made my way to the train station. Where I had a cluster getting seat reservations back to Marseille and to Geneva tomorrow. First, and this happened with my cab driver Wednesday night, when you say “Geneva” to someone in France, they think you mean Genoa or whatever is in Italy. I had to show her my phone when she realized I meant Switzerland (which, really, I think they call it Suisse here…again, the cab driver didn’t know what I meant by Switzerland). But then the train I wanted to take (the 10:08) was full. Plum full. That hasn’t happened before. So I have to get the 8:46 and have a two hour layover in Lyon. Oh well, I will sleep to Lyon!
Then I wanted my seat reservation back to Marseille (I had to take a train from Marseille to Avignon and then a shuttle train to the city center. I was in the city center and waiting for the shuttle train when I was purchasing these tickets), but turns out the train I wanted to take there didn’t allow a Eurail pass. What the what? THAT’S never happened before either. Seriously, HATE France. So we decided I would take a local train from the city center, which takes like an hour and 15 minutes, but would get me back to Marseille earlier than the earliest train I could have taken from the other train station. And I didn’t have to pay for this train. Score.