Saturday December 4, 2010- (a quick interlude to our regularly scheduled programming of our Alsacian Christmas 3-part series). A few weeks ago I went down to Avignon, in the Provence region of France (think the same region as Marseille) and I was lucky to have visit on one of those rare late fall days where the skies were a brilliant blue, there were only a few clouds adorning the horizon and the cold didn’t feel so piercing since the sun was out all day. Avignon’s historic town center is surrounded by a 4.3 km stone rampart wall to protect those who lived inside.
Why was this wall needed? Avignon is centered around its the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), where several popes lived from the early 14th to early 15th centuries. This immense palace is really more of a fortress, impeccably built to house and protect the European papal seat. Unfortunately much of the furniture and decorations of the palace have been lost since the middle age and the Palais today is mostly empty. But it was amazing to walk through these rooms and think that there used to be papal dinners and religious ceremonies there. This is one of the reasons why I love traveling through Europe- every city, no matter how large or small, has a unique history that is ours to discover.
The rest of the town inside the walls is also equally gorgeous and impressive.
Avignon is also well known for its Pont d’Avignon, located just outside the stone rampants.
Oh, and there was a Christmas market too. But I think of all the Christmas markets I’ve visited so far, this was the least authentic one. I say this because they were playing American music. Now if it had been American music a la Jingle Bells, that might have been forgivable. No. They were playing Usher. And Taio Cruz. I think a little part of me cried a bit when I heard Usher’s dulcet tones singing about love and dancing. Nevertheless, they sold Provence-specific goods, like OLIVE OIL CHOCOLATE from Marseille (don’t knock it until you try it, they use oil instead of butter), Marseillaise soaps, and bags decorated with olive branches made in Provence. The Mediterranean sure does love its olives.