Sous le Pont

Since about half of France closes on September 15th, or thereabouts, we are now into the part of the trip where you go where there is an open campsite.

PXL_20230922_122655102-01We are up at Avignon. We came here many years ago but I can remember precious little about that trip. It’s a dreadful place to visit because it naturally gives you the most terrible earworm, one of the main tourist attractions being, of course, le pont d’Avignon, which now looks like more of a demi-pont d’Avignon, reaching out into the river Rhône but not across it.

20230924_123030_050543-02Actually it’s more like a fifth of a pont in that what remains is just 4 arches of the original 22. At this point the channel of the Rhône splits into two creating a large island in the middle of the river. Originally the bridge spanned from Avignon, across the island, and onto Villeneuve-les-Avignon on the opposite bank of the river, hence the 22 arches. The large white tower, about halfway up the picture, is where the original complete bridge terminated.

On the island, there used to be areas of entertainment and the revellers used to dance under one of the arches. The original lyrics of the irritating earworm were, “sous le pont d’Avignon…” – under the bridge at Avignon. The bridge apparently collapsed quite regularly when the Rhône flooded and became too expensive to maintain. Eventually, in the 17th century, they stopped trying to repair it and the song lyrics changed to “sur le pont d’Avignon …” – on the bridge at Avignon. The lyrics would have been every bit as irritating either way.

The other attraction in Avignon, being the cité des Papes, is the pope’s palace. What’s with the pope not being in Rome, then? Well, there was apparently a conflict between the papacy and the French crown leading to the pope residing in Avignon between 1309 and 1376. Bloody religion, eh? In the picture above, the ostentatious gold-coloured statue tops the pope’s palace.

20230924_123542_043052-01Looking north from the elevated papal palace, the landscape is dominated by the mighty Mont Ventoux, frequented regularly by the Tour de France and tagged, “the beast of Provence”. It’s a surreal landscape, the summit being bare limestone appearing like snow. The mountain used to be forested but it was systematically felled for shipbuilding from the 12th century onwards. Losing the trees led to wind erosion – the wind here exceeds 90km/h for 240 days a year. Hence the now bare limestone rock. Well done again Homo sapiens.

BBQ largeBBQ modestI’ve been completely out-barbecued, too. In the same way that Mont Ventoux dominates the surrounding landscape, a barbecue has turned up that dominates the surrounding campsite pitches. Two Swiss motor homes in convoy arrived and, from one of the garages, rather like a magician producing a rabbit from a top hat, this gas barbecue complete with wheeled trolley was produced. It wasn’t even broken down, it was complete – ready assembled. Not only that but it came complete with it’s own, dedicated 10kg Gaslight cylinder. Did it connect to the external gas point on the motor home? Oh no, let’s carry an extra 10kg gas cylinder for it. Jeez! Our own little 30cm Cadac (which I would recommend) even has to be broken down to fit into Frodo’s cupboards.

How the other half lives.

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Posted in 2023-09 France