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  • Writer's pictureKate Woodman

Sur (sous) le pont d’Avignon (On [or is it under?] the bridge of Avignon)

Updated: Feb 16, 2020

rue de Lices

La semaine dernière, je suis allée à Avignon pour deux jours. Tout ce que j’ai su d’Avignon était la chanson d’enfance « Sur le Pont d’Avignon. » Pendant mon séjour la, j’ai appris que même ce petit peu d’information n’est pas tout à fait exact (merci Susan Ellis). La danse n’était pas sur le pont, mais sous le pont. Toutefois la chanson, qui est du 15th siècle, est « sur le pont…. » et tout le monde chant comme ça, dont les enfants d’Avignon.

Last week I went to the Provencal town of Avignon for two days. All I knew about Avignon was the childhood song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon.” When there, however, I learned that even this little bit of information was not exactly correct (thank you Susan Ellis!). The Avignon bridge dancers did not dance ON (sur) the bridge but UNDER (sous) the bridge! Nevertheless, the song, which dates from the 15th century, is “SUR le pont….” and everyone sings it that way, including the children of Avignon.

Pont Saint-Bénézet (otherwise known as Pont d'Avignon) dates from the 12th century. Originally 22 arches, only 4 remain today. The bridge was largely destroyed by a flood in the 17th century.

Pendant mon séjour à Avignon, j’ai appris que dans le 14ème siècle, elle était la ville la plus importante de l’Europe. C’était le siège de l’église catholique. Pendant 67 ans (1309-1376), sept papes vivaient et gouvernaient l’église catholique d’Avignon. La preuve de cette époque est le spectaculaire palais des papes et de superbes édifices gothiques et de la renaissance dans la ville. Avignon est bien plus qu’un pont sur ou sous lequel on peut danser.

More importantly, I also learned that in the 14th century, Avignon was the most important city in Europe. It was the seat of the Catholic church. For 67 years (1309-1376), seven popes lived and governed the church from Avignon. The evidence of this period is a glorious cityscape of gothic and renaissance buildings that are today protected as a UNESCO world heritage site. Avignon is indeed much more than a bridge upon or under which to dance!

Palais des Papes (Papal Palace) at night. It is immense, the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages.

Narrow passage next to Papal Palace leading to the Place Palais

Eglise Notre Dame des Doms next to the Papal Palace

Courtyard of the Papal Palace

Papal Palace tower and golden statue of the Virgin Mary which tops Notre Dame des Doms

Virgin Mary, palace tower and other architectural decoration

Papal palace interior wall

14th century terra-cotta floor tiles the designs of which I found quite contemporary

Simple interior of Notre Dames des Doms, located next to the Papal Palace

Tree in the gardens of the Rocher des Doms next to Notre Dame des Doms

Plupart, comme d’habitude, j’ai pris les photos de ce qui m’a intéressée, souvant un petit détail d’un bâtiment, une rue, une peinture ou une sculpture. Notamment, j’aime beaucoup de prendre les photos des gens de la ville, au quotidien. Donc voici n’est pas un récit de voyage d’Avignon, mais mes impressions de cela.

For the most part, and as is my wont, I took pictures of that which interested me, often small details of a building, street, painting or sculpture. I particularly delight in taking pictures of people as they go about their everyday lives. So what follows is not a travelogue, but rather my impressions of a charming, beautiful and historic town in the south of France.

Loved these 3 buildings on the Place du Palais across from the Papal Palace

Bird's eye view of middle building

Street view of building on left

The old town of Avignon is surrounded by 13th century ramparts....this is one of many "portes" or gates providing entry to the old town


Printing studio through the window

Same print studio

On the exterior wall of a ceramic studio

Staircase in the courtyard of the Hôtel d'Europe on Place Crillon

Place Crillon

Chat d'Avignon

The rue des Teinturiers runs along the narrow Vaucluse Canal. One blog described it as "painfully cute." Though I would not describe it as such, it was mildly interesting. This street was the center of Avignon's silk spinning and dying industry from the 14th to the 19th centuries. The interesting thing is the 4 huge water wheels that, although no longer powering the mills, still turn slowly in the shallow water of the canal.

Vaucluse Canal

One of four water wheels

rue des Teinturiers (means "dyers")

Water wheel paddles

I of course indulged my penchant for images of doors and windows.....

......and chandeliers

Not much in the way of "people" pictures, except this one of a woman buying flowers outside the covered Les Halles market, which was nothing special.....except maybe the "mur vegetal" or wall of plants that graces the front of the building.

Buying flowers......

Les Halles "mur vegetal"

Spices.....just after I took this, the shopkeeper told me photos were not allowed. So no more photos of the marché, but not that interesting anyway.

Thursday morning before I left, I visited the Musée du Petit Palais, located in a small palace adjacent to the Papal Palace. Particularly loved this painted, blue blue.....

Walking back to my Airbnb apartment Wednesday evening, I spotted this pair of abandoned boots and couldn't resist a shot.....

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