Monday, October 27, 2008

Pont du Gard and Avignon

9-26-08 Arles to Avignon

I slept a solid 11 hours – I can’t remember the last time I’ve done that! We actually had CNN news in English on our TV so we were able to catch up on home news last night. Still no internet to upload this, hopefully soon. We may stop at another McD’s tomorrow to use theirs. Walk downstairs to the nice buffett breakfast, fill up and head to our first stop of Pont du Gard.

Pont du Gard is a huge, 3 story section of Roman aqueduct which serviced Nimes. It is the 2nd tallest Roman ruin other than the colosseum in Rome. It was built between AD38 – AD 62.

We bypass the little museum and head to the small town of Uzes, 10 minutes away, recommended as a good lunch top from the Montreal couple in the laundromat. It was a cute, little medieval town and took about a ½ hour to walk. We found a small family run café, Terry ordered a salmon tarte omelette type dish and salad just OK, I had lasagna and salad which was totally forgettable – YUK! This was our first bad meal, oh well!

This was the beginning our the rest of the bad day – our first. We drive into the walled city of Avignon, with tiny narrow streets congested with traffic. Our hotel gave us directions to park in a parking garage 2 blocks from the hotel. Well we found the garage, what an experience driving in that tiny narrow space, almost hitting every car and wall. We finally find a spot with less than 12” on each side to get out of the car.

We unload all our luggage in one swoop and start walking the town to our hotel. Instantly, we both have a weird feeling about Avignon. We have been in enough European cities to know when a place feels safe, this not so much. Drop our bags, our hotel is decent as is the room and feels very secure. But as we venture out to walk the main parts of town, there are LOTS of street people, graffiti, begging homeless, and groups of young men who are casing the tourists for pickpocketing. Terry puts the camera away, we hold our bags tight in front. Walk a few streets down the main drag and turn around to leave again not feeling safe. The streets are dirty, trash everywhere – such a shame to let a historic city center go to pot.

Went back to our hotel neighborhood, which does feel much safer and neater. Visited a church, and saw the Palace of the Popes and it's square. Pope Clement the 4th of 1309, was French, had enough of the Italians and Rome, and literally moved the Papecy to Avignon. The Catholic church bought most of the land in Avignon, built the Palace for the Popes to live in, much like Vatican City. The Popes and the Catholic Church remained here until 1417, when it moved back to Rome after the city cleaned up it's act.

Palace of the Popes

We then walked to the big city park on top a hill above the Palace to see the Rhone river view and a bridge that was destroyed in by a 1600s flood. Got an ice cream cone, people watched in the square, went to the store, bought fresh cheese, baguette, bananas and milk for a dinner snack. LOL, we are really becoming resident French, eating cheese and bread at just about every meal. You know the saying, when in Rome . . . oops in this case France! : )

Avignon photos of area around our nice hotel neighborhood

Back to the room at 6 to eat and rest.
Avignon was one place we were really looking forward to, what a disappointment.

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