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Preserved here today are places of medieval intrigue —certainly several major foci of grand events that touched Christian practice during the entire 14th century.

 

Encouraged by the king of France at the time, and nudged by the frequency of pontifex maximus assassinations in Rome, the Papal court decamped the Tiber region in the early 1300s, and took up residence on what was relatively inexpensive farmland along the river Rhone.

 

Avignon.

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Still to be seen are grand edifices of that religious-political turmoil—evidences of vastly powerful despots whose alliances for influence were shifting, and of the  forays of former (but now unemployed) crusader-knights-turned-plunderers who routinely ransacked and burned peasant villages in the region. Each nearby castle has its own stories, each surrounding village its tales of woe. As I say, they are all here waiting for a traveler's eyes to see and ears to hear.

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Thursday - Thursday

27 October - 3 November

Avignon

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A moment of insight for me; I wasn't drawn, for even a moment, to visit these famous and probably inspiring places simply because they were famous and inspiring. Three-plus weeks into the adventure, it became clear that this sojourn was about reveling in the place/neighborhood itself. That, rather than ticking off events on a paper or digital schedule. Nice to know.

Street fairs, bistro  tables, an indoor market called Les Halles, the vast fortress known as the Pope's Palace, a storm-truncated bridge that still extends part way across the Rhone. A charming little kids' song still is sung about this:  "Sur le pont d'Avignon, on y danse ..."

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It's a town with visible archaeology, yes, but also one with a history of manufacturing and trade; also there remains an artistic inclination: an almost bohemian element survives and prospers here. Thus, the Street of the Dyers, which parallels a water-wheel-punctuated canal of the Sorgue river, finds its stonework "combed and brushed" still. Thus cultivated it is an atmosphere meant to feed the souls of poets and painters and coffee shop philosophers alike.

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Last time here— 

The greatest loss to the Old Town, per my own reaction, was the funky character of this Street of the Dyers (photos above and top header). Of the 20 or so enormous Sycamore trees that lined the edge of the Sorgue River branch in its stone channel, only two remain. Sickly looking, doomed to the chainsaw like their fellows. Along that winding city block there were as many as three businesses still intact. Elsewhere all was still fascinating, but this was one of the primary images I had cherished from years before.

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—and for us such homey scenes are expected, this time. Oh, and food.

What an interesting apartment, on the third floor of a street whose name seemed to change every 100 yards or so. Open windows on front and back sides of our rooms ensured views, ventilation, and neighbor noise as well. Loved it all.

A note on our actual food here in the south of France. Being peeps with a very finite budget, meals were nearly always cooked in our own kitchen and enjoyed over-looking the street two floors below (we moved the table over by the window). And what a pleasure nosing around the green grocer's shop, a block away, when nearby Carrafour Market seemed too "uptown."

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