What is it about walking on ancient cobblestones that fills the air with mystery? I climb one more set of dark, curved, stone steps and raise the question, “How many feet have climbed these worn steps?”
Fog envelops us as we leave Paris. Soon a sense of softness fills the air as we drive through Provence. Our stop in Beaune alerts all our color senses as we stroll through the weekend market.
In Avignon we leave the Novetel, our quite modern hotel – cross the street, pass through the stone wall’s gate and enter a blend of Middle Ages and 21st century. My camera is eager to capture it all.
The residency of the Popes during the fourteenth century is the major story of the town. We assume earlier history must have occurred, so we hunt in the tourist books for any hint of this. What we discover is surprising. The early history was obliterated as the ancient Roman monuments were turned into stone quarries. Over several centuries what was once Gallo-Roman Avignon disappeared into the buildings that are ancient now.
We listen to the history of the time of Avignon as a Papal Center during our tour of the Pope’s Palace, the largest Gothic building in the Christian West. This imposing stone structure absorbs our attention. but everywhere we turn another charm beckons us ___
• the ornate two-story merry-go-round right in the middle of town floods our eyes and ears with delight. I yearn for my four great grandchildren. My camera would fairly jump for joy to capture them riding this art piece.
• the fourteenth century bell tower, preserved on the more modern town hall, stops us in our tracks. We long for a change in the hour to set it in motion, – we wait, then set forth to the next delight.
• I huff and puff as we ascend to the garden with stunning views overlooking the Rhone River and the bridge to nowhere. I am elated that we made the breath taking climb.
• that bridge to nowhere…actually called the Pont Saint-Benezet — there seem to be differing stories about this strange leftover from another age. First finished in 1185, rebuilt over and over again during successive years as violent currents took it out. Or did bombardments take out segments? We are left to believe whatever version of the stories speak to us. In any case, the rebuilding stopped in 1660 when the damage was so great folks just gave it up. Now…just an enchanting tourist attraction.
• Tina and I buy a crepe for lunch at one of the “in and off” spots on the square. In Americanize that is “take-out.” We sit on stone pillars in the sun, eating our delicious crepe as the filling in mine dribbles down my pant leg. Hoping no one notices my dirty clothes; I carry on.
• darling shops everywhere, tempting folks like me to buy things that I can’t possibly need.
I have trouble believing it was fun to live in the Middle Ages, particularly when the black plague struck in the fourteenth century. But walking through the remains of that time is mystifying and intriguing.