Sunday, January 26, 2014

Avignon, City Of Popes

Avignon would be the last stop on our French motorcycle adventure.  It was a short ride from Nimes, so we had plenty of time along the way for a stop in the medieval village of Beaux de Provence, another of France's designated Most Beautiful Villages.

Big Dave contracted a case of food poisoning the night before in Nimes.  He was over the nausea come morning, but he hadn't gotten a whole lot of sleep, so he couldn't pass up such a comfortable spot for a nap.

This was a stop to look at an olive orchard on the outskirts of Beaux de Provence.

We rolled into Avignon before lunch on Wednesday, and spent two nights and a day soaking up the history (and food) of this gateway city to Provence.  Avignon has been called the city of popes ever since a Frenchman, Pope Clement V, was elected pope in 1305 and moved his Papal Curia to Avignon.  He was followed in turn by six additional French Popes over the next 71 years.  Finally, in 1377, Pope Gregory XI moved the Curia back to Rome, officially ending the Avignon Papacy.  This was immediately followed, however, by a period of strife within the Roman Catholic Church known as the Western Schism during which two so-called illegitimate antipopes, Clement VII and Benedict XIII, continued the Avignon Papacy in opposition to the legitimate Popes serving in Rome at the same time.

The Avignon popes and their Curia resided in the Papal Palace within the ramparts of the old city. The Avignon Papal Palace is the largest Gothic building from the Middle Ages. No single picture from any vantage point available to us can do justice to the size of the palace, so several pictures will have to suffice.

Dave had sufficiently recovered from the food poisoning to take a picture of some "tourists" in front of the Palace.

The Pont du Gard is an amazingly intact three-tiered Roman aquaduct/bridge that spans the River Gard about 15 miles east of Avignon. Several of us rode over to take a look at it on our "free day". The aquaduct on the top carried water to Nimes, while the middle level was for foot traffic and the bottom level for chariot traffic.

There is a beautiful museum on the site with exhibits that depict how the Romans managed to build things using such huge blocks of stone.  They were pretty clever.

Dave found an interesting rock to take a picture of.

The next day, Friday June 28, was rainy.  We needed to boogie all the way from Avignon back to Tours, a little over 700 km or 425 miles. Big Dave and I figured correctly that Tulin and Penny wouldn't enjoy a high-speed run in the rain with no stops, so we bought them tickets on the fast train so they could make the trip in comfort.  The rest of us headed north on the autoroute with Carole leading the way. That girl can sure ride swiftly. We pulled into their drive outside Tours at 4 pm, in time to pick up the wives at the train station and enjoy another of Carole's wonderful home-cooked French meals.  It was an exhilarating but soggy end to an unforgettable trip.

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