March 07, 2006

Avignon, Days 3 and 4

On Sunday, DS and I decided to just up and go to Avignon. Saturday night, we had tried to buy our train tickets and hotel reservations online. Apparently, you can only buy TGV tickets online if you live in France, or in one of a list of countries in "Appendix 2". The US was not one of the 5 countries on this list.

This made for a great adventure, as we had to get up early Sunday morning and head for the train station with no real plans. We got there with enough time to use one of the automatic ticket machines. However, these weren't taking either one of our credit cards. With 10 minutes before the train arrived, we had to get in a mile long line to buy our tickets from a real person. Speaking to real people is always scary, as I can only really read French, but not speak it or understand it.

A street in Avignon

Thank God we happened upon an English speaking teller. Unfortunately, we missed the train we wanted, and got to spend the next hour and a half sitting on the station floor. However, this did give us the opportunity to try out something similar to hot fries, except the closest guess I have regarding their flavor is the kind of chicken ramen uses.

Waiting for the train.

Around noon, I boarded my first bullet train and headed for Avignon at over 100 mph. This got us there in about 70 min. Totally awesome.

About as close as I got to the Alps, sadly. But still cool.

As we got off the train, we saw a parking lot, and that's about it. We looked around. DS says "Ayup... now what?" I had no answer. I just laughed. "Maybe they have a subway?"

Avignon TGV

They didn't. But luckily we found a bus that said "Avignon Centre" on the front. So we hopped on and hoped for the best. I'm just glad that DS had been there before, so that when we saw the wall around the city center, he knew we were there.
Inside one of the wall towers surrounding the city.

Next, we had to find a hotel. This wasn't too hard, though finding one we could afford did take a bit of walking around. We ended up choosing Hotel d'Angleterre. I'm pretty sure that means England. It was pretty nice for a two star hotel, with a nice breakfast and private patio.

View of the patio out our window.

Our first day in the city, we visit Le Petit Palais, former home of the bishop of Avignon, currently a museum full of medieval Italian paintings. We walked up to the park on the top of the hill, right next to the museum, and we're nearly blown off. I have never in my life been in such winds as these. We occasionally get gusts of wind around 30 mph in Wisconsin, and this was far worse that those have ever been. We wanted to go out on the Pont St. Benezet, but they had to close it for fear of people being blown off. All this, and it was a beautifully sunny day.

A pond in the park.

Tired of PB&J, we went in search of a restaurant, our first since my arrival. We decided on a place in the main square, where we ordered pizza and spaghetti. The pizza had four different French cheeses on it, which was very tasty. Soft drinks cost the same as beers. The bill came in a cute little red trinket box.

The main square.

DS using one of the "long telephones"

With another sunny day on Monday, and slightly less wind, we were able to walk out on the bridge. It would seem that when you tour major things in Avignon, you get something that looks like a long telephone, which tells you things about history at key locations along your tour. So we learned all about how the arches of the bridge fell down, and why there are two chapels on the bridge. We also learned the song "Pont d'Avignon", which I can't stop singing, much to the chagrin of my fiance.
le Pont Saint-Benezet

We got a discounted ticket price that allowed us to get into the Palace of the Popes as well. This was a very lengthy tour, again with the long telephones. I mean, this place was HUGE. It was so cool to walk down halls that 9 popes had occupied. I walked around in the popes bedroom, which was painted in a pretty blue with flowers and birds all over it. Considering most of the palace was messed up while some troops occupied it during some war, I think they've done an amazing job fixing it up and telling its story. I liked how I could choose to learn more about a subject I was interested in, like the tiles found on the floors during different popes' reigns, or the stained glass windows, and didn't have to hear about things I didn't care about. Unfortunately, they didn't allow pictures inside, so I have very little to show from this tour.

The newer part of the palace, and the Notre Dame des Doms

The newer part of the of palace.

After this, we slowly made our way back to the train station. We decided this had been a most successful adventure, and has given us courage to do something like this again. Though we may make sure we can at least get to the city from the train station next time.

Enjoying the day.


uph_man said...

yey! for successful adventures

Janelle Renee said...

You and DS are such a cute couple!

I love reading about your adventures. I feel like I'm there exploring with you!

Pony Boy said...

Ciao!!! Is that what they fucking say?

Monica said...

I love love the pictures of the two of you together. You look so damn happy.

Dragonslayer said...

I think ciao is Italian or something...whatever it is, I haven't heard it here. Of course I'm not sure I'd understand it even if that is what they're saying.

Rrramone said...

Wow, how awesome.

You need to get closer to the Alps!! :-)

Spinning Girl said...

Hi, just stopping by to say I have been sick & not into reading, but next week when I am on vacation I will come back & read all I have missed! xoxox SG

Ian said...

That looks like a blast.