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Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Greetings from Avignon

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Yesterday morning, Fr Briggs and I took the Eurostar from Ebbsfleet to Paris, crossed from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon and took the TGV down to Avignon. Readers outside Europe may be unfamiliar with the abbreviation TGV which stands for "train à grande vitesse". It lived up to its word and got us the 430 miles in two hours and 40 minutes as per timetable, averaging over 160mph from start to stop. Francois Mitterand promoted the TGV as a train for everyone, not just a "premier" business service, and that certainly seems to have worked: the train was packed.

Avignon is sometimes described as being more like a Spanish or Italian town than French. It is hard to capture that on camera but this photo perhaps gives a clue:

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The central attraction is the magnificent Papal Palace. Every postcard stall has a picture of the seven Popes of Avignon. That is the number of the legitimate ones. (I haven't yet found a postcard with the antipopes on.) It was all a rather bad time for the Church but a fantastic time for Avignon.

This morning we went round the palace,

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marvelled at the halls,

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looked at the frescoes (not allowed to photograph them), and leaned out of the indulgence window.

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In connection with Avignon, everyone knows the song Sur le pont d'Avignon (well, those words anyway). One important "I'm a knowledgeable tourist" fact is that apparently the original bridge was too narrow to dance in the round so the people would have danced on the island under the bridge so it should be "Sous le pont d'Avignon." Well anyway, here is the remainder of the rebuilt bridge that they didn't dance on:

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We'll probably take a trip over to Le Barroux tomorrow.
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