In Avignon, population about 90,000, we visited two major attractions: Palais des Papes or Palace of the Popes, and the Pont St-Benezet, also known as Pont d’Avignon.
Avignon served as the papal seat from 1309 to 1377, under seven successive French-born popes. According to my Lonely Planet guide book, Pope Clement V and his court fled political turmoil in Rome and established the Holy See in Avignon. Opponents of the move, many of them Italian, called the city “the second Babylonian captivity.” Lonely Planet says: “Pope Gregory XI left Avignon in 1376, but his death two years later led to the Great Schism (1378-1417), during which rival popes – up to three at one time, each with his own College of Cardinals – resided at Rome and Avignon and spent most of their energies denouncing and excommunicating one another.”
The palace in Avignon was rather large and spectacular, with the best view of it from a distance, from the bridge I mentioned above. Inside it is mostly bereft of decorations, but its Gothic architecture makes it well worth a visit. The view from its towers of the city was nice. Several statues and tombs were scattered throughout. There was a large courtyard with off-limits grass, an amazing ancient door, and plenty of stairs to keep you in shape.
This is also where I saw another fine example of dictionary-translations that the French seem very fond of. It said, “Toilet temporarily closed because of works. Want, excused us.” You would think they can find a better English-speaker to fix their signs in tourist areas, but you would be wrong. Saw another funny one in another language at a train station ticket line in Paris, where it was trying to thank patrons for waiting patiently. Too bad I was overwhelmed with impatience there, having waited in the wrong line for 45 minutes, to which I got directions from a man working at the station. Then, when my turn finally came in the right line, the very helpful clerk sold me one ticket, rather than two, so I had to run down and line up again, and ended up sitting separately from my travel companion. As you can see, a sign advising patience in this spot was vital. You could buy your ticket from machines, but they did not take cash, and American credit cards do not work in them. Later, I learned it is possible to obtain a chip credit card from some U. S. companies that would work in the few European countries that demand this type of card.
Anyway, this kind of language mix-up is not confined to foreign languages. A sign on the Pont St-Benezet, or Pont d’Avignon, that’s a bridge for those of you not in the know, explained how this bridge was the very one mentioned in the popular French nursery rhyme “Sur le pont d’Avignon.” However, the sign said, dancing happened in reality not “sur le pont” or “on the bridge” but “sous le pont” or “under the bridge.” Even though most of the bridge itself washed out in the mid 1600s, what’s left is pretty cool. It has two levels, and the bottom one contains what looks like jail cells, but now only a statue was locked up inside. The bottom level also had a nice look out point, as you see in the picture I took from above of a man in a red jacket.