Published on :   06/05/2015

A Day Trip to Avignon

Today, I witnessed a boat of adults go absolutely insane over a nursery rhyme.

What exactly happened?

Well, as a treat this afternoon, the captain cruised our boat along the Rhône to get a perfect glimpse at the Pont d’Avignon, one of the city’s most well-known landmarks. Consisting of only 4 stone arches today, this bridge once spanned the entire width of the Rhône, making it almost 900m long. The bridge’s claim to fame of course, is that it inspired the nursery rhyme Sur le Pont d’Avignon, a beloved classic among French children. Indicative of the crew’s attention to detail, this very song began to play as we pulled up to the bridge, and what happened next was incredible.

… the entire sun deck erupted in song and dance!

I kid you not, all the French passengers on board were dancing and singing along… In fact, the clapping and happy singing continued as we made our way into the dining hall for lunch. I mentioned yesterday that the crew of the MS Van Gogh always seems to be having a good time. Today, I can definitely say the same about the passengers!

After lunch, we were given time to explore the Medieval town of Avignon. I had visited once before on a school trip years ago, but my visit today was an entirely different experience. My vague memories of windy weather and lavender gift shops were quickly replaced by new visions of a lively town with busy shopping streets, beautiful views and important historical monuments all over. Avignon is a great place, one that would require a few days to adequately explore.

That said, I still feel like I had a great experience with my half-day trip! Our excursion began with a tour of the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes), one of the most famous attractions in the city. During a period called the Avignon Papacy from 1309 – 1377, it replaced Rome as the Pope’s main residence. In total, 6 conclaves were held in this palace, which stands today as two separate buildings (the old Palace and new Palace), welcoming over 650,000 visitors a year.

It is said that the construction process was mostly completed within 20 years, requiring up to 850 workers per month to get the job done. The palace is huge, but the real grandeur of it doesn’t hit you until you step inside. Recognized as the biggest Gothic Palace in Europe, it boasts 15,000 m2 of floor space and over 20 rooms displaying artifacts and history. The real treat for me though was the climb up to the roof of the palace, where I enjoyed a glorious view over the square:

After some shopping and exploring, I gave into the sweltering heat and bought myself a giant ice cream cone, which I happily scarfed down as I made the short trek over to Rocher des Doms. Standing 35m above ground, the Rocher des Doms is a lovely park that offers a panoramic view of the town below, and of course, of the Rhône and the famous Avignon Bridge. I may not have grown up singing Sur le Pont d’Avignon like all the other passengers, but seeing the bridge from this angle, against the deep green water of the Rhône, I was pretty ready for some song and dance myself!

And with just one more day left on this cruise, I feel confident that we’ve saved the best for last! Our excursion tomorrow will take us to Camargue, and Anis, the on-board entertainer has assured me that we’ll be seeing lavender fields, a sight that I have dreamt about for years. Here’s to hoping he’s telling the truth!

Talk to you all soon!

- Christina