A visit to Avignon, France Map
But I think that it would make far more sense for me to create this trip blog in the manner in which Viking River Cruises does it - to generate a "day by day" narration of where we were, what took place, and what our thoughts were, so lets switch to that format.
As I previously described, this was our "arrival day" and as we were in the first wave of arriving passengers, we had to wait a bit for our cabins to be cleaned and prepared. Viking has what they call an "embarkation buffet" from 11AM to 3PM, so that everyone who arrives can entertain themselves with food or drink until their cabins are ready to be occupied.
Our game plan is always the same, we unpack, get a 1.5 or so hour nap, wake & shower, and then go out and hike in order to get as tired as possible (although, we generally take 1/2 of a sleep aid to insure that we get a full night's sleep) so that the first nights in Europe are not a "sleepless" event! This approach works quite well for us, as we have always had good results in jet-lag removal.
Keep in mind that this day's exploration, was really more about us getting tired and being able to walk about this ancient city, and not about "visiting" any specific Avignon sites.
City of Avignon
The Palais des Papes is an historical palace located in Avignon, Southern France. It is one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. Once a fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palais, leading to the elections of Benedict XII in 1334, Clement VI in 1342, Innocent VI in 1352, Urban V in 1362, Gregory XI in 1370 and the Anti-pope Benedict XIII in 1394.
The disagreements within the Catholic Church that led to the "Western Schism" are diverse. Pope Gregory XI actually returned the Papacy to Rome in 1377, but when he died in 1378, Church politics led to a serious dispute and the era of the "anti-popes" began. If you are interested in reading more about this time frame, please go to this Wikipedia Page to read about the history of the Western Schism.
NOTE: Image is the property of Jean-Marc Rosier via Wikipedia
Papal Palace Walls: Two Buildings
The Palais is actually two joined buildings: the old palais of Benedict XII, which sits on the impregnable rock of Doms, and the new palais of Clement VI, the most extravagant of the Avignon popes. Together they form the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages, it is also one of the best examples of the International Gothic architectural style. The construction design was the work of two of France’s best architects, Pierre Peysson and Jean de Louvres and the lavish ornamentation was the work of two of the best students of the School of Siena (Italy), Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti.
Papal Palace: Size
With 15,000 square metres (160,000 sq ft) of floor space, the Palais is the largest Gothic palace in all of Europe and, due to its many architectural merits, one of the most important in the world. These merits were highlighted by Viollet-le-Duc, author of “Dictionnaire raisonné de l’architecture française du XIe au XVIe siècle” (Dictionary of French architecture from the 11th to the 16th century), who referred extensively to the Palais, including the thickness and height of its towers, the strength of its crenelated walls, the use of arcs for support on its façades and its ability to withstand heavy and drawn-out sieges.
Papal Palace Entrance
This is the main public entrance into the Palace, incredible structure isn't it?
The Palace is a historical and architectural landmark and primarily a tourist attraction, attracting around 650,000 visitors per annum, putting it regularly in the top ten most visited attractions in France. It also houses a large convention centre and the archives of the département of Vaucluse, which include a research centre on the papacy of Avignon, organized jointly by the École française de Rome and the institut de recherche et d'histoire des textes.
This is the Pont
Saint-Bénézet, one of the original Avignon bridges (construction commenced in 1177), which used to
link the Papal Palace (which is just to the right of the bridge) to the west bank of the River Rhône.
Repeated River Rhône floods tore down this bridge, and finally Avignon decided to just leave it as a partial bridge and not to keep rebuilding it.
- The Viking Lyon & Provence Cruise Overview & Guide Our Viking River Cruise from Marseilles to Lyon, north on the Rhône River with various ports of call, click here to read more.
- Avignon, France The first stop as we head up the Rhône River, click here to read more.
- Arles, France The town of Arles is a community situated in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in the south eastern area of France. click here to read more.
- Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France While docked in Avignon, Viking organized an afternoon tour to the Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine region, known in France as one of the appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regions. click here to read more.
- Tournon-sur-Rhône, France The Viking Heimdal cast off at 4AM to continue north on the River Rhône, to Tournon - set to arrive at 1PM. This was the longest leg of the cruise, it is approximately 150 kilometers from Avignon to Tournon. click here to read more.
- Vienne, France Vienne is a commune in southeastern France, located 35 kilometres (22 mi) south of Lyon, on the river Rhône. It is only the fourth largest city in the Isère department, of which it is a sub-prefecture, but was a major center of the Roman Empire. click here to read more.
- Lyon, France The ship arrives in Lyon at 3PM, and we initially tied up at the Quai Claude Bernard - the eastern side of the Rhône River. This is a very scenic location, adjacent to the Université Lumière Lyon and only 2.2 kilometers from the Place des Terreaux. click here to read more.
- Perouges, France The optional free bus tour to Perouges departs at 2PM today, and we drive through some really beautiful countryside on the way there. The La Dombes district is where fish are raised in a series of 1,200 ponds. Click here to read more.
- Our Thoughts on Viking River Cruises Our perspective on Viking River Cruises, plus a few pros & cons to consider. Click here to read more.
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