i wondered if i was getting sight seeing overload while wandering around avignon. i found myself disappointed with the town. i’m trying to explain it to myself. maybe because the song learnt so long ago left an impression of a pretty city with a bridge and that image has stuck. the reality is a lovely set of walls and gates with plane trees harmonising beautifully with the mellow stone but inside those walls not a lot to please the eye. the enormous palais des papes is a thumping great monstrosity bearing down over a square which has a garden up high on one side.
there is a church as well, equally imposing. i didn’t have any desire to go into any of it which isn’t like me.
after arrival and easy parking plus coffee we found the tourist office where an enthusiastic chap gave us a map and told us about the exhibition we had seen advertised on various trees! it is in the old prison, not the normal venue for this art gallery to use and not a building that is often open. we soon found out why! the maison d’arret was down several flights of stairs under the walls of the palais and hidden in a narrow back street. we gulped at the entrance fee which was more than we had paid so far this holiday but soldiered on in high expectation.
oh, it was grim. not just the building but the artworks. the cells were the exhibition spaces and there were a lot of them!
nothing had been done to them since the last inhabitants left (only ten years ago) to enhance the experience! even the toilet was in one. claustrophobia had got to me by then and i crossed my legs rather than use it!
we pushed on but i have to admit that up on the second floor i suddenly felt very bad and had to walk very fast past the open cell doors and stand, breathing deeply, at the top of a flight of stairs that promised to take me down the ground floor and, hopefully, the exit. lou went on looking into cells and spotted there were some andy warhols. the title and frontispiece of the exhibition should have warned us, i suppose, but it didn’t. the inspiration was an article by pasolini in 1975 who noticed the fireflies had disappeared in his home due to pollution. hence the outpouring of gloom! the whole lot is enia righi’s private collection. rather him/her than me.
after that we were very pleased to be back in the sunshine and hungry! the restaurants around the place de horloge and the square in front of the palais seem over priced and not very special. we found a little square called the place des calmes with plane trees and a couple of cafes.
they seemed friendly and local so we plumped for one of them. a big bowl of fig, mozzarella and jambon cru salad and i began to feel less hunted.
then we wandered back to the car through narrow and apparently unloved side streets and main roads full of shops. in the square next to les halles, an extraordinary building covered in dark foliage, there were some brocante sellers with their goods spread out on the paving slabs.
so some bright moments but i still didn’t feel much affection for the place. this morning as we drove out to find the road to nimes we drove along the side of the rhone and past the bridge of the song and it is very pretty, i’m glad to say!