When I was 19 I got a passport for the first time and, with great fear and trembling, stepped on a plane bound for France. (Actually, it was bound for New York first, and I had a hard time figuring out that I actually needed to go to a different terminal for international flights.)
I was spending a semester abroad, studying in Avignon. I don’t know what propelled me to do this (a dream? of a Frenchman?) but I took the plunge and made the necessary arrangements to go.
Obviously it completely changed my life.
Did you know the Vatican was not always in Rome? For 68 years in the 14th century the papacy was in Avignon.
Just kidding – they were coerced, poor duckies.
Luckily no kids were with us to beg and plead for a ride.
Great bridge isn’t it? Notice how it doesn’t quite make it to the other side of the Rhône? The French are very skilled at architecture.
No, really it’s a historical monument. The bridge was blown up during the second world war by the resistance to keep the Germans from advancing. *this historical bit is amended in the comments.
which once held so much magic for me, seems just like a tourist town and not one that holds any significance. The deeply buried memories have been replaced by much bigger and brighter ones closer to home.
Although when you see images like this you can almost imagine what it was like 700 years ago, when it was a vibrant palace, pulsing with life (and priestly tassels).
The village of Ménerbes was on the way from Avignon to where we were staying, and since Picasso had a house there it must be worth the visit, right? *see correction further down
I kept making “ça ménerbes” jokes. Get it? “Ca m’énerve?” It’s only funny if you speak French.
And even then …
I didn’t realize this when I lived in Avignon, because that city is rather flat, but a lot of Provence is hilly. You know the Alps? Well, the mountain ridge of Provence is called the Alpilles (pronounced Al-pee-yeh).
Below is the Mairie (pronounced Mary with an emphasis on the “y”). It means town hall and every city, town and village has one, including Paris. If you live in France you will be intimately acquainted with the Mairie – mine knows me by name.
We asked about Picasso’s house and was told that he had actually bought it for his mistress and that it was now a private residence. But she told us where it was so we went there to see it.
which was pretty bad by French standards.
And this is the end of my post.