Pont d’Avignon

Well, finding the famous bridge turned out to be more difficult than we first thought. Where it stood was clearly visible from the roof top of Palais des Papes, however, getting there was not as straight forward as anyone would anticipate.

After we came out of the palace, we looked around and pondered how we could get to the bridge. An oblong square in front of the attraction was vast and there wasn’t any obvious signage which would show the way to our next destination.

I didn’t want mum to walk needlessly as her hip and knee were still troubling her. Hmmm, what should we do?

 

We walked to a building on the right in my video clip and asked a woman who was heading the same direction. ‘Excuses moi, madame. Oú est Le Pont d’Avignon?’ She answered that the building was nothing to do with the bridge and we would have to backtrack and to follow a small alley way which started from the west side of the square.

I must find the right path this time!, I looked around rather desperately as poor mum trailed behind me with her walking stick. ‘Is this the alley way the woman meant?’ My eyes caught a narrow side street which disappeared amongst the high stone walls. ‘I’m gonna check it out if you wait for me here.’ I left mum at the square and went off to investigate it. The street wound and met another street at the bottom of it. As I approached the junction, a woman came out of one of the doors along the alley way so I decided to ask her if this was the way to the bridge. She replied it was and explained how I should go on from there. ‘Merci beaucoup!’ I thanked her and trotted back to the square to fetch mum.

Once we turned right at the bottom of the alley way, we found lots of gift shops which were selling typical products of the Provence region, such as colourful printed fabrics, embroidered tea towels, soaps, etc…

There were also some decorative dolls with traditional costumes. I wasn’t sure what they were made from, timber or clay?

Cicadas! I didn’t see the actual insects perching on trees but saw them a lot at souvenir shops in the Provence.

The bridge was about 7 – 9 minutes walk from the square and the entrance to the bridge was manned by a few not so helpful staffs. We wanted to use a lift but they told us to use the stairs nearby. Are they bl**dy blind? She is using a walking stick!, I shook my head as we gingerly walked towards the stairs.

Le Pont d’Avignon is also known as Le Pont Saint-Bénézet…

The original bridge of timber, which connected Avignon and Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, was constructed during the late 12th century. However, the bridge was destroyed 40 years later during the siege laid by Louis VIII of France. Apparently, the king found the structure as a threat because the Imperial force could invade France via the bridge.

Happy mum and the bridge…

From the beginning of the13th century, several attempts were made to build and to maintain a stone bridge over the Rhône which was consisted in 22 arches and 21 piers. Despite being made with stone, the bridge could not withstand the volume of the water when the river was flooded, and eventually it was left broken and abandoned during the 17th century.

The water was calm and looked even placid when we visited the river…

The only remnant of the stone bridge was the four arches and the gatehouse on the Avignon side of the river.

Facing towards the tip of the bridge…

And towards the gatehouse on the Avignon side…

‘Do you remember the song, mum?’ We hummed the tune of “On the Bridge of Avignon as we walked back.

Now, let’s find the Baladine!

We walked to Rue Corneille, the north end of Place de l’Horloge and waited for the mini bus.

Look, mum! Le Petit Train!

 

Music from the carousel in the square was a pleasant BGM until our favourite transport of Avignon arrived…

 

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

To Palais des Papes

Time flies, doesn’t it?! It’s almost the end of August and I didn’t realise that I was stalling my “mum and daughter road trip” chronicle for such a long time. During the unusually hot summer, I was putting it off because I was exhausted from the heat – so was Bella, by the way. She ended up having a heat related stomach upset and ended up receiving a (costly) medical attention! After the heat had gone, I increased the intensity of my daily exercise, and again, ended up feeling too exhausted from it. It came to a point that I started to have telltale signs of over exercising such as sleeplessness, lack of appetite and motivation, forgetfulness, etc, and I had to stop everything physical until I felt better. Now, I am my normal self again and full of energy. So there is no reason why I shouldn’t start my travelogue.

After hopping on a Baladine bus at La Place Saint-Didier, mum and I headed to Avignon’s most famous tourist, Palais des Papes.

The mini-bus passed the famous les Halles d’Avignon…

We caught a glimpse of the hanging Garden of the market. ‘Oh mum, we must return here tomorrow!’, I gushed as I craned my neck to get a better look of the building.

I can remember exactly where we alighted the bus but it must have been around Hôtel la Mirande…

We found ourselves facing a tall stone wall and a path which was only wide enough for one car. The people around us were following the path, therefore, we decided to do likewise.

The path was rather steep but soon, we reached to the end of it and found ourselves at the mouth of a cavernous square.

‘Let’s visit the palace before it gets busy, mum!’, I hurried mum towards the entrance of the palace which was located on top of the stone stairs.

Luckily, it was Friday and the queue at a ticket office was not long.

After purchasing our tickets, we picked up an interactive exhibition guide in the shape of an iPad each and started to follow the route.

Between 1309 and 1376, seven successive popes lived and reigned at Avignon which was then a part of the Holy Roman Empire.

The first pope who moved the court in Rome to the city was Clement V, the newly elected French pope, Clement V.

In the middle of the each room, there was a sort of charging point for the interactive tablet.

You place the tablet over the screen which is mounted on the short plinth, voila!, the tablet is ready to show you the sceneries of the room in the 14th century!

There were some architectural models of the palace.

Some rooms were partly restored so the visitors could imagine how the life in the palace was like.

Once upon a time, the ceiling was richly decorated with beautiful fresco so the popes and his guests felt grand and cozy.

The room was divided with partitions constructed from pieces of timber and richly woven textile.

Large fire used to roar in the huge fire place.

Money and treasures which were donated by the kings and the pilgrims were kept in the basement of the palace. The door to the bookkeeper’s room looked formidable and made me imagine how the money and wealth was important to the popes…

After visiting the exhibition, we decided to have lunch at a café on the roof.

While we munched on panini, we could enjoy a bird’s eye view of the squares below from the windows of the eatery.

Now, we are visiting the famous Bridge of Avignon!

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Beer & chat @ Toulouse

After coming back from Toulouse’s shopping district, we headed to a restaurant / bar near our hotel for beer and food. It was a rather hot and humid day and the idea of drinking ice cold beer really appealed to us.

I am so glad that your hip is getting better, mum!

She certainly was more comfortable than a few days ago.

While mum stuck to a glass of well-known brand, I opted for a white beer from Belgium.

The beer was aromatic and strong. I liked it!

For food, we shared sausage & chips and salad with cheese.

During our dinner, an elderly couple were ushered to a table next to ours. At first, we didn’t pay much attention to them and carried on chatting in Japanese as we sipped our beer and pecked on our food.

Then out of the blue, the elderly woman turned to us and started talking to us, ‘Vous êtes Japonais? J’adore le son du Japonais même si je ne comprends pas!’

From my very limited French, I gathered that they were here for holiday like us. In return, I explained to them how we arrived at the city and how we intended to travel to the south of France and beyond.

‘We used to live in Vietnam.’, her husband said. Until then, he was very quiet and only nodding in support while his wife was chatting to us.

It was again due to my limited ability to communicate in French but he was trying to say that they used to live in Vietnam when they were young but they had to flee their beloved house and community because of the Vietnam War. ‘C’était très très triste.’ They both shook their heads. Oh how I wished if my French were a lot better so I could express how sorry I was! ‘C’était trés tragique.’, I managed to say but nothing else…

When we went back to our hotel, we discussed how upsetting it must have been if you were uprooted from your home because of reasons beyond your control. There are still so many people who have to abandon their homes and communities because of conflicts and natural disasters. We really mustn’t forget our sympathy and compassion towards those unlucky people…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins

The mainline railway station in the southeast part of Limoges was one place I managed to visit while I was in the city.

It was a great shame that mum hurt herself at the very beginning of our adventure and as a result, she could not accompany me on foot to see this ornate station.

The station was less than 10 minutes walk from the hotel. A park which separated the station from the city centre seemed to be a small oasis to local people and I could see students and office workers here and there, enjoying a little “me-time” on the benches and the grass.

The first Gare de Limoges-Bénédictins, which was built of wood, was opened in 1860. The present station was designed by a French architect Roger Gonthier in 1917 and the building was listed as a monument historique in 1975.

The style of the building was distinctively Beaux-Arts. Opulent decors adorned the various parts of the exterior of the station.

Bénédictins, the part of the name of the station was due to the presence of a Benedictine monastery nearby which was closed during the French Revolution.

I entered the station, expecting the interior to be as ornate as the outside. However, I wasn’t so lucky.

Apart from the entrance and the ceilings, nothing was very notable.

The vastness of the ceiling somehow emphasised the emptiness of the interior.

After all, it was a working railway station, not a museum or a theatre. A business-like interior was more appropriate, I supposed.

A dome above the passenger concourse was constructed with a metallic framework covered in copper.

Limoges is a part of the Orléans-Montauban railway. There is the intercity services from Paris to the city which typically takes a little less than 4 hours.

A sight of railway tracks disappearing into the distance always made me feel nostalgic, and the sight I saw from Rampe des Bénédictins bore the same effect.

Before we leave the city tomorrow, I shall bring mum here by car so she can see the famous station from outside, I thought.

So she won’t feel too missed out…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

HMS Victory @ Portsmouth

Our annual mum & daughter road trip kicked off from Portsmouth. The ferry we were to board would leave the port city at 8 o’clock Monday morning, so instead of leaving London in the early hours on the same day, we decided to stay overnight near the ferry terminal.

It took about 4 hours for us to drive from London to Portsmouth.

My new holiday bag!

I bought it at Urban Outfitters on Oxford Street because the colour reminded me the blue often used by Matisse:)

One place I always wanted to visit at Portsmouth was Historic Dockyard…

And especially, the world famous HMS Victory was an absolute must. Ever since I watched the film, Master and Commander, I was fascinated by the warship during the Napoleonic War period.

‘Do you think we have enough time to visit HMS Victory and Mary Rose?’ I asked at the ticket office. The staff advised me to opt for the battleship alone as the place was to close in an hour’s time.

Admiral Nelson, a hero of the Battle of Trafalgar…

There were a very few visitors in and around the attraction…

It was because the masts of the warship were modified to the half of their original heights, the vessel looked rather small and less intimidating…

However, we came to face to face with rows of guns as soon as we stepped into the interior…

There was a staff on the gun deck and he explained to us that those formidable weapons were manned by a team of up to 14 men and the highly trained crew could fire them every one and half minute.

There were guns everywhere…

A view from the top of the quarter deck…

There was a brass plate near a quarter deck which indicated the exact spot where Lord Nelson was shot by a French sharp-shooter…

A steep staircase which connected the sunlit upper deck to the more clumped and perpetually dark lower deck…

Life as Nelson’s seaman must have been a very harsh one. Can you imagine how one can survive on a battleship in which every available space was stuffed with guns and explosives?! It sounds already pretty hazardous as it is and once a battle commences, it must be very very hellish…

The broadside of HMS Victory…

You definitely don’t want to be on the receiving end of those guns…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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