Of Ramparts and Drugs…

2015-04-21 14.41.55  After my lunch of Plat du Jour – cheeseburger with egg, apple and cheese…  I set off for Ft St Andre and La Chartreuse.  They are located on the other side of the river from the town of Avignon.  Bus time!  2015-04-21 17.07.14While waiting for Bus 5, just inside the city walls,, I struck up a conversation with a couple – with the woman, actually.   They were going the same place and we both weren’t sure so we set off helping each other find the right bus and the right stop.  From Belgium, she told me her son worked on Wall Street in NYC – “just like in the cinema!”  That’s scary.  But she w2015-04-21 15.18.04as a proud mama.

La Chartreuse du Val de Benediction was started by Pope Innocent VI, a local boy made good.  He donated his lands and a private residence for a monastery for 12 monks.  It flourished, becoming the biggest Carthusian monastery in France.  2015-04-21 15.22.32Then came the revolution.  Divided into lots and sold.  Damaged,   Library and art scattered.

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In 1835 Proper Merimee (ring a bell? Author.) who was then Inspector of Historical Monuments, saw the frescos and put it on the preserve list.    2015-04-21 15.39.34It’s a big place with many different rooms open.  You get a feel for the daily life – the herb garden.  The cemetery, the garden of the laundry and the laundry.  Cloisters.  Mausoleum of Pope Innocent VI.  He was buried there in 1362 but during the – you guessed it – Revolution, it was moved.  In 1959 the mausoleum was returned.  That was a good thing.

By the end I was sweating and thirsty.  And knew I had to climb this big hill in the beating sun to reach the Fort.  No water available at the monastery but she gave me directions to the village store. 2015-04-21 16.00.01 I as quite surprised to discover the village – we had gotten there from the parking lot.  Drank the water in almost one gulp and set off.  Wishing, however, that it was a meal time because I would have loved to eat at the Café of the Univers… 2015-04-21 16.00.46-22015-04-21 16.00.59-2 Would like to know what the Univers suggests…  🙂

2015-04-21 15.03.11It was a hot but beautiful climb to the fort.2015-04-21 16.07.44 2015-04-21 16.06.16 2015-04-21 16.02.29

The Fort.  This is clearly a strategic location.  You can see for miles.  It’s both a Fort and an Abbey.  I only had time for one and choose the warrior path.  Pack in Avignon I was told I took the wrong one. But the Fort was included in the Chartreuse monastery ticket…  <Shrug.>  I was very glad for my hiking boots as the Fort was a rough and tumble place. 2015-04-21 16.16.57 2015-04-21 16.16.58-2 2015-04-21 16.32.30 2015-04-21 16.38.44 2015-04-21 16.39.07 2015-04-21 16.07.44 It was built by John the Good in the 14th century to protect the boundary of the Kingdom of France.   The photos tell the story better than I can.

A delicious meal that night thanks to a great review I read on Trip Advisor. 2015-04-21 20.34.19 Balthazar.  Another tasty steak.2015-04-21 21.12.18

Oh.  And what of the Drugs?

Most of my day was spent by myself as my friend was battling the French Pharmacy.  It is strange – things you cannot get in the states you can get here, and vice versa.  But the pharmacist is much more involved in diagnosing.  In fact, you are expected to see the Pharmacist first, before the doctor.  She has an awful cold and wanted decongestant.  And he didn’t want to sell it to her.  Finally he gave up and sold her the only one he had but it came with Tylenol.  She went back in the morning to go over her cold history with him and get the right medication.  I was happy to let her handle her medical issues on her own.  My interpreting skills do not extend to the medical arena.

Oh and what a nice segue from medical arena to Roman arena!  Next entry: Arles.





Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse…

Excepting me.  No matter what the old song says, I did not dance on the bridge at Avignon.  In fact, we didn’t even cross it…  that’s a joke, actually.  It’s only half a bridge.  Which raises a question – is it still a bridge?  Oh my, I am getting philosophical like the French!  It’s a bridge from the 15th century – that the strength of the current destroyed – well, part of it at least.  We saw it from a distance, but they seem to be working on it and it truly wasn’t a draw, given what else is in Avignon.

Before we get into the history, a bit about the getting there.  2015-04-20 10.59.31 - CopySilvi went along, of course.   We passed by many mustard fields. 2015-04-20 12.22.35 - CopyAnd every now and then a castle on a hill or a church in a valley surrounded by a pretty village.  And mountains in the distance.  Not peaky mountains – more massive hills – but so massive they were mountains.   I saw a pre-teen girl with braces!

The TGV (Tres Grand Vitesse) (High Speed Train) got up to 187 mph at one point.  It dropped us at the TVG station and there we took a navette (shuttle) train to Avignon centre.  While we waited in the restaurant, I saw two nuns.   One was eating, the other had her hands folded in her lap and was praying.  So calm.  So peaceful.  Just made me feel good.

Until she raised her hands to the table… with her smart phone and started sharing a funny post with her nun companion.2015-04-20 13.40.50 - Copy


Our hotel was close the train station.  Great idea!  Discovered this US favorite right outside the train station:  Food Truck!2015-04-20 14.14.31

2015-04-20 16.25.54We trammed around the city to get our bearings, had a glimpse of the famous bridge,2015-04-20 16.37.52 did a bit of shopping, and ate at a Cooscooserie recommended by a shopkeeper.  Very tasty.

Tuesday we devoted to Avignon.

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From 1309 to 1377 the Catholic Church had it’s center in Avignon.  Much history – suffice it to say, strife between the French crown and the pope, politics, stacking the cardinal deck so the conclave voted for a Frenchman, Clement V, not an Italian.  Clement decided to stay in France at Avignon.  The next 6 popes stayed in Avignon.  Finally in 1376, Gregory XI moved his court to Rome.  My quick history source (Wikipedia) is unclear as to why Greg wanted to go back, but back he went.

And if you have your papal court in Avignon, you better have a palace, right?   For 67 years of court, those popes were busy building!  2015-04-20 16.49.14After the papal reign, the building kept evolving.  Other kings and royals made changes.  Those dang French revolutionaries messed it up.  They loved to knock the heads off statues and thoroughly destroy anything that had to do with the previous rulers.  Phhhttt.  (Someone in a Meetup compared the ISIS people who are tearing down religious icons in the Mid East to those revolutionaries…)   The history was pretty much, “let’s tear down this to build that.”  Why they tore down the front towers is a mystery to me but fortunately some smart Frenchmen restored them as new in the 20th century.

2015-04-20 17.17.11 2015-04-20 17.19.43 2015-04-20 18.24.43It is a beautiful place.  And the rooms are massive.  I don’t recall ever seeing a building from this time period with rooms so large. 2015-04-21 11.17.072015-04-21 11.30.58Oh yes – saw some workmen with their rock climbing gear getting ready to fix something on the castle walls. 2015-04-21 10.27.06

2015-04-21 10.53.14 Everyone knows Popes have a lot of money, right?  The Palais des Papes has it’s own treasury – with an inner room that had only one way in – and only two people could go in there -the treasurer and the Pope.  What’s amazing is that there were hidden vaults in the floor that were only discovered in 1985!  This photo shows the stones lifted up so you can see inside.  Wish I knew what treasure they found – but they did not say.

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2015-04-21 11.58.11 And I forgot my new hat in Paris so I just had to buy this one.  Actually, I really did!  It was California-like sunny! And  a very hot sun.  One of those days where you boiled in the sun and froze in the shade.

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The afternoon continues in the next post..