Thursday, July 7, 2011

Provence - Day 2

On the second day of the trip, we had planned to visit the historical town of Avignon which is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. It's history dates back to the 12th century as a city of the Romans. In the 14th century, the town became the capital of the Christian world. It was the town of the popes. As many as seven popes resided there instead of Rome. It was only later that the Papacy was restored in Rome. The popes had a huge fortress like Gothic palace for themselves called the Palais de Papes. The walls surrounding the old town made by the popes are still present and one has to walk through one of the huge doors in it to enter the old town. 

Just next to the Palace of the Popes was a big cathedral called Notre Dame des Domes which looked more spectacular to me than the Palace itself (pic below). Although the Palace itself was not too bad with around 20 feet thick walls built on top of a rock with huge chambers inside. There was a huge square in front of the two structures which was pretty commercial with a lot of eateries and souvenir shops.

The famous bridge of Avignon also known as Pont d'Avignon over the Rhone river which used to connect the city in olden days. Out of the many arches below the bridge only few remain now over the years. A view of the bridge from Rocher des Doms:

The town was nice but not particularly for nature lovers like us. Since it was strongly recommended in travel books and internet sites, we had paid it a visit. We then decided to create our own trip rather than following these travel books. We are always more interested in the beautiful countryside than big towns and believe that the real feel of a place comes from there. So, as cheap we are, we paid a visit to a local souvenir shop which usually have lovely postcards of and around the town. We selected some which were the most beautiful and checked the name of the place/village written on the back of the postcard. There you go, we had our own itinerary !  

We strolled in Avignon for a while, went out on the bridge and had our lunch before leaving for Saint Remy (our next destination). Above are some more pictures from Avignon.

Saint Remy is one of the oldest towns in France, where for more than 2500 years, the routes of Mediterranean and North European civilizations had crossed. The town had two main attractions. One was that the famous painter Van Gogh had spent an year of his exile getting psychiatric help in a monastery in Remy. The other was that Nostradamus was born here. I could not believe that I was in the town of the famous author of so many controversial prophecies. I had a strange feeling after knowing this fact. We walked around the narrow streets  of this small town and also followed the trail of Van Gogh which had reproduction of his old paintings.   

We also encountered an old abandoned water fountain with the bust of Nostradamus on it !

From Remy we went to a small village called Les Baux built on top of a small hill. The road to Baux had some amazing views. We had to stop at one point to take some pictures. Here is a view of the village from a distance:

After reaching Baux, we climbed to the top of the mountain which also had an old castle. From there we could see the complete valley and the view was breathtaking from there. We walked around exploring the old streets inside the castle which had many small shops.

Given the sweet tooth that I have, as usual a shop which caught my attention was this:


It was a traditional sweets shop. The ones in the foreground of the picture are actually conserves of fruits (murabba in hindi). I agree that they look more like gulab jamun and jalebi at first glance. So I went in and they were offering some sweets to try for guests. I picked a green colored, round looking one to try and when I bit on it, I found it had a pista inside. The pista was so fresh that it felt like it had been taken out fresh from its shell just few seconds back. It was pretty good. And of course the murabbas were looking really tempting. I really had to control myself buying them but in the end, they won over me. I did ended up buying some of them. So from Baux, we called it a day and headed back to our base in Aix.

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