After reading about the gorgeous Palais des Papes and hearing my homestay family sing the French nursery rhyme about the the town’s famous bridge, I decided to head over to Avignon. Warning: the following story includes an incredible amount of stupidity but also a lesson learned – always check the weather and map of your destination before you go out for the day.
I was wet for eleven hours. Eleven. Three hours in a storm + eight hours inside a cold castle = a very unhappy Heather
As you can see from the title, I made a wee mistake before I left Lyon.
I didn’t prepare at all for the coming storm. It didn’t cross my mind at all to look at the weather, simply because it’s not a habit I’ve gotten in to. I think that it’s partially because I just ask my dad whether it’ll rain, and partially because the weather reports back home always let me down. I’ve learnt from that mistake. (That’s such a lie. I don’t think I’ll ever learn, and I’ll be constantly stuck in storms without protection.)
That mistake, however, wasn’t just what left me wet and cold for so long. No, it was partially caused by Avignon’s decision to have two train stations, and LP’s decision to only put one on the map. I’m sure you can see where this is going.
When I arrived at Avignon, I pulled out my Traveller’s Bible to get an idea of where I should head next. The map said that I should go straight down the road for a few hundred metres and I’d reach the centre of town. It was starting to look a little cloudy by that time, but it wasn’t raining yet, and thinking that it wasn’t too far to the Palais des Papes, I decided to not look for public transport.
I only realised my mistake when I was a kilometre away and the rain was so heavy I couldn’t see my hand in front of my face. The storm was so bad that I was sure that I was going to be struck by lightning and have some fabulous looking scars to show my friends. I’m fairly dramatic when I’m worried.
Somehow, I made it to the centre of Avignon after over an hour of walking. I looked like an absolute drowned rat, one of my earphones wasn’t working and there was enough water in my shoes to fill a mug. When the Palais des Papes finally loomed into view, I couldn’t have been more grateful.
Of course, as soon as I stepped inside, it stopped raining.
Palais des Papes
The magnificent papal palace was nothing like I had expected. Considering it was the home to a pope, I thought that the building would be incredibly luxurious and bright. However, since it was built in the 14th century, Avignon’s Palais des Papes is very run-down, with threadbare tapestries and old stone. It’s still incredibly beautiful, though, and possesses an ancient sort of regency and opulence that left me in awe. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the inside at all, as photography was banned inside the building.
The palace is huge, and has been through wars, revolutions, fires and renovations. It was fantastic to learn about how many popes had come and gone, and all the changes that had occurred to the building since its establishment in 1309. At one point in time, it was converted into prison barracks. It was then that much of the palace was ruined, because many of the decorations were taken down, and an extra floor was added to help accommodate the soldiers.
Even though I was soaked to the bone, a little bit lost and absolutely freezing, I loved the Palais des Papes. It is a gorgeous, powerful place that I wish I could share more of with you!
When I poked my head outside of the palace, the sun had finally come out. Unfortunately, it was still overcast and cool, so my clothes didn’t dry much at all during the hour I spent out there.
I headed first over to the Rocher des Doms park for its supposedly beautiful view of the famous Pont d’Avignon. I decided it would be a better idea to just view the bridge, rather than pay the €2 entry fee. As much as I wanted to dance on the bridge, like in the nursery rhyme, I decided to appreciate it from afar.
It’s pretty nice, right?
After that, I had a few hours to kill, so I bought some piping hot churros (which improved my mood 100%, like any delicious food) and wandered around Avignon for a bit. When there’s no rain, it’s a really lovely place to be.
Of course, when I noticed how beautiful and sunny it was and decided to walk back to the station, it started raining again.
It took well over an hour for me to get to the station, and that involved me getting very, very lost. I did have a little bit of luck, though, purely caused because of my nosiness/generosity – after asking a bus driver pulled on the side of the road if he needed assistance, the friendly guy decided to give me a lift to the station. If he hadn’t, I wouldn’t have made it onto my train.
I got some very weird looks when I reached the station. I can’t imagine any French person would allow themselves to get into the state I was in.
I was a bit of a mess.
Even after the horrid storm, I’d had a great day, especially after I’d had a hot shower. Thankfully, I didn’t get sick unlike the other two times I’d been caught out in storms (I’m not good at this whole staying-dry thing at all).
Featured photo is of the front of the Palais des Papes.