Friday, 30 October 2015

Wandering the streets of Avignon and a Halloween trick or treat for Volkswagen

Our newest campsite is Camping Bagatelle beautifully situated on the
Looking through the walls 
banks of the River Rhone within easy walking or cycling distance of Avignon's historic centre. It does feel busy after our summer of isolated CLs and there is a definite ebb and flow of motorhomes through the day as overnighters appear to pitch up late afternoon and are gone again by mid-morning. Our pitch is just over €17 a night with our ACSI card which is a little pricier than Anse, but the wifi is a staggeringly good €4 for a whole week - and that's for a login code each! The site is sheltered by lots of trees which do unexpectedly drop twigs onto Bailey's roof, but it means we avoided the worst of the high winds earlier this week and hopefully will do so again early next week. Temperatures are pretty good here too - Dave's been able to wear his shorts for the past two days which he is happy about!

Our friends Chris and Marta were both enthusiastic about Avignon so we had high hopes that, so far, have been pretty much realised. Our first venture over the bridge did coincide with a couple of heavy rain showers so we sheltered in the arches of the imposing city walls. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to walk around the walls as apparently the stonework is unsafe so we just looked up instead.

Avignon walls with convenient rain shelters 

My biggest surprise was that the famous Pont d'Avignon, of "sur le pont
Le pont d'Avignon 
d'Avignon" song fame isn't actually a bridge any more - it stops mid-river. We learned that river erosion and multiple wars had made it too expensive to keep rebuilding so efforts ceased in the 17th century. Today it is possible to pay over the odds to be able to walk onto the half-bridge, but we have settled for looking at it rather than from it. There's so much else to see! The streets nearest the Bridge and the Palais des Papes - seven popes were based in Avignon between 1309 and 1377 - made me question 'what recession'! Historically there has been a lot of money here and, if the numerous boutiques are anything to judge by, there still very much is. Our first (rainy day) visit left us with this impression, yet the next day, when we ventured through the historic district into the 'real' Avignon on the other side, I saw a vibrant working city that I liked very much. Elegant architecture sits side by side with quirky modern ideas, cycle routes and pedestrian areas abound and there is a relaxed vibe that isn't just about the tourist industry.

Fun clock high on an apartment building wall 

Blocked up windows dotted throughout Avignon are painted with
Theatrical scene street art 
theatrical scenes and the town has twelve theatres which, together, host a month long Festival of Theatre in the summer. We visited the large indoor market, Les Halles, which has a vertical garden climbing its front wall. Quite a sight! Inside, it is just constant temptation - fresh produce and treats including fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads and pastries, meat and fish, olives and preserves, lavender products and honeys ... it's wonderful! We bought ourselves a delicious sheep's milk cheese, perfectly ripe pears, deep fried aubergine slices (beignets) and a feuilletée stuffed with courgette and goat cheese. I even learned to say feuilletée properly!

After Les Halles we wandered as far as Route De Lyon and a great health food shop called Biotope. They stock lots of different tofu products including yet more new-to-us flavours as well as loads more intriguing tins, jars and packets. It was quite a walk to get there and we are planning to make a return journey by bike. There's a traffic-free cycle route leading over the bridge by our campsite into town. Lots of the back streets in town are practically traffic- free for most of the day too so we are looking forward to more exploring, both in town and further afield.

On a different note, here is a kind of trick or treat from Greenpeace for Halloween:

"Volkswagen tricked us. Now they should treat us.

The VW emissions scandal revealed just how dirty our cars really are. They poison our air and warm our climate. But this nasty trick could be a turning point, a chance for companies to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and invest in greener alternatives.

The technology for electric and hybrid cars is developing so fast that zero fumes on the road and greener cars could soon be the norm. But they need to be made more accessible. If a company like Volkswagen commits to making electric cars more accessible it could be the spark that sets off a wholesale revolution of the car industry. But we also need the government to improve car testing systems so that dangerous, polluting cars are kept off the road.

Sign the petition to tell VW and the government to take action now."

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