looking forward to the pics of a town and an area that I truly love. But there is no panic to post them, I can wait patiently. *thinks of lunch in a particular returant in Place de l'Horloge* This time last year I could have had a 60 to 90 min drive from Beziers to meet you for lunch. Strange how life can be. Don't let the buskers steal the bread from your table !!!!!!
Mr Bean's Holiday also featured a scene in Le Train Bleu, with Bean as a hapless diner (surprise?) and Jean Rochefort as a haughty Parisian waiter.
Stupid films we have seen while on planes could be a whole category in itself...
If Le Train bleu is partly just a café now, I will treat myself to an overpriced coffee there sometime. I was very sad to see the former buffet at the Florence railway station - nothing elegant, just a pleasant traditional cafeteria - chopped up and part of it made into a McDo.
I did not go into the city at all last night, since I didn't get to the hotel until after 8 p.m. and needed a shower urgently. After that, there was just enough time to go to Auchan next door, which is open until 22:00, to get a few provisions. I bought four peaches and a fantastic melon, plus some perfectly innocent beverages.
However, this morning I was in town by 08:30 because I wanted to make sure I got a good parking space for my red-orange Hyundai. It was only when I returned to the car tonight that I discovered that the van next to which I had parked was a mobile whorehouse.
In fact, I saw three or four others in that lot -- this is new for the rampart parking lots: first time I have seen it in practice there. (If you have never seen one, at night the ladies sit behind the wheel in limited attire with one of those handheld fluorescent lamps on the dash.)
I also discovered that Avignon has just started a bike sharing program. In fact, it just started on July 10th, but I can attest to its popularity. In spite of the skimpy coverage (compared to the 1,700 stations and 25,000 bikes in Paris), I saw people riding those bikes everywhere today.
I entered the city through the rue des Teinturiers (street of the dyers), one of the most famous streets in the city and often used for medieval city settings in the movies.
Just throw some manure and some straw on the cobblestones and you're all set to go back in time. They're damned hard on modern feet, however!
But the people of Avignon are not stuck in the past. None of this hot and sweaty street market shopping for them. The central city market is in an air conditioned building. The food looks just as good, though.
That'll have to do for the time being, because it is past my bedtime.
When you're chewing on life's gristle[br]Don't grumble, give a whistle[br]And this'll help things turn out for the best...[br]And...always look on the bright side of life...[br]Always look on the light side of life.[br]Monty Python's Life of Brian[br]
LOL about the van with the torchlight! Ever the entrepreneurs. There don't seem to be a lot of people out and about,was it the time of day or perhaps because of the holiday? Great pics,beautiful .Thanks.
Some of you might know that I come to Avignon every year not at all for the tourist sights (well, hardly at all). However, I took a few pictures of these things for those who have never seen Avignon.
First of all, the obligatory papal palace. This is the largest gothic building constructed during the Middle Ages. It was built in the 14th century and was the site of six papal conclaves. This is all because Pope Clément V refused to reign in Rome after his election in 1305. There was a whole lot of rigamarole, of course, but the popes stayed in Avignon for about 125 years before returning to Rome.
So anyway, there are quite a few old things in town, and the Rhône river is nice, too. Tourists like all of this stuff.
There's the symbolic broken bridge, of course, the one that the song is about. The real name is Pont Saint Bénézet.
Just across the way is the fortress of Villeneuve-lez-Avignon.
The Rhône remains the lifeline of the region... along with the TGV.
The cathedral is Notre Dame des Doms. It is really tiny inside. Some of the more ordinary churches are bigger.
And here and there about town, inside the walls, one encounters various other towers, chapels and whatnot.
Aaaaah, Kerouac ~~ you have made us all yearn to be there with this exceptionally gorgeous group of pictures.
What are those wonderful stripey melons? Is that the kind you bought?
The station pictures are great. You perfectly captured how there are all kinds of things to catch the attention, but it's still . . . . . w a i t i n g. And the great glimpses out the window of what you were passing made me realize again how much I miss train travel.
My first mission on the morning of the 14th was to get my 'Off' membership card. Even the regulars can make some mistakes, because I went to the Tourist Office when it opened at 9:45 to get my card (holiday hours -- otherwise it opens at 9:00) and I later discovered that the Monoprix also sells the cards this year, and they were open at 9:00. There are a limited number of places to get these things because they are now plastic credit card things with a bar code and a digital photograph that they take on the spot. The Off card gives you a 30% discount on all prices.
Anyway, to explain the 'Off' briefly, it is the alternative theatre festival held in Avignon on the same dates at the official festival, called the 'In'. The 'In' is all very well and good and attracts top stars and has performances in the Palais des Papes and plenty of other historical monuments, but it is all very organized and bourgeois and well-bred and the only surprises are the ones carefully programmed by management.
The 'Off' was founded about 35 years ago as an alternative, and it plays in small theatres, and garages and warehouses and restaurants and courtyards and abandoned storefronts and factories... Any place where you can have about 4 square meters of stage and a minimum of 30 seats pretty much qualifies as a possibility, although I have gone to performances in private apartments (18 seats around the walls) and dank basements (12 seats and a guy sitting in his underpants in front of a candle).
I was hooked on this sort of stuff from the very first time I came.
The official festival '('In') presents about 80 spectacles, whereas the Off, this year, is showing about 950. The catalogue of spectacles is larger than the telephone directory of most cities and countless thousands are distributed every day. When I first started attending about 10 years ago, there were 500 spectacles, and I already was overwhelmed by the choice.
So, how you decide what to go and see? First of all, there are some posters to help you out (ha ha).
Every square centimeter of free space is covered with these posters. Many are renewed every day and people who don't play by the rules are denounced. Since there is a shortage of pieces of cardboard, sometimes rival spectacles will paste their poster on top of another one. When this is discovered, all of the new posters are in turn covered with the inscription "COVERER!" in black marker. Luckily this doesn't happen too often.
Naturally, one also passes in front of "theatres" constantly. Here is an indication of how 950 plays and concerts and other performances can take place in a medium-sized city all during the same 3-week period.
Most shows last a maximum of 1h30 and have as few props as possible, or else ultra-inventive transformable ones. The moment you finish applauding, it is the actors themselves who have about 15 minutes to get all of their stuff out of there before the next show comes in to set up. It is all quite fascinating. Well, it is to me.
The pictures are all wonderful. Le Train Bleu is still the beautifyul restaurant and the food has improved. The bar area is Big Ben. I stayed over two weeks across the bridge in villeneuve-Lez-Avignon and took the bus, or the boat or walked across the bridge into Avignon most days. The last night i stayed in avignon at the old Hotel europe to be nearer the train for my departure.
You must have to carefully make a schedule in order to fit in everything you'd like to see.
You never get to see everything you'd like to see.
I'm a little confused -- the "In" also takes place in Avignon and at the same time?
Yes, the official festival is taking place in Avignon at the same time.
Not to knock the established theater, but it's out of this scrabbling, everything-for-the-art, milieu that vital new movements and ideas emerge.
The 'Off' is where a lot of new talent from everywhere in the world is discovered. Many of the people who started in the 'Off' are now part of the 'In' -- and some of them go back to the Off every now and then just for the pleasure of it. Big stars get a certain thrill out of having to give an all out performance for just 100 people.
Oh, as an aside for anybody who isn't quite picturing the scale of the Palais des Papes, there are two people walking in front of it in the photo.
How do the performers get people to come to their show? Only an infinitesimal fraction can hope to get a newspaper review, and most of the festival goers don't have time to read the newspaper anyway.
First, of course, there is the giant catalogue. Everybody has their nose in it constantly, even as they walk down the street and most particularly whenever they stop to get anything to eat or drink.
Next, there are the tracters. These are the people who distribute brochures and post cards ("tracts"). In the most basic case, this is done by the performers themselves, the technicians and any family members who might be hanging around. Since they only busy performing, setting up or taking down their stuff about two hours a day, they spend all the rest of their time walking the streets tracting. Larger productions hire extra people to do this and you will even see ads on the street such as "looking for tracters - French, English, German." On any day in Avignon, you will be given at least 50 tracts, often with a 10-second explanation of the show: "His girlfriend kills his dog and eats it -- it's a musical!" "A new production of all of Shakespeare's works condensed to 55 minutes." "A nun and a serial killer are trapped in an elevator together and they fall in love."
And of course the visuals are important. While they are tracting, a lot of the performers are also parading. You see groups in costume roaming the streets, singing, chanting, making faces, acting out 60-second vignettes and of course bellowing out "Every day at 23:45 at the Lavomatic Theatre!"
It looks like fun, Kerouac. How long in advance did you have to book your hotel?
Bixa, those melons are the most common French melons in summer. The closest I can think of are cantaloupe in N America. But of course, here when they are ripe, they are very sweet and delicious. If you ask for "un melon" at a shop or market here, that's what you get. They often ask when you plan to eat it, so they can choose it just right.
I love those melons. They are sweeter and more flavourful than canteloupes. They are grown here, but they are more expensive than canteloups and some other kinds. I also like the fact that often they are small, so easily eaten by one person.
It looks like fun, Kerouac. How long in advance did you have to book your hotel?
I booked the hotel in May, I think. I stay out in the suburb of Le Pontet, where there is a large group of hotels, restaurants and a shopping mall. It's only 5 minutes to drive into the city, and it's nice to get away from Avignon after a super busy day. I'm just staying in an Etap Hôtel since I spend so little time in the room. It had its 'full' sign up on the 13th and the 15th but had rooms on the 14th. Once or twice I didn't have a booking upon arriving in Avignon in recent years and therefore learned the 'Accor trick.' When all of the hotels are full, you just have to be at the reception desk at 18:55. All of the unsecured reservations disappear from the computer at precisely 19:00 which always releases two or three rooms. I even did that in Montréal once.
I decided not to turn this into a death march like I have done at certain times in the past (and which a lot of people still do, as evidenced from the lists I see them feverishly composing in cafés).
I saw 3 plays on the 14th but just 2 plays on the 15th. I confess that I got sidetracked at one point by an excellent confit de canard at an establishment on Place Pie (Pie = Pius, one of the Avignon popes).
Oh, just to prove that I went to the fireworks on the 14th, here are a few photos, taking into consideration that amateurs can only take crappy photos of fireworks, especially with no tripod and never having read the manual on how to do time lapse photography with a digital camera.
Oh -- what a wonderful day! I LOVE these pictures and want to be there. The river looks so clean and deep. If you cover the brightly colored boats in the penultimate picture, that could be medieval times, or any times, really. I was so taken with this that I went & looked it up -- fascinating history. Here Kerouac, since you are so good about providing us with then & now photos from Paris, you might enjoy this photo from the 1850s. Thanks so much for this report. It's really exciting to see that something this bucolic has been so beautifully preserved.