Villeneuve-lès-Avignon Things to Do
The monastery of Chartreuse du Val de Benediction (what a mouthful) was the largest Carthusian monastery in France during the Middle Ages, and a veritable advert for the monastic lifestyle!The monastery was founded by Pope Innocent VI in 1352 who owned an estate here when he was a cardinal and he donated the land to the order to found the monastery...more
One of the more touching aspects of For St Andre is looking at the carvings made by prisoners on the stone floors. These are protected by glass and highlighted with little spotlights, but can be quite difficult to make out until you get your eye in, which rather adds to the experience (and might be a good way to keep kids occupied for a few...more
To describe the Belvezet chapel in Fort St Andre as tiny would be understating the case - which leaves me to conclude that the garrison in the fort were either an ungodly lot, or went to Mass elsewhere!The chapel is so understated that you could be forgiven for missing it. Which would be a shame, as it is an understated gem of stark, clean...more
It's hard not to be impressed, intimidated and otherwise awed by Fortress St Andre ... the embodiment of the fortress that little boys - and girls - envisage when they play games of medieval knights in armour ... hence my rather fanciful travelogue as an exercise in childish make believe (hell, it's my leisure time, so I'm allowed to play)!To...more
Philip le Bel's tower is one of the defining features of the Villeneuve skyline and dates back to the early 14th century.Looking at the map, and extending the remaining portion of Pont St Bénézet in Avignon across both channels of the Rhone - and Barthlasse Island in between - I have a hunch that the tower used to stand sentinel over the Villeneuve...more
Unfortunately I only had a scant morning to explore the myriad delights of Villeneuve, so I simply didn't have time to explore the charms of the Abbaye within the confines of the Fort St Andre ramparts.Apparently the gardens of the Abbaye in particular are stunning and must be a wonderful retreat from the heat of a Provencal summer - if you visit...more
Here lies Pope Innocent VI, founder of Chartreuse du Val de Benediction, and buried in a side chapel of the monastery he founded (see my other travel tip). And when a newly elected Pope chooses to call himself 'Innocent', don't you just have to suspect that he has something to hide???Actually he did, because prior to the conclave at which he was...more
Maybe it's my Germanic roots showing (and, let's face it, never has a nation been more in touch with its collective bowels!) but toilets fascinate me!Modern plumbing, dentistry and antibiotics seem to me to be some of the advances of the last couple of centuries that have added most greatly to our present quality of life. As children, we used to...more
I just love the sentiment that this wonderful piece of municipal sculpture conveys about Villeneuve's lazy, laid back lifestyle!.Roughly translated, the associated plaque reads as follows:"Symbol of the good life in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, the lizard invites you to spend some 'lizard time' in our town and discover its history" (excuse the...more
This market was underway the Saturday morning that I visited Villeneuve - it was the last Saturday of the month, and I'can't say whether this is a weekly event or happens less frequently.To describe it as an 'antiques' market is probably a little generous on my part, as from the little I saw, there was more bric-a-brac than priceless heirlooms on...more
The Carthusian order was founded in 1084. The leader was called the Dom. The individual monks lived in separate cells. In the deeper part of the courtyard some cells face into the cloister with a well at the center. The order was closed during the French Revolution.more
A charcuterie right across the street from the local mairie.....they throw a few tables out onto the sidewalk in the evening and call themselves a restaurant. It's been a little while, so I've lost most of the details, but their entrecot au poivre was to die for, an entree that my wife and I still talk about wistfully.
(work in progress)
As with the potential confusion between TGV and local trains in Avignon, it's easy to get confused between the local and regional bus services. That's not to say that it's complicated - in fact, quite the opposite - but you just need to know that there's a difference.
The navette buses serving the local area in and around Avignon use a terminus directly in front of the Post Office, which is just over the road from the central railway station - it's a distance of barely 100m, but you can't see one from the other because they are separated by the city walls. Follow the blue footprints on the pavement and walk through Port de la Republique, after which all will be revealed!
The navette station is an attractive place, shaded by beautiful plane trees whose shade would doubtless be most welcome in high summer! The stops are clearly labelled ... and the layout is such that the navette to the TGV station is ergonomically located closest to the train station.
The two navette services that are likely to be of most interest to tourists are those to the TGV station and to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
The service between the navette station and the TGV station takes 10 minutes and buses run on average about twice an hour between about 06:00 and 23:00 (depending on the time of year). This is much cheaper than a taxi and if you're coming from the TGV station, it also has the advantage that you don't have to join what can be rather a long queue for taxis after a TGV train arrives. If needs be, you can then pick up a taxi from outside the railway station in the centre of town (since the navette terminus is immediately over the road from here).
The Villeneuve service - Line 11 - runs on average twice an hour (depending on day of the week, time of the day and whether it's school holidays or not). The journey takes about 15 minutes, and runs between about 06:30 and 19:30 - bear this relatively early last service in mind if you're considering staying in Villeneuve and travelling into Avignon.
Navettes work on a flat fee per ride - €1.80 at the time of writing in October 2011.
Villeneuve-lès-Avignon Warnings and Dangers
Visiting churches is one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Europe, and provides a fascinating insight into the most powerful influencethat has shaped European cultures of the past couple of millenia.
Unlike some other religions - where access to places of worship may be restricted to members of that religious group or a specific gender - the vast majority of Christian churches will allow tourists to visit at most times, including routine services (although some may charge an admission fee for doing so, and access may be denied for private events such as weddings and funerals). However, tourists should realise that most churches are still active places of worship, and so visitors need to exhibit a certain sensitivity to display respect to the culture and avoid giving offence to people at prayer.
The following guidelines are based on wonderful advice offered by Homer (homaned) - who does this for a living - in a forum response, and although specifically written for Christian places of worship, would apply equally to places of worship for other religions
So, here is a general list of do's and don'ts for people wishing to photograph during a church service:
READ THE SIGNS
If photography is not permitted - because, for example, it may damage paint on delicate murals - this will usually be indicated by a pictogram of a camera with a red line through it. Under most circumstances, you can assume that photography will be allowed (unless otherwise indicated), but may not be permitted during services. If in doubt, ask for clarification - this shows respect and will very seldom be met with anything other than a helpful response.
TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!
Every camera on the market has a button on it which will turn off the flash. The number one most alarming and distracting thing that can happen during a liturgy, and one which will even get you kicked out of some churches, is the bright flash that goes off when you take a picture. Not only is it distracting, but it usually makes the picture turn out dark, because your camera's flash only has about a 10-15' range. Turn off the flash, and hold the camera up against your eye, using the viewfinder, and you will likely get a better picture (and you definitely won't have any red-eye problems!).
DON'T MOVE AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE! (UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION)
Instead of walking all over down the main aisle and in front of everybody, pick a good place from which to take a picture at the beginning of the liturgy, and stay there. Unless you're a professional photographer with practice at stealthily moving during liturgies, you're a distraction, and you're being disrespectful. Even if you're a pro, try to stick to one out-of-the-way place, and use a zoom lens and zoom in to get pictures. Walking in front of people is a surefire way to distract and disrespect and closing in on priests or other celebrants just to capitalise on a photo opportunity is offensive.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S SOUND!
Every camera has some way to mute all its 'cute' beeps and clicking noises. If you press a button, and hear a beep, or if you take a picture and hear an obnoxious shutter clicking sound, you need to turn off those sounds (the muting option is usually in one of the menus). Along with the flashing, it's an obvious sign that someone is taking pictures and not showing much respect for those trying to pay attention to the liturgy.
TURN OFF THE 'FOCUS ASSIST' LIGHT!
If your camera can't focus without the little laser-light that shines in everyone's eyes before your camera takes a picture, then don't use your camera. You have to turn that light off! It is very distracting to be watching a lector or priest, and see a little red dot or lines pop up on his face all of the sudden. It's as if some rifleman is making his mark! Turn the light off (again, look in the menus for the option to turn off the 'AF assist' or 'focus assist' light). If you can't turn it off, put a piece of duct tape or some other opaque material over the area where the light is, so the light won't shine on someone.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S LCD!
You should never use the LCD to compose your shots anyways; just put your eye up to the viewfinder, and that will not only not distract, it will also steady your camera against your face, making for a better picture (especially if you don't have the flash on). And if you must review the pictures you've taken, hold the camera in front of you, down low, so people behind you don't notice the big, bright LCD display on your camera
CERTAIN PARTS OF THE CEREMONY ARE PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE
The consecration (blessing) of the eucharist (bread and wine) and distribution of communion to the congregation are considered to be particularly sacred parts of the service, and it is offensive to photograph these activities.
The main thing is to try to be respectful of the culture and of other people present at the service. Don't distract. And, if you are asked to not take pictures, or if there's a sign saying 'no photography allowed,' then don't take pictures. You can always ask a priest's permission before the liturgy, but if he says 'No,' put away your camera and enjoy the freedom you have to focus on the privilege of being able to share an experience with people who consider these religious rituals core to their culture and identity, rather than focusing on your camera's LCD!
Homer's Rules ... Homer rules!
Favorite thing: I have no aspirations to be considered an intellectual - in fact, having spend five years in academia, this pretentious breed tend to irritate the living daylights out of me - so I have no shame whatsoever in offering up this superior 'bodice ripper' of a novel as recommended reading for your trip to Villeneuve!
This book by the Scottish author Reay Tannahill is set in the early 15th century and traces the life of a young Scottish woman, Ninian Drummond, who has been raised in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon but returns to Scotland following an arranged marriage.
Quite apart from being a cracking good yarn (and ideal airport reading), what I so enjoyed was the way that it depicted Villeneuve in a period decline following the collapse of the Avignon papacy, and the period of chaos exploited by the Routier brigands (see my tip on the monastery of Chartreuse du Val de Benediction).
The other aspect that I find particularly interesting about this book is the medieval interdependence between Church and state, and the complex dance that was required from both parties to balance their conflicting - but inextricably linked - interests.
Highly coloured, highly romanticised and high recommended reading!