Look around the City, Avignon
Successful businessman and art collector Louis Vouland (1883-1973) bequeathed his 19th-century, neo-classical town house to the state together with its huge and prestigious collection of arts and crafts. His home was restored and opened as one of Avignon’s most charming museums in 1982, offering displaying Vouland’s quirky collection of 17th and 18th-century decorative arts. Highlights include high-quality faïence (earthenware) from Vincennes and Sèvres, and tapestries woven in Flanders, Aubusson and Gobelins. However, a dainty travel tea set in Sèvres faïence , which belonged to the Comtesse du Barry, mistress of Louis XV, steals the show. Outside is an attractive garden.
The original covered market was built right at the end of the 19th century. But in the 1970s the commercial heart of Avignon was threatened by the rise of the grandes surfaces, the vast shopping malls and commercial strip developments which today encircle the Old City.
To combat this, a multi-storey car park was created near the market in the 1970s and the old hall demolished and rebuilt.
A great shopping area, with pedestrian streets without automobiles (not always the case in France), and loads of shops of all kinds. Southeast of the Place de l'Horloge: rue des Marchands, rue Rouge and adjoining streets are full of clothing and other shops.
Book market on the Cours Jean Jaures, just inside the wall in front of the train station.
Our apprt hotel is located in this street, a sloping cobbled street lined by a canal and shady plane trees, this is a lovely cool place to spend a balmy summer's day or evening.
The river Sorgue was diverted in the Middle Ages to form several canals, one of which, the Canal de Vaucluse, runs today along the rue des Teinturiers before joining the river Rhône by Avignon's walled city.
The initial purpose was for drainage. But, when textile makers set up shop in Avignon, they soon realised the benefits of a ready water supply and made a beeline for this area. Indeed, the rue des Teinturiers translates roughly as "Dyers' Street".
Tour St Jean is located diagonally across the square from the Les Halles fresh produce market, and is all that remains of a complex founded by the Hospital Order of St John of Jerusalem (usually known as the Knights Hospitaller) in the mid 13th century.
Along with their bitter rivals, the Knight Templar, the Knights Hospitaller were one of the two orders of warrior monks who arose from the Crusades. The Knights Hospitaller were established in the late 11th century to look after pilgrims to Jerusalem and rose to prominence during the First Crusade, when they were charge with the care and defence of the Holy Land.
The complex seems to have later been used as a cardinal's residence, and today, only this splendid tower remains. Best appreciated over a cool drink from one of the cafes which line the square!
In the summer when the city is full of tourists and you are dodging crowds you don't see the things that magically appear in the off season. We visited Avignon on a cold November day once and there were no tourists about. We wandered the city looking at things we'd never seen before. One of the fun discoveries was windows. All cities have windows, but Avignon has art in many of them. If you look up there are statures on balconies and trompe l'oeil paintings in many windows.
Once you've spotted one, you start looking for others. It's fun.
This was a particularly picturesque church tower that I discovered in my wanderings somewhere in the tangle of roads to the east of Palais des Papes: I couldn't tell you exactly where, as navigating around this section of Avignon isn't easy if you don't have a detailed map.
Again, my attempts to find out more about this tower have been fruitless - any information to address my ignorance would be gratefully received and duly incorporated!
Update (January 2012): Halleluia, my ignorance has been addressed! This tower turns out to be part of Clocher des Augustins on Rue Carreterie and the following excellent context comes courtesy of jrock0525:
"This was one of the earliest Augustine convents in Provence, first occupied in the second half of the thirteenth century outside the city walls near the Portail Matheron, not far from the Carmelites who were located on the same street. The church was apparently complete by the beginning of the fourteenth century and is probably one of the first examples of Gothic Avignonese style. It was later enlarged and renovated by John XXII, who added chapels to the eastern portion of the church. At the time, this neighborhood was growing rapidly, with artisans as well as small merchants. The Augustines began construction of a bell tower in 1372 and completed it in 1377. It is the only visible remnant of what was one of the largest convents in Avignon.
"This bell tower, similar to that of the neighboring Carmelites, exemplifies all of the typical characteristics pf the Avignonese style of bell tower, with the addition of machicolations over the corbels, highlighting the defensive role of this edifice. During the Revolution this convent was sold in lots and dismantled, while the bell tower was given to the community. However, a recent archeological study (by M. Truel and F. Guyonnet) of the urban plat plan has revealed some vestiges of this church that were formerly believed to be entirely destroyed. In 1497 a public clock was installed in the bell tower. Once of the bells installed here in 1562 is now on display at the Palais des Papes."
The Aumône Générale is not a mainstream tourist attraction by any means, but this appealed to me on so many levels and is precisely the sort of 'second division' attraction that I so look forward to discovering my my travels.
The history of the building is fascinating and reflects a range of very different uses over the centuries. If my schoolgirl French is to be trusted, this started life as a poor house in 1592, and separate sections were established for men and women - separated by a chapel - presumably to reinforce moral conduct and prevent fraternisation. There was even a section called 'The Galley' which was set aside for Avignon's 'fallen' women ...
In the 19th century, it was converted into a 'travellers' barracks' and in 1890, transformed its purpose yet again to house the Ecole des Beaux Arts.
In 1998, it was sold by the city, and has since been converted into private and very desirable looking apartments in the heart of the city. The irony of a building evolving from a poorhouse which catered for the destitute into what seem to be extremely upmarket bijou apartments amuses me no end!
This enchanting street was originally located outside the 11th century city walls, but was incorporated into the when Avignon expanded its city walls in the 14th century.
As early as the 10th century, the clergy of Notre Dame des Doms engineered the diversion of river water into the old ditches around the city walls to provide a reliable water supply. In the late 15th century, the calico dyers who had established along the canal successfully petitioned the City Council to divert water from the higher quality Fontaine de Vaucluse, whose water apparently gave the dyed fabric a particular sheen and vibrancy of colour.
After a bewildering number of name changes, the street acquired its current name, rue des Teinturiers (Dyer's Road), at the end of the 18th century in recognition of the calico industry that established along this street in order to take advantage of the water supply and power generation provided by the waterwheels located along the canal. At its height, there were 24 waterwheels along this stretch of canal, of which four have been preserved.
One of the most charming aspects of rue des Teinturiers is the collection of carved stone benches which line the side of the canal and provide ideal spots for people to sit and soak up the ambience in the shade of the enormous plane trees: these benches also serve to ensure that the street is effectively a pedestrians only zone. The street is lined with a series of small cafes, bars and restaurants, so you won't lack for choice when it comes to choosing somewhere to eat or drink! Some of the restaurants actually straddle the canal and most provide pavement tables where you can pleasantly while away the hours. Or if your budget's not up to that, assemble the makings of a picnic or grab a baguette, annex a stone bench and watch the world wander by.
It would certainly be the ideal place to retreat from the blazing heat of a Provencal summer, or to pass a balmy evening.
For more photos and detail on the history of this fascinating street, see my travelogue below.
The Place du Palais occupies a large open sloping area before the Palais des Popes. At the southhwest edge of the Place is the Old Mint (Hotel des Monnaies) which has a decorated facade covering its upper part and a rusticated lower level. The upper facade is drpoed with lion heads and garlands of flowers. At the northwest part of the square is the Petit Palace while at the northwest edge is the Cathedral.
We stayed at the most expensive hotel in town inside the walls, the Hotel Europe. It is next to the northwest gate on the Place Crillon. At the east end is ancient Salle des Spectacle where famous presentations were performed in the 15C. I do not think it is used now. We seem to have been the only diners enjoying a petit dejeuner.
As you walk along the main street cours Jean Jaures, the tourist office is on the right side, at number 41. On this street you’ll also find lots of cafes and eating establishments and we had dinner at one of theDeli restaurants. Whilst the window display of food looked fabulous, unfortunately the meal itself was not as good as we expected.
Originally la Chapelle du Collège des Jésuites, this church-turned-museum exhibits an impressive collection of objects from ancient civilisations that passed through Provence over the millenia. This museum is part of Musée Calvet in Avignon. The stunning Italian Baroque façade of the church dates back to the 17th century. The church has been a museum of sorts since the 1930s.
The river Rhône has been central to the existence of Avignon since its founding in Gallo-Roman times. The river demarcates the city on its northern and western sides, although it is concealed by the medieval walls. While blessed by the proximity to the river, Avignon has sometimes suffered from the Rhône's occasional excessive flooding, such as that of the 17th century which caused the partial destruction of le Pont d'Avignon. Today the Rhône adds to the scenery of the city. A walk along its bank is quite pleasant, particularly when lavender is in full bloom (see photos).
Chapelle de l'Oratoire was built in the first half of the 18th century. It is a beautiful example of Baroque architecture, and has an impressive cupola. The church was restored in 2004, and now takes part in the July Festival (as evidenced by the banner in the photos).