Saturday 25 August 2007

First impressions

Arriving in Avignon from Villeneuve on the right bank, I cross the river Rhone on the Pont du Royaume (the Realm bridge) and from there grasp my first view of the famous Pont d'Avignon (pont St Benezet) slightly upstream.

Did you ever learn the song "Sur le Pont d'Avignon" in French class at school? Well this is it. First built in the 12th century, it was partially destroyed by floods several times over the centuries and rebuilt every time, once more in 1628. But when the river washed away several arches again just five years later in 1633, the site was abandoned and a new location sought further downstream. In 1669 a new flood further destroyed the bridge and left it pretty much in the condition we know it today: out of the original 22 arches, only 4 remain.

The river as you see it in summer may seem quite tame but think of the engineering challenge that men have faced over the centuries to build a bridge that would withstand the winter fury of this wild and large river and keep communication lines open!

I can't help but get up early the next morning and visit the bridge at 8am, when the breeze hasn't picked up yet and the reflection is perfect. This bridge is such a tourist trap and a photographer's dream!

Perfect reflection... until a small flock of ducks turns up under the bridge that is, and creates the first wavelets of the day.

But soon enough I tire of the tourist stuff. Let me take you "intra muros" - "within the walls", inside the old fortified city, a fascinating maze of tiny streets. This is Rue Philonarde, the street where I will be renting a studio apartment for a month until l I settle permanently. Out of the many pictures I took today, I find this one quite significant: old walls and shutters, messy power lines and a bar with its typical tobacco sign watched over by a small corner statue of Virgin Mary. Religion and tobacco, mmmmh... neither is my cup of tea.

Coming from Sydney, I am shocked to see the number of people who smoke here in France. Many of my old friends do. I had forgotten. Packs of cigarettes bear large 'smoking kills' labels yet parents appear unconcerned to see their teenagers become as addicted as themselves. I am grateful for the formative years my children spent in Australia. Neither of my 20 year old twins smoke. Will my 14 year old daughter get caught in this madness? Awareness of health issues and resisting peer pressure were two items often discussed at her school. I hope she makes good use of those skills here.


Anonymous said...

This is a remarkable set of photos and the story behind them is keen to read. I liked your post.

And thank you for the comment and visit to my blog.

Denton said...

So many beautiful photos. The two I like most at the ducks crossing a reflection of the bridge and your first photo showing the blue door, the number 11, and grapes.

Best wishes on your move, your new blog, and the pace of life. I look forward to the strolls you take us on.

Peter said...

Thanks for showing the "tourist attraction". I guess you did it especially for me! I saw the "pont" as a first time tourist to Avignon in 1968 (the first day after the "May revolution") and a couple of weeks later, this is where I for the first time kissed my future wife (I guess I already told this "secret" some time, somewhere); so there are some sentimental memories.

Although I'm a smoker myself, I agree of course to your feelings and opinion on this matter, especially as concerns the young. Somehow, I wish however to find a certain tolerance with some old smokers; it's not easy to find a place where you can enjoy a small cigarillo or a cigarette today. ... and in any case, you have always a guilty feeling, which destroys the pleasure.

Jilly said...

Oh, Nathalie, what a treat this blog is and is going to be. beautiful Avignon and your camera. The photographs of the bridge are probably the best I've ever seen. Love them all.

And yes, we learned Sur le pont at school and for that reason, I was so excited when I eventually saw it.


GMG said...

Ah, sur le pont d'Avignon! So, now Avignon is going to have the attention it deserves. Hope to see some beautiful pictures, and read about some beautiful meals (La compagnies des Comptoirs is always there, it seems...).

Anonymous said...

I don't think I know the song, wish I did. The bridge is superb, and your photos are just great.

It's interesting to read what you wrote about the differences culturally about smoking and health issues between Australia and France. I wouldn't have guessed that. At 14 I'm sure your daughter has learned the important things she needs to from you, and she'll be fine.

Anonymous said...

That was a big surprise, but I am glad finding your posts. So very well done both pictures and text. Enjoyable! And Peter`s memories are such a fine humane complement :)
Avignon is familiar to me only from
history lessons of my school time.
I am really interested in it!

Chuckeroon said...

Tks for visiting R u T and yr kind comments. Syd Snap was always a pleasure and I will waste no time placing avignon on the regular feeds....(computer came back today...reset to zero so all lost...but that's a bit like losing weight and feeling fitter, isn't it)

Anonymous said...

I remember "sur le pont.." from my early years, but I can't remember whether this was from school or because we always had "French Connections". My aunt married a Frenchman during the war and my elder sister spent many years in France. I too have ambiguous feelings about the "tabac" sign. I love it because it is iconic of France, as is Gaulloises, but I am very anti-smoking myself, coming from an entire family of addicts (but never having succumbed myself.) These warm, dusty stone facades bring France immediately to mind for me

isa said...

Quelle Surprise!
I followed your trail from Abe's blog, thinking you are vacationing in Avignon...but you have moved there!
You mentioned that you will be much too busy to blog often, but I am hoping that eventually (when you are settled in) you will share with us more than just photos! I would love to hear about your "reenter" experiences, although being French and living in the area previously, they would be a tad different than for other expats ;-)

Anyway, I am thrilled that you are in "my Provence" and I can return to it through your stunning photos!

Merci! And all the best in your new place!

Anonymous said...

J'adore la photo avec les canards!

Bergson said...

Je vois que le voyage n'a pas modifié la qualité de tes photos.

Nathalie tu suis le soleil ?

Ce n'était pas une annonce pour touriste il fait chaud même dans notre grand nord.

Unknown said...

Avignon looks like a very nice visit to visit!

Hope you have settled down well. I think you must be catching up with the familiar places you left behind.

Have a good weekend!

Ming the Merciless said...

Natalie, I have wonderful memories of Avignon and remember walking up the hill to the fortress where the Popes used to live, near the bridge in your photo.

I hope you enjoy your new home in Avignon.

Dave said...

Its a beautiful part of France. Ihave only had a holiday there, but fond memories.

Anonymous said...

Stunning photos of a beautiful bridge and yes, I know the song but can't remember all of the lyrics.

Sally said...

Yep, we learned "Sur le pont" at school in French class.

Know what I liked most in your comments? That you couldn't resist getting up at 8am.....implying that is really early in the scheme of things....unlike the hectic US type life that Australia now seems to follow - our cities are always go, go, go then.

I love walkign around before other people, and even an 8am rise in Paris seems to yield emptiness and sharing carriages on the metro with only night workers returning home - nt people rushign to the office with cardboard cups of coffee in hand.

But then Avignon is always going to be a slower pace than a big city! How beautiful!

Jules said...

What stunning photos!!!

Your city is very dear to me as my daughter Madeleine was conceived here 13 years ago. It will be so nice to revisit this beautiful city through your eyes. My daughter will enjoy it too no doubt!!! We stayed in a little place called Hotel de Garlande. The room was all pink - very bright - so no wonder we had a girl I guess!!!!

Cergie said...

Je rebondis sur ton dernier paragraphe, ce n'est pas une image que j'ai de la France et quoique nous ayons toujours vêcu ici aucun de mes trois enfants ni mon mari ni moi ne fumons
Il me semble que les gens fument beaucoup ds la rue car c'est interdit de fumer dans le train, dans les lieux publics, les bureaux

En Allemagne, les cigarettes sont proposées au bout des caisses et tu ne trouves pas de café ou de restau qui ne soit enfumé....

C'est vrai que le tabac est une calamité et comme le symbolise bien l'enseigne cigare en plus c'est une rente pour l'état

Tu as réussi encore sur cette photo à dénicher en plus de son coté parlant le mini reflet du beau ciel de Provence qui par ailleurs nous parle du soleil qui est absent de cette photo là pour cause d'ombre...

En ce qui concerne le pont sur le Rhône, pendt les vacances mon mari me faisait remarquer que les ponts de pierre y sont raresà cause du courant (à Lyon, ilssont sur la Saone) on trouve surtout des ponts suspendus

Pour terminer, je te parlerai d'une autre chanson "pour passer le rhône, il faut être deux
Pour bien le passer il faut savoir danser..."

Et bien là apparement c'est tout le village mondial qui danse sur ton pont !!!

Bonne semaine Nathalie, prépare bien la rentrée !

claude said...

La France est un beau et doux Pays et le Sud en particulier. Dommage que tes posts d'Avignon ne soient pas bilingues !

Gregory Sey said...

As tu dansé sur le pont?

Unknown said...

Très belles photos encore ! Concernant le tabac, c'est vrai que le nombre de gens qui fument est assez impressionnant ici... je ne sais pas si la loi concernant l'interdiction dans les bars et les restaurants va y faire quelque chose. Moi en tout cas ça m'arrangerait bien !

Clueless in Boston said...

Bonjour Nathalie!

I'm glad you are going to post pictures from Avignon. I enjoyed your photos from Sydney and have missed your pictures.

I too remember the song and singing it in elementary school a loooong time ago. It's nice to see the actual 'pont' and the pictures are gorgeous.

I think playing tourist in your own town is a great way to take time and see things one might otherwise overlook. Keep at it, I know I (and probably many others) will enjoy seeing the photos you take while playing tourist in Avignon. :)


Kate said...

Such beauty and great photos. I just visited your last post at Sydney and wondered about your new post, whether or not it would be daily so now I have the answer! Good to see these photos!!

Fénix - Bostonscapes said...

Thank you, again, for your comment and for your invitation.

What a beautiful blog, Nathalie. A true feast for the eyes. Every photo is a dream and Avignon, what a place!

Religion, tobacco and gambling, not my cup of tea either.

I look forward to learning about Avignon through your photos and commentary.


Anonymous said...

so glad to have found you again!! looks like you've moved to paradise .
I agree with your comments about smoking in France after visiting this year with my 16 yo we were both shocked at how many young girls smoked.

Olivier said...

des photos sont superbes, surtout les reflets. Cette region est sublime et on ne peut pas resister a sortir son APN.
Bonne installation, meme si pour l'instant elle est temporaire.
J'espère bientôt que ton blog sera bilingue ;o).
Bonne continuité

CaBaCuRl said...

Nathalie, beautiful photos, especially the ducks 'spoiling' the reflection. Yes, I learned that song at school when I was a little tacka, and have taught many other little 'uns the song also.

Anonymous said...

Nathalie, I wish you the best of luck in Avignon, and as usual I'll be looking forward to your beautiful photographs and meaningful writing!

Cheers from the other side of the world!

Anonymous said...

A l'origine, c'était "sous le pont d'Avignon", non ?

DS2944 said...

Ben oui forcément : Le fameux pont mis en valeur par tes superbes pdv ... j'aime beaucoup le côté manichéen que tu leur donnes avec ces magnifiques reflets.

GiuCe said...

...magic pics!

I'll missed your pictures from Sydney... now, I'll enjoy your pics from Avignon.

Good luck Nathalie

Anonymous said...

Très belles photos et très beaux textes. Le détour par l'Australie donne une acuité particulière à votre regard.

M.Benaut said...

What a wonderful and apparently relaxed pace, Avignon must present to you all. Change can be stressful. What better place to be in, - than Bondi Junction at peak hour !! (That's where I'll be in 3 weeks for William's first birthday.) In my new profile pic, you'll see him 12 months older, and I'll try and slip in a shot of Oxford Street, just to tease you.
Meanwhile, we are all settling back to enjoy your beautiful Avignon.

Gerald (SK14) said...

love the ducks swimming in the reflection.

hope your daughter manages to resist the urge to smoke

Anonymous said...

Bon retour en France qui doit te sembler très différente comparée à l'Australie ...
On sent la douceur du Sud dans tes photos ...

DS2944 said...

Encore, encore, encore !!!!

Others, ohers, others !!!!

Pod said...

hurrah! she's back! but sadly and alas, not back in sydney.
sorry, i should stop rubbing it in!
hope all is well?
had a brief meeting with bruno in his checked trousers!
good to have you back in the blogosphere madame!

rauf said...

Hi Nathalie
Got back last night
i'll come back to read the post.
Here's a link to National Geographic photo contest

hope you are doing fine Nathlie and enjoying the place.

rauf said...

i thought you'd be up and chirping and clicking, as sydney is ahead of india, now i realise that you'd be still sleeping.

oweee 1st spetember today ???

Axelle said...

Bonjour Nathalie

Ce dernier envoi confirme que tu n'as rien perdu de ton talent.
Cela donne envie de visiter la région.
Merci de penser à tes visiteurs Français..notre Anglais n'est pas aussi "fluent" que le tien.

Felicia said...

Wow Nathalie, you are always surprising me with your great photos and now this move back to France! I do hope France joins the non-smoking bandwagon soon. Thanks for visiting me in San Diego and best wishes on your re-acclimation.

freelancer said...

Coucou, me revoilou !
Je suis heureux de te retrouver sur ton nouveau daily photo !
Quelle belle ville ... vite vite nous voulons en voir plus !

Lizzy said...

I've just posted a link to your blog as Ive posted a photo from the top of the bridge in Avignon which I took this summer, lovely city, just wished we had more time to spend there, we were staying Uzes

Caronebraska said...

Believe it or not, but within 1 year living next to Avignon (in Tarascon) and having gone two years before on holidays in Beaucaire, I have NEVER visited the bridge ! What a pity ! I'm really sad I hadn't discovered and visited more Avignon the time I was there !

Michel Benoit said...

Tu commençais avec une niche, cela ne pouvait que porter bonheur...

Mon word verification est "uncon".
Non, mais, je vous demande un peu ?!

ruma said...

Bonjour, Nathalie.

Le troisième anniversaire joyeux.

La réflexion du bleu outremer est rêveuse ...
C'est le décor qui est bon pour votre blog début.

Du Japon.


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