Avignon
France|November 2019
With impressive Unesco World Heritage sites, fascinating museums and artisan boutiques, Lara Dunn is dazzled by Avignon
Lara Dunn

It’s no good, that damn song is stuck firmly in my head. No matter how many times I try and shift it, there it is: ‘Sur le pont….dah, de, dah, de dah.’ Dating back to 1853 when it appeared in an operetta by Adolphe Adam, created for the Opéra Comique in Paris, the annoyingly catchy song is thought to be at least partly responsible for the worldwide popularity of the Pont Saint- Bénézet as a tourist destination.

There’s certainly no shortage of visitors to the bridge, with over 300,000 would-be dancers a year taking a look at what is, after all, only part of a bridge, and I’m one of them. The ambitious project of 22 arches spanning the river between Avignon and Villeneuve-lès- Avignon begun in 1234 was abandoned in the 17th century after repeated flooding of the Rhône river that destroyed all but the four arches and only the gatehouse remains.

The bridge, along with the Palais des Papes and the area surrounding it, has been Unesco World Heritage-listed since 1995.

Steeped in history

The Palais des Papes is a true monument to the sheer power and wealth of the Catholic Church. When conflict erupted between the French crown and the papacy in 1305, the result was the election of a French pope, Clement V, who refused to move to Rome.

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