Sometime after the end of the 13th century, the pope became squeamish about the unpleasant demise of 40 or so of his predecessors and this led, in ways I will not go into ('cause I haven't a clue), to a cluster of French Popes with a love of big buildings and good wine.
The pope's place at night.
Avignon is a moderate size city in the heart of Provence and the place where we established home base for our exploration of the sights, cities, and hill towns to which this blog is devoted. The old city has an impressive wall that keeps the tourists from fraternizing with the locals, who might tell us what food really costs.
The medieval charm is protected by decree from the desecration of air conditioning. Weather above 40˚C is not uncommon and one feature of this for meat eaters is that you can order everything rare and then depending upon how quickly you eat, the meal will be done to your satisfaction at some bite.
The selection of restaurants and sidewalk cafés is nearly endless which, along with an extended natural life, must have been a big draw to a hungry pope.
Everything in Avignon is made of stone, from the cobbled streets to the slate roofs. Turns out, stone lasts longer than wood, which you might think would have caught the attention of San Francisco dwellers some 450 years later, but then there are earthquakes and surviving a contusion from a stucco encrusted 2×4 versus a chunk of granite is probably similar to seeing the age of 50 in Avignon versus Rome if you're silly enough to be pope.
Kerry, my Danish nephew, hit the apartment at the same hour as we did. Having rented an apartment from Airbnb, we were greeted by an enthusiastic host whose English was on a par with my French, so we used Google to moderate the painfully slow and dry introductions and instructions—how does one say, Hey lady, I've just driven impossibly narrow roads at insane speeds in sweltering heat and I need a beer, can we move this along? Patience is a tiresome virtue. Kerry cut to the chase with, “Where's the wifi?”
Fortunately, the Irish bar at the street corner serves an awesome Grumbachen Blonde (for my straight friends, that's beer), so the tedium was finally broken with proper flare.
Our first meal was at an open air restaurant in front of the Hotel de Ville (“city hall” for you neophites…and me), where a dozen restaurants squat cheek by masticating jowl (ugly metaphor). The meal was great and most interesting was Rod's capresé salad made with a lightly breaded, pan-fried mozarella. Nothing sparks up a slab of fat like frying it. Good wine, good company, no popes anywhere, who could ask for more?