Friday, September 14, 2012

Avignon Fahrt: episode 1

Pont St Bénezet
Before last week, I think I knew two things about Avignon. There was a bridge, and there had been popes there. You can read about the popes here - suffice it to say that they were on the whole French, or rather Occitane, and they preferred not to leave France - and as for the bridge, the photo shows how it is now only half a bridge. You can read why here; its other name is the Pont St Bénezet. And that's all I've got to say about that, because the trip I've just been on had so much more about it than simple history.

Bedroom, Hotel Palais des Papes
I was on a Fahrt - in this case, a group of 48 or so people who all knew most of the others, either from past trips or through mutual friends. For me this had the effect of rendering me child-like: instead of feeling any responsibility for anything, I simply went with the flow and trusted our leader to make it all work. And it did. We were only there for five nights, but we saw and did so much that it both passed in a flash and felt like a longer visit. Avignon itself was lovely, and the hotel - not the first choice: we were apparently gazumped by a German group - an inspired location for such a group. Picture it: right next to the palace of the popes, with another square, the Place de l'Horloge to the front, in an old stone building with narrow corridors, a spiral staircase and stone walls left as a feature in the bedrooms, filled completely with Fahrters. (This last feature was just as well - any normal person finding themselves there with us might have been less than happy). Our room had a view of an internal courtyard and our friends' bedroom windows; we were happy because it was silent and we had air-con and felt no need to open the window at all. The beds were four-posters minus the drapes - we hung our hats on the posts - and we had two doubles, for some reason.

The faces of the staff (behind) reflect apprehension
The food in the hotel dining room was just great - though I feared for the effects of the multiple chocolate puddings on the first night. The low point came on the Monday morning; we didn't have an early start, which may have encouraged the management to set our petit déjeuner outside on the terrasse. It was a lovely warm, still morning; the town was coming to life around us; the tour-groups would soon begin to pass and be beguiled by the sight of these jolly, friendly people chatting away at the little tables - surely this must be a charming place to be, they would doubtless think - and all seemed wonderful. And then the lorry turned up. Think Dyno-rods. Two men stuck a clear (my god) plastic hosepipe into a drain and turned on the suction. We tried not to look, but soon the stink of diesel was joined by another smell and our leader went to remonstrate. Big gallic shrug - was this specially for our benefit? The sewer must be cleared or .... This is where the benefit of Farhting became apparent. (No pun intended, but have it if you will). We laughed. Hysterically. It was then that a second lorry hove to, slightly to one side, and a man leapt out and began hosing down the street and watering plant pots. He too had an engine running. And then the third lorry arrived: the street sweeper. It swept slowly past. It was bedlam.

By the time it was quiet again, a last flock of oriental tourists was treated to the spectacle of the late breakfasters sitting with scarlet faces, tears running down their cheeks. Peaceful it was not - but we'll not forget Avignon in a hurry.

This post has gone on long enough. I'll return to some of our days out another time. À la prochaine ...


  1. A glimpse of real France! I'd have been laughing too...what else could you do!

  2. Oh, that made me chortle, Christine. You couldn't make it up, could you?

  3. We could so easily have gone all frigid and disapproving, though - it was a tribute to the group ethos that we reacted as we did, I think.