Car­di­nal plea­sures

The walled city of Avi­gnon was briefly the cen­tre of the Chris­tian world

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SARAH CARR- GOMM

A BRI­TISH ex­pat in Aus­tralia was once asked what he missed most about Eng­land. ‘ ‘ France,’’ he replied. Re­minded by this, I took the weekly sum­mer Eurostar from Lon­don to Avi­gnon, which proved an ideal des­ti­na­tion for a lover of fine weather, fine fare and lots of his­tory.

The medieval trav­eller would have ap­proached the walled city from the north­west via the Pont Saint-Benezet, then the only bridge across the Rhone from Lyons to the sea and made fa­mous by the catchy French ditty. Built in the 12th cen­tury, it orig­i­nally fea­tured an im­pres­sive 22 arches; only four sur­vive.

I have read that the song is not Sur le Pont d’Avi­gnon but Sous le Pont, sup­pos­edly sung by the thieves lurk­ing un­der­neath, who danced glee­fully at the sight of po­ten­tial vic­tims en­ter­ing the city. Cer­tainly, if the cob­ble­stones were any­thing like they are to­day, dancing on the bridge would surely have been in­ju­ri­ous.

The mon­u­men­tal crenel­lated

Tour guide El­iz­a­beth Men­zies with a young orang-utan

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