Popes, plays, photography…and cicadas !
Making the most of the cool stuff organised for us étrangers by the university, I recently spent a weekend down south with a small group of camerades from my summer course.
First stop was an ancient monastary, Chartreuse Notre-Dame du val de Bénédiction, in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon. We had a good old stickybeak around the cloisters, in the chapel of frescoes, in the cemetary and in the monks’ chambers, which are bigger than our appartement.
After paying our respects to Pope Innocent VI, who has rested here since the 1300s, we crossed the Rhône to Avignon, most of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Avignon has a population of around 95 000, a pope palace, a broken bridge and medieval walls still standing around the town centre. Their annual théâtre festival was in full swing and we couldn’t turn around without seeing street performances and promotions for théâtre pieces. Both the atmosphere and the weather were super hot, and by the time we visited a tiny makeshift théâtre to view an adaptation of Molière, several people were practically asleep on their feet !
A quick snooze in lieu of watching the piece, and we were on our way again – this time to our hostel. On the banks of the Rhône, it was a camping ground, a caravan park and a hostel rolled into one, complete with bar, restaurant, general store and 5 cats. After depositing our bags, we retired to the bar for some big, cold pints. There was a swimming pool nearby, but with a 10€ entry fee, we decided to give it a miss !
We had dinner in town, which was packed to the ramparts with festival goers and people performing on the streets.
We were granted a late start on Sunday, and set off around 10:30, after a big breakfast on the terrace. First stop was the town of Saint Rémy, where we devoured icecreams at a brocante, and tasted up a storm at the tapenade shop !
Onwards to Arles, French home of Van Gogh, where we had an underground tour, and visited more World Heritage Sites – the arena and the théâtre. We even saw framed saint bones in the church ! There was a photography festival, but most of the expositions had upwards of an 8€ entry fee, so we settled for a late lunch and a dispute whilst waiting in line for ice creams – people think nothing of pushing in !
And the background music for the whole weekend? The trill of a million cicadas – the soundtrack of the south !