I had a chance to spend a long weekend in Avignon, one of the most beautiful old cities of Provence. Read on!
I arrived on Friday after zipping across the French countryside in the TGV train. In Avignon I visited the obligatory sights, including the Palais des Papes (home of the Pope for several generations) and le Pont d’Avignon, which now only crosses halfway across the Rhone, and walked the streets of the old city, still surrounded by thousand-year-old ramparts. But most fun was a day-long excursion tour into the countryside, visiting the Roman-era amphitheater in Arles and theater in Orange, each 2,000 years old and still functional; the ancient hilltop village of Les Baux (arguably the most beautiful village in France), and ending with a wine tasting in the tiny village of Chateauneuf du Pape (in my opinion one of the very best wine regions in France). It was a crystal-clear blue-sky sunny day, with the street cafes spilling over with tourists and the flowers of late spring blooming along the roadsides.
I could easily eat my way across France. I had fantastic food for nearly every meal, but there were two favorites. On Friday, I ate dinner at L’Isle Sonnante, near the center of Avignon, with a melt-in-the-mouth risotto and fish, following fresh warm asparagus. On Saturday I assembled lunch from the farmers’ market in Arles, including bread, cheese, sausage, olives, and the freshest sweetest, ripest cherries I’ve ever had.
It happens that this weekend was a large festival in Avignon, in which France was hosting Russia for a celebration of children. The main event seemed to be a set of evening outdoor performances on a huge elaborate stage in a square next to my hotel. On Saturday night I watched a series of Russian children’s groups perform an impressive mixture of both contemporary and traditional dance and songs. Highly produced, with a huge sound system, light show, fake smoke, and elaborate scenery, it was fun to watch. I missed the French show on Sunday night, which ended in a massive fireworks display.
I spent Monday at the WinMEE workshop, where I presented an invited talk on our Saluki paper. The workshop was hosted by UAPV, a university housed in grand old buildings of the charity hospital Ste. Marthe.
I stayed at l’Hotel Mecure Pont d’Avignon, which is in an excellent location, and was quiet and clean and comfortable.
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