Follow the Viking lollipop! Like gabbling goslings, we did. These paddles are for us to follow, to warn people ahead, and contain technology that facilitates synchronizing our audio equipment. Ten feet off the ramp, guide Valarie is already telling us what to expect in Avignon. This includes the daily or more frequent warning about pick-pockets and how not to make their pickings easy.
Another walled city. More round towers — many more Roman ruins, and a bigger budget for restoration. Avignon was an important nexus for trade and governance under the Romans, and again, it was Julius Caesar who patroned the place. Ultimately, it became more famous as the seat of The “French” Papacy. More on this farther down.
We arrived early in the day when delivery trucks were still allowed in the narrow streets. Not much was moving as cafe owners and shop keepers prepared for their day on the city square. Hosing, sweeping the night away, arranging chairs and tables for another day that would prove to be warm with shade at a premium. Most of the tour groups were in loose trail to get to the Palais des Papes before the security lines became too long and the sun too high. As is the case with most French squares, this one was fronted by a Hotel de Ville (City Hall). Most of these were private mansions before the First French Revolution (there were three revolutions).
From 1309 to 1377 seven successive popes resided in Avignon, then part of the Kingdom of Arles, which was part of the Holy Roman Empire from 1032 on. The French Popes were French, but the seat of the Papacy was not actually in France. The Kingdom of Arles came under French control in 1378. The religio-geopolitics of all this can be found elsewhere.
After a long wait for security — there was one guard — we entered the Palace of the Popes, which was not palatial by Versailles standards (more later). It was much more of a fortress dependent on the ring wall of Avignon as a true defensive perimeter, and it paled in comparison to the Papal Palace in Rome at the time. Still it was impressive. The following gallery [click first image] does a better job of capturing this than words would. The tents were for a music festival and farm-to-market day to start around noon.
From the palace, we wended our way through Avignon as the streets grew more crowded with tourists and locals. Shops opened and wonderful aromas came from restaurants and bakeries. Our destination topped those. We went to THE Market. Fronted by a green wall growing above the marquee, it was a place of treasures.