Experience Colors of the Middle Ages and other stories of France with Champagne Vacations
As the world’s largest Gothic castle, the Papal Palace dominates Avignon more completely than the Eiffel Tower does Paris. But awe-inspiring as the edifice is, we must use a little imagination today to picture the interior in its medieval heyday, when it was home for nearly a century to nine Pontiffs. Like almost all Gothic structures in Europe, the palace’s interior has been slowly stripped of decoration and furniture, so today the bare stone walls give us the impression that the residents existed in austere, monastic self-denial. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I saw this beautiful building last May on a Uniworld River Cruise, Burgundy and Provence. Of course the week that I traveled was two weeks after the eruption of the Iceland volcano.. so the weather was a bit off.. but still the town was beautiful and the Papal Palace was worth seeing as the rain poured down on us and the wind turned our umbrellas inside out!
The medieval Popes, who had abandoned Rome because of its political instability, enjoyed a level of sensual luxury that many of the faithful considered scandalous, thus earning their stay in Avignon the nickname “the Babylonian Exile.” We should perhaps think of the Papal Palace as the Las Vegas of the Middle Ages, with state-of-the art décor designed purely to delight and impress its occupants. Every floor gleamed with brilliant marble tiles. Elaborate tapestries covered the walls, and statues lined the corridors. In the Grand Tinel, or Banquet Hall, the ceiling was once hung with purple velvet studded with solid gold stars in order to evoke the night sky.
Along with Avignon we visited the beautiful cities of Arles (home to many Van Gogh masterpieces), Viviers and beautiful quaint town locked in the past, Tournon Tain l’Hermitage with it’s wonderful vineyards and Lyon one of my favorite stops where we road our bikes along beautiful paths in their city park which also houses their zoo…
We can’t wait for our next visit to France which will hopefully be soon and will be focused on the Normandy area. Whether by river cruise or guided vacation, France is a beautiful country to see full of rich history (and food)!
Contact us at Champagne Vacations today and see how we can get you there!