I’m pretty sure many people know by heart this traditional French song or at least heard of it once in childhood.
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse tous en rond…
(On the bridge of Avignon
We’re all dancing, we’re all dancing
On the bridge of Avignon
We’re all dancing round and round…)
This very old song, dated back to 15th century, but somehow became so popular and survived until now, after 700 years! The lyrics have been changed several times and the new lyrics were created in 1843, very close to the ones we know today. Every year nearly million of tourists coming to Avignon just to see the bridge, to walk on it…as I did …to fly back to my childhood times.
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
L’on y danse, l’on y danse …
Les beaux messieurs font comme ça
Et puis encore comme ça.
(The fine gentlemen go like this (bow)
And then again like this.)
The song about a dance performed, actually not on the bridge but under the bridge…I knew this song when I was kid, we even performed the same dance with my teammates in the boy scouts, in the Zoo. Some of us dressed up like girls as we danced in pairs.
I left Carcassonne early in the morning and arrived to Avignon before noon. The beautiful weather – sunshine, cool breeze, the town looks so joyful, warmly-welcome, unlikely some other towns. Maybe more down to South, people seems more friendly, more open?
I went to the Office of Tourism, tried to get some informations, it’s so crowded there in the office, probably in the high season. The lavender season, the magical light show “Les Luminessences d’Avignon” and along with Pond d’Avignon, Palais des Papes (The Popes Palace) is another architectural jewel, the largest Gothic palace in all of Europe…
After the office of Tourism, I need to find a good place for lunch, on the open air, the terrace so I could enjoy the joyful crowd. I order a bowl of fish soup, it’s good, a bit spicy but I need that spicy flavor to warm me up after eating a lot of cold sandwich, cold cuts on the road and my salad Nicoise – simply delicious!
After my quick lunch, I’m heading to Pond d’ Avignon (another name – Pond de Saint Bénézet), it takes me just a little bit of time to find the way out to the riverside. And when the bridge appears right in front of me, some mixed feelings, hard to describe, occupied my mind, it brought me back to my times in my primary school. The memories of the my childhood, the Surprise and the Joy when I’m finally here, in Avignon!
There’s a legend that a 12-year old shepherd, Bénézet, heard the voice of the Lord, instructing him to have a bridge built…and it took 8 years, from 1177 to 1185, to construct the first wooden bridge, that’s why the bridge has been named after the boy – Saint Bénézet, after made him a saint, but the first wooden bridge was destroyed 40 years later during the war and until 1234 the bridge was rebuilt with 22 stone arches and after nearly 800 years only 4 arches remained.
I stayed in Avignon only for one night, the hotel not far from the train station, small boutique hotel, I got three keys – one for the main entrance door, second one for my room and the last one for the shared toilet! The hotel closed at 9:00 PM. Luckily all three keys are always with me, after a long night in downtown.
Talking about the light show in France, in major cities the local authorities tried to attract the tourists by organizing the light show to introduce their long history with all freaking terrible royal intrigues or their cultural beauty…I’ve been to the light show in Blois but that show can’t be compared with the gorgeous show in Avignon, at the Palais des Papes, with over 5000 m² of projection and 360º video by a famous, talented director Bruno Seillier.
The light show in Avignon considered as the only one monumental event in summer in Provence, more than hundred thousands visitors are witnessing the most spectacular sound and light show of the year – “Les Luminessences d’Avignon”(*) in one architectural jewel – Palais des Papes.
I’m so happy to be one among thousands and thousands spectators to witness the event. After that night, back to the hotel and even till now I’m still impressed with not only the images, the lights under the deeply dark sky, the music but also the voice over. It’s definitely unforgettable!
I spent only one night in Avignon, I couldn’t see many things in this lovely city, but at least I already saw what I wish, the Avignon bridge reminds me very much of my childhood time in my primary school, where my late mother also used to be a teacher, my times in boy scouts…
The old town charm, the peaceful riverside along the Rhône…I don’t know when I will come back to Avignon, maybe I just want to keep my first feelings, impressions about this town unchanged. Goodbye, Avignon! Goodbye, the bridge of my childhood!
(*) I was informed that the show “Les luminessences d’Avignon” in no longer in town!