Wednesday, July 6, 2016

An Afternoon in the Historic Center of Avignon

Our last full day at "Workshops in France" was Monday, June 27th.  The morning was reserved for finishing up work, laundry and packing, and in the afternoon we took a trip to the medieval walled city of Avignon, on the banks of the Rhone River.
There is a parking structure right next to the town center, so parking was easy, as long as you don't mind the low ceilings and narrow aisles.  That's just France.  All the parking structures we entered in the South of France were sparkling clean, well lit, and looked like the floor had been painted yesterday.  The parking was not expensive.
The first thing you notice when you walk up the steps to the square is the "Palais des Papes", the "Palace of the Popes".
Avignon was the seat of the Catholic Popes from 1309 to 1377, and was ruled by the Popes until 1791.
You can take a tour of the Palace for a fee, if you like.  Directly across the square from the Palace of the Popes is the "Conservatoire National, Musique, Danse, Art, Dramatique" with elaborate sculptural ornamentation of flowers...
...and figures.
If you only have an afternoon in Avignon, like I did, I recommend the little shuttle that takes you on a tour of the city.  I believe they charge 8 Euros.  I didn't do this, but I would do it next time, because the historic buildings are a bit spread apart, and this way you could get the lay of the land.
I opted instead to spend my time in the "Musee du Petit Palais",  which is known for its exceptional collection of Renaissance paintings of both the Avignon school and Italy.  The building is 14th Century, and houses both paintings and sculpture that date back as far as the 1300's as well.  It turned out to be a fabulous choice, as well.
This is the kind of craftsmanship that really gets to me.  Look at this building detail.
Inside, you pay 6 Euros for a tour of the art collection, and it a spectacular collection of historic religious art.  Here's a sampling of the sculpture.
And here is a sampling of the paintings.  Note the enormous use of gold in these early works.  I love that.  It makes me think of Klimt, only in religious form.  This particular piece is by Paolo di Giovanni Fei (1369-1411), entitled "Saint Jean Baptiste".
This one is by Tommaso del Mazza (1377-1392).
And this one is from Giocomo di Nicola (1443-1466).  "Martyre de saint Flavien de
Lastly, this one doesn't display any gold, but I loved this painting.  This is a detail from a piece by "Maitre des Cassoni Campana".
There were several areas where there was a tape line on the floor so you don't get too close to the paintings.  Of course, in my enthusiasm to see the work close up, I ended up stepping over the tape lines, causing once again the infamous Madame... MADAME!!  It happened again when I deviated from the correct order for visiting the rooms in the museum.  I am detecting that the French do like a certain sense of order!  Understood.

There were also some fantastic architectural details in the museum itself.  Like this vaulted ceiling...
and ornamental plaster.
Back out on the square, I discovered Bobbie and Aleex had decided to take the tram ride around the city, and they were just returning.
Avignon is definitely a place I would return to.  A beautiful and powerful city full of religious history.
We headed back to the chateau for our final evening together, and surprised Aleex that evening with a gift and a Birthday Cake!  Twenty-nine again.
The evening ended with a display of work from the artists, and it was so much fun to see the individual style of each person, and their own unique interpretation of their experience.  It would be our last night to sleep in the chateau.

In the morning I said goodbye to the cypress trees,
and to the swimming pool,
and jumped in the car to spend the next week touring the South of France with Julie Snyder.  Those stories up next!

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