Dr. Hoffer's Travel Site This site was last updated 03/03/11
FRAN2005 #24 Avignon and Popes
Tuesday July 12, 2005
Today is my father's birthday and he would be 93 years old. He died at the age of 45 on Thanksgiving night in 1957 when I was 13years old. I never got a chance to know him.
We are now starting our third week in France and the 2nd month of this trip.
Aix-en-Provence (pop 124,000) was Provence's former capitol. Under the Romans it was known as Aquae Sextiae. There is still the remains of the old Roman baths called Thermes Sextius. The university here was founded by Louis II of Anjou in 1409 and the city flourished under his son, Good King René (Bon Roi René). His statue (below left) is the one in Place Forbin on cours Mirabeau.
When things were prosperous in the 1600's, they tore down the original Roman ramparts and replaced it with the mansion-lined cours Mirabeau named after the famous orator and revolutionary, Comte de Mirabeau. At one end of the street is Fontaine de la Rotonde (above right) built in 1860 in Place du General Degaulle which is a huge traffic circle.
Today I woke up 10:10 and then again at 10:45 when I got up. By noon I was on my run again through the streets of Aix except this time I found myself in the middle of the big market day trying to run through all the crowds and vendors on Cours Mirabeau.
I also ran up an allee and found Église St-Jean-de-Malte hidden away in a trashy area.
I got back to the room at 12:30 and packed up, loaded the car and checked out of the hotel.
The large bust of Paul Cézanne in the Mercure lobby said a fitting good-bye. We left the car there and went touring.
At 1:00 I went over to Uncle Sam's again for a noisette and uploaded Diario #12 and worked on some photos. Marcia met me there at 3:00 and we attempted to do the "Walk of Cézanne."
Marcia used her SONY camera to take the above shot of me ambling down the main cours Mirabeau and of the famous fountain of the dolphins below.
We found the 18th Century Café Les Deux Garçons [53 cours Mirabeau, +33-(0)4-42-26-0051] which is famous because it was Paul Cézanne's favorite hangout. It is also famous for outrageous charges for a coffee and we were warned not to get one there. We then walked through the famous Passage Agard which leads to a totally different section of town and where the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) is.
The varieties of bakery goods was tantalizing. Good thing I don't eat lunch.
This paella being sold on the street was also very tempting.
We came out on the other side and there was the Palais du Justice.
Marcia found the Mephisto shoe store and she made a bee line to find her favorite shoes, which they did not have. The lady in the store told us that Aix is the 2nd highest Court Appelate in France after Paris. Many lawyers are here and all the mafia cases are tried here.
While Marcia stayed in the store I explored the area and found the Cathédrale St-Sauveur which houses 2nd Century Corinthian columns holding up its Renaissance cupola. The sign says Cézanne spent much of his time here at the end of his life.
When she was done we wandered farther and came across the large plaza where the Hôtel de Ville is. It is interesting that their local flag for Provence is very similar to the flag of Catalunya in Spain.
After seeing almost everything, at 3:30 we decided to hike up the hill to Atelier Cézanne and visit his studio and garden which has been preserved by the University. Atelier (studio) Paul Cézanne [9 ave Paul Cézanne, +33-(0)4-42-21-0653] was designed by him and it is very much like he left it when he died on October 23, 1906. They will celebrate the centenary of his death with great fanfare. [Cézanne: "Bathing Ladies"]
Here is Cézanne circa 1874 and Marcia sucking in the vibes in his garden. It is absolutely forbidden to photograph any of his studio so this is all I could get
Here is the official stock photo of his studio. The vases, fruit, figurines and skulls were used in his still lifes and he used the tall ladder to paint large canvases.
Above is one of his many famous still lifes, "Apples" and two versions of his many "Montagne St-Victorie." To see more than 200 examples of his works click paintings. Here are five examples of how he painted himself.
Outside in the back garden are figure statuary that he made. I will leave the interpretation up to you, but it seems there is something sexual about what he is trying to express in these figures.
They had an exhibition in another room and this is an example of what they had on display. I can't read French, so I don't know what it was all about. Marcia got a shot of me in the artist's chair in the yard.
The walk up the hill had been excruciating, so the walk down was a relief. We could see all of the city from here.
We had to get going, so we got back to the hotel, got the car and at 6:50 Marcia drove the 55 miles to Avignon.
We arrived in Avignon at 7:50 and the streets were blocked with crowds because these are the days of the festival of plays. After circling several times we finally realized we were on the wrong side of a blockade. Lucky for us, a trash truck opened the gates for us and we parked in front of the Mercure Hotel.
At 8:05 we checked into Hotel Mercure Cite des Papes [1 rue Jean Vilar, +33-(0)4-90-80-9300]. We missed the man who would have parked our car for us by 5 minutes. That meant we had to fight through that crowd again to get into the parking lot. Below is the hotel (left) and the view of the Papal Palace from our room (right).
We unpacked and then took a walk through the crowds. The place was really packed with people. We walked over to the Papal Palace area to suck in the atmosphere and take some pictures. Then I noticed the screen on the Canon camera was ruined.
[Looking back, I remember the waiter in Munich bouncing the camera across the marble floor - could be the problem now.]
It became impossible to see anything, so taking pictures was difficult and you could not review them or delete them. Electronics on this trip are not going my way. So the following shots were taken by guessing.
Many performances were going on in the streets to advertise one of the more than 100 plays you could attend. It was quite unusual.
While Marcia went back to the room to change, I worked on the computer and had a coke-light across the street at La Civette [26 Place de L'Horloge, +33-(0)4-90-86-5584]. Marcia joined me at 9:45 and we had some wine. We then wandered around looking for places to eat. I had been dying for weeks to have chicken for dinner and all they ever have is duck. When we discovered two places that had roast half chicken, we picked one of them.
At 10:15 we sat down for dinner at Le Lutrin in Hotel du Palais des Papes [3 Place du Palais, +33-(0)4-90-86-0413].
We ordered a bottle of local vin, 2003 Côtes du Rhône, Domaine Le Malaven and I had L'escargot which was very good while Marcia had auberjin c tomato. Of course, we both had ½ a roast (rôti) chicken with gratinated potatoes. It was all very good.
For dessert I had apple pie ala mode with a free espresso and Marcia had chocolate mousse. All photos were taken with the broken camera so my thumb covered the shots of the chicken and I didn't notice it. So I replaced it with a video shot.
During dinner, we met and talked with a nice quartet at the next table. In the back are Russ and Mya from Providence, RI and in the front are Emma and Garret from Buckinghamshire, UK. We had a lovely chat with them.
At 11:45 we left and strolled around finally stopping for a Coke-light and a Perrier at Lou Mistrau.
After that we got the car and drove it into the underground parking lot. It was quite an adventure since you have to drive outside the walled city to enter the underground and then drive underground all the way back to the hotel. When we walked up the stairs we were only a few feet from the hotel. Got back to the room and loaded photos and worked on diarios until going to bed at 3:30 AM.
KJH Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #25
Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD
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