avignon grand – choses

December 29, 2012

Perversely, my intention for the title of this post is not used in the more usual negative meaning. Instead, I mean the phrase to be read in a positive fashion. So these are just some snap shot thoughts and comments of my first impressions of Avignon – the old, historic, walled and ramparted area – still in festive mode at the close of one year and the start of the new. These aren’t just holiday snaps! They’re necessary research. The closest public space is Place Saint Didier and years ago,  the site for public hangings.

avignon 29.12.2012 - 01

A couple of diagrams on the information panels show the medieval layout of buildings and the position of  the gibbet. This has been replaced with a public phone box . . . . but only  a temporary feature as all of France seems to be moving around with mobile attached . . .

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. . .  a living sculpture – complete in tone – was an appropriate introduction to the the large and generous spatial areas around the Palais des Papes. It’s a busy Saturday just before New Year – families are enjoying the last remnants of Christmas – the market, lights, shopping – and also wandering up the the Rocher des Doms to sit around in the winter sunshine. Many smiling faces . . . .

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. . .  the architecture amazes.

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The details are also exquisite. For example, the craftsmanship in laying the textured patterns in the hard landscaping, more recent but of a similar level of quality to the older stonework.

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Always enjoy and appreciate how the spaces are used alongside the composition of the architectural features.

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The limestone outcrop of the Rocher des Doms is the highest vantage point. Here, the plane trees as everywhere in this well composed town, are magnificently managed and also  from here, Pont St-Benezet, offers the invitation to the dance . . .

avignon 29.12.2012 - 16

. . . rays of sun, sculpted in decorative stone, spread out from the Ancienne Comedie d’Avignon. . .

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. . but a very modest shrine delicately hanging on the corner of a narrow passage, crafted by a monk, seemed to bring me back down to earth.

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Curling back into the centre of the old town, on Rue Joseph Vernet, the courtyard entrance to the Musee Calvet hosts strong and theatrical light patterns as the sun drops.

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Any solitude
Without a swan or quai
Mirrors its disuse
In the look I abdicate

Here from that pride’s excess
Too high to enfold
In which many a sky paints itself
With the twilight’s gold

But languorously flows beside
Like white linen laid aside
Such fleeting birds as dive
Exultantly at my side

Into the wave made you
Your exultation nude.


Unconquerably there must
As my hope hurls itself free
Burst on high and lost
In silence and in fury

A voice alien to the wood
Or followed by no echo,
The bird one never could
Hear again in life below.

The wild musician,
The one that in doubt expires
If not from his breast but mine
Has spurted the sob more dire

Utterly torn apart will he
Lie on some path beneath. Stephane Mallarme  Little Air

6 Responses to “avignon grand – choses”

  1. charleshawes Says:

    Great post. Love the pics. And the poem. Happy New Year!

  2. Sinclair 3168 Says:

    What happened to that bridge crossing the river? Beautiful photos, very much like the girl looking up at the human stature. They are quite amazing, more so than iPads, iPhones etc etc – I find, anyway!

    • julia fogg Says:

      The bridge was abandoned finally in 17C after 2 rebuilds from 12C original construction. ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’ – remember . . yes, this human sculpture is fascinating. We’ll see what H makes of him tomorrow. Photos will arrive. We hope to go through the park and take the free ferry across the river to the lie Barthelasse. He should enjoy the boat trip. Very lovely town/city – clear blue skies make all the difference too.

  3. Elizabeth Says:

    The Europeans are so much better at public spaces that the British and Americans –in my humble opinion. I have never been to Avignon but would love to go there.
    Always besotted with ancient street plans.
    Why does Mallarme remind me of Rilke?
    Happy New Year.

    • julia fogg Says:

      It’s beautiful so far – charming, quite vibrant, bags to see inside as well as just wandering around. I admit to very small window on Mallarme but will open that window wider. Do you know Jo Shapcott’s versions of Rilke. They’re quite stunning.

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