Aix-en-Provence to Avignon; In which we discover that the last hostel was better than the next one; Dancing upon the Bridge of Avignon now costs money; The Palace of the Popes; A screaming cat and a man with no legs

After having to check out of the hostel in Aix at an absurdly early hour (being chased out by the cleaning women, no less) we took the bus and train to the nearby town of Avignon, famous from the children’s song:

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

Avignon is a lovely town surrounded by shining white walls, with the Palace of the Popes looking down from a hill in the centre of town. The famous white bridge stops halfway across the Rhône - it was continually washed away by floods and rebuilt until the 16th century and then given up on, so only four spans remain of the more than twenty it was built with. We crossed on a different bridge to the big island in the middle of the river and found our hostel. It was a lot worse than the last one. No curfew, but utterly filthy and with segregated dorms again. Again, though, it was the only hostel in town. There were campsites, but I’d discovered that my sleeping pad had a hole and wouldn’t stay inflated, and I didn’t fancy sleeping on the cold ground. It was cold, too. I keep forgetting how late in the year it is. The sun is still strong, but any time the wind picks up or you’re in the shade, you feel it.

We spent the afternoon poking around the town, pretending to be old people, looking in the shops and such. We climbed the hill and wandered in the gardens overlooking the Palace of the Popes (though by the time we descended the Palace was closed to visitors). We worked ourselves into hysterical laughter at a little cat-shaped slide in the gardens because it looked as if it was howling in shock - nothing would do except that we took a picture of ourselves on the cat, also screaming. Afterward we were still laughing, and a man with no legs came stamping down the path on his stumps and gave us a dirty look - he thought we were laughing at him and so we felt bad.

Sheryl and I on a screaming cat

It was a fun day, marred only by an incident at the hostel. When I went into the room to fetch something just before our late-night walk, I found that some filthy, stinking old drunk had claimed by bed in my absence, throwing my pack and sleeping bag onto a top bunk! Who fucking does that? I was shocked and furious enough to snarl something obscene, and the filthy old drunk got up, stood over me breathing boozy fumes into my face and quacking incomprehensible French at me. I was seeing red, but all the other people in the room were asleep and making a scene would have woken them all - not to mention accomplishing nothing. What was I going to do, after all - eject him physically from the bed? I wouldn’t touch the sheets after he’d been in them anyway. All I could do was throw a vicious insult at him and walk out. I don’t support age limits in hostels, as such - but every old man I’ve seen in a hostel so far (half a dozen or so) has been pretty gross and obnoxious. This one kept me up all night snorting, gasping, farting and pacing the room.


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One Comment on this Dispatch:

November 8th, 2008

Just catching up on your travels. See you made it to our favourite part of the world. We love Avignon, been there three times. But to be honest didn’t stay at the hostel…

¬ klaudia
Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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