Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Water wheels and boob jobs in Avignon

One of two short blogs I've just glued together, to try and make one bigger one. A BlogOpic.  Kind of two Blogs for the price of one.  An Omniblog if you prefer......or......whatever floats your Blog.

Blog-ette 1 of 2) Le Pont d'Avignon - The bridge that doesn't go far enough...or...When is a Brid not a Bridge?!...and what on earth is a 'Brid' anyway?  Other than a waste of spell check?

Much has been written, photographed and fought over, concerning this most famous of 'bridge contradictions' in Europe, and in case this doesn't make any sense at all - this particular bridge does not reach the other side of the river, therefore technically it isn't a 'Bridge' and therefore can only accurately be addressed as a 'Brid' - so I'll not try to add any more brain numbing trivia to the list. Suffice to say I spent a fair bit of time trying to photograph the beautiful textures and shadows of the stonework and masonry of this classic Provence & Rhone River landmark. With tourists understandably climbing all over it all day long, it was pretty chancy that I was going to get a shot in without other human intervention - but hey ho and here you go.....

Actually......That’s not entirely the complete story. In truth, my wife had become increasingly, intensely bored with sitting around for an hour waiting for me to take my perfect 'people free' shot of "...the sodding brid" so - she finally stood up and quietly wandered off back through the arch on the left, to the sunny side of the bridge, sorry - brid, completely removed her top & bra - and lay down on the river bank under the full gaze of all the other bored and overheating tourists up on the brid.

Well that did it.

Thirty seconds later and to a rising crescendo of commotion from above - everyone just vanished from the viewfinder, on my side of the brid.


Another thirty seconds later and my wife reappeared through the arch - fully attired again. Fixing me briefly with her - 'calmly raised eyebrow look' - "Okay...?" - was all she needed to say.

As I promptly picked up my kit and 'zoomed' after her up the river bank - there was a rising sound of applause and cheering from the even larger crowd of tourists now gathered up on the brid. She coolly gave them all a simple wave with the back of her hand, but never once looked back...

Blog 2 of 2) The Sorgue Waterwheels of Avignon & a perfect afternoon with Edith Piaf...

Click the 'PLAY' button on the above You Tube audio/video link to listen to Edith Piaf singing "La Foule" - while you read the rest of this blog post....

If you ever find yourself in old Avignon for the first time, I hope you manage to amble along the Rue Des Teinturiers - "Street of the Dyers" - where you will find this, and 22 more similar wooden waterwheels.

Gracefully turning with the flow of the river Sorgue and the various canals that were built into the Sorgue to accommodate them around 1800, they were constructed to drive a variety of industrial machinery including looms, henceforth why the Dyer's community established their trade along this street. The owners of the water wheels would attach a smaller drive wheel to the top of the main wheel. This in turn would drive a shaft that extended through a hole in the wall of the building, which in turn would be connected to whatever machinery was in place inside the property - to manufacture their chosen wares & products.

During our brief stay in Avignon we experienced the latter end of a heat wave with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees during the afternoons. Even the locals were struggling. The small cafes, shops and studios that make up the Rue Des Teinturiers were a welcome escape from the crowds and the heat of the popular central areas of the city, and only a ten minute stroll south easterly from the main square.

We were lucky to find a photo reference to this area in a guide book and thus we sneaked away from the masses into this beautiful quiet trendy neighborhood. It wasn’t long before we were sat in the cool shade of a leafy tree at a pretty cafe table right next to one of the water wheels. And we were the only live patrons present.

A truly charming waitress provided the ice cold 1664's and a delicious, simple selection of meat cuts, cheeses, salads and other local delicacies, all served on cool, rectangular grey slates. Strictly speaking they weren’t serving food at that time in the afternoon as chef was having a much deserved siesta before the evening trade kicked in - so the waitress apologised saying that this was the best she could rustle up without waking 'chef'. Only in France! Speaking as a passionate foodie who searches out 'off piste', simple, real, unpretentious eating experiences, I was so glad this lovely young woman was in the wrong job, otherwise we would not have had the opportunity to enjoy one of the best alfresco eating experiences during our trip to Provence. We were soon joined by a perfect gentle breeze, the zen like ripples of the Sorgue river currents driving the waterwheel and as if bang on cue - the stirring music of Edith Piaff singing 'La Foule' coming from just inside the cafe. Totally and utterly - Perfect.

We felt like we'd just been given Le Marie's award for "the luckiest tourists in Avignon". Pure bliss.

Edith Piaff may not be your thing - frankly she wasn’t mine until I watched the film biopic 'La Vie en Rose' with the incredible Marion Cottilard playing Edith. I became a convert. If you're on this wavelength, try Googling Youtube for some of Edith Piaff's work and set it to play in the background, while you're planning your next French journey. To save you some trouble, I have inserted a You Tube Link up on the right, under " favourite web things" - N/B - the photo imagery of modern ballet dancers that appears on this particular You Tube video link is impressive too. Enough said.

The effort of trying to leave this place a good couple of hours later was one of the toughest traveler moments we'd experienced in quite a long while.

But we'll be back. It may not be quite the same next time, but we'll be there regardless.

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