Ah, Avignon

Avignon jug, watercolour and pencil

One action always precipitates another, and in this case offered me the subject of my next post. My husband was straightening a long bowed shelf in the pantry and began lifting down the vases and other crockery which often get thrust into those seldom-used spaces. He set down a large yellow jug on the bench, which I quickly scooped up and popped in my studio. I would sketch this jug and tell the story of it crossing the globe in my back-pack, following my first visit to Europe, oh, so long a go. Even before the days of cellphones and the internet!

I was pretty tired when the plane touched down at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam, where I was meeting my husband. And, although we did spend three nights in beautiful Amsterdam, this is all about the time we spent in Avignon. Visiting France had been a dream since childhood, and after waiting thirty years to achieve that, I was very excited when I climbed aboard the TGV and headed south, very fast (I’d not been on a fast train before either). Friends from England were meeting us off the train, and I could barely speak to them, I was so awed by all I saw. From the ancient city walls, to the buskers in the street, and listening to the French language circling around me.

Looking to the river in Avignon

Our friends took us out to see old towns in the country, which again were a novelty to me. So old, so beautiful. I loved the stone these villages were build in and on. And then we visited the Palais des Papes where several popes were located in the 14th Century. It was a fantastic place to view, both inside and out. Inside, chilly and a little daunting, the walls so high and spaces vast, while outdoors was hot, over 30degrees Centigrade, where buskers lined the walls and entertained.

Palais des Papes

It was just so interesting walking around absorbing the ambience. We walked along the streets, and came across a ceramic shop – ceramics being a love of both Kerry and I. Remember, this was 1994 and globalisation was scarcely a word, and there were few stores in New Zealand which stocked European household items. I saw the vase, and had to take it home. The colours I learned were typical of the Provençal region – bright yellow-ochre with red and green adornment – seen on so many fabrics in the local markets.

We walked down to the river which is famous for the bridge sung about by school children through the ages, Sur le pont d’Avignon. And posed for a photo. We visited a small art gallery nearby featuring sketch journals by Salvador Dali, all hand-written in French. A most enjoyable exhibition. We went on a short ferry ride along the river, and ate fresh baguette with tomato and cheese washed down with a nice wine for our evening meal.

Kerry and me 1994

And if you are wondering how I got that ceramic jug from France to New Zealand. It was easy. I stuffed my underwear inside the jug and wrapped other soft clothing around the outside and packed it tight in the middle of my backpack, which I stored in the aeroplane locker above my head. It arrived home without a scratch, and it still looks as fresh as the day I bought it – a mere twenty six years ago. To Avignon and all the nice memories you haven given me, in a time when travel to Europe in the future is tenuous. À Bientôt.

3 thoughts on “Ah, Avignon

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