Avignon is famous for the Avignon Papacy of 1309-1377, wherein seven successive popes reigned from Avignon, France rather than Rome. The fabulous Palace of the Popes is actually two buildings that were joined in the 1300s to centralize the administration of the Catholic Church. When the papacy returned to Rome, the palace lost much of its former glory. However, its grandeur and immortality have captured the imagination of people over the centuries. We walked through the interior, but sadly for us, much of it has been taken over for the annual Festival of Avignon, an arts festival, and bleachers and hundreds of chairs have been placed inside, which obscured the openness and views. In addition, there is an exhibition on the Amazon (of all things), so several of the great rooms are not recognizable. We visited here 20 years ago, but today it is nothing like it was then.
The city is one of the few left in France that has retained its old walls surrounding the old town. The wall runs for 2.7 miles and encloses 370 acres. Originally, there were 12 gates that controlled access, but today there are 11 pedestrian entrances and 15 vehicular entrances. Inside the walls, it is vibrant with people drinking, eating, and attending theater shows, and it just has a vibrancy and sense of joy. There was a lot of activity! For us, it was a one-day whistle stop, as our 90 days in the EU Schengen area are up in a few days. Our last several locations were to be a bit longer, but we had to cut back our days in each after we did the math!