Canal du Centre

Canal du Centre

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Avignon and the End of the Rhone, June 30-July 2

In 1177, Brother Bénézet announced that, due to a vision from God, he was going to build a bridge across the Rhône River in Avignon. The monk died in 1184 but his colleagues continued the work and after 11 years completed the amazing structure. A stone bridge, 970 meters long with 23 arches connected Avignon with Villeneuve-lés- Avignon. Almost immediately troubles began as the bridge was continually under assault from floods and spring thaws on the mighty Rhône. It had to be rebuilt several times. Finally, after a particularly bad flood in 1669, authorities gave up. Today just 4 arches of the original bridge remain but it became the subject of a famous French nursery rhyme, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon”, with much singing and dancing.

Other than the bridge, Avignon is known as the home of the Catholic Popes in the 14th century. Popes Benedict XII and Clement VI built the gothic Papal Palace over 20 years. We toured through 25 rooms of the building but unfortunately many of it’s furnishings and artwork are no longer there and a portion is under wraps being restored. It does feature an interesting presentation with Histopads that display some of the the rooms as they would have been. There’s a description here. It’s something new and they are still a little clunky but has great potential.


Avignon is a big live theater town. Many small theaters are scattered among the neighborhoods and there’s a giant festival later in July. Posters for the performances were all over town. So were the theater people and they were all happy to see one another after Covid shutdowns.

It’s also a very popular cruise ship stop. When we pulled into town Thursday about lunchtime there were 5 tied up in the port. At about 130 passengers a ship, that’s a bunch of tourists.

The Rhône splits in two about 10 k above Avignon so to reach the moorings requires heading downriver past town and then turning back up the other arm. The mooring for pleasure craft is on a long quay just past the piece of the famous bridge. It took us more than a half hour to make the 3k upriver against the current.

Since we arrived early on Thursday we were able to take in the Palace Thursday afternoon. Friday was left to wandering the streets of town, a delicious lunch at a small cafe and a visit to the Musée de Petit Palais.

Saturday morning we were off on the final kilometers of our Rhone journey.

Just before we left the Rhône we passed under the walls of the chateau of Louis II of Anjou. He built the castle in the 15th century on the site of an ancient Roman fortress.

After 280k and about two weeks on the big river, we turned off onto the Petite Rhône headed for our last big lock, the one outside of the town of Saint Gilles. A big lock in surface area but I think we only dropped about 6 inches. A half hour later, about 3:30 we were tied up on one of the three small landings at the junction of the Petit Rhône and the Canal Rhône a Sete. The days run was 63.8 k, the most kilometers we’ve done in a day on Oldtimer.

1 comment:

  1. (Ian M) congratulations on making it - without undue fuss.


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