Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Avignon and Chateauneuf du Pape

Selfie at the Pont d'Avignon

 Avignon is a beautiful and completely walled city.  One can drive the perimeter of the old city with the ramparts on one side of the road and, on the northeast of the city, the Rhone on the other side. From 1309-1377, it was the seat of the Catholic Church.  The Pope was French and just decided to stay at home. Home became a new Popes' Palace in town with a castle in the hills.  Thus, we now have the famous Chateauneuf du Pape wines.  More about that later.

We stopped in the Place l'Horloge (the ever present Old Town Place of the Clock [tower]) for a great lunch of duck.  Our waiter was upbeat and friendly.  As a side note, we have had nothing but pleasant and gracious encounters with all the French people.  The characterization that the French are rude is completely wrong.  After lunch we roamed the streets and came to the Popes' Palace.  We've been inside before and wanted to spend our time outdoors. The exterior is ample delight for the eye.  It is a remarkable International Gothic style building.  

The Pont d'Avignon once served in the Middle Ages as access for the local bishop who refused to live in Avignon because of the dirt and lawlessness.    Soon, though, the bridge became unsafe due to numerous floods.  Today only 4 of the original 22 arches remain.  

Rhone Valley from the ruins of the Popes' Chateau

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a village about 7 miles north of Avignon.  The ruins of the Pope John XXII's castle dominates the top of the village hill.  From there one gets a panoramic view of the Rhone Valley, the Rhone River and mountains.  Almost all the land is planted with grapevines.  The vineyards use small red stones to mulch around the vines, a unique sight to me. The wine is known as Chateauneuf-du-Pape.  The region permits 13 different variety of grapes but the blend must be predominantly grenache. The yearly production is around 13 million bottles of which 95% is red and 5% white.  Rose is not permitted.  We had a tasting in the village and bought 2 bottles.  Pictures of the beautiful Avignon and the Chateauneuf-du-Pape area at flickr.    
A video of the valley is at YouTube.