After finishing a delectable brioche from a local bakery, I boarded the bus with my CEA program to Avignon, a beautiful city in southeastern France situated at the left bank of the Rhône River. I had heard so many stories of its incredible beauty and rich history that I couldn't wait to see for myself the wonders of Avignon.
On the first day, we were given a free day to explore until our program dinner. We separated into groups and off we went to explore. We walked through the Place de L’Horloge, the plaza in the heart of Avignon where the opera and city hall are located, and heard the chattering of people relaxing in restaurant terraces and children clamoring to ride the carousel.
I was completely astounded when I first laid eyes on the cathedral, Notre-Dame-des-Doms. At the top of the cathedral sits a gilded statue of the Virgin that glistens underneath the sun’s rays. A little past the cathedral is a beautiful garden, le Jardin des Doms.
We took some time to relax and stroll through the garden. This beautiful public garden has luscious gardens, ornate fountains, and the best views of Avignon and particularly, of the Pont Saint-Bénézet, one of the most iconic historic monuments of Avignon. The Pont Saint-Bénézet is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and has even inspired a famous French song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon.”
We paid to see the last remaining section of the bridge, and a very thorough guide retold the history of the bridge. According to legend, a shepherd boy heard the voice of Christ, who asked him to build a bridge across the river. My favorite part of the bridge visit was being able to watch the sunset on the flowing Rhône.
The next day, despite heavy rains, we visited the famous Palais des Papes, where seven popes and two anti-popes resided in Avignon. The massive palace, a wonderful example of the International Gothic architectural style, is another UNESCO World Heritage Site that can be visited in Avignon. With a virtual reality guide of the palace, I was able to both see it in person and compare it to the virtual images of the palace in all its glory during the 1300s. Despite staying there for more than three hours, I was still not able to see everything.
On the last day of the excursion, after the tour of the Palais des Papes, we packed our bags and left for Aix. Our last stop before Aix was at a winery at Châteauneuf-du-Pape. There, we were able to taste three types of wine as we learned about how the wines were made, how to taste wine, and how to pair wine. At the end of the dégustation, the rain ceased and a rainbow above the vineyards waved us home. This marked my last excursion with CEA, one I will always remember fondly -- because it showed me and taught me so much about the beautiful region of Provence.
Andrea Vazquez is the Fall 2018 CEA MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France, and is currently studying at Soka University of America.