June 22: Avignon
For our last official outing as a group, we visited the city of Avignon. Famous for its home to the French Popes in the 14th century, a bridge that inspired a beloved children’s song and beautiful medieval architecture, we spent a pleasant day visiting the Palais de Papes, le Pont d’Avignon and lunch with friends. The Palais de Papes was built to shelter the a French Pope during the time of the great schism in Catholicism. A succession of eight popes (along with all their hundreds of attendants) lived in this massive gothic structure overlooking the Rhone River. Our students were able to go back in time to see the rooks reconstructed with the help of some excellent modern technology — a great update from the usual tour audio recording. Chasing digital treasures in each room, they were able to explore the palace both then and now.
After a well-deserved lunch (the students were a little tired from their time at the Fête de la Musique the evening before in Aix) we made our way to the 12th-century bridge, le Pont d’Avignon. Tradition says that bridge was built by Saint Benoit, who cast in the first boulder to start the bridge. Every French child learns the song, “Sur le pont d’Avignon…”. Our students (with a little encouragement) gave us a lovely rendition.
After some free time to explore, eat, and shop, we made our way back to Aix.
This has been a great exchange. Our students were courageous in their willingness to speak French and learn new things. They tried different foods, got used to different dining customs, and were warmly welcomed by their host families. By all accounts, their geniality, positivity, and kindness helped to make this one of the most successful exchanges to date! Thank you, Rivers families, for sending your children!