10/24/2005

sur le pont d'avignon we drove west, west, west this weekend, for a brief respite from italian food and -- it must be said -- italians. we stopped first in nice to break up the journey, just long enough to eat dinner and then get some sleep before heading off the next day for avignon, a well-preserved medieval city that was once the seat of the papacy (in the 14th century). these pope guys did not have spartan tendencies, even back then. which means that avignon looks like there's all kinds of beautiful gothic architecture all around town, though, and many, many of those lovely narrow streets and alleyways that give the town a labyrinthine feel. but of course, we spent most of our time at the market: staring at foie gras and bread (which is at least eight orders of magnitude better than piemontese bread (and why is that? we're only a few hours away. you'd think the proximity would influence the breadbakers here, but no. crustless cotton balls, anyone?)) and picked up some provisions for a picnic on the rhone, just outside the city walls. on sunday, we took a little detour through châteauneuf-du-pape to pick up wine and to check out the view from the chateau on the hill. which is not a bad view. (there's that rhone in the distance.) the vines here are remarkably different looking from those in piemonte -- we passed many vineyards driving in and through and for the longest time couldn't figure out what they were, they were so short, stubby and tidy. châteauneuf-du-pape is also much flatter than we'd anticipated, compared to the rolling hills one thinks of as wine country. most of the vines seem to grow on the flattest parts as well. seeing these vines up close and in person definitely gives the whole act of drinking the area's wines a whole new dimension. after some discussion of pan bagnat, getting this sandwich (of tuna, hard-boiled egg, anchovies, olives, sometimes peppers, tomato and lettuce) became an idée fixe and we decided to stop off in antibes on the way back for lunch. and here, the view is different (and the temperature 15 degrees warmer than in piemonte, of course):

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