Monday, May 13, 2013

Sorbet Sabotage in Avignon

You know that moment when you think ‘Oh, I wonder if this is actually a good idea?’ I had one of those recently. You see, on Friday the school had an excursion to Avignon. The structure of how the tours are done is kind of interesting really; you all hop on a tour bus (the only vehicle I have ever been motion sick on, they’re like my arch rival, tour busses) and drive to wherever you’re going, and then you spend about three hours there walking around before you leave again. It’s quite short. The beginning of the walkabout is a short history of wherever you’re going, but after that the instructor-turned-guide reminds you where and when the meeting point is, and assumes you’ll find something interesting to see in the meantime. Or shop. She made it explicitly clear several times before we arrived that shopping was likely a priority, and we’d have time to do that.
Not to rag on shopping, it’s fun and all, but there have got to be better things to do than shop when you’re off discovering new places. At least, that was the conclusion I came to.
Anyway, we arrived in Avignon to gale force winds and plenty of sun. The first thing we did was follow our very petite and very happy instructor up to the top of the wall. Avignon is an old walled city, which means that around the vielle-ville there is a gigantic castle wall. Complete with turrets, murder-holes, winding staircases and rooftop gardens.

Outside the Wall
 My favourite part of the excursion was seeing the sections of wall that they had restored, and the sections they had specifically chosen not to restore in order to capitalize on space. For example, this (coffee?) shop on top by the first staircase has a wall entirely of glass, and the view is spectacular. I also love the juxtaposition of the slick, new, modern glass and the older, worn stone. It’s wonderful.

Old Stone and New Glass
Avignon is also known for being a very religious city, because it was inhabited by many, many Popes. There is a dedicated palace for the various Popes who lived there in the 1300’s and 1400’s. This means that there is a great deal of very beautiful stone and metal sculptures inspired by Christianity there. The Palace grounds are amazing. There are huge sections of manicured grass and shrubbery, with little fountains scattered throughout. The ponds in the rooftop gardens come complete with koi fish. Although I don’t know that the koi fish are historically accurate. The current ones are very fat, because the tourists keep feeding them.

Rooftop Garden in Avignon
Just outside the wall, stretching out into the Rhone, is Point d’Avignon. This is not a bridge that has been destroyed by time or war, this is a point, purposely built halfway out into the river. The story regarding the famous Point d’Avignon is that one morning one of the Popes woke up and declared that he had been visited with a vision, God had told him that he was to begin building a point, and that He would tell him when to stop. The stonemasons and the builders of Avignon were then hired to begin the project. Well into building the point, the workers came across a boulder in the center of the river that they would have had to move in order to continue the project. Try as they might though, the stone could not be moved. When the Pope was told of the stone he decided that this must have been the sign God promised, and declared the Point d’Avignon would end on top of the stone.

Point d'Avignon
            At the very least, the project created paid work for the citizens of Avignon, and that’s not ever really a bad thing in my mind.
            Once we’d been turned loose following the rest of the historic tour, three of us split off in search of an afternoon sorbet. It’s awfully important to have afternoon sorbet, you see. In France they take three things very seriously; their relaxation, their food, and their right to protest. The longer I stay here, the more I’m convinced that the first two are excellent priorities. (I haven’t run into the third yet) The first two mean that I spend a great deal of time studying with pastries, and taking naps. Man, life is rough over here hahaha! This is where I had that moment though, the ‘Oh, I wonder if this is actually a good idea?’ moment.
I have a dairy allergy. Not lactose intolerance, a straight up dairy allergy. If there’s milk in food my stomach will let me know in no uncertain terms that it’s very unimpressed with me. Sorbet, being composed entirely of fruit and crushed ice, is safe though J Feeling likr myself and my companions deserved a treat for enduring time on a tour bus, we ordered our sorbet and sat down. 

Unaware of the Impending Sorbet Sabotage
Sorbet in hand, it crossed my mind as I was waiting for the others that this was the first sorbet I'd had in on my trip thus far. My mind jumped back to an unfortunate evening at home wherein I'd confused sherbert with sorbet, and had a terrible reaction. That's when I thought 'Oh, I wonder if this is actually a good idea?’ given that I was an hour or so away from my home base of Montpellier. What if I'd gotten sherbert by accident? I double checked the menu, they definitely did not do sherbert, and the manu was neatly divided into sorbets and ice creams. No no, surely I'd be fine. The little shop we chose did stunning sorbet, I have to hand it to them for their strawberry and lemon sorbets in particular. My third flavour was what I thought was chocolate sorbet. It was so soft, and thick, and there was so much flavour! It was so… creamy. Oh no. I was ¾ of the way through my chocolate ‘sorbet’ before I realized I was reacting to it. No! Why? Why?! When I ordered the sorbet they had offered me their shop specialty whipped cream on top, and I refused, including in the statement that I had a dairy allergy and couldn’t eat it, but that I was sorry. I must have mucked that statement up, or they didn’t listen, or I did something to tempt Murphy. It was chocolate ice cream, and not chocolate sorbet.
I am ok now, back to normal. I did spend all day Saturday wallowing in my allergic reaction in bed though, much to Catherine’s great alarm.
Anyway, I will now always remember Avignon as the very pretty city that it is, but also the city where I was sabotaged by the sorbet shop. It was destructively delicious?


  1. Personally I'm always a bit leery when I hear about modern renovations to historical buildings given the horrors I saw in Edinburgh... but I'm impressed with that coffee shop.

    That rooftop garden is also about 6 different kinds of awesome!

    Sorry to hear about the sabotage! Glad to hear you're doing better!

    1. Thanks for the well wishes Something Homotopic :)

      Yes, Avignon is very pretty, and I know what you mean about being leery of modern renovations to historic buildings. There are a few I've seen that were less than excellent. Avignon seems to have done a pretty good job throughout the city of bringing modern and ancient things together though. There is modern art throughout the city that doesn't look out of place. I was pretty impressed all considered, and I'd definitely recommend it.

  2. Sounds lovely! I'll have to put that on my list of things to see :)