Le Pont d’Avignon: The legendary (half) bridge of Provence!
The St. Bénézet bridge spans only one fifth of the way over the Rhône River and it is the oldest construction on the Rhône river between Lyon and the sea. When in Avignon on your Provence walking holiday, this bridge must be on your list of things to see! In 1177 a young shepherd from the Ardèche mountains came to Avignon saying that he had been summoned by God to have a bridge built over the Rhône river. Not taken seriously, he was asked to carry a stone several times his own weight and take it to the Rhône as proof of this divine intervention. And sure enough, St. Bénézet performed the feat and thus the construction of the bridge began. The first bridge was made of wood and did not last long in the ravaging torrents of the Rhône river. A stone bridge was then built, 900m long, linking the two banks and it was the only bridge during the Middle Ages that crossed the mighty Rhone. King Louis XIV was one of the last people to cross the bride before it was washed away indefinitely in the 17th century. (Louis XIV didn’t want to pay for its restoration).
A tune to hum on your walking holiday in Provence : "Sur le Pont d'Avignon, on y danse, on y danse ..."
Many of you have probably heard the traditional French nursery rhyme “Sur le pont d’Avignon”. Translated literally, it means "on the bridge of Avignon we all dance in a circle". In the 19th century, Avignon had become a very popular place for the bourgeois to meet for picnics and they would often dance in the fields below the bridge (not actually on the bridge as the famous song would suggest: the bridge is a little too narrow to dance around in a circle)!
Today, the Pont d'Avignon is a UNESCO World Heritage site. With only 4 of the origninal 22 arches of the bridge remaining, it is possible to walk along it, sit on it and take in the views or even dance a little (if you're very careful!).