Rain thundered on the roof of our shed all night to no avail, Sam and I snug in our bunks, gear (damp to soaked) draped about the room. We woke to the ongoing storm, forecast to end around noon, so we lounged about. I had no intent to leave in the rain, and Sam had but a short commute to his hotel, and hotel registration didn’t open until the afternoon.
The last rain fell about 11:30 am, and we rolled out at noon, the sky still wavering between blue and grey. We cycled together to the Arc du Triomphe in Orange, and then headed our separate ways.
I planned to cycle through Orange to explore the local castle, then take the most direct course (only 20 km) to Avignon and set up camp early, taking advantage of the break in the weather, in case the rain chose to return. A bus back to the fortress in Mornas from Avignon seemed a good plan from Avignon, not too far away, and would keep me somewhere dry in case of rain. 42 km, six hours, five castles, a Roman theatre, and two campgrounds later I set up camp in Avignon.
I rolled into Orange, and stopped, stunned. A Roman theatre from 2,000 years ago dominates the center of town. I thoroughly enjoyed the Theatre Antique d’Orange. Even the audio guide proved interesting. Occurred to me Sam and I could have planned better, with my short day and his day off, we probably could have explored the town together, and I kept expecting him to pop up as I wandered about.
Still in Orange with a castle on top of the hill, I’d learned through the tour that the castle lies in ruin. Never having stopped me before, I headed up. The path to get there proved more challenging than expected, as early on it turned to stairs, causing me to chose an alternate route, cycling all the way out and around the town, and following the ridge up to the site. The desruction of Le Creve-Coeur was thorough. Not much left, rubble with a children’s playground within the remains.
As I moved on and rode through Roquemaure I could see a castle peeking out from the trees, but no real access despite determined effort; I couldn’t even get a clear view. Much like many of the local châteaus, they build the castle directly into the rock, using the rock as part of the structure where the bedrock isn’t level.
Across the Rhone, another castle appeared on the ridge, but with no good way to cross the Rhone I moved on.
In the outskirts of Avignon, in Villeneueve-les-Avignon, a castle appeared ahead. Far ahead. The closer I cycled, the larger the castle grew. I had found the Fort of St. Andre, originally during the Hundred Years War. With the interior in stages of significant disrepair, I could wander the ramparts, as the walls and main gate still stand intact.
From St. Andre, in the outskirts of Avignon I could see another castle down the road, the Tour Phillipe le Bell. A small guard tower, the gates closed 30 minutes before I arrived. Well worth the extra time at St. Andre – no regrets.
Finally approaching Avignon, I wondered again why exactly Avignon had become one of my target destinations. At some point someone somewhere along the way recommended Avignon to me, but I couldn’t recollect why. I crossed the bridge to Avignon, and went to the first of two campgrounds to check the price (roughly 12 euro), and headed to the second, only to find that the second campground only permits RVs. On the way there I found signs for a third, four- star, campground. On the assumption that four-star would be more than already determined, I headed back to the first campground, and on check-in found the cost only 9 euro (including the wi-fi surcharge). I set up camp, and headed into Avignon to find dinner and scout out the town.
Now I remember. Avignon remains a walled city, with the fortifications and castle still in place. The castle still permitted entry, but that late in the evening I decided I’d rather have more time to explore the castle and the city tomorrow. With a light show at the castle in English on Mondays at 10:15 pm, that’s the next stop on the tour. Tomorrow I explore Avignon. After that I head towards Nimes, Montpellier, and the Mediterranean.