Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Mention the Pope and people immediately think of Rome. Or perhaps of Vatican City. But the Popes of Avignon, France? For me, at least, it was a surprise to learn that this city in Provence, France, was the seat of the Papacy for more than 70 years during the 14th century.

As with most political situations, the “great controversy of the anti-popes” was ignited by money and ego. By the end of the 13th century, the Crusades had seized an immense amount of wealth and property in the name of the church. With such resources and armies at their command, the Popes decided that the church should dictate secular as well as spiritual matters. Drunk with power, in November of 1302, Pope Boniface VIII issued a papal bull that decreed, “it is necessary to salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman pontiff.” He subsequently excommunicated the king of France and dismissed the entire clergy of France.

Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France, was home to the Papal Court for more than 70 years

Palace of the Popes in Avignon, France, was home to the Papal Court for more than 70 years

Boniface likely thought he could succeed in such a power play because the position of Holy Roman Emperor had been vacant since the death of Frederick II in 1250. However the King of France, Philip IV, was having none of it. In 1303, he sent a delegation to Rome, providing them with orders to bring Pope Boniface VIII to France, by force if necessary. The delegation arrested the 68-year old Pope in his home town of Anagni, Italy. Town residents freed him three days later, however the shock was too much for the elderly Pope. He died a few weeks later. Read More

Cours Saleya, the famous market street in the historic center of Nice, France

Click on title to view photo in large format. View down the Cours Saleya in Nice, France. Every Tuesday through Sunday, vendors selling fresh cut flowers and farm-fresh fruits and vegetables take over this street in the historic center of the city. Sidewalk cafes tucked among the kiosks are ideal for people watching while sipping the first espresso of the day. And this market is not only for tourists! The variety and quality of the produce and flowers bring locals to the square to do their daily shopping. Though the fruit and vegetable sellers pack up by 1:30, the flower kiosks stay open until around 5:30 p.m.. Read More

Monk at Chapel of the Grey Penitents in Avignon, France

Click on title to view photo in large format. The Chapel of the Grey Penitents was founded by pious King Louis VIII, as thanks for a successful campaign during the 1226 Siege of Avignon. The church gained fame in the 14th century, when Avignon, France was the seat of the Papacy. Following several days of heavy rain, the Sorgue and Rhône Rivers flooded the city. Members of the brotherhood set out in a boat to rescue the Blessed Sacrament, which stood exposed on the altar. Their worst fears were realized as they neared the chapel, which was surrounded by four-foot high flood waters. Read More

View of Palace of the Popes from the Pont d'Avignon Saint-Benezet in Avignon, France

Click on title to view photo in large format. Palace of the Popes, here viewed from Pont d’Avignon Saint-Benezet in Avignon, France. During the 14th and 15th centuries, seven Popes and two schismatic popes took refuge in Avignon. Fleeing political unrest in Rome, Clement V was the first to arrive in 1305. He requested the hospitality of the Earl of Provence, who owned Avignon at the time.

Initially, the Popes stayed in properties owned by the church. However in 1335, Benedict XII decided that the papacy should be housed in a palace that was an appropriate symbol of the power of Christianity. Under his leadership, and that of his successor Clement VI, the Palace of the Popes was completed in less than 20 years. Today it is still the biggest Gothic palace in all of Europe. Read More

Before even kicking off my shoes, I pushed open the bathroom door in my hotel room at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport. A bathtub! Thank you, God. After months of living in hostels and guest houses with tiny showers, a tub was a treat beyond description. I dug into my suitcase for my essential oil of lavender and liberally shook drops into the bath water. As I sank up to my neck into the hot water, the lavender began to work its magic. Ever so slowly, my aching shoulders relaxed and my mind stopped racing.

Many years ago, a friend gave me an aromatherapy treatment using essential oils. I’ve been passionate about them ever since, and perhaps none more so than essential oil of lavender. I apply it topically when my muscles scream from toting twenty pounds of equipment on my back. To sleep more peacefully, I sprinkle it on my pillow. I even use it sparingly as a perfume and apply it to my temples when one of my persistent headaches becomes too painful to endure.

Brilliant purple lavendin is a hybrid of true lavender

Brilliant purple lavendin is a hybrid of true lavender

My life of perpetual travel limits what I can carry. With no home base and only a carry-on size suitcase and a small backpack at my disposal, I never buy souvenirs, but I’m a sucker for anything lavender. At Pannonhalma Archabbey in Hungary, I purchased a bottle of essential oil that the monks distill from the fields they tend. I also couldn’t resist in Croatia, where the purple blossom grows profusely along the Istrian coast. And now I was about to fulfill my lifelong dream of seeing the lavender fields of Provence in full bloom. Read More

During the month of July the Avignon Theater Festival closes the streets for pedestrian traffic only and visitors from all over the world come to party and attend some of the hundreds of plays and performances offered

Click on title to view photo in large format. Every July, the Rue de la République in Avignon, France, is closed to traffic for the Avignon Theater Festival. Visitors flock to the city to attend performances and party along the main street in the historic center. Adding to the fun and craziness, actors roam the streets in costume, performing snippets of plays to attract customers. Read More