The mistral winds set in on Friday, October 7, in time for my mom's birthday. We hunkered inside for a few days while the mistral blew, at about 25-35mph (which is not unlike the periodic windy day in Lincoln even though our wind does not have such a poetic name - we think our tourist office should come up with one to attract more tourism to Lincoln!).
But by Sunday we were tired of being inside so we headed for Avignon anyway. In 1309 the newly elected Pope (from France originally) left dangerous Rome, purchased Avignon and built a palace/fortress. Nine popes lived in Avignon over the ensuing 96 years and added onto the fortress. The whole old city is walled, surrounded on two sides by the mighty Rhone river. We parked right outside the wall between the wall and the river on the North side of the city closest to the palace. We set off straight up the wall on a wide, modern staircase. My mom and dad decided wisely to follow level ground to an archway and we met them later in the palace. At the top of the never-ending stairs was a beautiful windy park with fountains, grottos, a playground and lovely views. After some time in the park, we migrated down to the entrance of the palace. The front facade of the palace is impressively large and imposing, though not opulent like Versailles - certainly a function of the age difference. We wandered the palace, made our way up to the gargoyles on the towers, and found my parents. It is a really fascinating palace and history and was a medieval/gothic highlight to our trip. The girls and I have been working on a timeline of French/European history (drawn on the inside of cereal boxes for lack of other large paper) and it has been really interesting to them to plot the time when various castles were built on the timeline and think about the differences between them.