While in France this last
year, whenever I was asked if I knew any French songs, I'd break out
with a silly little children's song, Sur Le Pont D'Avignon, which
I'd learnt in my first year of French classes, back in 1967. I knew
it was about people dancing on this pont. But I thought a pont was
a pond, which always brought to mind a wet and sorry looking lot of
dancers. So when I was told we'd be going to Avignon for the day,
I asked about the pond.
"No, it's not a pond. It's
a bridge," was my response. And the image in my mind changed immediately.
"Then when we get to Avignon,"
I remarked, " I'd like to dance on Avignon Bridge like they do in
And that was the plan. What
I didn't realise though, was that Avignon Bridge was quite a tourist
attraction. I was expecting to see a bridge much smaller than London's
Tower Bridge, with lots of traffic going over it. As we would be arriving
around 5pm, I had visions of dodging cars during peak hour traffic,
while I tried to fulfil my wish of dancing on the bridge. But what
I found was very, very different to all my expectations.
There wasn't a single car
on the bridge! In fact, there was only half a bridge!
Avignon Bridge was built
in the 16th century, but it had a history of constantly being knocked
down by the raging Avignon River. Then after centuries of building
and rebuilding the bridge, they finally gave up, and seemed satisfied
to retain half a bridge which could only take you to the middle of
the river and � well � leave you there! But I think the half-bridge
was retained because of its religious history, and the fact that a
chapel still safely existed on the remaining section of the bridge.
Avignon Bridge starts from
the Palais de Papes (Pope's Palace) which is an incredibly large area,
somewhat similar to how I'd imagine the Vatican to be today. And to
get onto the bridge, you have to pay a hefty entrance fee which includes
a pre-recorded tourist commentary that you play through a hand-held
recorder, which looks much like a large mobile phone. Fortunately
I was able to get it in English (they were available in many languages),
but unfortunately I don't remember much of the information, which
I thought was much too detailed and only existed to justify the huge
But my wish to dance on
Avignon Bridge did come true. Though not quite as you'd expect. First
of all, I had no idea what kind of dance would be appropriate. I'm
not aware of any typically French dances, and I had no intentions
of doing a solo dance like the Macarena. Then it dawned on me. The
people in the song must've been dancing in some sort of line formation,
which is also very popular with Greeks, like myself. And the most
universally known Greek dance is the Zorba. How appropriate, I thought.
Now all I needed was a partner so I could form a line. Axel thought
I was crazy, but being only 14 years old, I managed to persuade him
to join me.
I only had to place my arm
on his shoulder, and we were off. Very slowly at first, and then gradually
speeding up as the music sped up (I was humming!). I realised we had
an audience, but it didn't dawn on me that everyone on the bridge
had stopped what they were doing and were looking at us. In fact,
we even had tourists photographing and videotaping us! This all became
a bit much for my young companion, and in a moment he was gone. We'd
only been dancing for a minute or so, and I dearly wanted to continue.
But having lost the security of my `line', I also came to an abrupt
halt, and looked up to see an amused and entertained crowd applauding
So, did I get embarrassed?
Not at all. I gave an appreciative bow to my new fans, then in an
instant went back into tourist mode, content with the knowledge that
I'd had a photo taken of `the event' as proof.