Across the river at Villeneuve lez Avignon a curious castle beckoned our attention. The Avignon Office of Tourism told us which bus route would take us across the river.We began by taking a stroll through Villeneuve lez Avignon in order to locate the Moulin a Huile; an olive oil mill and shop located in the former stables of the Chartreuse du Val de Benediction (a 14th century monastery). The olive oils produced here are organic, cold extracted and unfiltered. There was a self-guided tour which explained the process and displayed the machinery used. Oils are produced by the end of October and again at the beginning of December; the last juices of the year from the olive crops. The Moulin a Huile’s shop offered rich olive oils, olive oil cosmetics, olive liquors, flavorful tapenades, and an entire room’s selection of tea and honey.
At the town’s center courtyard, we selected a shaded outdoor table at which to enjoy our first, long, lazy, French lunch. I held back my enthusiasm of the upcoming fort tour just long enough to be certain that it does not take two full hours to eat lunch. Well fueled, we then climbed the hillside toward Fort St Andre. Fort St Andre, as the tourist brochure informed us, is a perfect example of medieval military architecture. This fort protected what had been the boundary of the Kingdom of France during the 14th century. It was a superb afternoon, and we took our time to walk the grounds while soaking in history and sunshine. The Masque Tower, in which I’m entering through the red doorway above, was meant to be a decoy for evil magics. The tower’s height attracted the magic, assisting in the protection of the fort. Above the doorways and along the exterior walls of the fort there were “murder holes.” These spaces were used to kill intruders by dropping hot oil, or firing weapons.
There were 190 homes protected within the center of Fort St Andre; today one home still exists and someone actually lives there! The homeowner’s vehicle, a snazzy BMW was parked at the top of the fort’s entrance, but the home was too well camouflaged by olive trees for any tourists to peek. There was also an abby and adjoining gardens protected within the fort. It was difficult to imagine having lived at that time on narrow street, in a stark stone room, behind the immense walls of these barracks.
Throughout the fort, on walls and floors, grafiti has been left behind by guards, residents, masons, and prisoners.
The view, however, was amazing. Here is a view of the immediate town below, Villeneuve lez Avignon.View across the Rhone of Avignon and the Palace of the Popes.Exiting Fort St Andre, we re-entered the present time as if waking from a dream, and meandered our way through Villeneuve lez Avignon to catch a bus and return to the hustle and bustle of the modern day Avignon.