"The heady enchantment of rue des Teinturiers" Top 5 Page for this destination Avignon Travelogue by CatherineReichardt
Avignon Travel Guide: 505 reviews and 1,486 photos
However short a time you will be spending in Avignon, do yourself a favour and make even a few minutes to stroll down captivating Rue des Teinturiers - for me the absolute highlight of my time there, and all the more wonderful for being completely unexpected.
For some reason it is completely overlooked in the two mainstream guidebooks that we were using, and I only found it by complete chance when I went for a deliberately aimless mosey around the backstreets of the town whilst my parents took a siesta. I could not believe my eyes when I came across a small canal ... and a waterwheel ... then another ... then a third ... by now, I knew that I had stumbled into somewhere very special ...
This enchanting street was originally located outside the 11th century city walls, but was incorporated into the when Avignon expanded its city walls in the 14th century.
As early as the 10th century, the clergy of Notre Dame des Doms engineered the diversion of river water into the old ditches around the city walls to provide water supply (and inevitably, for the time, these also served as open sewers). This arrangement was upgraded in the early 13th century to create what became known as the Sorgue canal, which was supplied with supplementary water from the Durance River. In the late 15th century, the calico dyers who had established along the river successfully petitioned the City Council to divert water from the higher quality Fontaine de Vaucluse (for the trivia lovers, the fifth largest spring in the world), whose water apparently gave the dyed fabric a particular sheen and vibrancy of colour.
Since then, it has changed names a number of times, from rue de Cheval Blanc (White Horse Road ) in the 15th century to rue de Nazareth (after the Notre Dame de Nazareth orphanage at the end of the road) to its current name of rue des Teinturiers (Dyers' Road) .
It acquired its current name, rue des Teinturiers, at the end of the 18th century in recognition of the calico industry that established along this street in order to take advantage of the water supply and power generation provided by the waterwheels located along the canal. At its height, there were 24 waterwheels along this stretch of canal, of which four have been preserved, leading to ... yes, you're getting the hang of this game ... yet another alternative name - rue des Roues (Waterwheel Road)!
One of the most charming aspects of rue des Teinturiers are the carved stone benches which line the side of the canal and provide ideal spots for people to sit and soak up the ambience in the shade of the enormous plane trees. They look ancient, but at least one reference I read in researching this page suggests that they are quite recent, but have been treated to give them an antique appearance. Intentional or not, these benches also have the benefit of making street parking impossible, further adding to the ambience in what is largely a pedestrian zone.
Rue des Teinturers is lined with a series of small cafes, bars and restaurants, so you won't lack for choice when it comes to choosing somewhere to eat or drink! Some of the restaurants actually straddle the canal and most provide pavement tables where you can pleasantly while away the hours. Or if your budget's not up to that, assemble the makings of a picnic or grab a baguette, annex a stone bench and watch the world wander by.
The street is lined with enormous plane trees and is also shady because of the narrowness of the street and cooled the presence of flowing water. It would certainly be the ideal place to retreat from the blazing heat of a Provencal summer, or to pass a balmy evening.
Lastly, Avignon is indisputably a very romantic place. So if you feel the urge to propose to your loved one, then this would be my nomination for the most romantic location in the city - whoever would have thought that humble calico makers could inspire such a romantic endorsement!!!
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