Avignon: 1971

You can't go home again

You can’t go home again

It was a dark and stormy night.  My sister, Cathy, and I had been traveling by train for hours and hours and were exhausted.   We were desperate to find a youth hostel where we could spend the night.  According to our International Youth Hostels handbook, there was a hostel in Avignon.  So, notwithstanding the dark and the storm, when the train pulled into the Avignon station, we disembarked.

Did I mention that it was dark and stormy?  It was miserable; the rain was horizontal. We pulled our ponchos (one bright blue and the other bright orange) over ourselves and our backpacks and headed out into the town to try to locate the youth hostel.  We had no idea where we were viz a viz the hostel; and, then, as now, we spoke nary a word of French.  We wandered, becoming ever more sodden from the torrential rain.  We poked our noses into bars, pretty much the only oases of light in the town, trying to get directions from locals who couldn’t believe their eyes at the large blue and orange Quasimodos materializing out of the night, grunting sounds that may have been an attempt at “auberge de jeunesse,” which is French for “youth hostel.”

Somehow, undoubtedly through pure dumb luck, we managed to find the bridge over the Rhone that dumped us onto the riverbank on which the youth hostel was located.  Although we were late arriving, the folks at the desk took one look at our pitiful selves and let us in.  That was one of the happiest moments of my first twenty-two years.

I remember two things about our time in Avignon:  The first was that the women’s dormitory seemed huge and it had lines of triple bunk beds.  To my eyes and in my memory, those beds rose all the way to heaven.  The second was that when we woke up the next morning, the Rhone had come over its banks and the whole area was flooded.  To get to the bathrooms, which were in a different building, we had to wade through water that was above our shoes.  It was all completely surreal.

I think we must have spent a couple of days in Avignon, so, I know we did some sightseeing but I remember nothing but the wet, and scary, slog from the train station to the youth hostel and the strangeness of the accommodations.  I’d better check with Cathy to find out what we actually did there.

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