In the footsteps of Charity Selborne

Hello again – I am back home in Scotland but still blogging about Avignon. Today I am sharing several photographs of Avignon’s huge and imposing Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace), the Place du Palais (Palace Square) and the gardens on the Rocher des Doms, which is, in Mary Stewart’s words:

a steep mass of white rock crowned by the cathedral of Notre Dame, and green with singing pines.

These adjacent locations feature (bien sur!) in Mary Stewart’s first novel, Madam, Will You Talk?

But first, what about the Hôtel Tistet-Védène, the Avignon hotel that features in Madam? This was, I imagine (perhaps wrongly), a fictional name. There is a street of this name, the Rue Tistet-Védène, but I did not explore there and don’t know if it boasts a hotel; and in any case it lies outwith the walled part of the city. Interestingly there is a Hotel Bristol on the Cours Jean-Jaurès (you may remember that one of the characters in Madam is Loraine Bristol), which seems like a fairly likely location – if you squint at my previous Avignon post, you can just make out the Bristol in my photo of the Cours Jean-Jaurès. Certainly the Bristol fits with Charity leaving her hotel to explore and being immediately on a street with full cafés, ‘tables on the pavement’ and shops to tempt tourists. In Avignon the Cours Jean-Jaurès becomes the Rue de la République as you move towards the centre and in Madam, Charity

reached the end of the street, where the Rue de la République widens out and becomes the main square of the city

It may be helpful here to link to a map for clarity, try mappery’s map of Avignon centre.

So the Hotel Bristol is my best guess. The hotel location may be in doubt but there is no mistaking the iconic, UNESCO World Heritage site that is the Palais des Papes. Madam‘s narrator Charity describes it here:

the great façade of the Palace soared up out of the living rock, shadowy yet luminous in the starlight. I lingered for a while gazing up at it

Palais des Papes and Place du Palais (taken from my hotel room!)

The Palais is enormous and some 50m high. In its time, its Popes and anti-Popes lived here in sumptuous style but now it has a very bare and austere appearance. We had a great time strolling about the palace and enjoying the incredible views from its heights.


Beside the cathedral, taking the light above the town, is the golden stone palace of the Popes.

Palais des Papes, Notre-Dame-des-Doms cathedral, and entrance to Rocher des Doms gardens

Moving on from the palace, the Rocher des Doms park was our next destination. Like Charity, we strolled

slowly up the sloping zigzag walk through the pines towards the high gardens, which lie at the very edge of the city, and are girdled in by the city wall itself.

The gardens are beautiful, they offer shade, peace, statues, breathtaking views over city and river – and a cafe selling needful cold drinks. We paid two visits there in three days.

The gardens are also the setting, one fictional evening, for Charity overhearing that David’s father is pursuing him and learning that Loraine is afraid…

Climbing slowly up through the winding alleys of evergreens, I came at length to the topmost edge of the gardens, above the Rhône, and leaned over the low battlemented wall to rest. Below me the wall dropped away vertically, merging into the solid cliff which bounded the river…

Then suddenly, from somewhere behind me, came a man’s voice, speaking low, in French…

20170328_Rocher des Doms. Walls evergreens
Rocher des Doms. Low walls, evergreens and the Rhone

Charity is sure the man speaking is someone from her hotel and as she makes her way back there:

in the narrow little street that skirts the foot of the rock where the palace is built, I saw someone standing, a man… as I paused in the darkness under the palace steps, I saw him slip out of the shadows… It was Marsden.

Street on which Marsden lurked…

I should stop this post here, as I am trying my best to blog only about those parts of my holiday that relate to Mary Stewart and Madam, Will You Talk?. But I am going to show you a place we had lunch one day. It was charming in a completely unpretentious way and served delicious tartines:

If you visit Avignon, I recommend a visit here. And many thanks to Saltwater Hair and Sandy Toes, who wrote so beautifully about Avignon here and recommended Ginette & Marcel to me in the first place.

Our next blog-stop is Nîmes, I hope you’ll join me there!