The next oldest race is the Greyhound Race that dates from 1621. Here the artificial hare is chased around three laps of the track by greyhounds dressed in monk’s costumes. The hare wears a Papal Crown and carries a Papal Staff. Again this is a toned-down version of the original where a real hare, wearing a mitre, was hunted to death by greyhounds. Nowadays, the winning greyhound and owner receive a kennel for the dog that is modelled on the Pope’s Palace at Avignon. A greyhound named Luther has won the race the most times with seven wins in the period 1898 – 1905.
Dating from 1645 the oldest athletics event is the Papal shot-put where contestants have to land their throws in a Papal mitre that is placed 15 meters and 17 centimeters from the rim of the shot-put circle. Each contestant is allowed six attempts at this accuracy contest and the winner is the person who lands their put in the hat the most times. Hugo Benjamin Draxler won the event thirteen times between 1794 and 1831. Draxler has been an important figure in the Games as he also lobbied the organizers to introduce a spear throwing contest where the aim and the rules were literally the same as those of the shot-put contest. After the success of the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris both a discus and a hammer contest were introduced in 1925 with the Papal Mitre situated 60 meters and 68 centimeters from the throwing circle. No one has ever won the Discus event and the Hammer event has been won just once in 1958 by the Soviet Anatoli Timofftichuk.
The hotels I have stayed in so far have been a mixed bunch.
The Hotel Boquier in Avignon is superb; it is close to the station and about 15 minutes from the Pope’s Palace. The hotel is down a side street and is very quiet. The continental breakfasts were excellent.
The Mistral in Montpellier is close to the station and about three minutes from Place de la Comedie. The breakfasts are OK, but the main problem with the hotel is that it’s situated in a very noisy neighbourhood and some of the guests are also noisy. The floors of the rooms also seem to be continuous at each level, so that you can feel people moving around in other rooms.
Will’s Hotel is a quiet hotel, close to the station with excellent breakfasts. The only problem I found was that it was closed until 5pm on a Sunday when I arrived. It’s about 10 minutes to the Archbishop’s Palace.
The Montmorency Hotel at Carcassonne is very close to the Narbonne Gate and is excellent although slightly pricey and is half-an-hour’s walk from the train station. The breakfast is extensive and the room was very quiet.
Finally, for this blog, The Ambassadors Hotel in Toulouse. This hotel is about three minute’s from the station and the breakfasts are reasonable. It takes about 12 minutes to reach the Saint Sernin church. The main problem with this hotel is that the floors creak and the walls are paper thin, so you can hear the person in the next room’s email notifications.
On a day when I managed to get to Carcassonne from Narbonne on the train even though my reserved seat was in a carriage that wasn’t part of the train I thought I would write about some happier experiences.
Food in Avignon. I would recommend the following:
Bar Grille – 26 Place de l’Horloge, 84000 Avignon. This place has been panned on Trip Advisor but my meal of cheese and diced Provencal vegetables followed by Boeuf Provencal was absolutely delicious.
Couscousserie de l’Horloge – 18 Place de l’Horloge, 84000 Avignon – I had Chicken Tajine with some free vegetables and the meal was tasty as was the Apple Tart afterwards.
L’offset – 16 Rue des Teinturiers, 84000 Avignon (right by the waterwheel) – my best meal in Avignon, which meant I didn’t have to eat the following day (not joking). A massive chicken salad followed by La végétarienne, a mix of vegetables plus cheese. Beautiful.
I can’t recommend the La Brasserie du Théâtre as the waitresses were awful and were making suggestions about how big their tip should be.
Another day, another tip to visit a garden, this time in Avignon. Past the Palais des Papes visitors should go up the incline to the right of the Petit Palais Museum and follow the path/road around until there’s green space all around. This is Le Jardin du Rocher des Doms and the views over the Rhone Valley and Avignon are splendid. Visitors can also see the broken bridge – St Benezet Bridge – which inspired the children’s rhyme. The Ramparts are clearly visible and these can be visited, though entrance to the bridge is not possible due to a locked gate.
The following is a review from my book Sports the Olympics Forgot, which can be found on Amazon here
Mr. Worker clearly had an enjoyable time researching and writing this book. I wasn’t sure what to think of the book until I got to the bit about Docky and started to really chuckle. The Anti-Pope Games also left a distinct impression in my memory. While there may only be a niche market for this book, if you’ve ever wondered about the sport of Mongol Vegetable Cutting, the Andalusia Hopping Race or Bull Pulling, look no further than this definitive work.