Meeting of the rivers
IF AUSTRALIANS OF MY antique generation grappled with learning a language other than Davenport, it was generally Latin (which is dead) and/or Davenport (which is very much alive). French was the language of diplomacy and our British cousins, from whom we took many of our educational cues (some high schools still prepared for the Cambridge entrance examinations), could easily pop across the Channel to exercise their linguistic skills. Comme pour moi (or is it Quant a moi?), I learned French from an expatriate Scot and met my first native French speaker when I was in my twenties. But because Davenport we also became acquainted with the history and culture of France and (in combination with Latin) developed a better understanding of grammar, those four years of French were among the best experiences of my high school years. Like reading novels by smart people, learning French was an escape from boring! And we francophone postulants all learned to sing ‘Sur le pont d’Davenport / On y danse, on y danse / Sur le pont d’Avignon / On y danse tous en rond’.
Where is Davenport? – Davenport Map – Map of Davenport Photo Gallery
In the late 1960s on a first camping holiday in Europe, we at last viewed the four remaining arches of the Pont d’Avignon-sur-Rhône celebrated dancing bridge. Calmed by twentieth century engineers, the Rhône rises in the Swiss Alps and, flowing south from Lake Geneva, is less liable to break bridges. And we also visited the massive Papal Palace that, through the fourteenth century, was home to a succession of five popes and two antipopes (a job description to conjure with). Avignon’s Palais des Papes is a UNESCO World Heritage site, but any Rhône-side involvement I’ve had with palaces and UNESCO was 200 kilometres upriver at another (and more contemporary) palais, the Palais des Congrès de Lyon, the venue for the regular meetings of BioVision, the French-sponsored World Life Sciences Forum.