Avignon: a place to enjoy a Provencal way of life

FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonLocated in the South or France on the left bank of the River Rhone, Avignon is well known for its festival, its historical monuments, its lifestyle, making it an ideal destination for a Provencal getaway.
Avignon is one of the few cities in France that kept its Middle Ages ramparts and they do look impressive and beautiful from the banks of the River Rhone enlightened by the sunset.

Le Palais des Papes, The Popes’ Palace:
Nine generations of popes lived in Avignon between 1309 and 1423 leaving many architectural traces of their reign. Their residence is a huge building which is still the most important gothic palace in Europe. You won’t be able to escape visiting it.  IFAlthough most of the decoration and furniture are gone it is still easy to imagine the lordly life of the Popes while going through the reception halls, the cloisters, the chapels and the Pope’s private apartments and their precious frescoes.

At night don’t miss the “Luminessences” a monumental 3D video show taking place in the main courtyard of the palace, a mix of stones, images, video and sound. This year the show is scheduled from 12th August till 11th October.
For more information’s and reservation: www.luminessences-avignon.com

FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonLe Pont d’Avignon, The Saint Benezet Bridge:
Everybody in France knows this bridge because of a famous song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” and its lyrics depicting happy people dancing round in circles. But the story of the bridge is not as joyful as the song. Originally built in the 12th century it was destroyed several time by the floods of the River Rhone and rebuilt again and again until the inhabitants of Avignon gave up any attempt of rebuilding after the last destruction during the 18th century. From the 22 original arches only 4 remain. It’s a nice walk to the end and the bridge and the view on the city ramparts and the towers of the Popes’ Palace is outstanding.

FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonVisiting the Old City:
The heart of the city beats in the “Place de l’Horloge”: the oldest square of town is set where the Roman forum was and is a lovely place to take a rest to have lunch or dinner or take a drink at one of the numerous café terraces in the shade of the tall plane trees. In July during the Festival the “Place de l’Horloge” is a non-stop happening with street artists swarming over the square to convert it into an improvised stage.
From the “Place de l’Horloge” find your way through the little streets to discover shops, restaurants, tearooms and museums.

FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonThere are many museums in Avignon but I would advise you to visit 2 of them that may not be as famous as others but well deserve to go to.
To discover the Provencal life of the 18th and 19th centuries go to Palais du Roure set in a typical mansion. The apartments of the former owners still display their collections of furniture, Christmas crib figures called “santons”, traditional costumes, artefacts from the close-by Camargue and even a diligence that Frederic Mistral, a famous Provencal writer, used to come to Avignon. Be sure to be there at 3pm on Tuesdays to get the guided tour.

FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonSet in an 18th century mansion that once belonged to Jacques Doucet who was a French fashion designer during the Belle Epoque as well as a wealthy collector and patron of the arts. It’s an opportunity to see famous paintings by Degas, Daumier, Manet, Sysley, Forain, Vuillard, Van Gogh, Picasso and Modigliani that could not be seen by the public until 1996 when the museum opened.

The city market is open every morning, except Monday, where you will find local tasty produce. Every Saturday from 11am till 12am local chefs cook a complete meal made with produce bought in the market and teach their recipes to passersby.
You can also take cooking lessons at the Hotel de la Mirande a five star hotel set in an 18th century mansion at the foot of the Palais des Papes. FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonThe lobby, the bar, the restaurants and the rooms are decorated with period furniture, tapestries, carpets and chandeliers. Each of the 27 rooms has its own decoration and you can have one overlooking the Palais des Papes or the lovely garden. Jean Claude Aubertin is the wellknown chef and offer an inventive cooking made with local organic products. For one week each month along with other local chefs he teaches the art of Provencal cooking to small groups of happy amateurs. But if you feel lazy you can just enjoy a wonderful meal in the Salle Cardinale or in the garden when it’s warm enough.

FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonSet on the lively Place de l’Horloge the Hotel de l’Horloge is a comfortable 3 star hotel with lovely decorated rooms and a good breakfast buffet.

For wine lovers the “Bouteillerie du Palais des Papes” is a shop set in the heart of the monument where you can choose among a selection of 70 AOC wines at cellar prices with professionals advice.

IFTo enjoy a quality meal you can also go to:
L’Essentiel, a restaurant with a peaceful patio and a great cuisine.
2 rue Petite Fusterie

Le Moutardier du Pape a restaurant with a friendly atmosphere and a unique view, its outside terrace facing the main entrance of the Palais des Papes.

The Simple Simon is a true English restaurant and tearoom to go to if you miss English cooking, 26 rue Petite Fusterie.

FRANCE      84-Vaucluse    AvignonHow to get there:
Avignon airport has direct flights from UK (Birmingham, Southampton, Exeter and London City Airport) available during the tourist season.
By train: there are several daily TGV trains from Paris that will take you to Avignon in 2h40. In summertime there are also a few direct Eurostar trains from London to Avignon (a 5h30 trip).

more information at www.avignon-tourisme.com

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Text © Annick Dournes
Photos © Frederic de Poligny


About Annick Dournes & Frederic De Poligny

Annick Dournes and Frederic de Poligny are two French tourism journalists who travel the world for many years. They will share with you their very favourite experiences of worldwide travels. Those about France, their native country, will be found on a regular basis in their chronicle “Meanderings through France”. Web