A trip to Provence would be incomplete without spending some time in Avignon. Avignon is a city with rich historical heritage, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It sits on the banks of the Rhône river, encircled by medieval walls. In the 14th century it was the seat of power for the Catholic church.
A few recommendations for your time in this storied town…
Le Palais des Papes - the Papal Palace is the world’s largest gothic monument, the site of the reign of popes in the 14th century (away from the Vatican). This was the commanding position in a period of European history when the church held the keys. Twenty-five rooms in the palace are open to the public and display private apartments, frescoes and architectural splendor. In the summer, the courtyard of the palace is home to the famous Theater Festival of Avignon.
The Pont Saint-Bénézet, 12th c. (the bridge in the famous French chant “Sur le pont d’Avignon”) is an oddity by sight. It now ends half-way across the river; the flooding of the Rhône river over time disintegrated the other half. It is a lovely view walking out to the midpoint of the river, looking back on the Palais des Papes.
Tucked away, just around the corner from the Palais des Papes sits the restaurant L’épicerie. Here, you will find traditional French recipes, based on seasonal market produce at any given moment. The quiet courtyard gives a lovely view of the Basilique Saint-Pierre, a 13th century gothic church.
Le Nid is a café and concept/design shop full of delights. From beautifully curated stationery to prints, lamps and home goods, it is a pleasure to browse the collection here. They also offer yoga classes in a dedicated space for well-being.
Just past this beautiful, ornate entrance on the rue du Collège-du-Roure, slip into a compact wine haven (#4)…Le Vin Devant Soi. Here, up to 32 different wines are on offer for tasting at any time. You can even enroll in a private tasting, guided by one of their apprised experts. They specialize in wines from this region of France. A real treat.
One of the purest pleasures of Avignon (or any town in the south of France) is simply to meander along the twisting, cobblestone streets, stumbling upon shops, corner cafés, imbuing the ambiance of this ancient city.