The first thing that comes to mind when one hears Avignon is the French song Sur le pont d’Avignon but the city has so much more to offer than the remains of the bridge which once spanned the Rhône River and is actually called Pont Saint-Bénézet. The top photo shows what is left of the bridge. When we were throwing around ideas where we could spend our spring vacation and were narrowing it down to the Provence region, we decided to spend a few days in Avignon before heading out into the countryside.
Avignon’s historic center has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995. Although it is popular with tourists traveling to Provence, we were there early enough in the year to enjoy the city without hoards of people. We rambled through the streets and found a few hidden gems. We immediately noticed the southern light and the colors which are common in southern France.
Of course we visited the Palace of the Popes. I was amazed at the size of the building and the different architectural styles. The hum of the other tourists made it difficult to imagine the vast quietness that once must have been during the time of the papacy. But the tranquil gardens near the end of our visit made up for that.
We stepped out into the sunshine and were immediately surrounded by birdsong, the buzz of bees, the splash of a fountain and the lazy chatter of other visitors.
The area we enjoyed most was around the Rue des Tenturiers. Today there are many small cafés and theaters but between the 14th and 19th century, the textile industry flourished here. Four waterwheels still remain and the narrow Sorgue river rushes beneath the shade of the sycamores trees.
Where to stay and eat:
Hôtel Le Cloître Saint Louis: Once a monastery and now a hotel, some of the rooms face the large courtyard, there is a lovely rooftop terrace and it’s only a few minutes walk to the main sights.
L’Agape: Dinner on our fist night was nothing short of spectacular. The service was superb and our three course meal was absolutely delicious.
Numéro 75: It was a delight to be able to sit outside in the courtyard and enjoy wonderfully prepared fresh seasonal specialities such as asparagus and strawberries.