Avignon

Crème de Cassis

The heat has returned . . . and so have we . . . to Avignon from Cassis, a port on the Mediterranean coast.

We left early this morning and hit the motorway doing 130kph all the way to the sea. It is about an hour and a half away and was worth the trip. I ©googled “Good Beaches near Avignon” and it told me that Cassis was the nicest. It didn’t lie.

 

 

It was so good that everyone has to pay a €1.10 toll to drive down the hill to the beach to experience it. We thought that was a bit strange, but it was even stranger when we departed because you also have to pay €1.10 to leave!!

Anyway the day was tanning and swimming heaven. We splashed out and hired sun lounges, and were then waited on hand and foot.  After more Rosé wines, tasty Bruschetta sandwiches and Coke Lights, we were very satisfied with our day. So much so that we are tempted to return to the sea in a couple of days and stay there before we head to Plan de la Tour and St Tropez. We have now been to the internet café and tried to book a nice room on the coast for Thursday and Friday (waiting to hear back). Although Avignon is nice, we prefer the quiet and tranquillity of the smaller villages.

The previous day we checked out the towns south of Avignon. We started with Arles which was originally a Greek colony until Julius Caesar captured it and gave it to the veteran soldiers of his Legions. It has an ancient amphitheatre built around 90AD and could once hold 20,000 spectators. It is currently in the process of being renovated and now has modern seating for bull fights, which Arles is known for. Over the last 2000 years the city has been ravaged and rebuilt many times . We spent about three hours, walking, eating and marvelling at its buildings and monuments. There is a notorious old structure which held thousands of Jews before they were sent to the concentration camps during the Second World War. It has very old, solid doors concealing dark, foreboding cellars that you could peer into. It was a scary and sad place.

There is also a hospice that Vincent Van Gogh previously stayed at and he famously painted (Le Jardin de Hopital d’Arles). Donna and I visited it. It is now frequented by local artisans and has student accommodation.

Le Jardin de l’Hopital d’Arles

Heading back to Avignon we stopped at St Remy de Provence, a small Merivale-like village with great little shops.

The many restaurants and cafes were filled with affluent, older people and the shopping was very expensive. We walked around the streets and alley ways and then continued back to the big city.

St Remy de Provence

To be mentioned. Donna has visited thousands of shoe shops since Paris (there are so many). She made her first shoe purchase in Arles! She has to be restrained or she will need another suitcase to bring them all home.  She is very pleased with herself and will continue to marvel at the natural shoe wonders of France.

Signing off again. Possibly up to Chateau Neuf-de-Pape tomorrow (just north of Avignon). It is famous for its great wines and restaurants. Thinking of you all back home. Salut!

Our street in Avignon in the evening

Donna beside an old fountain in Arles

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Categories: Avignon, France | 1 Comment

Palais du Papes

Bonjour. We are in Avignon, the city of the Popes. In the 14th century it became the capital of the Christian world. We visited the Palace of the Popes today. It was amazing. We went on a tour of the huge castle-like, medieval building. It is incredible the amount of time and effort that must have gone into constructing it. We toured through the inner chambers where the different Popes (nine of them over the years) dined, met important people, and made decisions about the religious world. We went down into the crypts where some of them are buried, and up to the towers where Le Corps de Suisses soldiers stood on guard. Afterwards we wandered down to the Rhone River and sat on the banks admiring the Pont D’Avignon bridge which was built in the 12th century. Mmmm, it was time for lunch and we headed for the many cafes and restaurants in the Place du Palais. We chose wisely and I enjoyed very nice fish and polenta (I ordered in French and thought I was asking for chicken!!) “Charlotte de Frais” followed for dessert (the best ever!!) Donna had steak and a trio of petit desserts with coffee washed down with another refreshing local Rose wine.

We arrived yesterday to a blustery, windy welcome, which continued on into the night. Pierre, a very gay local garcon, let us into the digs. It is a bit more basic than the lovely villa in Puimisson, but is clean and tidy. But no internet! Donna had asked for it when we booked and was informed that there was . . . yes . . . but down the street at the Subway Sandwich bar! Doh. Never mind, we will survive. Avignon is surrounded by large, ancient walls or ramparts, which encircle the whole city. Our apartment is just inside the Porte Sainte-Lazare entrance and it is close to the University, which in old times was the Saint Marthe Hospice. Again, it is very beautiful. There are a lot of young people in our area and most of the other residents in our apartment are students.

We drove from Puimisson to Avignon via Saint Guillam de Desert, a medieval village in the hills and up a narrow gorge. It was well worth the detour. Again, beautiful old buildings and an ancient church and monastery filled the landscape. We arrived at midday and just as we explored the church, six women in monks attire (white cloaks with hoods) were making their way to the altar. They sang heavenly prayers which echoed around the large chapel for about 20 minutes. Donna and I were transfixed and remained there until they finished. Donna lit a candle for Ariva and said a prayer. Lunch followed and we continued on our way.

The previous day had been beach time. Portiragnes and Serignon were the most recommended beaches in the area and they didn’t disappoint. Afterwards we drove into Magalas for dinner for our last night in the Beziers area. We will miss it.

I’ll continue on now. We have lots to see and do here, but we must tether our sightseeing with plenty of relaxation as well. Oh it’s tough.

Thanks for the Fathers’ Day wishes boys. Au revoir for now.

Categories: Avignon, France | 8 Comments

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