5 Charms of Provençal Avignon!
We hate the numbers ‘game’, but there are so many reasons to visit this enchanting city….one must limit!
1. Provençal Avignon owes its very history and much of its attraction to the Papacy. The medieval politics of the early 14th century led Pope Clement V to move the papacy to Avignon, under the protection of Philip the Fair of France. His successors came along, and Benedict XII and Clement VI felt the need to locate the great Palais des Papes overlooking the Rhone River in the center of the medieval city. The imposing palais offers a magnificent, stark white contrast to the vivid blue skies of southern France and the sprawling square beneath the palace.
For another papal-style outing, head across the river to Villeneuve-les-Avignon. A bit removed from the papal palace; over twenty cardinals built their own retreats, where the castle and fortifications of Saint André still watch over the town. Enjoy quiet walks here among the terraced Abbey gardens and cloisters, and take in the exceptional views from the 14th-century Tour Philippe le Bel. The tower protected the Pont d’Avignon, that once connected the town to Avignon.
2. Regional cuisine … cuisine … cuisine
In the Les Halles marketplace; cafés serve hearty cassoulets and velvety red wine, and marché shoppers search out earthy truffles, herbs and the local specialty – Papalines d’Avignon – incredible candies made of fine chocolate, powdered sugar and a very particular herbal liqueur dating to 1835. Dine at Avignon’s number one restaurant – La Mirande – just across the cobblestone street of the Palais du Papes. Enjoy a savory breakfast on the terrace – c’est magnifique! – or refined dining, where the atmosphere complements your veal medallions and after-dinner Cognac. With the excellent regional Côte du Rhône wines and a mix of olives, lavender, honey and other local produce; the cuisine lives up to your expectations.
Stunning fabrics await you at Les Olvidades and Souleiado (meaning “first ray of sunshine after a storm”). Les Oliviers treats you to an astonishing range of olive oils, and Pure Lavande presents high-quality, natural products from the lavender estate at Château du Bois in Haute Provence. Throughout quaint city streets, you will find charming squares with brocantes and antiquaires, cookware for gourmands and impressive Provençal pottery at Terre è Provence. Three-dimensional cicada creations are among our favorites.
4. Cultural diversity
Art and theatre houses seem to be around every corner. Tours take you in the footprints of the popes. The annual theatre festival is absurdly entertaining, with mini-acts throughout the town luring you to their destinations. You can steep yourself in the art of cooking with gourmet classes, or enjoy ballet and opera. Concerts, plays, special little theatres, motor and antique shows, ballet – Avignon maintains a robust event schedule with something to sate every interest.
5. Elegant charm
Quaint cobblestones, refined architecture and shaded squares make Avignon such a pleasure to visit. Typical streets, like the rue des Teinturiers (the dyers street) surprise you with paddle wheels on the Sorgue canal, cobblestone squares (created, by the way, from stones from the Rhône River), the gorgeous facades of 18th and 19th-century mansions – and interspersed amongst all the sights, you will find that perfect little spot for a cafe au lait.
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