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Travel:  Avignon
Let's start off in a most interesting city, Avignon, with many claims to fame including...
...the historic half bridge (left), subject of that famous French folk song Sur le Pont d'Avignon...doing a little dance on the bridge, the subject of that ditty, is absolutely essential to getting into the spirit of the city...a torrent of both floods and military assaults have made the bridge what it is today...
...the massive and austere Palace of the Popes, product of the 14th century papal schism, when the Popes decided that they wanted to live in France rather than Italy -- what a hard choice that'd be to make!-- did so for more than a century, then refused to return to Rome; in fact, for a quarter century there were two Popes at the same time...

...the rue des Teinturiers, by day a quiet, mysterious street with its waterwheels and medieval architecture, by night a bustling scene with young people out on the town at all sorts of lively hotspots...

...and an annual internationally renowned summer arts festival.

Avignon is in the heart of Provence at the confluence of the mighty Rhône and the Durance rivers. It's easy to get to (fly to Marseille then drive there in about 50 minutes, or train down from Paris) but tough to drive in once you're there, with lots of narrow, one-way streets. A few wonderful hotels and restaurants are within the town walls, but the region outside Avignon offers so much in terms of food, accommodation and atmosphere. 

   If you want to stay in Avignon, you can splurge at La Mirande, smack dab in the middle of town, cozied right up against the walls of the looming Papal Palace, with fabulous rooms, a great series of cooking classes even if you don't actually stay there, and highly rated cuisine. There are two other luxury hotels as well, the Cloître St. Louis which is quiet, austere, a former monastery converted into a contempo design hotel (highly rated by Gourmet, whatever that means to you), and the Hôtel de l'Europe, very traditional and comfortable.
   For a special dining treat, Restaurant Christian Etienne provides an extravagant feast with gourmet provencal cuisine...you can do a multi-course prix-fixe menu that you won't soon forget! And the restaurant adjoins the Papal Palace (see left)...what atmosphere!

Next page:  West of Avignon
For more info on Avignon, visit the website Avignon-et-Provence.

 

 

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