|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
If you want to stay in
Avignon, you can splurge at
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.
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
more info on Avignon, visit the website Avignon-et-Provence.