Avignon is without a doubt one of my favorite cities in France. How can you not love its cobblestone streets, medieval touches and 14th century city walls? It’s just like an old European city that you would see in a movie. The historic center of the town is even a UNESCO World Heritage site. We were on a week long tour of the south of France and were told by many previous visitors that we had to see Avignon. We decided to spend one night before we made our way east to the Côte d’Azur.
We arrived in Avignon after a 45 minute drive from Arles. After driving in circles through one way streets in search of our hotel, we finally found the gated entrance to the Cloitre Saint Louis. I love the history behind this hotel. Originally a 16th century monastery, it has now been converted into a hotel, but still kept all of its historical charms. To get from the parking lot to the hotel’s entrance, we had to walk through a sprawling central courtyard filled with trees and fountains. The interior hallways are made of stone arches and balconies overlook central courtyards. It also had a great location within the city walls, which made it within walking distance to restaurants and shops.
After getting settled in, we made the 15 minute walk to Avignon’s central square, the Place de l’Horloge. It was a warm night and the plaza’s shops, outdoor cafes and carousel were all lit up and filled with tourists and locals. We kept walking towards the Palais des Papes to try and get a glimpse of the massive building at dusk. The palace looked like a castle out of a fairy tale. Students and couples strolling hand in hand gathered in the square. We stopped for gelato at a stand right outside the entrance and grabbed a table. Enjoying our gelato and people watching in front of the 14th century palace made for the perfect summer night. On our way back, we stopped at a brasserie that was near our hotel for a very French meal of escargot, moules frites and Provençal rosé wine.
We woke up early the next day to ensure we had time to tour the Palais des Popes. By morning the square in front of the palace was bustling with accordion players, busy souvenir shops and boulangeries selling breakfast. After spending a few hours exploring the historical palace, we ventured up the hills on the western edge of the city to catch a view of the Rhone. Near the river was a lovely park filled with fountains and extensive greenery that is worth a stop. A short walk down took us to the Pont d’Avignon, a bridge constructed in the 1100s that originally spanned the Rhone. It’s since been destroyed by invasions and flooding, and today only about 1/5 of the original bridge remains. It’s a must do when in Avignon for the wonderful scenery. We were able to take the free boat across to the other side of the river for another view.
Our time in Avignon was coming to an end, since we planned to make it to Cannes by evening. After checking out of our hotel and loading up our rental car, we hit the road for the two hour drive. Avignon was a great way to end our trip through Provence, and we were off to the Riviera.