After having such a wonderful weekend in Beaune with our friend Sophie, we were on the train and off tour last destination of our amazing European vacation – Avignon in the highly popular Provence region. We were a little apprehensive about going without Sophie since we got so used to her speaking for us In Beaune and knowing we were going deeper into the French countryside where less English is spoken. I guess those 8 years of French in elementary school really didn’t pay off (if I only I could go back in time and tell my younger self to take French classes more seriously 😉 )
Anyways, the train ride was relatively easy. Our entire train experience in fact has been super smooth, with trains being on time and getting to our destinations in one piece. Avignon is famous for the nursery rhyme you see in the title- Sur Le pont d’Avignon – which I learned in school. Avignon is an intriguing blend of medieval history (with still has its mighty walls surrounding the entire city center), youthful energy (large student populations) and urban sophistication (main street shopping existed – H&M, Zara).
Kelly and I were really impressed with its outside ambience, being able to walk around most of the city center in about a day. Some highlights were the Place du Palais which consisted of the palace of the Popes (another grand Palace close to the main square), a Petit Palace and an impressive Cathedral which had a golden statue of Mother Mary overlooking the city. We hiked up the hill towards the Jardin du Rochers des Doms, a beautiful garden with 360 views of Avignon, the Phone River Valley and the surrounding villages/vineyards. It was absolutely spectacular and it did help being a nice sunny afternoon. We had a nice view of the St. Benezet Bridge, inspiring the Nursery song and the pride and joy of the Avignon region. The bridge was the only bridge that crossed the might Rhone river in the Middle Ages but it was damaged by several floods and the town decided not to rebuild it. After taking in the sights, we had a chill afternoon at a cafe at the top of the hill, reflecting on our experiences from the entire trip. We ended the night with a wonderful dinner at Fou de Fafa.
Our itinerary for our last full day in Avignon and in France was our wine tasting tour. We had a lazy morning in the town doing some souvenir shopping ( bought lots of herbs de Provence and tapenades both specialities in the region), trying to kill time until our wine tour.
The wine tour was something I was looking forward to for the entire one of the winery stops was Chateuaneuf du Pape, one of my favorites wines in the world. Our group consisted of interesting characters: a quiet couple from Canada (who mainly spoke French but chose opportune times to speak English to us), two sassy older ladies from the States (who were quite entertaining and were interested in Kelly and my travels) and an Aussie couple ( who literally bought out the wineries we went to with the amount of wine cases he bought). Our guide took us to various wineries in the region ( Beaune de Venise and Girondas) but the main attraction was Chateauneuf du Pape , which she took us to two different wineries. What we learned on this trip is that the French classify their wines based on the region and not the grape. So the French would call the wines Chateauneuf du Pape but each winery in the region has its different blends. But in order to be classified as a Chateauneuf du Pape the wine has to have at least the following 4 grapes: grenache, syrah, cinsault, and mourvedre. From there other wineries mix in other grapes to make their distinctive wines. It was safe to say we bought a good amount of wine; we ended up packing 7 bottles between our bags on the plane and shipping another 6 to the states. Wow!
Despite being such a short and quick stay, Avignon was a beautiful town and is worth visiting if you end up in the south of France.
Some of what we saw there:
Place du Palais- you can see the Palace of the Popes (right) and the cathedral (left) that look down upon the square. There is a close up of the cathedral and of the golden statue of Mary overlooking the city.
A nice walkway next to the Palace.
Sweeping views of the Rhone River Valley. The second picture shows the famous St. Benezet Bridge.
This is where we had a nice break in the Garden watching the ducks play in the water.
An interesting statue we saw on our wine tour
Great way to end the trip and we were ready to go back home. What a nice relaxing vacation overall!