Avignon was our kind of town. Walled-in, tree-lined and secluded.
We stayed just across the Rhone at the Cube Hotel. It was a 20 minute walk to Avignon, a 20 minute walk to Fort Saint-André, and a half hour bus ride to Pont du Gard.
In Avignon, we spent days strolling the tree-lined streets filled with cafes, sweet shops and clothing stores. There was a carousel in the middle of town, accordion players playing on street corners, and souvenir shops selling lavender soaps and tiny music boxes.
We toured the Palais des Papes, a medieval Gothic church that was the residence of the Popes in the 14th century, and Pont d’Avignon, a stone bridge whose construction was inspired by a shepherd boy who was commanded by angels to build it. There is a small chapel on the bridge that once held the boy’s remains.
Across the river in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, we walked up the hill to Fort Saint-André. It had just closed when we got there so we walked around the entrance taking pictures. There were olive trees, wisteria and poppies, and from the hilltop we could see all of Avignon peeking out above the treetops. It looked like something from a dream.
We also visited Pont du Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge half an hour away. When we arrived it was cold and rainy so we ducked inside the museum for a while. We learned about Roman life and how Pont du Gard was built, the genius behind its planning and creation. And then we saw the bridge itself. Three tiers of limestone arches standing 160 feet tall, built 2,000 years ago over the Gardon River.
We walked along the lower tier, hiked the rugged trails on the left bank and walked through the 15-acre Mediterranean garden on the right bank. Then we headed back to the hotel, ordered a pizza and a bottle of red wine from Pizza Il Palio and looked out across the Rhone from our hotel room.
Avignon was my first introduction to France and it lived up to all of my expectations. And of all the places we visited, Avignon had the most charm. I didn’t want to leave.