Paul has fond memories of living in Avignon for a few months as a young missionary volunteer in 1986, and it’s a place that we
1. Avignon – Train Tour
To get your bearings and a great overview of the town, this is an excellent way to see the main parts of Avignon and if you have more time you can go back and visit things you saw from the train. The ‘petit train touristique’ sets off from the square in front of Palais des Papes and you can quite easily turn up and get on. The journey takes about 45mins and has a headphone audio guide all for €9 per person. Keep your hands inside! You will be amazed at the driver’s skill as he negotiates the narrowest of alleyways in many parts of the town. The best easy-access car park is the Palais de Papes underground car park which is right underneath the main square in the town centre.
2. Avignon – Palais des Papes
The ‘Palace of the Popes’, is a UNESCO World Heritage site and, at 15,000 square metres, one of the largest medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. The Palais was built in less than twenty years and is regularly among the top ten tourist attractions in France. In addition to the stunning architecture, it contains amazing frescos from the fourteenth century such as those in
You can also easily visit the Petit Palais and La Cathedrale Notre Dame des Doms as
The Palais occupies an elevated position, built into the side of Le Rocher des Doms, overlooking the Rhone river. There is a fantastic public park sitting on the top of these rocks with wonderful opportunities for walking, picnics and looking out across the city. We recommend you climb the path up to these gardens.
As you arrive at the walled town of Aigues-Mortes you cannot help but be impressed by the size of this defensive structure which is still fully intact. You can walk all the way around the 1.6km of ramparts. Founded by King Louis IX in 1240 and later fortified by Phillippe III and Phillippe IV in the 13th century, Aigues-Mortes was a key strategic stronghold for trade and military crusades. A local legend states that a horse called Lou Drapé rides around the ramparts at night, taking large numbers of children on its back before
There is plenty of parking to the south of the town, just outside the walls. Enter through one of the many gates and very soon you will be in Place Saint Louis with a vast variety of shops, cafés, restaurants and galleries. The church of Notre-Dame-des-Sablons is just to the north of the square. If you want to walk along the ramparts, find the main town entrance to the north of the town and turn left along the inside of the ramparts until you reach the entrance (€6.50). Allow about an hour for the tour as there are many small interesting exhibits in the towers along the way telling you the town’s history. You also get great views of the town and the surrounding countryside, including waterways and salt marshes.
About an hour’s drive to the northwest of
4. Pont du Gard
About 30 minutes drive to the west of Avignon, the Pont du Gard is part of an aqueduct built around the year 50 AD to carry water to the Roman town of Nemausus (Nimes). At nearly 50 metres high, the Pont is the highest of all the aqeuduct bridges built by the Romans. It is estimated that the Pont is made of around 50,000 tonnes of limestone, known locally as Pierre de Vers, which extracted from a quarry about 700 metres downstream. The individual blocks of the coarse grained shelly limestone were cut and fitted together precisely without the use of mortar.
We visited this fantastic structure in the early evening hoping to take photos of the Pont with the sunset. Unfortunately, the weather was cloudy and overcast but we still enjoyed our visit. It’s quite a long walk from the car park but the path is smooth and there are plenty of interesting things to see along the way. There is a visitors centre with a museum, cinema and regular exhibitions, also if the weather is hot you can swim in the River Gardon. Situated between Remoulins and Vers-Pont du Gard the Pont is open all year, adult tickets cost €9.50. More details here http://pontdugard.fr
5. The Mediterranean
The Languedoc coast is some of Frances best sandy beaches, favoured by the locals. Beaches are wide and can stretch for miles. We spent a couple of days based near La Grande Motte, just over an hour’s drive southwest of Avignon. This proved to be a great place to relax and enjoy some sun, sea and sand; we could have also visited Montpelier or Arles but we wanted to make the most of the chance to sit still and relax before heading home.