In honor of it being lavender season in Provence, we thought we’d dip into the travel archives and pull out some favorite images from the south of France, starting with Avignon. This was a Margaret-only trip, but ever since she’s gotten home she’s been planning an extensively romantic multi-week return trip with Neal. France road trip Part Deux here we come! At least in our dreams, for now…
Adult Margaret has had a slight obsession with Beauty & the Beast (child Margaret was terrified of the Beast and would likely be devastated over adult Margaret’s betrayal). In the weeks leading up to the trip, I would randomly start belting out “Bonjour” just to get myself into the mindset of spending a couple weeks bouncing between a few “poor Provincial towns” in southern France, while presumably bakers would be sauntering about with their trays of bread to sell. As it turns out, Beauty & the Beast is based on Riquewehr, France, a beautiful town located on the Rhine River near the border of Germany and Switzerland. Ah well, c’est la vie!
Accepting that there was no chance of running into Belle, I set my sights on everything the region has to offer, starting in Avignon. Avignon is home to many incredible sights, including the Palais des Papes. The Palais des Papes is the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages, and was the home of Western Christianity throughout the 14th Century.
It’s also stunningly beautiful, and worth a lengthy exploration of the interiors and courtyards.
After finishing the tour, you can meander over to a cute little park, filled with bright flowers and a multitude of fountains. (In my very humble opinion, no one does gardens like the French.)
Head down some stairs…
And out onto a bridge,
Where you’ll be treated to views like this:
The Rhone River for as far as the eye can see.
The beauty of Avignon, in part, is that it is a walled city that is fully separated from the rush of everyday life. The curse of Avignon, especially to a first-time European driver, is that it is a walled city with streets barely large enough to fit two bicycles down, let alone a SUV. Once you’ve made the harrowing trip into the city (not an exaggeration – I lost my cool more than once and used a lot of four-letter words), and left your car with the hotel, a wide open spot like this is a real reward.
Speaking of hotels, let me introduce you to La Mirande.
Located directly across the street from the Palais des Papes, there is actually an underground tunnel that connects the two buildings. Legend has it (and by legend I mean one of the chefs told me) that the Popes used to pass through the tunnel from the Palais to La Mirande (presumably not a luxury hotel at the time) to enjoy their dinners in what is now one of the hotels private dining areas.
La Mirande is one of the most unique and inviting hotels I’ve had the benefit of staying at. The rooms are beautiful, and the staff are some of the best in the business. Cozy up in the lounge for a drink and a snack, or enjoy a luxurious dinner accompanied by some Chateauneuf du Pape on the terrace. Either way, the food is a can’t miss experience.
If you’re looking to go somewhere that permanently plants itself in your memory, Avignon is the place. Book me a pair of plane, and then train tickets – it will be a very bon voyage!