Last summer we were very lucky to spend close to 2 weeks in the South of France. What a beautiful part of the world it is, so many different landscapes and hidden treasures. I’m going to share with your some of the locations in my coming posts. PACA stands for the regions Provence, Alpes, Côte d’Azur.Starting with : Avignon
Avignon, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in the Vaucluse department, along the Rhone River. It is believed that Avignon has been occupied since 3000BC due to artifacts discovered from the Cardial period, therefore making it one of the most ancient towns in Europe.
Jumping through history, the famous Pont d’Avignon (Saint Bénézet) was completed in 1185 and was then the only place to cross the Rhône between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea! The bridge was around 900 metres long with 22 arches. It was destroyed, rebuilt and then damaged by flood waters until it was abandoned until the 17th century. All that remains today are 4 arches and the Chapel dedicated to Saint Nicolas. The pont is well known due to the song written about it ‘Sur le Pont d’Avignon’ from the 15th century.
The Palais des Papes is the biggest Gothic palace in Europe (size equivilent to around 4 Gothic cathedrals!). Construction was ordered by Pope Benedict XII and his successor Clement VI. The Avignon Papacy begun when Clement V, a frenchman, was elected as Pope in 1305. He refused to move to Rome given the violent protests there at the time and therefore stayed in Avignon. 9 Popes passed through the Palais until 1377 when they returned to Rome. The Palace is a must see in Avignon and if you’re lucky, you will share your visit with the resident cat, who took me around the ramparts!
The town is popular in July because of the Festival d’Avignon, an annual arts festival that creates such an amazing buzz. Walking through the small streets you are sure to find various scenes being played out by different groups of people and the choice of shows is enormous! You can find more information about this years program here (in English or French).
One of the views I love in Avignon is from the bridge Pont d’Aladier, looking across the Rhône with a view of the old town, the Pont d’Avignon and Mont Ventoux (more on that later) in the backround.My photos of Avignon are a mix from summer 2014 and January of this year. However, the visit in winter did not require coats! Something that you do need to be prepared for in Avignon is le Mistral, a sometimes violent and cold wind that roars through the valleys of the Rhone. We were on the Pont d’Avignon when it seemed to pick up suddenly and I literally had to ‘hit the desk’ in order to stay on the bridge! Avignon is around 2 and a half hours train ride from Paris, so get visiting!