Exploring Provence: Medieval Avignon

Michel asked me what I wanted to do today. I told him I want to explore Avignon by myself, something that I wasn’t able to do the last time I was here.

That’s because the last time I was here with my cousin, she insisted on going to Nice and Monaco while we were in the south of France, to try to see as many cities within the very short time we were there.

I can explore Avignon in the morning, he told me, but I should come back to his house for lunch (his house is only a ten-minute walk from the city center). I suddenly had a flashback of that time we were together in Nice.

While we were driving around Nice looking for a place to eat, my cousin and I got really excited to see a McDonald’s. So we told Michel and (his partner then) Alain, that we wanted to try eating at a McDonald’s in France. I remember seeing the horror in their faces but reluctantly ate there anyway.

Imagine that! We were in one of the most sophisticated cities in the world and we freaking ate at McDonald’s! What could possibly be going though our heads?? I really hate sharing this story because it’s so embarrassing and I cringe every time I remember it!

I told him I didn’t need to come back to his house for lunch. I’ll just find a place to eat somewhere in town and promised him I won’t go to McDonald’s! He burst into laughter. Perhaps that’s the reason he asked me to come back for lunch to his house, he was afraid I’d eat at McDonald’s again! I told him that my cousin and I  were young and naive then and that we are much more sophisticated now! LOLOL! 😂😂😂
The medieval city of Avignon is entirely enclosed by a wall. Most of Avignon’s principal attractions are located within this wall, except for the Avignon Bridge. Michel told me as long as I don’t go outside the walls then it would be difficult for me to get lost.

I started my exploration inside the Palais des Papes, or the Pope’s Palace. The palace is actually bare and none of the artifacts from the 14th century were retained. However, they usually have special exhibitions by contemporary artists.

Philip IV of France was the force behind Clement V’s election, a Frenchman, to the papacy in 1305, an unpopular outcome in Rome. The result made Clement’s life as pope stressful. To escape the oppressive atmosphere in Rome, in 1309 Clement chose to move the papal capital to Avignon. There were seven “Avignonese Popes” who resided here until the papacy found it necessary to return to Rome.

The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is now primarily a tourist site. It is also used for cultural  events and concert venues. Make sure to buy the entrance ticket for both the palace and the bridge.

The garden next to the palace has breathtaking views that overlooks the Pont d’Avignon and the Rhône River. People go there to read, eat lunch, or have picnic with friends.

It took me a a few hours exploring the area surrounding the palace, finding alleyways or stairs that led to interesting places.

I was looking forward to crossing the Pont Saint-Bénézet, best known as Pont d’Avignon. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a famous medieval bridge in Avignon and the inspiration for the song, Sur le Pont d’Avignon. The bridge is not long and you can easily walk all of it in ten minutes (one way). This year one of my goals and challenges was to cross bridges which I did in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and in New York’s Brooklyn Bridge. Pont d’Avignon is hands down the shortest and the easiest bridge.

After crossing the bridge, I went to the square to look for a place to eat lunch. I remembered the McDonald’s fiasco again and reminded myself to be a much better traveler (the crazy thing is I don’t even eat at McDonald’s or fast food places in America). I wanted to prove to Michel I really am much more sophisticated now.

So this is what I had for lunch…

Oh boy! Whatever happened to “I’m much more sophisticated now”? But, hey, at least I had a rosé with my lunch (that is sophistication in my book).

By the way, that pizza was so darn good!!!

19 thoughts on “Exploring Provence: Medieval Avignon

  1. Ha ha! The Macdonalds story had me in stitches!! Sometimes, only a Big Mac and fries will do!! We never got to visit Provence last time we were in France but it’s on the list especially as Avignon has 2 UNESCO heritage sites! Beautiful photos – and a Rose is definitely sophisticated!!

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    1. Avignon is busier with traffic now because of all the constructions. I bet once it’s done, it’ll be nicer. I recommend driving to see more of the Provence region. From London I took the direct Eurostar to Avignon. You guys are so lucky! I wish we have that here in the US!

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  2. I’ve eaten at a McDonalds in Nice *and* Marseille. Haha! We were hungry and it was cheap. 😀 And anyway, I think we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves about things like that. I think curiosity is a good enough reason to do something; if I come across a Jollibee in another country, I would be tempted to try it too, just to find out how it differs from the ones back home.

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    1. I totally understand. But McD’s in the US is really looked down upon. It’s totally different in the Philippines where the food is so much better, even if it is a fast food. When I go back to the Philippines, I love eating at KFC because somehow our chicken there is so sarap compared to here. I haven’t eaten at KFC here in the states probably since I was in college. Honestly if Jollibee was in Nice, I would’ve eaten there in a heartbeat! 😜

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      1. Haha! True, I’ve gotten the impression that in the US, feeding your kids McDonalds is almost tantamount to bad parenting (if you could have afforded better).

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      2. We were only in Marseille for a short time and we didn’t get to go around it much *but* we were able to go on the ferry that goes around the Frioul islands (including If, as in Chateau d’If, of Count of Monte Cristo fame) and we totally loved that.

        I wrote about Marseille here:
        http://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2014/04/02/marseille/

        And the Frioul islands here:
        http://smalltowngirlsmidnighttrains.com/2014/04/02/the-frioul-islands/

        Are you still in France? Take the Frioul ferry!

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      3. Hi Gaya! No I’m back in the States now. I was thinking of going to Marseille but changed my mind. Next time though. Thanks for the links. I will read them.

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  3. I’ve always wanted to stand “sur le pont d’Avignon”!! – so far not managed it!! Looks like a beautiful town though, the contemporary art in the old setting must have been quite something. Loved the McDonalds story too – it really made me smile.

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    1. My best friend told me she was embarrassed for me after I told her about the McD’s story lol! So I’m happy it made you smile. 😂

      I’m sure one day you’ll get to stand there! Thanks, Joy!

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