Recently I spent a December day in the southern French city of Avignon. Weather-wise it was a pretty grey day and it was late afternoon and evening where it came alive in my opinion.
Avignon is a walled medieval town situated on the border between Languedoc-Roussillon and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur regions, and officially designated to the latter.
How to get there
If you’re already in the Languedoc-Roussillon region one great and cheap option is the 1€ train service. You can read more about ways to get around the region in my post 3 Super Affordable Ways to Travel Languedoc-Roussillon. I myself took a BlaBlaCar car share due to the cancellation of my train. It’s approximately 1hr30 from Montpellier.
Avignon offers the instant charm and character of other similar towns in the region. The huge city wall that greets you as you approach is a great example of this. Its turrets reminded me of the classic pictures castles we are introduced to as children in the UK. As night fell small, white, sparkly lights illuminated the top. A very welcoming way to greet visitors. I just had to make sure I concentrated on the busy road that you must cross before you get to it! The streets of the medieval centre are part-cobbled, part-smooth hard stone (possibly granite) that appears in Montpellier too.
I used my brief time to wander and absorb the atmosphere of the town at this festive time. Choosing instead to look at the exterior of places, as I so often do, rather than enter into museums, I feel I only scratched the surface. However, I took enough photos to entice you!
At the end of the day, I took an hour to relax and warm up before my train back to Montpellier.
Palais des Papes
There was a time when the Pope, and therefore the Catholic Church, took up residence in Avignon instead of Rome. This was between 1309 to 1377 and the reigns of 7 successive Popes. A residence befitting their stature had to be constructed and the Palais des Papes certainly achieves that feat, in my opinion. To my eyes its exterior architecture consists of a few different styles, most notably gothic, which I recognise from small knobbly protrusions on the towers.
The first photo I captured of it was from a narrow street which lead into the huge main square. The walls of the street in which I stood were overshadowed, literally in light and by the stature of the palace. This gave it a kind of ethereal look.
Pont d’Avignon (Pont Saint-Bénézet)
I got to the Pont d’Avignon at the right time of day, just as the sun was setting and just before the lights came on. So I saw it in two states. At this time of day the reflection of the bridge and the sky was so clear. Cue 20 photos.
The bridge itself is a multi-arched bridge and only reaches three quarters of the way across the river. It has undergone much restoration but in the 17th century it was abandoned and left in the state it is today. You can pay 5€ to enter the top of the bridge, which I didn’t do. I got a perfectly good view from the river bank.
Christmas Lights galore
The French certainly know how to do Christmas lighting! I’ve posted a few on my Instagram but here’s more of a selection in one place. Bright, without being tacky. Classy and elegant. And not just lights above your head in the street. Project lights on buildings. Christmas trees lining the streets. Tree branches covered in hanging bulbs. The pictures speak for themselves.
A comfy café to escape the cold
While I was waiting for some friends at lunch time I wanted a nice place to wait. A quick look on Foursquare told me what I wanted. A café with wifi, toasted bagels, and comfy seats. While a nice setting at midday, it was the hour I spent at the end of the day that I enjoyed here. A comfy arm chair with a cup of tea, headphones, and a book. Not a very typical French café! For those interested, it is called Milk Shop. The bagels are only sold at lunch time :p. So I helped myself to a chocolate doughnut!
I like to finish with a photo of a sunset if I can. This was taken from the river bank next to the Pont d’Avignon. The light was succeeding in forcing its way through the clouds.
Have you been Avignon? What did you think? Let me know!