We took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Avignon – the city of the popes in Southern France. It was still early in the season, so although it was a bit chilly, we had the city to ourselves without all the other summer tourists.
The main attraction for us was, of course, the Avignon bridge – you know, from the song. But there were plenty of other great sights too, including the Palais des Papes, ramparts circling the medieval city, and some great museums and restaurants.
The Palais des papes is an ancient castle from the 1300s, where a series of popes held their seats after being chased out of Rome. It’s astonishingly large and basically falling apart after so many centuries of abuse and misuse – but that almost makes it more interesting, thinking about the extra years it spent in various forms, including army barracks. In fact, I just checked wikipedia, and it even says that the chateau has retained “a “work of destruction” aspect that French poets and writers have referred to over the centuries, with its powerful sense of beauty, simplicity, grandeur and immortality.” So there you go. Worth the visit.
So, then we made it to the Pont d’Avignon. Did you know that apparently they didn’t even dance or sing on the bridge? And if they did, it was under the bridge, not on the bridge? At least that’s what the bridge museum sign says. My entire childhood was ruined that day. But we broke this tradition and did both the hoe-down and a regular dance at the very edge of the bridge. Take that, history!
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
On y danse, On y danse
Sur le Pont d’Avignon
On y danse tous en rond
Just so you don’t think we spent the entire time looking at old buildings, here are some other (mis)adventures:
- We desperately wanted to take the “little train” tour around the city, but when we arrived at the designated spot and time, no little train showed up. We were all disappointed (mostly me). So we walked up the big “Rocher des Doms” anyway, to see a bit more of the city in the meantime. We wandered around there while we enjoyed the view around the landscape and the kids had swordfights with some sticks, because you know, that’s why we spend money to go on vacation. By the time we were on our way back down, the train was there! We ran and ran down the hill, and we caught it! And then it took us… back up the Rocher des Doms. Yay.
- Walking around town, we were all desperate for a snack. And by some miracle, there was a kiosk giving out free samples! Of chocolate bars, even better. The only catch? It was a slab of milk chocolate tucked into dry baguette, like a sandwich. It was so, so very dry. But it was free, so, Yay.
- Another day, we spent the afternoon in the Petit Palais art gallery, with a collection of famous renaissance paintings. That was really exceptional, that is until the kids set off the art alarms too many times by crossing the wall sensor barriers. So we left rather quickly.
- One evening we did our research and found a highly-rated restaurant nearby the hotel, so we headed over for dinner. Since it was the down season, we turned out to be the only patrons. The couple who ran the place were very friendly – some of the nicest people we’ve met on our travels. They gave us some great wine recommendations and cooked us regional specialties. They were even lovely with our kids, to the point of bantering with them like family friends. Such a nice dinner. That is, until the woman teased little J a bit about not getting her dessert because she didn’t clean her plate. So J threw a piece of bread at the woman. I swear to god, she just launched this bread crust across the table and smacked this poor lady right in the chest. It happened in slow motion, as I watched in equal parts horror, shame, and (no lies) a bit of pride, as this bread flew threw the air like in some food fight movie scene. I’ve never been so mortified in my life. J later said it was an accident, that she only meant to pretend to throw the bread, but I think that’s a bucket of lies. At least the lady was very kind about the whole thing and probably has kids of her own who sometimes throw bread at strangers. They still gave us some nice apératif drinks on the house, so that was a win I guess?
I think you should go. We recommend the chocolate sandwiches and bread crusts.