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What we enjoyed during a brief visit to Avignon, and the surrounding area of Provence and the Luberon Valley
Here's a synopsis of what we enjoyed during a brief visit to Avignon, and the surrounding area of Provence and the Luberon Valley. This was part of our 9th Anniversary trip to Paris and the Provence and Luberon region of France.
In the middle of our stay in Paris, we took a few days to pop down to Provence. We took the TGV (high-speed train), from Paris Gare de Lyon station - which was about 20-30 minutes by taxi, and almost the same by metro from our hotel just of Champs and Arc de Triomphe. This will deposit you directly in Avignon, and a very short taxi ride (mere minutes) from the center of town and old city. Very easy.
Some photos of Avignon, and towns of Fountain de Vaucluse, L'isle sur La Sorgue, Gordes (where we shopped the Wednesday market in the square), Roussillon, Bonnieux (with lunch there and wonderful views over the valley and towns like Lacoste), Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Paul-de-Mausole - incl the psychiatric asylum in nearby Saint-Remy-de-Provence where Vincent van Gogh painted the The Olive Trees, and Les-Baux-de-Provence.
So, why Avignon (aside from the charm and interest in the city itself)?
For site seeing in the region is is very well situated. Avignon served as our base from which driver took us to various sites in Provence and the Luberon Valley - e.g., Fountain de Vaucluse, L'isle sur La Sorgue, Gordes (where we shopped the Wednesday market in the square), Roussillon, Bonnieux (with lunch there and wonderful views over the valley and towns like Lacoste), Aix-en-Provence, Saint-Paul-de-Mausole - incl the psychiatric asylum in nearby Saint-Remy-de-Provence where Vincent van Gogh painted the The Olive Trees, Les-Baux-de-Provence (fortress town set atop a rocky outcrop, and other sites. All above can be done in a day if desired.
In Avignon proper, there is, of course, the Pope's Palace (Palais des Papes) and the Parc de Rochers des Doms beside the Palace for a beautiful view over Avignon and the Rhone River Valley. Nearby is the famous Pont d'Avignon - a partly ruined bridge built in the Middle Ages. It's a great site (picturesque, with ruins of a small chapel on it over the river), a great place to view Avignon and, some say (per the famous song), a dance on the bridge will bring good fortune. The center square, Place De L'Horloge, is beautiful, tree lined, with many cafe's along its boundaries - no cars are permitted. It is a great place to unwind at end of day, site outside and enjoy a meal and some wine. Lots of small shops as well off the square.
Beautiful little town, with an amazing river, fed from seemingly nowhere out of the rocks by one of the largest springs in the world. The river, as it passes though the town, under the small bridge, past the mill is the most amazing brilliant emerald green color. Just beautiful.
Beautiful "island city" with canals throughout.
Gordes is a quite famous ancient hilltop town overlooking the Luberon Valley. It is counted as one of "The Most Beautiful Villages in France", and is indeed really beautiful - both as seen from outside town and as you walk its streets (see pics). It's the epitome of the hilltop town - e.g., ancient, beautiful stone buildings cascading down the steep slops, castle in the center, dominating a view over the countryside, narrow cobblestone streets, etc. - that you hope to see when you visit the region.
We planned our arrival for Wed, when the town holds its market - and had great fun seeing, tasting and buying local meats, cheeses, preserves, lavender, etc. Parking was challenging - narrow streets, not many places to park, and crowded for market - so driver parked outside town and came back for us.
A great time and a very recommended, and beautiful, destination.
Roussillon is a strikingly beautiful town. It sits amongst canyon and forest, with the exposed earth being bright red/orange in color - and the town's colorful buildings taking on many of the same hues. As noted, striking.
Park in lot just outside town (for fee) and then take a short walk into the town - narrow, cobblestone streets, beautiful buildings, shops - no cars. Very cool, beautiful.
We loved Bonnieux for the town, yes, but espeialy for the wonderful panoromic view - over the town proper, across the fields and vineyards, the Calavon River valley - and towards the village of Lacoste. See our pics. Just beautiful.
We had lunch in a roadside cafe, Brasserie Les Terrasses - very good cafe food with an unbeatable view.
Ancient Roman Town and one time home to Cezanne. Lovely streets, plazas, building make for nice walks.
St. Paul de Mausolee, St-Remy-de-Provence, Bouches-du-Rhone
Vincent van Gogh was a (self-admitted) patient at this asylum in Saint-Remy, and he painted over 100 canvases of the asylum, grounds and surrounding area while there. These included very recognizable pieces "The Starry Night", "Irises", and "The OliveTrees" (one of at least 18 paintings of olive trees), and many others.
As you tour the site, you'll see placards - each has an illustration of one of his works, info on same, and is set at the approximate position from which the piece was originally painted - allowing you to see, to some extent, what he was seeing.
Beautiful, poignant and very interesting - especially if you've any interest in his work. Very recommended.
Nostradamus fountain. Nostradamus was born in Saint Remy de Provence.
The Romans built the Pont Julien. The bridge crosses the Calavon a few miles below the village of Bonnieux. If en route to Bonnieux, well worth a stop.
There is a vineyard, just before you hit Bonnieux called Chateau la Canorgue winery / vineyard. This is where Russel Crowe "One Good Year" movie about winemaking was filmed. Wines are quite nice, and can be shipped home.