When we got to Avignon, we realized what we’d intended to be a pit stop had actually turned into an all-day stay. Hey, shit happens, things go wrong.
But what we thought was a massive mistake actually turned into a massive happy accident.
Avignon, as it turns out, is delightful.
1. It’s steeped in history
From the Pont Saint-Bénézet to the Papal Palace to each of its twisty, winding streets, Avignon is soaked in just as much history as any other big city in France.
For several hundred years, Avignon was a major seat of papal power in the Catholic world, even housing several popes, themselves, after Pope Clement V fled Rome. Relics of the Avignon Papacy – from exhibits within the palace, to cathedral spires, to mosaics in the city square – remain everywhere.
The Pont Saint-Bénézet was initially built in the 1100s and, through poor construction and war, only has four remaining arches. Perhaps the most interesting part about the bridge – other than its loveliness and the fact that it inspired the song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon” – is that its originator, Saint-Bénézet, is actually interred in the Saint Nicholas chapel, which is practically a pigeon haven, but still stands on the remaining portion of the bridge.
Boyfriend Perspective: From churches to opera houses and museums for each, the history here is quite thick. View theatre costumes of old on display in a museum, walk through the gardens for a view across the river, enjoy the plaza when local artisans setup their wares. There’s something for everyone.
2. Avignon is nothing if not scenic
Head out onto the “Pont d’Avignon” for lovely views of the river. Walk the walls of the city to get views of the surrounding area. And follow the old walls to the gardens above the city and behind the Papal Palace for for views of just about everything else. This is one of those cities where it’s hard to take a bad photo, you know?
Just be prepared to hike for some of these views, and bring bottled water if it’s warm out. You’ll be glad you did.
So, do it #forthegram?
3. It’s warm!
Speaking of “bring bottled water”…
Average temp even in February is a whopping 44F. And in summer, you’ll be roasting with the best of ’em. Despite the river, the breeze can leave something to be desired. Good news is, one of the best things to do in Avignon is find a beautiful cafe and take a nice, long sit-down. And if you need something else to do… there’s flower ice cream. Sure, you can find it various places in Europe. But, come on. It’s flower ice cream, and it’s delicious 😀
The toastier months are also the best months for lavender, so pack breathable separates and prepare yourself for sweat and beauty.
Boyfriend Perspective: Shade and seating were limited, and I can’t recommend water or the ice cream roses we found enough. We stopped more than once for the picturesque ice cream flower, plenty of flavors to mix and match. Most places also sell bottled water, but be careful – most have a strict minimum on debit/credit purchases.
4. Avignon is SO QUIET
When we hopped out of the Uber in the center of old Avignon, the first thing we both noticed was how quiet it was. Granted, it was early in the day on a weekend, but the Paris we had left a few hours earlier was already bustling at 7am. In fact, the first thing we heard was accordion music, floating over to us from a nearby pedestrian street.
Now, the folks we did see often ran more with the retirement crowd, so it’s not exactly Ibiza. But it’s picturesque in every way you expect a French city to be.
5. Basically, it’s the Paris you always wanted.
If these photos aren’t enough to convince you… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Boyfriend Perspective: This happened to turn into a very nice, albeit super sweaty (see us in pants!!), experience that could only have been better by planning to actually go here rather a stop on the road. We will have to go to the other side of the river next time…. and, you know, not get stuck here.
Enjoyed this story? Pin it for later!
Also published on Medium.