Historic Avignon followed a day of sightseeing in the Provençal countryside.
The morning was crisp and sunny — perfect for walking around the city of the Popes, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We briefly toured the historic centre and the massive square at the Palais des Papes, electing to visit it later in the day and continued along to Notre-Dame des Doms d’Avignon (Avignon Cathedral) and the delightful Rocher des Doms, a lovely park set at the highest point in Avignon.
The Rocher terrace offers fantastic views of the Rhône, Villeneuve Lez Avignon across the river and Mont Ventoux in the distance. The grounds are attractive, and we’re certain Avignonais come here to relax – we certainly would.
From the park, we wandered down the medieval stone walkways, turrents, and tunnels until we were outside of the old walled city and on the banks of the Rhône.
The commanding view of a distant fort we’d seen from the park drew us across the river. From the bridge, we had excellent vantage points of the famous Pont Saint-Bénezet (Avignon bridge).
Continuing across the Barthelasse island and over the second span, we set foot in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon and the village of Villeneuve Lez Avignon. We trekked along a busy road and narrow sidewalks in the general direction of the fort.
Passing a delightful small park, Jardin Pompidou, we arrived at the medieval Tour Philippe-le-Bel. Here we turned off the main road and up into the village streets.
The streetscape of pleasing architecture, vines, flowers and attractive facades delighted as we walked.
We ventured into the centre of the village and wandered around until we saw an inviting archway which drew us in.
The gate leads to La Chartreuse du Val de Bénédiction, a wonderfully preserved and impressive monastery dating to the middle ages. We found ourselves alone while touring through the quiet and austere surroundings; cloisters, chapel, prison, and herb garden and we imagined the simplicity and quiet life of the Carthusian monks who lived here.
On the hillside above La Chartreuse sits the medieval Fort Saint-André, a massive fortress built in the 14th century by the French King Philip IV “The Fair” for defensive reasons and as a symbol of royal power.
The guardian of the kingdom presented commanding views of Avignon to the east and Villeneuve to the south.
We left the fort and walked back to the village where we rested our tired feet in Place Jean Jaures at an outdoor cafe while enjoying some cheese, bread, and a bottle of local rosé. Re-energized, we set off for the walk back to Avignon, hoping to catch a bus that never came our way.
The sun was low in the sky, and the golden light lit up Avignon as we crossed the Daladier bridge back to Provence.
We never made it to the Popes’ Palace but had a lovely day of sightseeing through the ancient and intimate city streets of Villeneuve Lez Avignon. We’ll just have to visit Avignon encore.
Ginette & Gord