Posted by: vlibrizzi | May 4, 2009

Six Days in Provence: Les Baux, St. Remy, Pont du Gard, and Avignon

Our second two days in Provence (Friday and Saturday) can pretty much be summed up by the phrase: marital compromise. 

Friday was C.’s day to explore a medieval chateau and visit the most famous Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard.

Saturday was my day. We spent the day in Avignon, visiting the Pope’s palace, walking through town, taking a mid-afternoon nap, sipping some rose at a wine bar, and then enjoying a lovely dinner in town. 

Not surprisingly, though, we both enjoyed each other’s day just as much (if not more) than our own day. Go figure.  

So first, Friday….

dsc_0275After having a huge omelette from Dominique as a send-off present, we sadly said goodbye to Aix. Armed with some tips from Dominique, we first visited the ancient town of Les Baux, which is perched high above the plane at the top of a mountain. Hundreds of years ago, this town was a thriving midieval city, equipped with an extremely well-fortified castle (it was carved into the rock, after all). But now there’s not much left to the castle ruins. Tourists must use their imaginations (with the help of their audioguides) to try to see what this castle must have been like.  But you can see and imagine enough to know how incredible it must have been.

After walking through the castle, and struggling through the famed Provencal winds called the Mistral (you know you have strong winds when you give them a name), we were famished, and drove to the closest town for lunch.

dsc_0281Luckily for us, the closest town was one of the most charming villages in all of Provence: St Remy-en-Provence. We enjoyed a lovely lunch at an outside brasserie and sipped on rose as we people-watched (the town was packed with tourists!). 

Then, after walking through St. Remy and snapping a few photos (evidence 1 to the left), we got back in Francois (our car) and drove to the Pont du Gard.

dsc_0287Now, I’ll be honest, I did not have high hopes for this site. I thought we would just drive down a road, see this huge Roman aqueduct, and then skedaddle down to Avignon (our next stop on the trip). Honestly, this stop was completely, and totally, for C’s enjoyment. 

 

dsc_0300But, once we arrived, I was very pleasantly surprised. We picked up an audioguide and walked through the forest, along a lovely river, and under, through, and on top of the Pont du Gard. We spent hours there, climbing up the hillsides and snapping photos. It was a wonderful way to spend an afternoon…and I think we were some of the last tourists to leave. 

Later on, we got back in our car and drove to Avignon where we checked into our hotel (which was very artsy, but fun) and had a lovely Vietnamese dinner (I know what you’re thinking…but it was a nice change of pace from all of the carb-heavy French food). 

dsc_0307The next morning, we woke up and the visited the Pope’s Palace. In 1309, a French pope (Pope Clement V) changed his residence from Rome to Avignon, France…and the Vatican remained in France for almost 100 years. 

Unlike the current Vatican in Rome, you are able to visit the many rooms of the palace in Avignon and see all the secret cubby holes where the pope’s jewels and secret documents were kept, his bedroom, and other meeting rooms. Unfortunately, the palace is empty on the inside, so just like at Les Baux, tourists have to use their audioguides to paint for them a picture of what this palace must have once looked like. 

dsc_0317After visiting the palace we grabbed a shwarma sandwich (very French!) and picnicked in the main square of town. We then climbed the stairs by the Pope’s Palace to visit the Parc des Rochers des Doms (photo to the left), a small park perched above the town of Avignon that affords amazing views of the countryside, as well as a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of Avignon city (and tourist!) life. 

dsc_03191Then, after struggling not to fall over with the very strong Mistral winds about to blow us over (see my hair in the photo to the left), we climbed down the mountain and visited the famous St. Benezet Bridge, or as most people know it, the Pont d’Avignon. 

As you can see in the photo below, the bridge is not completed. It was actually damaged so many times by floods that the townsfolk finally decided not to rebuild it, and just left it incomplete. Crossing the bridge itself was a such safety hazard (many pilgrims and even two of the pope’s officers fell off the bridge when it was icy and windy), that I could understand why the townsfolk never rebuilt it.

dsc_0314The bridge is now quite a famous tourist site, not only because of the fact that it stops in the middle of the river, but also for the famous children’s song, Sur le pont d’Avignon, which we sang as we walked (or struggled to walk against the strong winds) on the bridge. For those of you who don’t know the song, I typed it below (mostly because I wanted to sing it as I typed…it is VERY catchy!)

dsc_0322Sur le pont d’Avignon

On y danse

On y danse

Sur le pont d’Avignon

On y danse tous en rond

Later in the afternoon, after a brief siesta (remember, this was my day!), we went to a small wine bar called La Cave Breyesse and enjoyed watching the local water wheel as we sipped on our rose and white wines. 

Then, we went to dinner at a lovely restaurant which we highly recommend called L’Isle Sonnante, a one-room bistrot with a very small menu and only the freshest local ingredients…my kind of place.

We finished our evening in Avignon by going to a small cafe where two blues guitarists were playing. We listened to their music, sipped on some more wine, and thought about how hard it would be to leave this charming city the next day. 

But, we got up the courage to leave the next morning, only because we were heading to, in our opinion, an even better place…the Luberon.

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Responses

  1. Loved the pictures and descriptions of your Provence trip. The weather looked beautiful, and I loved the outsie of Cezanne’s studio.
    Great trip!!
    Linda


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