Avignon – The Palais & The Pont

A delicious homecooked breakfast awaited us on the terrace of our gorgeous B&B along with this view! After five hectic days in the Côte dAzur, the thought of lingering in this beautiful terrace was very,very tempting. But our time here was limited and we had to reluctantly admit that we needed more time to master the Provencal art of doing nothing.

View from Terrace

My pride in my ability to escape crowds was severely tested outside the massive building adjacent to the  Cathedrale Notre Dame des Doms, that was once the bishop’s residence and where the first of the Avignon popes – Pope Clement V – set up residence in 1309. Occupying an area of 2.6 hectares the Palais des Papes is the largest Gothic palace in all of Europe, and seven Popes reigned over the Christian world from here, for over a hundred years until the return of the Papal seat to Rome in 1417.

Palais des Papes

The interiors are missing most of their lavish ornamentation so lovingly commissioned by Pope Clement VI and executed by Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti, but the sheer scale of this enormous palace was worth the struggle with the audio guide, which kept redirecting me back to the entrance before sputtering off.

We ditched the plan to climb up to the Rocher des Doms – the garden overlooking the Rhone – because of the press of tourists ahead of us, and decided to explore the narrow streets behind the Palais instead, ending at the ramparts surrounding the city. Rue des Teinturiers with its ancient water wheels was particularly atmospheric.

Across the road from the ramparts was the abandoned Pont St Benezit, made famous by the French nursery rhyme ” Sur le pont d’Avignon, L’on y danse, l’on y danse…….” This was once the only fixed river crossing between Lyon and the Mediterranean sea!

We hopped on to a ferry and crossed the river for a panoramic view of the palais and the pont.Avignon Bridge, Avignon.It was peaceful here with just the odd jogger and a few discerning tourists. We hung around till dusk waiting for the coachloads to leave town and then returned to our beautiful B&B on a quiet street, just minutes from the Palais. Later we walked to a sensational Moroccan restaurant, recommended by our hostess, well away from the touristy cafes around the main squares. A lesson well learnt after a pricey, greasy pizza the night before.

The Place de L’Horloge was buzzing with activity even at that late hour and it became a daily ritual for the duration of our stay, to linger in the square after dinner and watch the locals congregate with their families. And another, to stop at the Amorino outlet on the walk back ‘home’ for my daily gelato fix.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on instagram.com/theurgetowander

58 thoughts on “Avignon – The Palais & The Pont

  1. When I learned French seven years ago one of the things I remember the most from the book is that rhyme, “Sur le pont d’Avignon, L’on y danse, l’on y danse”. But I didn’t know that Avignon is the place where Europe’s largest Gothic palace is located. Very impressive!

    1. Avignon is impressive Bama, but the crowds eclipse the charm a bit. It is a great base to access more charming villages, especially if you don’t want to drive yourself. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. What a beautiful selection of travel images, the palaces (inside and out) are stunning, but I really love the Avgnon street art, the juxtaposition of people walking past the artworks of people looking out the window is wonderful.

    It makes me want to travel again.

  3. It’s like as if I was also there, mesmerized by the beautiful visions before me. Such a rich culture filled with priceless Art and history. Beautiful images . Unforgettable!

  4. I last visited Paris in 2008 – thank you for the memories Madhu. I went alone – a stopover after a biz trip. I plan to return with my wife – in our bucket list for 2014. Luv and hugz, Eric

    1. This is further South Eric. Worth the detour, but make sure you have enough time. Provence cannot be hurried 🙂

    1. Have a great time wherever you decide to go Katt 🙂 Appreciate the visit and comment.

  5. Lovely to see Avignon, Madhu. The street art, and the beautiful photo of ‘le pont’ taken from the ferry, are my favourites.

    1. Mine too. That place across the river was a haven from the crowds in the center of town. Thanks AD

  6. hello Madhu,
    I often sang with children the song of the Bridge of Avignon
    ” Sur le pont d’Avignon, L’on y danse, l’on y danse…….”
    – but never saw photos before!

  7. I love your photos. It seems like a really nice place to visit and so many points of interest for me to widdle on. I’ll see if my mom can walk me there later.

    1. Oh you would love this place Bones! Did you check out my dogwalkers in the ‘Fleeting Momen’ challenge?

  8. Great shots – a lovely area full of atmosphere and history – I’m visiting that area 2-3 times a year. love it… 😉

    1. Thanks Ledrakenoir. I dream of living somewhere in Europe for a couple of years and travelling around at leisure. Let me go buy a lottery ticket 🙂

  9. We stayed in the smallest hotel room in the whole world in Avignon several years ago. The bathroom was ridiculous, but we loved the city and would go back any day.

    1. If I returned I would stay in Aix and drive around myself. Hiring a car and driver to explore the surrounding villages is a bit impractical. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Debra

  10. Another place I would love to go, along with Carcassone. In some ways it’s a shame so many people travel now, Madhu. It must get ever harder to escape the crowds at a place like this. Lovely hunting out those quieter spots, though.
    Must check out this challenge.

    1. My thoughts exactly Jo, however selfish that may sound 🙂 Large crowds detract from the experience and we are usually in a hurry to get away.
      I have decided to use Frizz’s challenge to help me choose my destination.

  11. Such history…and so beautiful today…despite the price paid in our yesterdays….

    Lovely photographs, Madhu…what a treasure to be there. Thank you.

  12. seems like a great place to go touring!added to my list of “Places To Go To Before Turning 50”!:P
    great photography too!

    1. You are welcome Amy. I would love to return and explore some smaller villages like your Limeuil 🙂

  13. Dear Madhu, what a great series of photos–I have never been to the south of France, and would love to go one day. You paint a very pretty picture and tell a great story. Bea went on a tour of Europe with her Art History class last summer and got soaked n the river beneath the bridge. She raved about the place, and now I have visual images to go with her stories too.

  14. My daughter wants to tour a palace when we visit France next year. These beautiful photos certainly convinced me that this’d be a good place to go. Thank you for sharing.

    1. She might be disappointed if she is looking for lavish interiors Judy. But the grandeur of the architecture is something to be appreciated. Thanks for dropping by.

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