March 11, 2009

Europe In 30 Days - Avignon and Chateauneuf-du-Pape - Part 1

It's January 14th and the last day of our home exchange in Provence. Today is exceptionally chilly as the Mistral Winds had been blowing in the very early morning hours. But I say "Hey, what is a trip to Provence without experiencing the fierce Mistral Winds?" Lucky for us though the winds had died down by the time we were ready to head out to Avignon.

We spent most of our day in Avignon within the historic central area starting with the indoor market "Les Halles".

This was an amazing indoor market filled with vendors selling fresh fruits and vegetables,

along with meats and cheeses and fresh seafood.

Of course we couldn't leave here without some fresh pastries to start our day. We decide to head for "The Palace of the Popes" (Palais des Papes). This Palace was built during the Pontificates of three popes and took about 30 years to complete. The entire complex is actually made up of two buildings: the Old Palace, built between 1334 and 1342, and the New Palace, built between 1342 and 1352.
Across from the Palace on the Place du Palais was another impressive building, the 17th century Hotel de Monnaies (the old mint), with a facade of griffons, cherubs, eagles and swathes of fruit.

We then head just north of the Palace of the Popes to see (and of course take pictures) the Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms.

From here we have a fabulous view of Pont St Benezet, a bridge that does not go completely across the Rhone River. The bridge originally went all the way across the Rhone to Villeneuve-les-Avignon, but in 1668 the Rhone flooded and washed away a large part of the bridge, leaving only what we are looking at today.

We then follow a path leading up to the Rocher des Doms park and see a water feature, a sort of "grotto" and of course we must climb to the top. Afterwards we took a little break and sat and enjoyed the views over the Rhone river to Villeneuve and beyond.

It's time to start walking again so we head down in the direction of Pont St Benezet to get a closer look. From here we continue walking through the great cobblestone streets towards the area of the place de l'Horge, the city's imposing 19th century Hotel de Ville with its Gothic clock tower. We find a little cafe and decide to have a bite to eat. The cafe is more of a sandwich shop and we order some pannini's.

We have just about walked ourselves to death now and decide we should probably get to our next destination today before dark. As we are walking back to our car we see the funniest thing. This man walking down the street with his cat behind him....on a leash. I have never seen someone taking a cat for a walk on a leash before. However, I don't think the cat really wanted to go for a walk today.

Check back soon for Part 2 and read about what we did in Chateauneuf du Pape.

To see more pictures go to Wheres Debbie and click on the album "Avignon"

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