France can be a pretty magical place. Between the food and wine, the cobblestoned streets, the sidewalk cafés, the overflowing local markets and the historic sites, you can spend months getting lost in tiny towns and sprawling cities. Provence is one of those regions you can settle into and soak in for weeks. Avignon is a city known for its famous bridge and Papal Palace, and it’s a great starting point for a Provençal adventure.
Avignon is the perfect place to wander down tiny alleyways in search of mediterranean-influenced Provençal cuisine. The capital, Aix-en-Provence – known for its many fountains and the author Victor Hugo – is only a one-hour train ride away. Even closer are the world-famous wine region of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the ancient Roman bridge Pont du Gard, and the provincial town of Orange. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Palais des Papes (Pope’s Palace) – this was the papal residence during the 14th-century. This building is massive and offers self-guided tours throughout. It became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995 – photo by Rachel W.
A view of the fortress/palace from the bridge Saint Benézet, commonly called Pont d’Avignon, made famous by the French children’s song “Sur le pont d’Avignon.” A walk across the bridge is worth it to stand out over the river and watch all the adult tourists sing and dance in circles like kids – photo by Rachel W.
Pont du Gard- a stunningly well-preserved ancient Roman aqueduct crossing the Gardon River. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the bridge was built in the 1st century AD and is the highest of all Roman aqueduct bridges – photo by Rachel W.
The rocky vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape in spring. The area is hot and dry with a rocky soil – perfect for wine-making, photo by Rachel W.
The vines a bit fuller in late summer. Châteauneuf-du-Pape permits thirteen different grape varietals include Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre for reds and Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Roussanne for whites, photo by Rachel W.
While the papacy was in avignon, the popes contributed vastly to the production and promotion of wine in the southern Rhône region. Originally the wine in this region was known as “Vin du Pape” but Pope John XXII built the famous castle seen in this photo and the name was changed to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, photo by Rachel W.