I read that Avignon is a small town so I was planning to do a day trip to Aix-en-Provence as well. However the train was booked up so after I went to the tourist office, I decided to book an afternoon tour of Provence instead!
In the hours before the tour, I visited the main sights in Avignon, including Palais Des Papes and Pont Saint-Benezet. The Pope Palace is a large palace that 7 popes came to from the Vatican during the Babylonian Captivity. It is quite the building and has held up over time, even after a fire. There are some beautiful painted rooms, large halls and courtyards. The view from the terrace is nice too.
Pont d'Avignon is, to put it bluntly, half a bridge. Going half way across the Rhone river, it was built by St Benezet, who said angels told him to build a bridge to Avignon. It features 2 chapels, including one that claims miracles happen there. Flooding (and bad construction) caused it's collapse. Avignon has a well preserved 13th century wall surrounding it, as well as 3 or 4 nice churches, including one next to the Palais with a golden statue at the top.
The tour I went on is called Les Baux de Province and Luberon. Les Baux is an amazing town that overlooks the Alpilles mountains. Its landscape is amazing, including huge rocks of limestone. The quarry where they got the stone to build Palais Des Papes is here. There is a chateau or chateau ruins, depending on perspective, at the top of this cute town. I had 40 minutes and did the tour of the chateau/fortress anyway. The theme of the site is medieval times, with workers dressing kids up in medieval garb and dancing with them to flute-y medieval music. Really cute. Ribbons, flags and all. They also had a catapult set up and did shows every once and a while. The ruins were scattered with pictures of what it used to look like, which helped. It was really high with some uh interesting 'steps,' but I got to the top! Great view of surrounding farms and the limestone beyond the town. I wish I had time for the audio tour, but those tend to be long winded anyway lol.
Our tour guide said the towns were built so high up because Provence was often fought over and they needed the protection.
Next it was the perched village of Gordes. Driving throughout Provence, there were olive trees, fruit trees, lavender ( not yet in bloom) and bulls (being raised for bull fights sigh). Really picturesque and had me craving cherries and apricots! We even passed (too fast for pics :( ) a 1st century roman archway in St Remy. Anyway, Gordes. The best part was the view of the town from across the valley. Gordes is popular with the rich. Apparently they buy 2 houses and convert them into 1 big house. There's also a fancy spa there.
Finally we went to the ochre town of Roussillon. The soil, cliffs and buildings were all either red or pink. My favourite part was the colourful cliffs. Apparently there's a walking path to go onto the ochre cliffs but they were closed before I found out about them. On the way back to Avignon we stopped at another town in the Alpilles valley with a beautiful natural river running through it and castle ruins high up on a rock, overlooking the town.
I enjoyed Provence- it seems to have amazing wine and landscapes.
Off to the French Riviera!! I'm staring at the ocean right now. Gorgeous! Cliffs, mansions, yachts, crystal clear water..
I love my life :)
Wish you all were here.