We left behind us Germany crossing the French border and keeping driving southwards to exit as soon as possible from the ‘-0°C‘ zone. We managed to arrive to Avignon, with only one intermediate stop though not without adventure. Impressed by the ‘papal glamour’ of the city, and encouraged by the more human-friendly temperature, we stayed there for almost a week!
We decided to pass by Colmar but not to stop since we have visited the area in the past. In addition it was covered in snow! Our plan was to continue without taking highways until Besancon where we would like to follow the Rhone river to the coast.
But we didn’t calculate the ice factor! Shortly after Belfort we found ourselves driving on roads with a layer of at least 5 cm of ice… It was clear that it would be difficult to control the camper and to avoid lurching, nevertheless we decided to risk it and to drive at a walking pace the one kilometer and a half remaining to reach the highway, hoping that at least there they didn’t neglect the cleaning of the streets. Fortunately (and miraculously!) we did it avoiding any damage to our vehicle. Perhaps someone should explain to the French the use of salt! ;)
We stop for the night in Bourg En Bresse, a cute town with a beautiful monastery, Brou, in front of which there is a car parking where larger motorhomes can park too [46.19849,5.23716]. We instead preferred to spend the night in the parking lot behind the hotel Ibis [46.20076,5.23953], ‘offering’ free wi-fi!
After one more sub zero night, we departed right after breakfast to arrive in the evening in Avignon. The first view of the city left us speechless!
We found a very convenient parking close to the campsite, on the opposite side of the river, with beautiful view to Avignon, just 400 meters from the city walls [43.95154,4.79887].
The campsite is open all year round and it has various offers for campers, including the possibility of making only camper service for 3.50€. As they advertise they give 200 liters of water!! We wondered who on earth would ever need so much water in one supply…
The city is unsurprisingly beautiful. We enjoyed getting lost in the maze of tiny alleys, admiring the architecture and observing the daily life; it was very pleasant to see that the city center is almost undamaged by the tourist activity. The covered market, Les Halles, seems more like a courtyard with delicatessen stalls than a daily food market.
The downtown supermarkets however were very basic and quite expensive. It is better to stop in the suburban shopping malls to stock up before you arrive.
There are plenty free public WCs in different parts of the city. The tourist office offers free wi–fi, a city map and lots of other information.
The streets were full of young people, walking, hanging around, having fun. The contrast with Germany was striking: after so long time we were seeing people being relaxed, happy, open, polite! On the other hand, almost every corner of the main street, rue de la République, was occupied by beggars – too many for such a small town …
We visited the Palace of the Popes, a symbol of one of the many outrageous moments of the Catholic Church and although it is a nice way to spend a couple of hours it is not as impressive as I expected it seeing from outside. The entrance fee is 11 € (13.50 € when combined with the bridge). However, is it possible to come to Avignon and not visit it?
Above one of the few painted rooms, where it is forbidden to take pictures, but I realized it later, the damage was done😉
Below, one of the most interesting parts of the building, the shop at the exit! The location is marvelous and furthermore they sell some interesting local products such as a variety of infusions of mixed herbs, according to the preferences of each pope … Cute!
After the visit to the palace of the Popes, we continued to the bridge that made Avignon famous through the very popular folk song Sur le pont d’Avignon, on y danse, on y danse... The entrance costs 5 € (if you don’t combine it with the palace ticket). It is equally interesting if you see it from the opposite bank.
A visit to the Palais de Roure is highly recommended: it is for free and, apart from the opportunity to wander through the rooms of a noble mansion, you can learn the fascinating story of Marquis Folco de Baroncelli-Javon, a writer and farmer who ‘invented’ the charm of Camargue and of his friend and owner of the house Jeanne de Flandreysy.
It is open from Tuesday to Saturday. On Tuesday and Saturday at 11.00 they organize guided tours with access to a larger number of rooms. In this case the cost is of 4.60 € per person.
In the picture top right, the inscription says: “You who enter here, have a thought for Jeanne de Flandreysy–Esperandieu that …” It is a very nice idea seen in other places of Avignon too. A good way to remember their ancestors
We then visited the lapidary (entry 2€) which collects various exhibits from different historical periods, reminding us of the long and varied history of this area of Provence.
Our last visit before leaving Avignon was at the Calvet museum formed from private collections. It is hosted in a very nice building and it is a bit of everything kind of museum, from ancient Egypt to modern art. An hour very well spent. The admission there is 6€ (7€ if combined to Lapidary).
In conclusion: Avignon is definitely a place that we would recommend without second thoughts. Just stay away from Jean le Gourmand creperie!!! These were the worst crepes we’ve ever tasted!.