Avignon in Provence lures visitors year round and especially in the summer when the sun is shining and the fields around are filled with lavender and sunflowers. Local expert and tour guide Emily Durand shares her top tips for taking a stress-free visit taking in away-from-the-bustle secret spots, fabulous foodie places, seeing this lovely city like a local.
There is something about standing at the comptoir with a double expresso in a typically French coffee cup, starting the day with the locals in the early morning when the indoor gourmet market in Avignon is just starting. It’s a cultural experience guaranteed.
After sipping and enjoying your expresso with un peu de crème meander the market with your camera and capture the extraordinary colors and textures and soak up the ambience. It’s always good to end your visit at the Boulangerie Violette with a delicious pastry such as Fougasse d’Aigues Mortes. It’s a brioche type bread with orange flower and a sugar crust on the top. For me, this airy egg-type bread seems lighter in my stomach than a French croissant – but that could very well just be in my mind.
Outside Les Halles, the lovely indoor covered market you’ll find a flea market on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s just the right size to browse and discover a treasure to take home, with an array of collector items and Provencal ambience. And, with cafés surrounding the square, it’s relaxing to visit here and take a break in the shade.
From here it’s a pleasant stroll to the back of the Popes Palace which is a great photo pop en route to the Pont d’Avignon. Extensive research was done for the reconstruction of the bridge in 3D. Now, when you visit the bridge you can use a digital tablet to learn interactively about the changes over time with the Rhone River and the construction and falling down of the bridge. I highly recommend visiting the Pont d’Avginon this way. It’s 2€ to use the tablet but there is no comparison with the free audio guide that has no visual to it (I had people looking over my shoulder if that convinces you). And, it’s only 5€ for the bridge entrance fee.
The Pont d’Avignon is also a nice spot if you need a restroom and a break. That might sound funny but the best day tours are planned with that in mind.
Enjoy your Fougasse d’Aigues Mortes and watch the 3D reconstruction of the bridge and then walk on to the medieval ramparts and the picturesque Place Crillon. It’s a great way to spend a morning or afternoon walking tour in this lovely town, but if you’d like to cycle there is an electric bike rental shop along the rampart wall and of course you can get a bit further by bike. You could cross the river to the island La Barthelasse for a picture of the Pont d’Avignon with the backdrop of the Popes Palaces and Rocher des Doms (the rocky hill that looks out over the Rhone River inhabited since the Neolithic times – a 5 minute walk up from the Popes Palace). There’s also a distillery on the island that makes pear brandy which makes for a great souvenir to take home and share a little bit of Provence with your friends.
Emily Durand knows all the best places in Provence – you can find her at Your Private Provence.