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After spending such an incredible day in one medieval French town, Leslie and I were pretty excited to visit another. So it was that we boarded a train early the next morning, bound for lovely Avignon.
One of the oft-overlooked sensory elements of travel is sounds, which is why I am grateful that Leslie was so good at thinking to record things on her phone. We loved the little jingle that would play before announcements on PA system at French train stations, and lucky for everyone, Leslie managed to capture it. I’ve since made it into the text notification ringtone on my phone so that I’m instantly transported back to France every time someone texts me.
Hear it for yourself below:
We couldn’t check into our rental apartment until 2 and we knew they weren’t going to let us into any museums with our enormous backpacks, so we decided to sit down for a real meal.
At an Irish Pub.
In a French train terminal.
Now, having only recently had real Irish food, it’s pretty safe to say that we were experts. And this Irish food was not very good. In fact, the only thing in the entire restaurant that was even remotely Irish was a black and white photo of a group of Jameson Distillery workers.
After lunch, we wandered the streets of the more modern part of the city for a while, and did a little people-watching from a square by the city gates with some fun water fountains. I didn’t take many pictures because modern cities really aren’t really my style, but it was fun to see the contrast.
Leslie: I really liked the feel of the city, with both the ancient portion like Carcassonne and the bustling, more modern section.
While we wandered about, we happened to meet two LDS Missionaries from the US. It was fun to talk to someone who speaks English for a little bit, and when we asked them what they recommended we see while we were in the city, they eagerly recommended the Palais des Papes. It was on our list anyways, so we knew it had to be good.
Le Palais des Papes, or Palace of the Popes, was the official papal residence in the 14th century before the papacy returned to Rome. Constructed primarily by Popes Benedict Cumberbatch VII and Clement VI, the palace is the largest Gothic building built during the Middle Ages and one of the largest in Europe in general. As befitting the powerful joint religious and political role of the Popes during the time, the building feels like it was designed to make the average person feel small and insignificant. You could easily stack a couple of 747s under the vaulted ceilings of some of the great halls—with room to spare.
Everything was enormous. Even the fireplaces and chimneys.
While it wasn’t furnished for the time period, they did have lots of artifacts. Trouble was, many of the signs were only in French and we hadn’t paid the extra €2 for the audio guide, so I don’t know what a lot of the artifacts were. They were still fun to look at, though, and I definitely tried (and failed) to puzzle out what the signs said with my limited knowledge of latin-based languages.
My favorite part was (surprisingly) going up on the roof, where we had fantastic views of Avignon, the Rhône, Avignon Cathedral, and Fort Saint-André across the river. Overall, the palace was nice, but I think Leslie and I both preferred the castle and ramparts at Carcassonne.
- Palais des Papes
- <a href="#" target="_blank" rel="nofollow">Official Site</a>
- Price: Adults €11
- (2.5 / 5)Our Rating
Before heading back to our rental apartment, we bought some rose-shaped sorbet and enjoyed our tasty treat as we wandered around the older parts of Avignon for a bit. I loved seeing the architecture, art, and cafes. Avignon is a lovely little city, but as Leslie put it…
Leslie: Having just come from Carcassonne, I would have preferred having two small towns more spread out rather than right in a row, because I like the change of pace they provide from big cities.
Still, if you’re looking for a small city to explore with a good mix of historical sites and modern conveniences (*cough* shopping) Avignon might be a perfect fit for you.
Read more about my adventure with Leslie here.
 “Go figure.”