For the longest time, I’d wanted to properly explore the Provence region of France.
I’m almost ashamed that it took so long in truth, and I have no real reason as to why I hadn’t been yet. I’d even been through it briefly and stayed nearby but never properly ‘done’ Provence.
For the longest time, I’d seen loads of pics online of the lavender fields, the vineyards and the gorgeous little hilltop towns.
They always looked so typically French, if that makes sense? You know, the kind of France that you see in quaint old films or romantic tales of a dashing man that falls in love the baker’s daughter… those kinda films! Anyway, you get the idea.
And you know what, Provence didn’t disappoint! Over four days, I explored some of the places I’d longed to explore and I planned to soak up as much of that French charm as possible.
That’s why an early morning flight to Montpellier was necessary, to make the most of the four days with the region of Vaucluse in Provence (who showed us some of the places I’d be itching to experience).
Now, I have a love/hate relationship with any flight that departs before 10 a.m. I know It makes me sound a little lazy, but it usually means I have to be at the airport 2 hours before the flight, a one-hour drive from Central London and enough time to swish my bed hair into some sort of acceptable shape.
Honestly, I can’t tell you how many times I’d arrived at an airport looking like a shabby dog due to me squeezing an extra few minutes of sleep.
Well, on this occasion, I knew an early morning flight would be pretty good, especially as it would give me a whole day in Avignon. Best of all, I think we actually arrived in the city just in time for lunch.
By this point, I was starving! I’d forgone my normal ‘breakfast Nandos’ at the airport (don’t judge until you try it) to save my appetite for some yummy French food.
That’s where the Grand Café Baretta came in. After a short stroll from the hotel, we popped right in.
Thankfully, we seemed to have just beat the lunchtime rush as it got much busier about 30 minutes after we arrived. At the rate at which my tummy was rumbling, I was just so glad our food was going to be the first on the griddles.
With a menu in hand, I resisted ordering everything on the menu and went for a cheese starter that came with a literal wheel of cheese. There are no prizes for guessing that this was devoured in a matter of minutes.
For the main, I opted for a rare steak with seasonal veggies.
Now, I want to say I skipped pudding as I was ‘being good’ (that old chestnut) but in reality, I scoffed it all before I even took a photo. It was one of those chocolate fondants that’s still warm and gooey when it arrives. My. Literal. Dream.
After filling my tummy, I decided to pop out and explore some of the Avignon. After all, It seemed like we were getting the last few spells of summer.
The sky was blue, it was that lovely warm but not too warm kind of afternoon that just seemed perfect. (I love it when it’s a little crisp).
With that, I left Place Saint-Didier and stumbled through some of the local craft stores and art studios (whilst, of course, getting lost a few times along that way).
Saying that, Avignon is a relatively small city which means you’re never truly lost for long.
After a little stroll through the ancient and twisty streets, I came across a local flea market (which honestly always gets me so excited – you just never know what treasures you might unearth at these places 😀 )!
I always have dreams of finding a Rembrandt or a Van Gogh and being one of those people on the news that paid two euros for a painting that’s worth millions.
Now, before this goes any further, let me just put your mind to rest… that certainly didn’t happen.
Nursing my lack of finding Rembrandt, I stumbled over to Musée Calvet and downed my sorrows with a swift little visit to Patisserie Vernet for a cheeky afternoon dessert. Yup, two puddings in one afternoon. I was living the dream!
Thankfully, all that sugar wasn’t in vain as I planned to spend the rest of the afternoon exploring some of the iconic spots in Avignon.
First stop was the Pont d’Avignon (or Avignon Bridge for us Brits). Now, there’s been a bridge on this site for almost 1,000 years.
Some were destroyed, others were made of wood and one, like the present, is still standing for us to see…
…albeit slightly less long than originally intended.
Nowadays, the bridge forms part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site and is a protected area of the city itself.
After a little wander across the bridge, I headed back to dry land to explore the former seat of the Catholic Pope(s) way back in the 14th Century – the Palais des Papes.
You see, this area was once part of the Papal States and not really France at all. This was the case up until the 18th Century – a fact, I had no clue about until arriving in Avignon.
Still, to this day, Palais des Papes is one of the most iconic and impressive medieval Gothic buildings that you can still go inside.
After wandering around the grounds and seeing the Grand Chapel, the Cour d’honneur (in layman’s terms – “the courtyard”) and the chambers inside, the sun began to set.
It had already been quite a long day, but I just couldn’t resist one last look at the city from the roof of Palais des Papes itself.
By now, my feet had that dull ache where you know you’d been exploring way more than usual but in truth, I didn’t care – especially from the views from the top. I think I visited at just the right time!
After watching the sun go down, I popped back to the hotel (which was literally a 3-4 minute walk away) to chill before dinner.
Dinner in itself was at Le 46 on rue de la Balance which serves up some yummy French Mediterranean cuisine that’s so good. Of course, I went for all 3 courses again… I just couldn’t resist!
For starters, it was prawns with a herby dressing, whilst for main, it was cured meat and freshly cooked pasta that totally hit the spot… especially so, after a long day traipsing around Avignon.
To call it a night, I nursed a delicious glass of white wine and finished the night off with a trio of desserts. Yup, I’d officially overeaten but I didn’t care.
And with that, I stumbled back to the hotel for a well-deserved sleep. It had been a long day, but totally worth it. I think I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow, which, in hindsight, was a good thing since I was raring to go for tomorrow’s adventure through Provence.