After a few whirlwind days in Paris we were ready for the next city in our Europe trip, Avignon. I chose this city because of the fairy-tale like architecture and it wasn’t overly populated with tourists. To get there we had to take the train, which was the fastest and most affordable, but a holy nightmare when you’re lugging two giant bags and have to quickly scramble off and onto your next connecting train. We managed to make it and the train ride itself was quite enjoyable. I spent most of it just staring out of the window watching these beautiful French farmhouses whirl past us at 200 mph.
When we arrived in Avignon we hoofed it about 15 minutes from the train station to our AirBnb. The streets were cobblestone and the sidewalks were pretty narrow so it was another comical endeavor. Although not comical to us at the time at all. Your entire arm starts to feel like it’s going to be torn from the shoulder after pulling 50lbs of weight on tiny wheels across cobblestones and up and down curbs. We were sweaty, cranky, and hangry. We navigated to the AirBnb, got the keys out of the lock-box, and then opened the door to be met with a very narrow and steep spiral staircase. After some trouble with the skeleton key we finally got the door open to our little studio apartment.
The building dated back to the 18th century and one of the things I loved was seeing where parts of the plaster had been scraped away, revealing the original stone of the structure. The bathroom window opened up to a narrow alleyway with laundry strung across and scooters cruising through every so often. Just like in Paris, the first thing I did was check out the balcony. I opened the huge French doors and looked out to the square below that hosted an array of shops, crêperies, pâtisseries, and a view of the back of the Saint Pierre Basilica, which made all that heavy luggage and sweating worth it. I left the doors open, flopped down on the bed, and sent texts off to family letting them know we arrived safely.
After a bit of relaxing I opened up my luggage to retrieve a “souvenir” from Paris. Our last night there we had picked up some wine and only drank a glass and a half from it. I had corked it and packed it away in my things, silently praying it didn’t explode or leak all over my clothes during one of our train changes. Much to my relief, the bottle didn’t leak a drop, and I poured us a few glasses to celebrate the next part of our trip. This became the beginning of a tradition we referred to as “Suitcase Wine” and it was always much needed after our train experiences.
We looked up a dinner spot that didn’t open until 7 and since it was only late afternoon, we decided to wander around a bit to kill time. We checked out all the shops, found markets that we could grocery shop at the next day, and then wandered back to a bar we had seen on the way that had a big ROGUE sign posted. Rogue is one of my favorite Oregon breweries and I was surprised to find it all the way in Avignon, France.
After a couple beers we walked to our dinner spot, L’Epicerie, but found that the doors were locked. The windows were darkly tinted making it impossible to see in and the tables outside of the restaurant were completely empty, giving the appearance that they were closed for the night. We were about to give up and find another spot, but then I remembered reading a review online for the place that said they had to ring a bell to be let into the restaurant. I thought it was odd when I read it, but then spotted the bell and gave it a rang. Sure enough, the door opened and we were greeted by a smiling waitress who sat us at one of the small tables inside. The restaurant which appeared to be quite big from the front ended up being just a cozy, darkly lit room, decorated with antiques and vintage signs, with seating for maybe 25 people tops. I felt like we had been let into this secret exclusive dining club which just added to the ambiance even more. It was one of the best meals and dining experiences of our entire trip.
The next day we went down to the pâtisserie below our apartment for croissants and coffee. The owner was incredibly sweet and had a pet cat that slept in a box in one of the potted bushes next to the tables, which made me fall in love with the place even more. I told Chris that her life was my goal after retirement! She also would play with my hair while telling me things in French that I couldn’t understand. I didn’t mind at all and secretly hoped she would adopt me as her grand daughter or something. A girl can dream, right? After we finished up we decided to do a little sight seeing.
Our first stop was walking through Rocher des Doms, a hilltop park with panoramic views of the city and the Rhône River. It was so incredibly windy which resulted in some hilarious photos and I thanked my lucky stars for not choosing a dress that day!
We also walked out on the Pont d’Avignon, a bridge that was built in 1234, but ultimately abandoned in the 17th century because the river would flood and destroy most of it. Apparently they got tired of fixing it so they cut their losses and left just this small section.
After that was the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). Even if you’re not the least bit religious, it’s still hard to deny the beauty of the statues and architecture there. We found a spot on the steps to people watch for a bit before wandering back toward the apartment.
We stopped off at a tiny market for dinner ingredients and more wine (had to get more for the suitcase of course). I managed to cook us a fairly decent meal in our little kitchenette which we decided to enjoy on our balcony. It was the perfect way to end our stay in Avignon.
The next morning we had another round of croissants and coffee at the pâtisserie, said au revoir to the owner and her sweet little cat, and headed to the train station for our next destination along the Mediterranean..
Check back in a few weeks when I share our next destination in France before heading into Italy!