It was the first day of September which meant Summer time had come to an end. As we headed from the coast up and across into Provincial France the signs of Autumn were to be seen everywhere. Known for its endless lavender fields we had arrived just a couple weeks to late with all the fields stripped bare having been harvested for the season. Coming into the small town of Avignon was like entering a world of its own. Surrounded by its 14th century city walls, inside was exactly how I imagined a typical French town to be.
In the period of 1309-1378 Avignon became home to French pope Clement V. He was the first pope out of a following seven to give Rome the flick and reside under the influence of the French Crown in Avignon. Causing one of the biggest debacles in the Catholic Church of that time. To fix the problem a second pope was elected to serve at the same time but to be based in Rome. Causing even more conflict a third pope was then elected to join the other two in hope of creating more balance. It wasn't until Pope Gregory XI came into power that a pope of Avignon was no more, finally residing back in Rome.
The popes palace was an exquisite fortress to visit. It was splendid to be able to compare between both Rome and Avignon. Although the popes palace is not the worlds smallest country it was still an impressive kingdom being one of the largest medieval gothic buildings in all of Europe. The palace became a model for many architects who admired its tall heavy walls and impressive strength of its arches. The views from the very top of the palace were just as breath taking as the building itself, stretching out far and wide watching over the tiny picturesque village bellow.
All the locals in Avignon were so kind and helpful. One day we found a little juice bar stall run by an over enthused French man. After welcoming us into his store he went on to play a fruit and vegetable guessing game with us both showing us countless different types in hope of tricking us. Impressed we passed with flying colours the man began telling us a story about when he was younger how he was just like James. Pulling out and dusting off an old photo album he casually had just lying around he showed us a dark wild haired bearded picture of himself of when he was twenty-one. He almost toppled over when he found out James was also Twenty-one and in all his excitement began taking pictures of his picture and then pictures of James in comparison. It was the most hilarious juice stop we have ever had and definitely the most purest natural juice we have ever had.
On our last night we found ourselves nestled a few streets away in a little quirky french restaurant. With miss matched retro styled furnishings amongst a cluster of tiny tables. We opted to sit by the window under a display of pots, spoons and other random kitchen utensils hanging from the ceiling. The food was some of the absolute best we have had the entire trip, which is saying a lot after coming out from Italy. French onion soup, curried mussels, succulent steak and of course a great vegetarian option the menu suited us both good and well. Desert put the cherry on top of the cake, finishing with mouth watering frozen nougat and the most simple yet delicious pana cotta I've tasted. The French sure know how to perform when it comes to sweets. I had never left a restaurant so content in my life.
Avignon is the perfect slice of Provincial French life. It has just enough history to keep it interesting without making it another tired tourist roller coaster. Although I didn't have the opportunity to dance in its lavender fields it was still the perfect place to soak up pure French beauty.
The Wanderer's Daughter xx