Summer is here and the official French weather forecast predicts new heat records for the coming months. Still we are lucky to benefit from a particularly dry climate and a steady wind most often from the north (Mistral) using the Rhone valley as corridor and giving us the beautiful clear blue sky which is Provence’s trademark. Van Gogh came here for that reason.
Who is exploring Provence for the first time will probably find it useful to have a list of places to see in order of importance, and also suggestions where to eat in the best possible way.
Imagine to have only one full day to explore Provence, spending two nights in Avignon. The arrival and departure days should be dedicated to Avignon and Villeneuve on the other side of the Rhone river, the day in between to the surrounding areas.
The Popes Palace conveniently located just next door, and thus easy to reach right after breakfast for an early morning visit before the crowds.
The cathedral, Notre Dame des Doms, with its amazing blend of Baroque and Romanesque architecture inside and the splendid view from its doorsteps’ esplanade.
The beautiful public gardens of the Rocher des Doms some 30 meters above the Rhone river dominating the city and surrounding countryside with the famous Mont Ventoux in the distance.
A stroll through the medieval labyrinth of streets, narrow and winding, and along the elegant prospects of the 18th century for shopping.
Apart from the excellent dining opportunities offered by La Mirande, up-stairs and downstairs, I recommend the following restaurants in walking distance:
La Fourchette, (French for fork), is run by a branch of the Hiely family who have been restaurant owners in Avignon for many generations. La Fourchette is in business since …. and popular with locals and travelers alike. Closed on Saturdays and Sundays
Le 75, where Robert Brunel hosts his guests either in a range of Victorian reception rooms or outdoor in the large garden, well sheltered from the wind.
His cooking is no fuss, simple, authentic and Provençal. His menu offers
Saint Remy, epitome of the Provencal traditional and new lifestyle
Les Baux de Provence, the remains of a hilltop village from times when it was safer to live in places high up which you could defend from invaders, gangs of brigands and outcasts. In the etymological dispute about the origin of “Travailler” which means “to work” in French it is quite likely to derive from an ancient term meaning “travel to the valley” as in ancient times farmers left their hilltop villages in the early morning to transport themselves with their ox-cart down to the valley to work the fields.
Arles, undergoing a metamorphosis from the traditional Arles already relegated to the museums and the many landmarks of the Roman Empire, to a new kind of worldly urbanity. A gentrification is in progress with new residents from Paris and abroad creating a community of art lowers, as it is Maja Hoffmann’s pride to propel Arles to become the world capital of contemporary art. She is the heir of the Hoffmann Laroche, the third largest pharma company worldwide. Amongst her many investments in Arles where she spent her childhood holidays, most notable and visible from afar is the museum tower designed by Frank Gehry, scheduled to be inaugurated in 2018.
Oustau de Baumanière in Les Baux de Provence
Atelier de Jean-Luc Rabanel
4 Place de L’Amirande 84000 Avignon France
T. +33 (0)126.96.36.199.20 F. +33 (0)188.8.131.52.85