Tour Avignon the best way – gourmet food, away from the noise, in the secret spots and with time to soak it all in…
There is something about standing at the comptoir with a double expresso in a french looking coffee cup and starting the day with the locals. It was early morning and the indoor gourmet market in Avignon was just starting. It’s quite amusing to watch the French start their day at the market stand. If you ever go early to a market don’t forget to observe – a cultural experience guaranteed.
After sipping and enjoying my expresso with un peu de crème I meandered the market with my camera to capture the colors and textures. It was barely 10am and the merchants still seemed busy setting up, preparing food and finishing up their own café.
I ended my photoshoot at the Boulangerie Violette and bought my favorite pastry Fougasse d’Aigues Mortes. It’s a brioche type bread with orange flower and a sugar crust on the top. For me, this airy egg-type bread seems lighter in my stomach than a French croissant – but that could very well just be in my mind :-).
Outside Les Halles market on Tuesdays and Thursdays is a flea market. It’s just the right size with an array of collector items and Provencal ambience with the cafés surrounding the square. The sun hadn’t quite gained its daytime intensity so the walk thru the merchant stands didn’t feel rushed nor burdensome (as it often does when it’s just too darn hot on the asphalt streets).
I continued my stroll towards the back side of the Popes Palace where I began my photoshoot entitled « Looking up at the Popes Palace » – which is pretty much what you have to do unless you visit inside or walk up to the Rocher des Domes. I often find myself getting on my knees to take pictures as the angle looking up brings life to pictures. However, with the Popes Palace, not even tall people like myself have to get down on their knees.
My next stop was the Pont d’Avignon. Extensive research was done for the reconstruction of the bridge in 3D. Now, when you visit the bridge you can use a digital tablet to learn interactively about the changes over time with the Rhone River and the construction and falling down of the bridge. I highly recommend visiting the Pont d’Avginon this way. It’s 2€ to use the tablet but there is no comparison with the free audioguide that has no visual to it (I had people looking over my shoulder if that convinces you). And, it’s only 5€ for the bridge entrance fee.
The Pont d’Avignon is also a nice spot if you need a restroom and a break. That might sound funny but the best day tours are planned with that in mind – you know after so long you will need a restroom and a quiet place to sit to reenergize. When you are not familiar with a town it can become stressful to find the place when you need the place.
After using les toilettes I sat down at a table with my Fougasse d’Aigues Mortes and my tablet to watch the 3D reconstruction of the bridge while munching on my favorite pastry. I find touring a monument more enjoyable with all the information already in mind rather than trying to see the architectural beauty whilst trying to learn all about it. Rested and reenergized, I walked up, down, over and through (well in the St Benezet Chapel) the Pont d’Avignon with the 3D reconstruction in my imagination.
From the bridge I lined the medieval rampart wall towards Place de Crillon and circled back to Les Halles market where I had parked my car. It was a perfect 3 hour tour of Avignon.
Along the rempart wall from the bridge to Place Crillon is an electric bike rental shop (South Spirit Bike) – well worth knowing about. I highly recommend touring Avignon and the surroundings by bike. Getting on a bike opens up the senses to discover beauty that you don’t get by foot. It makes you feel young again too and who doesn’t want to feel young again. Here’s the link to the bike shop with great bikes and great itineraries (both guided and self-guided).
By this time my clients had finished their cooking lesson at Les Halles and we decided to drive across the river to the island La Barthelasse for a picture of the Pont d’Avignon with the backdrop of the Popes Palaces and Rocher des Domes. Since we were on the island I told them about the island distillery that makes pear brandy, La Distillery Manguin. They were immediately interested and are already excited to host their French party with aperitifs from the distillery upon return to Toronto.