Avignon – Thanksgiving Week Abroad

View from the rear of the flat

View from the flat

I promised you some photos from our trip to Avignon in Provence and here they are!  Too short a trip as always but that’s ok, because it just means we’ll have to go back. Over the past few years we’ve discovered traveling internationally over the Thanksgiving holiday/early December can be quite reasonable and enjoyable. Yeah, the weather may be a little drizzly and damp depending where you go (in Europe at least), but since it’s the off-season you don’t have to fight the crowds of tourists. And you save a little money too since you’re not paying high-season prices. Having gone to Paris a couple of years ago we we decided to go back to France but to a different region: Provence. We ended up in Avignon because it has a good central location and isn’t too long a drive from Geneva where we flew into. We were not disappointed!

If you know a little bit of European history you may recall Avignon was once the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. Short and simple version: in the 1300’s the Papacy moved there because a French pope didn’t want to go to Rome. Since the region of Provence around Avignon was part of the Papal States he decided to stay there and build a palace.

avignon-papes-palace

Note the lack of tourists!

It’s a pretty big palace but supposedly only took 20 years to build. The Church stayed only about 70 years in Avignon before returning to Rome for good. If you’ve read The Divine Comedy you know Dante didn’t quite like the Avignon popes, meting out some special punishments for them in the Inferno.

Although the Papal Palace is the main attraction in Avignon, it’s still a regular city where people live and it has a pretty awesome market: Les Halles Avignon. It’s one of those markets I wish we had in our neighborhood. Everything is all under one roof. Bread, fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, wine. And not just one stall, there were a few for each so you had good choices. We did all of our Thanksgiving dinner shopping in about 30 minutes. Another bonus of being abroad.  No turkey, but France being France, there was plenty of duck around which was a fine substitute.

As we were walking around by the Papal Palace we noticed workers setting up a big market hall tent for the weekend. Avignon was having a Weekend Gastronomique! Luckily for us, it began on Friday at lunch time so we’d be able to check it out. It was a market promoting food, wine, and products from all over France, not just Provence. We couldn’t resist lunch from the truffle stall offering up scrambled eggs, cheese, and salad.

The old city isn’t that big so it’s very easy to just start walking around and explore little side streets. Lots of little shops and great restaurants in the more residential areas far away from the palace. I know there’s at least one Michelin starred restaurant in the city and although we thought about trying it out, ended up staying in our neighborhood, which had really good dining. Ate really well on this trip and I can’t wait to go back and spend more time exploring Provence.

 

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