Where to Stay
Just about every famous Frenchman, including Napoleon Bonaparte, Victor Hugo, and Jacques Chirac, not to mention many other famous international personalities, have stayed in the Hotel d’Europe
over the years. Quintessentially French and very luxurious, you’ll need to be just as minted if you want to stay there. For a cheaper, but no less elegant, alternative to the Europe, try the Hotel Cloitre St Louis
on Rue de Portail Boquier. The name of the hotel originates from the impressive 16th-century cloister, which also doubles as a very elegant dining room. If you’re looking for a budget option, then the Daniele Hotel is well located at the centre of the town, has friendly staff and is very comfortable.
What to See
A walled city, bordered on two sides by the Rhône, Avignon is often known as the “City of Popes,” due to the fact that the region came under papal possession in 1309, making the region self-governing. In fact, the papal seat actually moved from Rome to Avignon for the period from 1309 to 1377. The city is scattered with structures dating from that era, most notably, Avignon’s most imposing structure – the Palais des Papes
. This huge building incorporates the world’s largest gothic edifice and is even grander than the town’s main cathedral, Notre Dame des Doms, a Romanesque creation of the 12th century. Although this is worth visiting to see the mausoleum of Pope John XXII. At the end of the square overlooked by the Palais des Papes you’ll come across the Musée du Petit Palais with its collection of renaissance paintings. Elsewhere, the Calvet Museum is named after the physician, Esprit Calvet and contains a vast collection of paintings and other works of art.
Eating out in Avignon
Le Vernet – On rue Joseph Vernet, you’ll find an elegant 18th century townhouse refashioned into a restaurant with a menu that’s short and traditional. Try the sea bass with fennel and aubergine. Bar Hotel de Ville – In Place de l’Horloge, this hotel has a good restaurant offering a very straightforward menu, with dishes such as salade nicoise, steak and frites, and chocolate mousse. Restaurant l’Orangerie – A few minutes walk from Bar Hotel du Ville is Restaurant l’Orangerie
, a quiet little place offering French and Corsican cuisine. The courtyard makes a very pleasant eating area in spring and summer. If you’re celebrating a special occasion, visit the Michelin-starred Vieille Fontaine at Hotel d’Europe. Alternatively, La Mirande on Place de la Mirande offers food of a similar quality, courtesy of chef Daniel Hébet, a former student of Alain Ducasse. The pig trotters stuffed with celery and truffles come highly recommended. It too has a high-end hotel attached, if you’re credit card hasn’t exploded at this point!