8 days in France & Spain – part 2

As we turned inland from the French Riviera the landscape changed to old farm houses and fields of grapevines and olive trees – our first taste of Provence. We stopped briefly in Aix-en-Provence which I found very charming. The whole town seemed to be roofed with sycamore/plane trees – very pretty. Lynley and I enjoyed strolling through the market there and found some nice locally made soaps to buy. We had our first introduction here to the ‘Mistral’ which is a very strong dry wind that characterises winter and spring in Provence.

We reached Avignon in the evening and looped around the outside of the city before parking and walking in through the city gates. What makes Avignon unique is the solid castle-style walls which encircle the city – very cool. Lynley showed us the very sweet little building where she lives, complete with green wooden door and shutters and we then walked into the center for a quick dinner.

We spent the next day in Avignon. We saw the university where Lynley studies and assists and we also toured the school where she teaches English. We then browsed through a lovely indoor market and picked out bread, olives, cheese and strawberries for lunch. I would love to have so much variety of fresh, cheap, local food in Dublin! We took our purchases to the Popes Palace gardens and relaxed in the sun there with our picnic.

After lunch we went into the Palais des Papes. The Palace was the temporary residence of the Popes in the 1300’s and features many grand halls and rooms. The palace is mostly empty and unadorned these days but must have once been very ornate and overwhelming. After leaving the Palace we took a free ferry across the river for a nice view back to the city walls, the Palace and the Pont d’Avignon. After visiting Avignon its easy for me to see why Lynley loves it there so much!

On Wednesday we drove out from Avignon to Arles and the Camargue. In Arles we saw Roman ruins including the remains of an amphitheatre and other buildings. From Arles we headed down to the Camargue which is a different landscape to the rest of Provence. The area is flat and marshy with flamingos and other birds as well as distinctive black bulls and white horses. At the bottom of the Camargue we stopped at Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and spent the afternoon at the beach. We enjoyed the sandy beach, went swimming and tolerated the wind which quickly covered everything in copious amounts of sand. The afternoon was topped off with icecreams and a big punnet of strawberries by the beach. Yum!

On the drive back to Avignon we also stopped in at Les Baux which is a very small medieval village nestled high in the rocky hillside. It was very sweet and had gorgeous views out over the area. We ate dinner in St-Remy which is another charming small village in Provence. Back in Avignon we said goodbye to Lynley. It was fun to holiday with her and I’m looking forward to showing her around Dublin later in June when she comes to see us 🙂

The photos from this leg of the journey are available under the Provence tag in our gallery.

Thursday we left Avignon early and drove south west to visit Carcassonne before catching our train to Barcelona…