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Nov 2019 - Avignon: Once seat of the Pope

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

It was time to slowly start heading north back to The Netherlands. Winter was setting in and I had some mild concerns about not having winter tyres on the car (illegal in some countries but not France) so planned to be back in Maastricht on my birthday, 1 December.

Avignon was the first stop for 3 nights, about 3hrs drive from Menton. The Airbnb was a roomy apartment, large house really, within the old walls of the city. On that note, I can't believe the quality of the Airbnb's so far in every single place, and for very modest prices (off-season). That has been an eye-opener.

Avignon - a rich history

Avignon is so packed with history I don't know where to start really:

  • Occupied since the Neolithic.

  • The name Avignon dates back to the 6th century BC, and either means "violent wind" or "lord the river". Wind is a major thing here, with 120-160 days a year blowing at average 90km/h in gusts!

  • In the 14th century the city was chosen as the seat of the Papacy instead of Rome, becoming at the time the capital of Christianity. In all, 7 popes and 2 anti-popes resided at Avignon.

  • Black death wiped out two-thirds of the population in 1348.

  • Built in the 13th century, Avignon is home to the world's largest medieval Gothic palace, both a castle and palace used by the Popes. The King of France built a castle on the opposite bank of the river to keep an eye on the popes in their palace.

The highlight here was undoubtedly the Palais des Papes, which you toured using an iPad. In each room the iPad would create a virtual view of how it looked back in the day, complete with animated characters and sounds. Really cool. Hidden in each room were gold coins and finding them all promised a prize we're yet to receive by email!

The UNESCO Palais des Papes

A day trip from Avignon was to the UNESCO listed highest Roman aqueduct ever built and very well preserved. It has three sets of arches on top of each other at 50m high and the aqueduct has a gradient of 1cm change every 18,241cm.... those Roman engineers... what the!

Roman engineering.... 1st century AD

That same day trip took in the town of Uzes, where because it was freezing cold in the wind, we basically hid inside a cafe and ate a combination of raw seafood (really bad choice) and ragout.

Uzes - was not warm

Next stop: Annecy.

Sums up the weather!
Ancient door to Palais des Papes
1,000 year old olive tree near Pont du Gard

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