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Trip Report: Avignon/Villeneuve-lez-Avignon/Nimes

Trip Report: Avignon/Villeneuve-lez-Avignon/Nimes

Apr 9th, 2006, 11:28 AM
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Trip Report: Avignon/Villeneuve-lez-Avignon/Nimes

I arrived at Charles de Gaulle on Tuesday, the 28th. I was prepared for a strike (packed some trail mix in my suitcase just in case I got stranded at the airport/train station). Of course, as soon as you are prepared, the worst usually doesn’t transpire. It was a quick walk from my gate to the Gare. Just follow the signs. My train was on time, no hold-ups because of the strike. I was on my way to Avignon!

Now, I don’t sleep on the plane so I am usually pretty tired when I get where I’m going. Of course, I had an additional 2 ˝ hours to Avignon TGV and then the bus to the Central Post Office stop. I began walking up the rue de la Republique. I had a map to my hotel, Hotel de Blauvac, but, for the life of me I couldn’t find it. After walking around, I asked a woman at a realtor’s office where the rue de la Bancasse was, and she said, “tourner à droite”. After I went right, and walked around and around some more, I asked a policewoman. She said “tourner à droite.” Again, I went right, but couldn’t find it. I was getting frustrated making clockwise circles.

Finally, I asked a man behind the counter of a crêperie in “my” best French (not “the” best French) and he, in perfect American English, said he had no idea and didn’t speak French, but could try to help me in English. He got out a better map than I had and with heads together we started looking. I realized that I must have gone by the street a dozen times! Frankly, if I hadn’t been looking for the name of the street on the side of a building, I would have seen two signs for Hôtel de Blauvac. Moral of story: Read every sign when looking for something.

The weather was beautiful my entire stay in Avignon. I visited the Palais des Papes and le Pont Saint-Bénezet, but mostly just wandered the streets of the walled city, sat at sidewalk cafés drinking coffee or kir and living my version of the Provençale fine life. Avignon is crowded, but I was off-season, so it wasn’t terrible. There was a quiet, demonstration outside the Hôtel de Ville, but not disruptive or threatening. Just one more sample of French life!

Oh, I finally did get slammed about American politics -- the one thing that so many on this board are concerned about. A gentleman who began talking to me insisted that the last American Presidential election was corrupt and since I volunteer at the polls and work for government, he seemed to think it was my fault. Of course, he was an American from Cleveland, Ohio, so I didn’t give it much thought!

I’ll tell you more below…
cchottel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 11:32 AM
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The Hôtel de Blauvac:

The Hôtel de Blauvac was fine and very reasonable at 57€ (“Reasonable” is my middle name) – an old mansion on a small back, rather dingy street, although not unsafe. I would only complain about noise one night – Friday night some young party goers walking by in the middle of the night singing their favorite songs. The hotel was convenient (steps from the Place de l’Horlage so that I could easily run back to the hotel to shed my jacket or my purchases.) The mansion had lots of stairs and the room was very small even though my room had an additional loft bedroom. My bathroom had a long, deep tub. What a wonderful soak I was able to take after a long day! There are two very helpful desk clerks who bent over backwards to make my stay pleasant. David, who I discovered was not only helpful in getting me tickets to a Mozart concert but also spoke six languages. Certainly his English with such a slight French accent was perfect. I found out to my surprise the accent he was missing was his home grown Texan accent!

But you can’t sit around a hotel all day, there’s too much to see…
cchottel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 11:41 AM
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The Palais des Papes is huge, but pretty empty. Interesting audio tour, but requires a lot of imagination. The park, Rocher des Doms, behind the palais has breathtaking views. Don’t miss it! Has a playground if you have children. Beautiful views, fountain seating, a great place to relax after the palais. Of course, if you want to really relax, be sure to try a wine tasting at the Bouteillerie at the Palais. I learned a lot and enjoyed the wines I tasted.

The Pont Saint-Bénezet is really very lovely. You can get a discount at many other sites if you buy the combination Pont/Palais ticket. 11,50€ for the combination ticket.

I enjoyed Les Halles; but I always love central markets. I find the colors, the noise, and the smells invigorating and welcoming.

I hopped Bus 11 one afternoon to Villeneuve-lez-Avignon. I stopped at the tourist office and the woman there was very helpful. I asked for directions to the fort and off I went – or should I say “climbed”.

The walk up was very pretty and once there the Fort Saint André was very imposing! I bought my ticket for the Fort and again climbed and climbed. The tower prison was interesting with the graffiti and the view from the ramparts was beautiful. The entire grounds of the Fort were beautiful, but I still had the Abbey gardens.

I got my ticket for the garden and I couldn’t have been more impressed. The views from the terrace were breathtaking. Although it was early spring, I could imagine these gardens in full bloom. I sat and enjoyed the day and then would walk the paths to enjoy some more.

I never saw any other attractions at Villeneuve-lez-Avignon. I couldn’t bring myself to hurry through the Fort or the Abbey gardens.

I also took a day trip to Nîmes in the Languedoc Region. It was a lovely day, the train was fast, and I got to the city ready to explore.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of construction, both at the arena and at the Maison Carrée. You could enter the arena, however, and it was an extremely interesting audio tour. One could imagine the gladiators and the cheering crowds. Or the bullfights held today. The Maison Carrée was a beautiful sight from the front, but the rest was hidden pretty much with scaffolds, etc.

Wondering the streets in Nîmes was enough to keep me occupied as was sitting in the park and enjoying the beautiful weather. I could see why Nîmes was one of the original retirement communities (Roman soldiers from the Egyptian Wars retired to Nîmes, that is why the symbol of the sitting is a crocodile and palm tree). The weather was wonderful!

If you want to see some of what I saw in Avignon and my day trips, I have my pictures posted on Webshots. You can link at http://community.webshots.com/user/cchottel1

Well, my feet hurt and I can’t sightsee any more, beside, there is shopping to do…
cchottel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 11:42 AM
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Since Fodorites so often want to know what souvenirs we buy, here’s what I bought in Avignon: Lavender sachets (4 pack @ 3,50&euro for my friends. Fingertip towel/lavender soap combo for my daughter and daughter-in-law at 7,50€. A little doll/sachet for my friend’s granddaughter. For myself, a cigale magnet for my desk and enameled cigale pin (frankly Mimi, I didn’t understand the nom de plume until Avignon). A two-bottle sample of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines from the Palais bouteillerie, one each for my son and son-in-law less than 10€ each.

All that shopping has made me hungry…
cchottel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 11:44 AM
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I love the gardens. I was solo in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon for three weeks and felt I could have stayed forever.
cigalechanta is online now  
Apr 9th, 2006, 11:45 AM
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Lastly, where did I eat? Outside every chance I got! Piedpoie (crème brulée was very good). L’épecerie (try the entrée croustillant d’Asperges, oo-la-la). La Fourchette. (All of these restaurants were very good, but pricey).

I tried a restaurant I think was a chain called Maître Kanter and had the choucroute which I think is more from the Alsace/Lorrain region. A woman with her little dog were enjoying dinner next to me, but I must say this was not a case where the dog was better behaved than most children. The poor woman, just couldn’t feed that dog fast enough. When she finally gave up, the dog turned his boisterous personality toward a gentleman the waiter had seated with to share the table with the woman. Luckily he was indulgent! I even ate at a restaurant on the square called Verte Citron--was okay for what it was and reasonable (I know that restaurants on the touristy square are usually mediocre, and it was, but was convenient and close to the hotel after a long day).

I really enjoyed a café outside in the Place du Palais called In and Off (yes, not Out) for a salad and a great panini. I had a wonderful crêpe for lunch at L’Idylle du Palais.

I've certainly had enought to eat, besides I have to visit with cocoindijon tomorrow and with Georgiegirl who is visiting her. But that will be another report and photo album.
cchottel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 11:47 AM
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P.S. Loved the photos!!!
cigalechanta is online now  
Apr 9th, 2006, 11:54 AM
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Thank you, and I love the Cigales I bought!

Isn't the best part of traveling, not only seeing the beauty, but stopping to really enjoy it? I know most people in that same afternoon would have included the Tower and the Cloister, but I just couldn't bring myself to rush through St. Andres.
cchottel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 02:59 PM
Join Date: Jul 2003
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Enjoyed your photos and the info on the fort/abbey. We'll be there in June, and are looking forward to seeing these same sights in bloom.
gabriele is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 03:45 PM
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I envy you. I think Villeneuve-lez-Avignon will be wonderful in June. There is a rose garden within the Abbey garden that probably will be in bloom.

But then, you will be in Provence when the lavender is in bloom, too.
cchottel is offline  
Apr 9th, 2006, 05:58 PM
Join Date: Jul 2004
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"I always love central markets. I find the colors, the noise, and the smells invigorating and welcoming."

Perfect, just perfect. One of the best memories, isn't it?

Thanks for posting your report, cchottel.

AnselmAdorne is online now  
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