Meet Robin, the resident Tom cat of Les Jardines de Baracane (our home for the past few days). He is in cat heaven. He lives in a walled garden, with no predators, lush greenery to nap and hide in…the warm, Provençal sun to bask in, birds and insects to chase, guests who miss their pets and want to pet him…food at his disposal…he is living the life. His cat life is a metaphor for how we are all feeling right now…we want for nothing. This part of France has it all.
We spent the morning noshing on the lovely breakfast laid out for us…croissants, Pain au Chocolat, fresh fruit, juices, baguettes, coffee…and then we lounged by the pool, with the warm sun, soothing breezes and chirping birds lulling us into total relaxation.
For the morning, we walked around town and decided that we would go to Les Halles (the fresh market) and pick up food for a picnic along the Rhone River. The market had something for everyone…there were fresh meats, seafood, produce, sweets, breads, spices, olives, wines…pretty much anything you can imagine. For our picnic, we chose a basil spread, a tuna salad, a white fish spread, huge olive-sized capers, grilled calamari, spicy shrimp, fresh bread, a few meats, desserts, and of course some rose de Provence.
Our picturesque picnic view was of old Avignon…the walled city with the Papal Palace on the hill and the Pont St. Benezet (the famous bridge that ends half way over the river) crossing the Rhone. Very little of this view has changed over the past centuries.
After our little picnic we took a free ferry ride back across the river and climbed up 4,000 steps up a hill to tour the Cathedrale Notre Dame des Doms located beside the Papal Palace.
Quite honestly, I couldn’t find much about the Cathedral to share with you, and the on-site signage was all in French, but I do know that the Cathedral was built in the 12th century, the bell tower and the nave being the first to be constructed.
After leaving the Cathedral, we decided to do some sight seeing in town…visit a few museums, stop in a few churches, and maybe get some creme glacee (ice cream) to cool off (there is an ice cream shop on every corner). The sun and skies were beautiful, but the temperatures were in the high 90’s and it heats up in the sun very quickly! Luckily, in Provence, there is also always a warm, Mediterranean breeze to temper the situation.
Along the walk today, I was particularly drawn to the character of Avignon…with the elegant light stone townhouses with the characteristic shutters (often painted blue) and the vine-covered facades.
I was also interested in the figures above many of the doorways. This architectural feature has lasted for centuries. It can be seen in New York City’s early 20th century buildings, both the uptown & upscale ones, as well as on the most humble tenement houses downtown.
Two of the museums that we toured today were former private hotels (townhouses) for aristocratic families from the 17th & 18th century. One of the museums, the Musee Calvet, was built in 1738 by Joseph-Ignace de Villeneuve-Martignan. Today, the museum has more than 28,000 items divided into domains such as archaeology, painting, sculpture, as well artifacts from Egypt, Asia and Africa.
To end the day, the proprietors of our townhouse had organized a private concert for guests of the inn, as well as for their own friends. Wine and hors d’œuvres were served and the concert took place in the garden around the pool.
Unfortunately, the concert was supposed to start at 7:30, but it didn’t begin until almost 9. We were starving and as sophisticated as she is for an 8 year old, this was beyond Lena’s threshold for being well-behaved. We were all acting a bit silly in anticipation.
There were at least 50 guests, and the concert could best be described as beautiful, somewhat melancholy, east meets west, Islamic singing with a twist of artsy classical music played on steel drums behind a sheik, oversized plastic windmill. How does that description do? Do you get the vibe?
After about 45 minutes of the lovely but lulling music…and because it was close to 10 PM, we decided to leave the concert and head into town for a late dinner. Our last evening in Avignon was very nice and a very late one! Tomorrow, after breakfast, we pick up our rental car and move on to the next phase of our adventure.