We have a few weeks before our next guests arrive, and decided to do some more extensive poking about in the region. We looked at a map and decided that Avignon would be a good place to stay for a couple of nights and explore. We’d been there with friends, very briefly, more than ten years ago, but it felt like it had been a mad dash, and we wanted to just park the car, stay in a hotel for a couple of nights, and get to know the town a little.
We found a little hotel, well-located, and highly recommended by Trip Advisor and Rick Steves, and pretty inexpensive. We were able to make reservations by phone, even though the booking.com website said that they didn’t have space available. The hotel is on a pedestrian street, so we’d have to park the car in a public garage and then walk to the hotel. Not a problem, and glad to have the car out of the way! It turns out that we really got lucky, as the hotel proprieters take 4 months off during the “low” season every year, and they’d just come back after that leave in time for our trip!
Avignon is about two hours away, and the weather was supposed to be sunny and warm, so we took a picnic lunch with us to eat enroute. You know, baguette, cheese, charcouterie, fruit…how bad can that be??? In fact, it was wonderful – we stopped enroute at one of the rest areas with lots of picnic tables and great views, and had a nice picnic. Not quite as warm as we’d have liked, but getting there…
We easily found the parking garage in Avignon, and also the hotel – a small (12 room) affair owned by a lovely couple who just can’t do enough for you. Very warm, welcoming, and helpful. And the place is spotless! No elevator – so we were quite happy to be installed on the first floor (one floor up, in Europe). Very nice room, everything painted in bright colors, and lots of posters on the walls from art exhibits, plays, and operas, mostly from Poland and Greece. Interesting…Anyway, we were very satisfied.
Roy was feeling a bit under the weather, and it had been getting worse, not better, so with the weekend coming, we decided that it might be prudent to try to see a doctor. We asked our hostess at the hotel, and she told us that her English-speaking doctor wasn’t available on Friday afternoons. So we decided to try at the Tourist Information Office, just a few steps from the hotel.
The very helpful person at the TI made a couple of phone calls, and found us a doctor just down the street. She warned us that he had a two hour wait – but we decided that it still would be prudent to go and check it out. Here’s the building he’s in – not really inspiring confidence!
The door with the posted notice...
As it turned out, after someone showed us how to get in the door, and we took the elevator up to the first floor to the doctor’s office, it was fine. A little dingy, but fine. And the waiting room wasn’t nearly as crowded as we’d feared! No receptionist, nothing to sign, just a room with moulded plastic chairs.
After about 45 minutes, the doctor, who’d been poking his head out for the next patient each time, poked his head out again, and it was our turn! The doctor was a lovely guy, and Roy was able to give him the history, etc., both in general and of the specific complaints of the moment. There was no paperwork to fill out – although he did require Roy’s first and last name for his records and the prescription. After listening and asking questions for about 15 minutes, he took Roy into the examining room. When they came out, he had the diagnosis: colitis caused (probably) by a virus. He wrote a couple of prescriptions, and chatted a bit more, and sent us on our way. €30 ($39)!
We then went next door to a pharmacy to have the prescriptions filled. We gave the prescriptions to the young lady behind the counter, she scanned them into something, and we paid her €8.50 ($10). She then turned around and took the prescriptions out of a dumb waiter and handed them to us. This all took about 5 minutes, if that. This darned old socialized medecine…inefficient, can’t get in to see a doctor, long waiting times…
Anyway, with that out of the way, we decided to walk around a bit and also to look ahead to dinner. We had three recommendations from our hotel, promising not to be “touristy”, so we decided to check them out. It was as good an excuse as any to take a walk and have some direction!
The weather was warm and lovely, and the sidewalk cafés were humming! We easily found the two closer restaurants (so far, we’d not left more than about a three block area for the TI, the doctor, pharmacy, and the restaurants!), wrote down the phone numbers, and kept going. Walked up to the clock tower, and around the other side of the main drag, and had a lovely stroll. Here’s the clock tower and some other photos:
A charming little courtyard restaurant
We seem to find these chocolate shops everywhere, now that we've visited the factory
We ended our walk by sitting at one of the outdoor cafés around the corner of our hotel and having a coffee – just a lovely, warm day, and a lovely way to while away the rest of the afternoon!
Dinner was awesome! The little restaurant, Fou de Fafa, (don’t ask me…) is owned by British expats! We only figured this out after about 30 minutes of speaking French, and me translating for Roy! Who was fooling whom?! Anyway, the wife/hostess/waiter was wonderful, helpful, and fun, and we had delicious food for a very reasonable price. My kind of meal!! We headed home, hoping the medicine would kick in and that Roy would feel better in the morning.
The next morning I wanted to play “tour guide.” In Rick Steves’ guide book is a “backstreets Avignon” walking tour on which I’d made notes. Fortunately, Roy was feeling slightly better, so after our delicious breakfast (heavily inspired by the Greek influence of our hosts’ off-season home), we set off.
It was a glorious morning, and, although this was Saturday, since it was relatively early, we pretty much had the town to ourselves! Just the way we like it!! We started at the Pope’s Palace (which we’d toured on our last trip to Avignon, so we just admired the exterior this day), and worked our way back to our hotel. It was wonderful! Lots of twisty little cobbled streets that passed under archways and ended up in little squares. Beautiful buildings. And the organ grinder on his way to his gig:
The organ grinder
But I think the highlight was the MARKET!! Avignon’s open market was enclosed in 1970, and it is huge! It’s a mish-mash of every kind of delicious food you can imagine getting in France, and every ingredient to make it as well!! Here are some shots of the spices on display:
"Salt for red meat"
A tantalizing array!
Anyway, the “tour” was a great success, and we thoroughly enjoyed being out in the beautiful sunshine on the lovely day in Avignon!
After lunch, Roy took a nap while I found a perfect spot in the square across from the hotel to sit and read. It’s so nice to be able to be outside really enjoying the weather now – the chill is gone, babe! It’s just warm lovely sunshine from here!
I gave Roy a couple of hours to nap, then we walked to the Miranda hotel for their “high tea” service. We were the only ones in the place! But they spooled it up for us, and we each had a pot of tea and three lovely samples of their pastry skills: a slice of poppyseed cake (and I mean poppyseed – the thing was practically black with them!) that was kind of nutty, a slice of a kiwi tart, which had both kiwis and pineapples, and was on a crust of buttery goodness, and a slice of lemon meringue pie (need I say more?)!!!!!
We waddled out of there to the square near the hotel, where we kind of half passed out while doing some people-watching. And we were having dinner in three hours!!
Dinner was unremarkable, perhaps because we were both so stuffed from the “tea.” In any case, food was definitely beside the point at that juncture. We dutifully ate something and fell into bed!
On our way out the next day, our host thanked us for staying, helped me a bit with my French grammar, and we said our goodbyes. What a lovely couple, and what a wonderful town! Definitely a place to revisit!!