We had a great time in Avignon, but it wasn’t so much Avignon itself that we enjoyed, it was all the day trips we took from our campsite. We enjoyed a huge variety of activities in Avignon, some rich worldschool learning experiences as well as traditional sightseeing activities. Read about our visit to Pont du Gard and much more…
Pont du Gard
A visit to Pont du Gard wouldn’t be the top of everyone’s list for a site to visit in Provence, but for a person in the business of constructing roads and bridges, and a Roman obsessed 10 year old it is right up there! And actually it should be on your top 10 in the South of France list because it is an extraordinary site.
The Pont du Gard was built 2000 years ago and is the world’s tallest Roman bridge. Naturally it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sometimes L & S complain we are on a world tour of UNESCO World Heritage sites but this time they loved it. The surrounding scenery is interesting and although it was busy in the summer, a short walk, away from the bridge, took us up a hill with fantastic views back to the bridge, and not another visitor in sight.
In the summer it can be visited at night when it is lit up. We walked across the lower level taking our time to experience all the detail of the construction. Guided tours are available for the 3rd level.
Roman Museum at Pont du Gard
Although the acqueduct in aw inspiring, the Roman museum on site is worth visiting alone. Initially we entered this just for the chance to cool off a bit, out of the searing heat of the July sun. We ended up staying ages. First we watched a short film and visited the museum about the construction and engineering of an acqueduct. Then came the highlight of the museum, the children’s discovery area.
The children’s exhibition was focused on life in Roman times. We gave up trying to rush the kids through it to get to our next stop. It was such an excellent and interactive learning space. A Roman marketplace was set up with typical foods and traditional scales and money. Archaeology displays showed what pieces of the past can teach us about how people lived in Roman times. There was information on Roman schools, alphabets, burials, costumes, bathing and housing.
There are a number of ticket options available. The guided tour of the third level would have been a great addition. We thought the basic ticket at 8.50 Euro for adults and 6 Euro for children was excellent value for a mornings learning.
In Avignon town is the famous Pont D’Avginon
This bridge has a long history starting in the 12th Century with what historians believe was originally a wooden bridge. When this was destroyed in a siege the bridge was rebuilt in stone. It had to be repaired and rebuilt many times but repairs stopped in the 17th Century. The arches would collapse each time the Rhone flooded, making it rather an expensive bridge to maintain.
Originally made with 22 stone arches, just 4 arches and a gatehouse remain. I confess we weren’t in the best frame of mind when we visited this bridge, it was a ridiculously hot afternoon and there is no shade in the area apart from the chapel.
Although it has an interesting history and has been made famous by a song, in truth this is a medieval bridge that is no longer even a whole bridge.
We purchased tickets to walk across it but I felt like it was one of those places you visit because you think you are meant to. It was more interesting to view the bridge from the banks of the river. If you had to choose you’ll get a lot more out of visiting the Pont du Gard but the Pont d’Avignon can be a very quick visit if necessary.
A combined ticket can be purchased to visit the Palais des Papes, the Papal Palace and the Pont. We didn’t go inside but this 14th century palace certainly looked impressive from outside and is very significant in Christian history.
Aix En Provence
From our campsite in Avignon it was a little over an hour to the busy market town of Aix en Provence. This is the perfect spot to experience Provencal markets. The Aix-En-Provence tourism website has good information about what markets are on and when. We were there for the big market held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, but check the website for current info.
Delicious foods from around the region, cheeses, strawberries, lavender honey and soaps. Textiles, pottery, wood products, antiques and lots more are available.
Aix also had some excellent shopping. One of my favourite clothing stores when I’m in Spain or France is Desigual, for beautiful and colourful clothing, I picked up a new summer dress, perfect timing since I’d just had to say goodbye to a lovely silk dress that was worn out with washing and wearing. Also take the chance to visit L’occitane en Provence, because when in Provence… Their products are ethically sourced.
Visit the Lavender Fields of Provence
Read our blog post about visiting the lavender fields in the South of France.
Founded in around 35BC the Roman city of Orange has a number of significant Roman sites. The Theatre Antique is the best preserved stone theatre in the West of the Roman Empire.
In the town you can also see the remains of the Forum and a great temple. It is definitely worth visiting Orange to see the impressively huge theatre. We didn’t really have time to go inside for a tour, but we read a cheeky tip about climbing to the top of the hill behind the theatre where you can get excellent views into the theatre at no cost! One for the budget traveller!
From Orange you are conveniently situated to return to Avignon via the Chateauneuf du-pape wine region. It would be rude not to stop and try some wine…
Wine tasting in Chateauneuf-du-pape
We hadn’t booked ahead and didn’t want to go on long tours with the kids, so we looked for vineyards that welcomed visitors without appointments.
We started at Domaine de Beaurenard. The welcome started off friendly but then we were rushed through the tasting to make time for a tour group. We were able to do a self guided tour through some of their cellars and with some good timing we got to see the barrels being filled.
Next we headed to Vignobles Mayard. This is a family run estate, right in the heart of the village of Chateaneuf du Pape. Groups of less than 5 can visit for wine tasting without appointment. Tours to the cellar and larger groups need appointments. We arrived around the same time as a small group of American tourists. We did a tasting together and enjoyed a lively conversation along with delicious wines. Although just a complimentary tasting, the wine was served in beautiful glasses in a lovely setting. There was also a table with activities and colouring for children. It is unusual to feel quite so welcome in a winery with children.
We highly recommend a visit to Vignobles Mayard. If you are a serious wine taster you’ll no doubt have a list of places you want to visit in the Rhone region. If so I recommend some research in advance around opening times and appointments to ensure you aren’t disappointed.
Camping Avignon – Yelloh Village
In Avignon we were camping at another Yelloh Village site. The highlight of the kids club activities programme was pony rides. An early evening walk around the camping village on the most peaceful and placid of ponies. L & S had 2 turns each.
The French teenagers leading the activity were keen to practise their English on us. We notice people are often more comfortable talking to children when they are practising a foreign language. Children tend to be more patient, more forgiving and less judgemental of mistakes in pronunciation.
Near the campsite was the small village of Vedene, here they had a farmers market a couple of times a week.
If camping in Avignon is not your style Agoda has a good variety of accommodation for all budgets.
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