A few days ago we came back from a camping trip in France, near Avignon. Even though the choice for this area was mainly based on the weather, we quickly came to love this region, called Vaucluse. It offers many colorful towns and beautiful landscapes predominated by vineyards.
We only stayed for a week (oh, how I wish we had more days off…) so we did not have the chance to explore the whole region. Still, we visited plenty of cool towns, sights and restaurants to be able to make some recommendations.
We visited Avignon several times during our vacation (tip: park for free at the P+R!). The famous Pope’s Palace is huge and dominates this city. Do pay it a visit, but get there early to beat the crowds. Next to the palace is a beautiful park, located on a hill. It is a bit of a climb, but the views are gorgeous and there’s a restaurant to reward yourself with a cold drink or icecream.
Avignon is a lovely city, with such a great atmosphere. We enjoyed ourselves just walking around here, pausing for some ice cream or crêpes. There’s also a covered market, called “Les Halles”, offering lots of local products and snacks. We bought some muffins and brownies at one of the stands, and then enjoyed them in the park near the palace, in the sunshine. No better way to spend an afternoon 🙂
Be aware that in July, a big arts & theatre festival takes place in Avignon. I have been there and enjoyed it, but the city does get very busy and accommodation will likely be expensive and hard to find.
Our camping was located in Chateauneuf-du-Pape, famous for it’s excellent wines. The town is very small, with the ruins in the middle of the city being the main attraction. You could complete your visit to Chateauneuf in 1 or 2 hours. However, if you’re interested in wine you can probably spend a full day here: there’s a wine cellar on every corner. Seriously: you could be tasting (and buying) wine all day.
We visited the wine museum, which is free of charge and very informative. Moreover, a wine tasting after the museum visit is included. You get to taste some of Maison Brotte’s wines, the owner of the museum and winery. We were surprised to be offered 6 different wines during the tasting. Afterwards – of course – you can buy the wines in the museum shop, and most people do so. As did we. Maybe slightly influenced by the level of alchol in our blood at that point, we bought our most expensive bottle of wine yet ;
The main attraction of this reasonably small town is it’s Roman theatre. We visited the theatre and liked it, but for us the highlight of Orange was the city center itself. It has many nice squares, colorful buildings and lovely restaurants. We had lunch at La Crémaillère, on the square right next to the Roman theatre (prime location!) and only paid 11 euros for a glass of wine and a delicious omelette, served with fries and salad. Seriously, that omelette was amazing. Every day after our visit we considered driving back to Orange just to eat another one.
We followed a walking tour through Pernes-les-Fontaines, a town with 40 fountains. The route can be picked up for free at the tourist information office. To be honest, we lost our interest for the fountains after having seen the first 3 fountains, that looked exactly alike. Nevertheless, the town itself was very charming so we did complete the tour.
On the tour map, there was also some explanation about points of interest along the route. This way we learned that the weather vane on top of the Ferrande tower depicts a cat, chasing a mouse. Apparently, the locals even have a saying about it: “as high as the cat of Pernes” (I’m not sure in what context this saying is used). We would have never noticed this vane ourselves.
On this visit, we had an outstanding lunch at Côté Jardin restaurant. During our tour around town, we heard lots of voices on the other side of a wall. We discovered a wonderful courtyard, where a restaurant was situated. It was lunchtime so we tried one of the salads on the menu. My boyfriend had a salad with goat cheese, and I tried a Nicoise-like salad. The salads were great: just look at the picture below for proof! Oh, and did I mention that mine was served with thyme-flavored icecream? 🙂
Chances are we will return to this region in France for another camping trip. Have you been here, and do you have some additional recommendations that I should know about for our next trip?