Leaving Marseille, you'll first drive to reach Avignon, a city rich in culture and art, spreading along the banks of the Rhone River. Avignon was a small but prosperous town when its destiny changed in the early 14th century with the exile of the Popes to France, leading to a century of brilliance. It is surrounded by ramparts and dominated by the Domes Rock, on which stand majestically the Cathedral and the Palace of the Popes. The Palace of the Popes was one of the largest buildings of its time. It was fortress and palace, covering over 2½ acres in a luxurious, sumptuously decorated maze of galleries, chambers, chapels and passages. Most of its original furnishings were lost or burned over centuries, but the rooms are still quite impressive. When you arrive in Avignon, walk through the narrow streets and you'll see the famous Pont d'Avignon, made famous by the eponymous children's song. Continue with a visit of the Palace of the Popes, followed by free time for lunch, shopping or some more exploration on your own. Then drive to the amazing eagle's nest village of Les Baux de Provence built on a rocky spur in the Alpilles range and offering great views of the country side and vineyards. In the village of les Baux de Provence, you'll see the gothic and Renaissance houses; the 12th century Church of St Vincent and the 17th century Chapel of the White Penitents. You'll also have some free time to walk along the narrow and winding streets lined with local artisans who display and sell their works.
Note: Tour involves walking for approximately 3 hours on uneven ground and cobblestone, with a few steps in Avignon and about 20 steps in Le Baux. Not recommended for guests who are wheelchair confined. Public restrooms are available at both Avignon and Les Baux. Please dress appropriately. No bare shoulders or shorts are allowed.
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Customer Reviews for Avignon, Palace Of The Popes & Le Baux De Provence
Review 1 for Avignon, Palace Of The Popes & Le Baux De Provence
The Fortess blends right into the rock at the top of this peak
Our guide (who‘s name I don’t recall because she did not wear a badge) was a nice looking middle aged French woman who spoke decent English. The bus was cool and comfortable; you can leave items on the bus if you wish.
The village of Avignon is charming. It is another of those walled medieval cities with the cobblestone streets. It’s not strictly tourist oriented and there are average French people working and shopping there, so you do get a feel for the local culture. The Palace of the Popes is basically a big castle that has been stripped inside. I guess the Pope lived there for a while, so it is considered a religious site. We followed the dress code and wore long pants and heavy shoes on a hot day, only to see that several other male tourists in shorts with open toed shoes were able to go in with no resistance. So the dress code wasn't strictly enforced (at least for men). Our guide took us room to room in the palace and gave us historical info that was interesting. Then we had time on our own in the village.
Le Baux (the "Eagle's Nest") is a village and fortress built at the top of a small mountain in a rugged area that looks a lot like Colorado. You are on your own for the afternoon. The village (which has some very steep and uneven streets) is still in use with various shops and eateries that are open for business. The fortress is partly in ruins. For an extra fee, you can go into the fortress area and explore it on your own with an English audiotour. They have reproductions of catapults and battering rams that are sometimes used in reenactments. If you opt for this part of the tour, then I would suggest that you get started right after arriving or you won’t have enough time to complete it. There are some breathtaking views from the top of the fortress: Mountans and vineyards that go on forever. If you don’t pay for the fortress tour, then you just end up just walking around the village for a couple of hours on your own…I suspect that it would get boring pretty quickly as it is small. It takes about 15 minutes to walk briskly around the entire village. My suggestion would be to go straight to the fortress display, complete the audiotour, and then grab a quick lunch in the village before the bus leaves. Note: You will need to give them an ID card in order to get an audiotour device. Le Baux was a very cool place to visit; I’d highly recommend it (especially if you are interested in medieval warfare).
Overall, I felt that we made very good use of our time onshore. I would not want to drive out to these places on my own since you would be cutting it close and running the risk of missing the ship. By the way, if you want to buy anything at any of these stops, I suggest you learn to speak and read some French phrases as you won’t hear or see much English.