Although Provence is full of charming little towns and villages to leisurely peruse, there are also some larger cities which are worth a visit: Avignon and Aix-en-Provence.
The Bridge to No Where: Avignon
The historic center of Avignon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is definitely worth a visit. It is home to the Palais des Papes, which is the biggest gothic palace in the world.
It housed seven different popes in the 1300s, who were tired of the growing corruption in Rome and chose to relocate to Avignon. They built an impressive palace, garden and church, all perched on top of a hill overlooking the Rhône river.
The popes also built a bridge across the Rhône river. However, the bridge would collapse frequently due to river flooding. Because it was too much of a hassle to maintain, it has not been functional since the 17th century. This leaves it with a somewhat silly appearance, abruptly stopping in the middle of the river:
Apart from these historic sites, the rest of old town is nice to stroll through with immaculate marble streets and plenty of restaurants and cafes to keep you busy.
AIX-EN-PROVENCE: AIX MARKS THE SPOT
Just when we thought we could finally pronounce some French words, this town has us thrown off. We were quickly reminded that the word “Aix” is actually pronounced as the letter “x” in English.
Aix is the administrative capital of Provence and known as the “Paris of the south”. It is seen as an elegant city full of culture. The main thoroughfare through the town is the Cours Mirabeau, a tree lined promenade with moss-covered fountains at each end.
Though Aix is described by many as being upscale, we found the city had a relaxed and leisurely vibe about it. We sat at a nice wine bar in one of the old town squares and found ourselves sitting there into the late evening, people watching and enjoying the atmosphere. Though we spent little time in Aix, this was one of our favorite evenings of the trip!
Hopefully we can return one day to see more of this beautiful town!