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September, 2015

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Just back from a lovely week in Avignon, Provence. I’d been before but my wife hadn’t and particularly wanted to visit some of the many excellent Roman ruins in the area.

We flew to Marseille and then caught the train to Avignon. The trains are modern and efficient but the shuttle bus from the airport to the train station is inadequate. There is not enough space for baggage and our bus was very over loaded. There is then a bit of a scramble at the railway station as you only have a few minutes before the train arrives. TIP – buy your rail ticket online or at the booth at the airport as you may not have time at the railway station. Another problem I had was correctly validating the train ticket in the correct machine as there are two types. I only found this out on the train when I realised our tickets had not been validated as they were small tickets which should have been inserted into the TER machine and not the SNCF machine. Luckily we didn’t get our tickets checked or we might have had to pay a hefty fine for an honest mistake. Lesson learned I made sure we properly validated tickets prior to further travel and also noticed that when buying tickets at Avignon Centre station the very helpful and English speaking rail staff validated the outward journey when issuing tickets.

We stayed at the Kyriad Hotel in Place L’Horloge, Avingnon, which is very central. The reception staff were very helpful and spoke excellent English when my school boy French wasn’t up to the job.The hotel is mid-budget, the room and facilities a bit small but we had good wi-fi access and I’d recommend it as a good value option in the centre of town.They do breakfast but we ate outside with the locals.

Avignon is a terrific walled city and well worth a visit. Highlights include the Palais des Papes and the Pont d’Avignon. We ate outside most days as the weather was generally good but towards the end of the week we retreated in-doors as the wind picked up.

We did several day trips by train and bus to nearby Arles (great Roman amphitheatre), Pont du Gard (stunning Roman aqueduct), St Remy (excellent Roman site at Glanum), Nimes (magnificent amphitheatre) and Orange (stunning Roman theatre). These all required a fair bit of walking but from what I could see wheel chair access was generally good.

We ended the holiday in Marseille which is certainly very different to Avignon. It’s a big, bustling city and is not hugely appealing at first encounter. Unfortunately my visit was marred by a bout of severe tummy trouble and a 24 hour fever so I wasn’t able to do the city justice. We did see Gerard Depardieu filming down at the docks and managed to do an open top bus tour before I became unwell.

Overall, we had a great time and I’d strongly recommend Avignon and the surrounding area. The French people were very friendly, helpful and glad to see us. Even if you only speak a little French it goes a long way to building a bond.

Bon voyage!


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