Avignon. Yes this is a historic place that should be on the “to do” list of anyone traveling to the South of France, but maybe just a half-day visit is all that is needed. The city walls (dating from the 14th century) are amazing. Just the simple fact that now, 500 years later, 90% of the walls are intact is beyond my imagination. Avignon also boasts over being the site of the “Northern Papal Palace.” It seems that in the mid 14th century, there was a divide in the Church (go figure) and the then the Pope moved all his stuff up to Avignon, leaving Rome in disarray. Within a hundred years the “Church” cleared all this up and the Papacy moved back to Rome, but Avignon prospered with the Popes.
So for the history one must visit Avignon, but the ambiance, cuisine, and experience leaves a lot to be desired. Last night I wandered the town, taking in the sights, and was scouting out dining options. Adhering to my “Thrifty and Tasteful” travel philosophy, I’d set up in an IBIS hotel with an excellent location just outside the medieval city walls. I went out to explore the sights and find a suitable place for dinner. It was 8:00 p.m. and it appeared the city was desolate. No cars, no people, not even a dog or cat in the street! When I made it to the Pope’s Palace and the main city center, there were people milling around, but not many! I walked the exterior path of the palace walls through canyons of sheer rock with the cathedral’s flying buttresses “flying overhead.” Even for me this was a bit scary because there seemed to be an abundance of “hobos” (my friend Kathleen’s term) and male couples meandering about. At times like these, Charlotte’s (my wife) apprehensions always pop into my mind and I look for a way out!
No problem. I got out of the area and was once again surrounded by expensive eateries sporting candles, soft music, expensive menus, and waitstaff all dressed in black. To add to the problem the menus started at 58 euro, not including wine…yikes! These places look promising, but it did not fit my “Thrifty and Tasteful” philosophy.
Back to the town center. It was flooded with tourist eateries, covered awnings, and multi-lingual menus all featuring the same “authentic” provencial foods. And then there was the ever-present impatient waitstaff. I tried real hard to get away from this situation and I walked away back towards the Pope’s Palace and selected an outdoor cafe that looked promising.
I was wrong. The waiter was ready to go home. The “plat du jour” was “finished” and he did not even recommend a starter or desert. I got the steak and fries which looked good when delivered with its butter and herbs, but in the end it was tough and loaded with gristle.
I could go on, but you get the point. We’ve all been “had” by these so called authentic places. I’m willing to make these mistakes and pass the information on to you. You’ll only get the best dining recommendations from me!
So two blog posts have been consumed with “food.” Tomorrow I’m going to Monaco and I promise to talk about something other than eating!