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Day 2: Avignon & Arles

We had a choice of two trains to get to Avignon this morning; either the 08.50 or the 10.50. When we had been feeling tired last night it was tempting to choose the later option, but ultimately we decided to be disicplined and set the alarm for 7am. It turned out to be a good decision, because we had Nîmes almost to ourselves as we walked towards the station in search of breakfast.

This is what the main square looked like with no one in it.


We were able to get a good photo of the amphitheatre without other people too.


We bought our train tickets and found a nice cafe just outside the station, where we able to sit outside eating bread and croissants until it was time to catch our train.

After a short journey, we arrived in Avignon around half nine. As soon as we left the train station and started walking towards the town centre, we were able to see the old city walls and ramparts.


Our first stop was a church with a pretty park and some ruins.


From there we soon found ourselves in the main square, complete with imposing town hall.


I was somewhat confused to read on one of the tourist information boards that the square was called Place de l'Horloge because I couldn't see any sign of a clock. When we walked back a little way it all became clear though!


The most famous site in Avignon is the Palais des Papes, a huge palace which was home to seven popes during the fourteenth century. It's an enormous complex of towers, which is now a UNESCO world heritage site.


The guidebook had said that it was more impressive outside than in, so we didn't pay to go inside but instead climbed up into the park alongside it. We had a nice view back towards the town...


...as well as a closer view of the cathedral.


There were also some amazing views of the surrounding countryside. We were surprised to see how mountainous it looked in the distance.


We could see back towards the towers of the Palais des Papes...


...as well as towards some more distant fortifications on the opposite side of the river.


We even found some ducks!


One of the best bits about the park was that there was hardly anyone else there! It was still only just after 10am and we almost had the views to ourselves.

If the Palais des Papes is the most famous sight in Avignon then the second most famous must be the Pont d'Avignon, also known as the Pont Saint-Bénézet. We decided to make our way down from the park to the riverside and see if we could find it.


A bridge was first built here in 1177 but collapsed and was rebuilt from time to time when the river Rhone flooded. Eventually the bridge was abandoned, and all that remain today are a few arches which stop abruptly in the middle of the river.

We walked along by the city walls for a while...


...before crossing the river by a more modern road bridge. There was a great view back towards the palace.


We were then able to stroll along by the side of the Rhone, admiring the views of the bridge.


By this time everyone else had woken up and Avignon had started to get very busy. Large quantities of coaches were arriving and depositing hordes of tourists, who were being ferried up to the palace on tourist trains.

We decided that we had probably seen the best of Avignon without the tourists but the day was still young, so we consulted the guidebook to see whether there was anywhere else we could go. The nearby town of Arles sounded interesting too, so we headed back to the station and managed to time it so that we arrived ten minutes before a train to Arles was set to depart. Perfect.

The first thing on our minds when we arrived in Arles was lunch, and after rejecting a couple of menus that were either too expensive or featured too much salad(!), we found a lovely place where we were able to sit outside and eat spaghetti bolognaise for a very reasonable price.

From our table we were able to catch a glimpse of what looked suspiciously like another amphitheatre.


Sure enough, once we had finished lunch and set off to explore, that was exactly what we found.


The rest of Arles was pretty too...


Unfortunately there seemed to be some particularly allergenic plant growing in the town and we soon joined dozens of people who were wandering around the town sneezing profusely. After a few hours we decided to call it a day and head back to Nimes :)

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