Avignon is one of the larger cities in the Provence region of France, but it hardly a metropolis. That’s why it’s such a surprise that there are so many treasures to be had there without going too far out of the way. Everyone who goes there will probably visit the Palais des Papes (one could hardly miss it), or spend an entire day driving through the countryside looking for lavender fields. But one of our favorite mornings was spent only a couple kilometers away in Fort Saint-Andre in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.
You can climb the towers of the fort, but the true joy of the place is in the beautiful gardens (tickets sold separately). The day of our visit we showed up early because we wanted to explore the place before it got crowded. As it turned out, the crowds we feared never materialized, so we spent some time walking the streets nearby before the Fort Saint-Andre opened. The hillside of Villeneuve-lès-Avignon is filled with narrow alleys, brimming with flowers. Vines climb up the walls, that stand over breathtaking views of the South of France.
Inside the Fort, we went straight to the gardens, where we spent two hours exploring exquisitely manicured grounds that felt like a scene out of Game of Thrones – only more relaxing. Jake had his camera out the whole time, and Lisa was so intent on sticking her hands in the fountains that eventually we just had to let her. I could really feel myself unwinding. The whole place was child friendly, uncrowded, and relatively shady. It was everything I wanted in a French garden. I’m pretty sure I’ll have a garden like this someday.
On the way back to the car, we stopped in a small shop an bought a bottle of local wine (after the clerk stepped outside and brought a neighbor back to translate for us). Places like this abound in France, and it’s one of the reasons that we know we’ll be coming back in the future. The French really do have a feel for slow living, and I don’t mind saying I learned a thing or two about relaxing while I was there.
Lisa still runs around like crazy.