Euro Trip Part 1 – Avignon

By - May 3, 2006 (Updated: November 30, 2014)

Arrival at Zaventem Airport.

It’s finally time for me to sit down and tell the tale of our travels with my parents before the details become to fuzzy. Their visit went by so fast, I am still amazed at everything we were able to do, and all of the things we didn’t have time to do. I hope they had as good a time as we did and feel that they got a little taste of Europe in the brief time they were here.

Mom and Dad arrived at Zaventem, on the afternoon of April 4th. They were surprisingly bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after their flight so we dropped their things off and showed them around our house, then set out for a quick driving tour of Brussels.

Drew and I in Avignon

Just for a little taste of things to come on our two week driving tour of Europe, Andrew drove the wrong way up a one way street.

Back at the house, they showered us with gifts from home – tons of books, Rolaids, Q-tips, Kraft Dinner and the requisite pair of old-man slippers for Andrew.

The next morning we were up with the sun. We piled into the Volvo (and thank God it’s a wagon because it was stuffed to the gills with 2 large suitcases, my camera gear and a handy cooler that plugged in to the cigarette lighter.)

Our first day was a straight shot to Avignon. Well, almost straight – there was a slight mix up that resulted in Mom and Dad getting an unexpected tour of Luxembourg City… just wanted to make sure they were able to check more countries off their list…

At the pizza place.

Other than that little detour we made good time to Avignon. We had two nights at our favorite Holiday Inn Express from our last trip. (I should mention now that although Holiday Inn is giving me no money for this trip write-up, they should. Mom converted most of her Airmiles into Priority Points and we were able to spend most of our nights at Holiday Inns for free. Otherwise we never would have been able to afford half of this trip. Let’s have a round of applause for loyalty rewards!)

The Folks in Avignon.

With our gear unloaded at the hotel, we set out to investigate Avignon. We saw the Pont (but unfortunately were too late to dance on it), the city walls and of course the Palace of the Popes. We had some fantastic wood oven pizza and Dad discovered the joy of olive oil with chili peppers.

I had given us two nights in Avignon because Andrew and I enjoyed the South of France so much when we visited last year. There were places we hoped to visit again and places that we hadn’t had time to visit on our last trip. One of the latter was Orange.

Flowers in Gigondas

I had wanted to visit the Roman amphitheatre in Orange but unfortunately it was closed for renovations when we arrived. It wasn’t a wasted trip however as there was a huge market happening. I love markets but after a year in Europe I’ve grown used to them. However, my Mother was fascinated. We had a great time looking at all of the produce on display. Mom and Dad were amazed at how you can buy anything at a European market. We left with some baked goods for the road and headed into the countryside.

The view from Gigondas

My only real must-do on this trip was to return to Gigondas for wine. Sadly, the winery we hoped to visit was still closed for the season. We did have a lovely walk around this tiny hilltop town though. There are spectacular views of the vineyards and surrounding villages from Gigondas as it is perched on the side of a mountain. We explored the narrow streets and admired the flowers already blooming.

Pottery Windmills that caught Mom’s eye.

We explored a few of the neighbouring towns including Seguret, where Mom bought a painting, and a wonderful pottery shop. Unfortunately (or fortunately if you ask Andrew) our stuffed Volvo didn’t have much room to spare for pots. Then we started heading up – up – up. We had hoped to drive to the top of Mont Ventoux (Windy Mountain). But as we climbed we noticed more and more snow. The road to the top was still closed – impassible by the white stuff. I think my Mom was glad. The twisty roads had her slightly freaked out (me too if truth be told). So we wound our way back down and headed back to Avignon.

As close as we could get to Mt. Ventoux

Andrew and I seem to have a pact with Avignon – for every great meal we eat there, we must have one terrible one. Last time it was Quick. This time, under similar circumstances (tired and wanting something fast) we ended up at Buffalo Bill’s BBQ. No, it didn’t even seem like a good idea at the time and it seems even worse now. BBB’s was what the French think American food is like. I won’t get too graphic here but needless to say it wasn’t a highlight of the trip.

At Pont du Gard

The next morning we headed out to Pont Du Gard. The weather, being much cooler than our last visit, allowed us to walk around and explore the extensive grounds surrounding the aqueduct. There is a walking tour that explains what early rural French life was like. It was a lovely stroll and quite a beautiful morning.

Our lunch stop was in Aigues-Mortes (dead waters in Provençal), a walled city bordering the Camargue. We walked the entire ramparts which gave us a great view of the town and surrounding landscape. It was an interesting way to peek into people’s tiny gardens as well.

After the town we drove into the Camargue to see the wildlife (flamingos, bulls and horses), the salt flats and stick our feet in the Mediterranean. From there we caught a ferry to Marseille (and conveniently hit the city at rush hour). Then we had to make tracks for Nice, our second stay-over city.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
- 2 days ago


  1. Comment by Andrew

    Andrew May 3, 2006 at 16:53

    I think you may see a pattern to the small, winding roads as the story continues 🙂 I have a fixation with finding the goat paths that are somehow still classified as 2-way roads! The south of France has some wonderful roads among the grape vines… and the mountain roads that snake between and over the Alpilles (Little Alps) are absolutely a joy to experience. Seguret was also a wonderful stop… a beautiful hill top town that is not quite as touristy as Les Baux de Provence which we visited last year. At any rate, it was an excellent start to our journey (except that going the wrong way up the one-way street/highway)!

  2. Comment by Alison

    Alison May 3, 2006 at 17:02

    Di – Well, since I wasn’t able to get any, we may just have to go back in the summer…
    Drew – Took me ages to find that it was Seguret that we stopped at (God bless Gogle images) 🙂 And as for the wrong way incident – wasn’t the first, won’t be the last 😉

  3. Comment by Alison

    Alison May 3, 2006 at 21:43

    Thanks ET – The Nice and Monaco shots were my Dad’s but the Flowers were all mine 🙂 Who could not want to go to the south of France??? 🙂

  4. Comment by Di

    Di May 3, 2006 at 13:18

    Delicious … you’ve given me itchy feet and as I particularly like that little Gigondas red, I think I know where I’d quite like to head first time out on the road and heading in that direction.

  5. Comment by expatraveler

    expatraveler May 3, 2006 at 21:35

    Alison – the pics from Nice and Monaco make me melt! I want to take P there. Maybe this could sway his mind. 🙂 And the potted plants – I just love love love… Of course all of the pics are just so great. But those were my 3 favs…. Yeah for vacations. 🙂

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