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Huddersfield Daily Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

ITTING in the Val­cluse de­part­ment in south west France, on the banks of the Rhône River, Avi­gnon was the seat of the Catholic Popes from 1309 to 1377 and is rich in his­tory. Me­dieval ram­parts en­cir­cle the city cen­tre, its cafes and sun­shine-soaked squares. and 1851 over a for­mer car­di­nal’s palace, and – next door – the 19th cen­tury mu­nic­i­pal the­atre.

The Place de l’Hor­loge is seen as the cen­tre of Avi­gnon, a square brim­ming with cafes, bars and restau­rants, of­ten filled with the sound of street mu­si­cians.

At the bot­tom of the square, the wide Rue de la République di­vides the city in half, with the bo­hemian quar­ter on one side and lux­ury shops of the 5th Av­enue of Avi­gnon on the other.

The Popes’ Palace – or Palais des Papes – was built in the 1300s by Bene­dict XII and Clement VI. Next to this sits Notre-Dame des Doms Cathe­dral, with a gold-gilded statue of the Vir­gin Mary look­ing across the city from the top of its bell tower.

In the Rocher des Doms pub­lic gar­dens, sit­ting on a hill over­look­ing Avi­gnon, take a break from the colour and sound of the city, ad­mire the pea­cocks and swans by the pond and take a cup of tea in the cafe. Walk along the re­mains of Saint Bénézet Bridge (the one in the song). Built in the 12th cen­tury, it was de­stroyed sev­eral times, re­built and fi­nally aban­doned in the 17th cen­tury. It costs €4.50 for adults, €3.50 for chil­dren.

The Pe­tit Palais is a mu­seum and UNESCO World Her­itage Site which houses paint­ings from the 13th to 15th cen­turies and sculp­tures, arte­facts and paint­ings from An­cient Greece to the First World War. Tours and work­shops are avail­able.

Ad­mis­sion to the per­ma­nent ex­hi­bi­tions is free, but tick­ets to tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions come at an ad­di­tional cost. En­try to the Dutch Artists in Paris costs €13, €11 for con­ces­sions. The Art of Pas­tel from De­gas to Re­don costs €10 or €8. A com­bined ticket is €15 or €13.

Take a gourmet tour of the city to see the sights and taste the re­gion’s spe­cial­i­ties along the way. Avi­gnon Gourmet Tours runs a range of foodie tours. The morn­ing tour, takes three-and-a-half hours and in­cludes 10 tast­ings of tra­di­tional Provençal prod­ucts, an olive oil tast­ing, a visit to Les Halles mar­ket and a sam­pling of Châteauneuf du Pape wine. It costs €59 for adults, €25 for un­der-12s and free for un­der-sixes. The walled city is com­pact and easy to ex­plore on foot. For tired feet, take a Bal­a­dine, a lit­tle, sev­enseater, elec­tric ve­hi­cle. They fol­low a cir­cu­lar route, tak­ing in the main shop­ping ar­eas and run ev­ery day in July and Mon­day to Satur­day the rest of the year.

Buses also op­er­ate in the city and there are two rail sta­tions – Avi­gnon TGV and Avi­gnon Cen­tre. Vélopop is a self-ser­vice bike hire firm. Bikes can be picked up from racks round Avi­gnon and can be booked by phone or credit card. Linked to the base­ment of the Palais des Papes by a se­cret pas­sage­way, the Hô­tel de La Mi­rande is home to a cook­ery school with classes run by Miche­lin­starred chefs. Classes cost from €90 for adults, €47 for chil­dren. In the 19th cen­tury base­ment kitchen, chef Séver­ine Sag­net runs a ta­ble d’hôte, a pri­vate cook­ery demon­stra­tion with a three-course din­ner and wine tast­ing, for €86 per per­son.

A less ex­pen­sive op­tion is La Cui­sine du Di­manche on Rue de la Bon­neterie, where dishes are made from fresh, sea­sonal in­gre­di­ents, cho­sen daily from Les Halles. Try the plat du jour at lunchtime for €12 or a two-course set menu for €17. El­e­gant eaterie Restau­rant L’Essen­tiel, tucked away on Rue de la Petite Fus­terie, serves cre­ative dishes – and the menu also fea­tures a cheeky ‘pre-dessert’.

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