France Avignon Area 2000.11.10 - 11.17

Return to Peter's Place

After a 2 week loop across Provence and the Côte d'Azur, we returned to the part of Provence Peter Mayle brought to fame through his 3 works of non-fiction. We rented a Gîte for one week in Cheval Blanc, a small farming town mid way between Avignon and Apt.

Our first stop was the Saturday morning Apt market, possibly the best farmers market in all of France, to stock our kitchen in Cheval Blanc. From Apt, we returned along the scenic route through Ménerbes, the town Peter Mayle used to live in, and its neighbors Bonnieux and Lacoste. The sleepy towns were just as Peter described nearly 10 years ago.

Just down the road from Ménerbes, We spotted a winery that Peter recommends, Domaine de la Citadelle. The roadside sign proclaimed, "Ouvert". How fortunate to find it open in the middle of November. We drove in and read the sign on the locked door. Like all businesses in southern France, the staff were on their 2 hour lunch break. In only 10 minutes, the doors would be open for business at 14:00. We ate our own lunch in the car.

10 minutes later, the Citadelle doors were still locked. 30 minutes later was no different. 45 minutes later, we gave up and left. The French are extremely fussy about food quality. Nothing else really seems to matter. Maybe the Citadelle staff were enjoying a 3 hour lunch today.

The following day, we found a bottle of Domaine de la Citadelle wine at the market in L'Isle de Sores, a town just 10km north of Cheval Blanc. Everything seems to work out in its own time in Provence. Ironically, we enjoyed the wine served at the Chasteuil Bed and Breakfast Inn more.

For the remaining part of the week, we visited the nearby towns of Avignon, Les Baux de Provence, and Orange. All are worth a repeat visit.


Avignon is big enough to need computer people, and a place we think we'd enjoy living. The culturally inclined have the Palais des Papes, built in the 14th century to house the Pope during time of turmoil in Rome Gourmets have Restaurant Hiély at 5 rue de la Républque (Tel: +33-(0)4-9086-1707), with a meal we can only compare to the French Laundry in Yountville, California. The difference? Expect to pay US$150-200 per person at the French Laundry. Hiély is US$30. Bookworms have a well stocked English language 2nd hand bookstore called Shakespeare, at 155 rue de la Carreterie (closed Mondays). And technowienies have an excellent Internet Café called Internet Highway at 30 rue des Infirmières.

To add to our delight, we happened to be in Avignon during a Côte du Rhone Winery celebration. For FRF20, we got a Côte du Rhone wine glass and all the free samples we could drink (so that would be about a glass each for Wes and Masami). A parade marched through town, but we missed it while struggling through the crowds to get another sample of wine. And to top off the evening, Côte du Rhone sponsored a fireworks display timed to music that we thought was the most entertaining we'd ever seen. But then, that glass of wine could have swayed our assessment.

The town of Avignon from Palais des Papes. The building to the left is a hotel on the square Place du Palais. Paul, who we met dining at Héile, recommends against it. Lights illuminating the Palais des Papes are mounted on the side of the hotel and keep the hotel rooms as bright as day all night long.
Hey, give me another sample of wine. 3 tents serving a huge variety of Côte du Rhone wines were mobbed by thousands of locals and tourists wanting their share. Even with the crowds, it was a surprisingly friendly and courteous atmosphere.

Les Baux de Provence

Les Baux de Provence has a well preserved château that was partly built during Medieval times in the 12th and 13th centuries. The scenery across groves of olive trees and grape vines in the valley below Les Baux is romantically breathtaking. We were fortunate to visit in mid November when tourists are scarce. The Lonely Planet guide lists this little town as France's largest tourist attraction after Paris.

The remains of the Château des Baux is perched on the highest point of a large rock that supports the entire town of Les Baux.
To the south, the Château des Baux overlooks groves of olive trees and grape vines. Masami poses while resisting gusts of frigid November air.


The town of Orange has two outstanding Roman structures dating from approximately 50 B.C.: the Théâtre Antique and the Arc de Triomphe.

This 103 meter wide, 37 meter high stage wall of the Théâtre Antique is the only such Roman structure still standing in its entirety.

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