We had fallen totally in love with Annecy, France, but we were beholden to a strict itinerary (designed by moi). So after lunch on our second day there, we reluctantly departed from this gorgeous Alpine Venetia and set off south to Avignon, where we would spend the night. This had been a last-minute addition to the itinerary when we decided that we wanted to break up the six-hour drive from Annecy to Antibes, a major focal point of the trip.
My husband stuffed all of our gear (a very large suitcase, a medium-large suitcase, a travel crib, a Maclaren Quest stroller, a backpack and a diaper bag) into our spacious Octavia Skoda station wagon, courtesy of Carrentals.co.uk. We had a beautiful drive through the Alps, and then the lavender fields arrived shortly after the mountains stopped. The three-and-a-half-hour drive on A7 went by very quickly and before we knew it we were checking into our hotel, Mercure Pont D’Avignon. The room was small, but the hotel was modern and very close to Palais des Papes.
Palais des Papes was the seat of the popes in the 14th century, when they fled the chaos of Rome. We walked briskly uphill in very hot weather only to find out that we had just missed the last tickets being sold to enter the palace. Not sure what to do next, we turned left and opted for more uphill walking and found ourselves in the Rocher des Dom. This garden with amazing views overlooking Avignon and the Rhone River turned out to be the perfect place for us. We got to really see Avignon and our son got to run around after being cooped up in the car. There were even two small playgrounds for him!
When you first arrive in the Rocher Des Doms, you see one playground. As you continue on, you see a duck pond and a little cafe for ice cream. Then there’s a naturalistic fountain that reminded me of something I’ve seen at the moody palace Quinta Da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal. Oh, and the whole park was very Gaudi-esque and reminded me of Park Guell, but without the colors and ornamentation though.
But Rocher des Doms is really and truly all about the views. In fact, there are very nice viewing platforms surrounding the gardens. Avignon knows she’s goodlooking and wants to show off! And the Rhone river and surrounding countryside isn’t too shabby either.
We all had a much better time in the Rocher Des Doms than we would have the next morning when we finally entered the Palais des Papes. Turns out we liked the Palais des Papes better from the outside. The inside was rather stark and empty yet full of stairs (no fun if you have a toddler). Despite being a fan of modern art, we didn’t care at all for the current exhibition there. I think that the Rocher Des Doms may just be the best part of Avignon!