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Avignon is at the heart of glorious Provence in the south of France, situated in the Vaucluse region and stretching along the left bank of the Rhône River. Still almost entirely surrounded by its impressive medieval walls, this city enjoys a sunny and mild Mediterranean climate, along with powerful mistral winds that sweep down the Rhône.
Less than three hours from Paris on the TGV and 5 hours to London on the Eurostar, and with a main airport with direct flights to many major countries, Avignon is a delight for expats.
The city’s rich history is palpable in the centre bounded by its historic city walls, with winding cobbled streets that give way to the huge square in front of the Palais des Papes. The Petit Palais nearby houses a popular museum of medieval and Renaissance art, and Avignon is blessed with a range of museums, including the Musée Calvet, the Musée Angladon and the Lambert Collection of contemporary art.
Since 1947 Avignon has also been host to an annual three-week international theatre festival considered to be one of the most important in Europe. There is, of course, also the famous Pont d’Avignon, the bridge immortalized in a 15th-century French song. The real pont is the bridge of Saint Bénezet, and despite the familiar lyrics, it was not on the bridge but under it, on a small island in the river, that the legendary dancing took place. Built in the late 12th century, it was badly damaged by flooding in the 17th, and now stands incomplete.
Avignon is surrounded by ramparts that encircle the city and full of old winding streets, where you can explore chapels, churches and buildings from the Middle Ages to city mansions from the 18th and 19th centuries. Art and architecture are everywhere in this deeply historical city. City squares and terraces, shaded from the summer sun by the leafy plane trees, are an invitation to slow down and enjoy life. Avignon’s slower pace of life makes it the perfect place to watch the world go by.
Major cultural events take place year-round such as the Avignon Theatre Festival which transforms the city into one major stage as it becomes the biggest theatre in the world. From Cheval passion in January, the Hivernales contemporary dance festival in February, Altera rosa and its outstanding roses at the Palace of the Popes in May and much more, this city is a vibrant, cultural hub.
Avignon is a great place for children, with a wide range of entertainment in the city. The picturesque park of Ile de la Barthelasse is located on a beautiful island, amidst the peaceful waters of the Rhone River. It is ideal for both walking and cycling, and accessible by ferry.
Avignon’s market – Les Halles – offers fresh produce and regional products six days a week and as the capital of the Côtes du Rhône wines, there is no lack of excellent wines to discover.
Within Avignon you can access a range of sports activities, such as the golf centre Golf d’Avignon Chateaublanc, which also boasts beautiful outdoor recreation areas, a cosy cafe and picturesque walks.
The perfect place to discover and explore Provençale cuisine, Avignon chefs have reaped many stars in the best guides and create traditional and contemporary cuisine in a varied choice of restaurants. In the finest restaurants you’ll be able to enjoy the finest Provençale cuisine given interesting twists.
As a popular tourist city there are plenty of restaurants to choose from, many of which will serve national favourites such as Pot-au-feu (stew) and steak frites. Fans of more sophisticated regional dishes will enjoy pork legs fried in breadcrumbs, as well as quail and pheasants, which are served with various fruit and vegetable garnishes.
Like many French cities and regions, there are local delicacies on offer. A favourite in Avignon is Les Papalines d’Avignon. The dessert contains a local liqueur, chocolate, and oregano and since 1960 the dessert has been hand made in the region by a few select patisseries.
For those living in the heart of Avignon, with its facilities and culture, there must also be some preparation for tourism in abundance, especially during the summer. For some expatriates who prefer life on the quieter side, the villages surrounding Avignon offer excellent choices. These locations offer schools up until college, so it’s also the perfect place for a family. The towns close enough to Avignon to benefit from its facilities and strengths are Sorgues, Montfavet, Beaucaire, and Villeneuve-lès- Avignon, just across the river. They offer a charming village location, often with their own central square, shops, cafés and a lively weekly outdoor market.
Wherever you choose, life in Provence offers something unique.
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