We were catching the train at midday today, so that meant a lazy morning. We mooched and had breakfast, and were packed and gone by 11.30am. Most of the hotels have a 12pm check-out time, super-helpful! It was bucketing down most of the morning, and the clouds parted just as we were checking out – phew! We knew we’d be okay though, Stephen had already tested his rain poncho over his pack. Sexy as.
The journey today involved a local train from Avignon city station to Avignon TGV (fast train), then a change of carriage at Marseilles (whoops, that was our fault), this one took us through to Nice. Then a quick change at Nice for the Nice-Ventimiglia leg on a local train, then a TGV fast train from Ventimiglia to Milan. OMGosh! It was a bit stressful – with turnaround times of about 10 minutes each change, we needed to find the new platform and get on the train quickly. We didn’t really think about food until we were on the last train for the day – at around 4pm. The French trains have a buffet car, so we assumed the Italian ones did too. Nope. I ate all my snacks and was still feeling a bit hungry when we arrived in Milan at 9pm. Going 12 hours without proper food must be some kind of a record for me! By 10pm, once we’d purchased our Milan-Geneva train ticket and checked into our hotel, we were feeling rather hungry. The easiest option was McDonalds in the train station. Yuck, but it will tide me over until breakfast.
We had a late start this morning – didn’t get up for breakfast until 9am. After availing ourselves of the full buffet breakfast we set off for the Palais des Papes. This is the reason we came to Avignon, and we were not disappointed. It is HUGE. It housed nine popes in the 14th and 15th century, starting when Benedict XII, the first French pope, was elected. During its construction, it was the biggest building site in the Western world. The main building took 20 years – so fast for the size of it! It took us three hours to take in all of the Palais. So much to see! We even had a brief stop at a café right at the top of the tower at the top.
We followed this up with another visit to the Pont Saint-Bénézet and then the Musee du Petite Palais – which houses a massive collection of religious artworks. Extremely impressive.
After about five solid hours of touristing, we were happy to sit down for a while. The high for the day was 28C, so just a bit warm. We selected one of the many cafes in the main street and had a delicious meal (as usual!). We went back to the hotel for some R&R after this. About 8pm we emerged again, in search of ice cream. It was nice to be out for a stroll at dusk, the temperature was a bit more manageable. We didn’t linger though, as we were sharing the streets with a lot of homeless people at this point.
We seem to have settled into an eating routine that suits us. We eat a big breakfast (I have cereal, fruit, yogurt and toast, Stephen has some variety of bacon, eggs, sausages and pastries). That sees us through until about midday when we have coffee and I have snacks. Then we are ready for lunch/dinner around 3pm, and that’s our main meal. Then sometimes there are more snacks later if needed. I try and have a ready supply of tasty treats and fruit that I carry around in a big ziplock bag.
We had to be on the train at 7.30am, so we made sure we were there nice and early to validate our Eurail pass and ended up with plenty of time for breakfast and finding the right train. We had decided to get the Metro to the train station, challenging but much more fun than a boring taxi!
The trip from Paris to Avignon was quick, with not much to see – mostly just tunnels and embankments, with some countryside.
We arrived in Avginon around 11am, so dropped our bags at the hotel and went to explore. It was warm and sunny – a nice change from the Paris rain. We wandered through the city centre, stopped for something to eat, and then found our way to the Pont Saint-Bénézet. We had a lovely time just laying on the banks of the river watching the world go by (and Stephen had a nap). To wake us back up, we walked the rest of the way around the city wall back to the hotel. We found a supermarket on the way, so got dinner supplies.
Once we hit the hotel, we were in for the night. We are staying at the Novotel – it’s comfy, and very close to the city and the train station. Weirdly, it has exactly the same décor as the Novotel we stayed at in Stevenage. Nice décor though, so I’m not complaining!