The third week of our trip was to discover the region of Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur. The area extends from over 3,000 m. alpine peaks in the east, the Rhone valley in the west, olive and vineyards in the north to the Côte d’Azur with the capital of Marseille in the south. We focused on the northern part – we visited Avignon (the papal capital from the 14th century), Orange (ancient Roman city) and Mont Ventoux, the mythical Mount of Winds, with over 1 900 m. About her „windiness” we found on our own skin.
Primarily Avignon is associated with the famous bridge known from the song „Sur le Pont d’Avignon”, or „On the bridge of Avignon.” Not everyone knows that the city has developed and became famous mainly because in the 14th century the Holy See was transferred here from the Rome.
The reason for the move is that the popes (French origin) did not feel safe in Rome because of conflicts with the local population and the rulers of Rome. Moves to Avignon were patronized by the King of France. It is noteworthy that after the return of the head of the Catholic Church to Rome (at the turn of the 14th and 15th centuries), up to the pontificate of John Paul II, each of the elected popes was an Italian of origin.
So it is not surprising that the Gothic Palace of the Popes and the Metropolitan Basilica of Notre-Dame des Doms (14th century) dominate over the Avignon Rhone-Alpes. Both buildings are seen from Edouard Daladier Bridge.
The main attractions are in the center of the city center, surrounded by medieval city walls. Inside the walls we see typical French buildings of bigger cities – elegant streets, full of branded shops and boutiques.
We are approaching the Palace of the Popes and the Cathedral. The palace is huge, hard to cover it with one look from a closer distance. The solid body and defensive nature of the building shows how difficult and dangerous the papacy was in the late middle ages.
Notre-Dame Cathedral is also a stark Gothic temple that shares its architecture with the papal place.
At the back of the palace there is a park with stairs leading down to the banks of the Rhone, up to the bridge regarded by many as the city’s card. We were not particularly fascinated, but we understand those who see the most important point of the trip to Avignon.
As we mentioned earlier, the entire medieval center is surrounded by a tight ring of massive city walls.
Some of the old city gates are bricked up, but in order to facilitate pedestrian traffic some small passages are cut out to get to and get out of town.
Coming back from the center we see an interesting picture. The older men play the bule, what is typical here. Meanwhile, young people, led by instructors, climb to one of the Edouard Daladier’s bridge stone support.
The next day we spent in Orange, a town almost a 1500 years older than Avignon. Orange is an example of a small town with many centuries-old tradition and legacy of many cultures present in this region for over 2,000 years.
We will concentrate mainly on the oldest buildings. The biggest attraction is one of the best preserved Roman theaters in the world – Antique Theater from the 1st century AD.
The building is currently undergoing renovations, which will last for up to 2022 (8 years in total). It does not interfere with the display of theatrical performances at the theater. Below we see the main wall of the theater seen from the inside. On the stage down there are actors and we are watching from behind the audience.
Victor Hugo street is approaching another testimony of the presence of the Romans in Orange, the Arc of Triumph.
The Arc de Triomphe, like the Antique Theater, dates back to the 1st century AD. It was built as a gift of gratitude to the founders of the Roman colony in Orange.
In addition to Orange, there are still ruins of the Temple of the Empire, or fragments of the ancient walls of the Roman Forum as a place of trade. Near the Antique Theater are the remains of Gaul-Roman city, probably from the early Middle Ages, the time of the fall of the Roman Empire and the development of the Franks, which became later France.
Orange, to a lesser extent, also developed in modern times. In addition to some interesting temples and public buildings, the theater was built in 1885, modeled after the Paris Opera. Its architecture is reminiscent of many other theaters built in the second half of the 19th century, such as Theater im. Juliusz Słowacki in Cracow’s Old Town.
On the way back from Orange we came to the „Mathilde” Chocolate Factory in Tulette.
The facade of the building is styled for small candy shops called here „chocolaterie”.
Inside you can see the process of chocolate production and other sweets.
The selection is really huge, and the best part is that you can try it all before. Tastings are very popular in France, especially in smaller towns.
As if that was not enough, sweets from the factory are being distributed to local stores such as automotive monuments.
We spent a really nice and tasty afternoon 😊
After such a visit it is worth to burn some calories and nothing will give a better effect than a trip to the mountains. We have finally decided to get the Mont Ventoux. Getting to Malaucene, town at the foot of the mountain, is without problems. Hence about 20 kilometers to the summit. The more seasoned people choose the bike, the less go to the top of the car. For us, bike entry was not possible. It would be too much of a challenge. We decided to take a part of the road through the Golf and then continue on foot.
Golf reached about 10 kilometers ahead of the summit at a height of 1,200 meters. It was a pity to continue to „saw”, so from this point we decided to continue the journey on foot.
As you can see to the top yet 9 kilometers and the average slope is 11%. Quite a lot. Fortunately the road is very good so we walked in without problems.
The mountain at the bottom is still covered with trees and vegetation, but the higher the stone it is. There is also a transitional landscape at an altitude of about 1,500 meters.
The higher the more sandy it is or the preferred one – the more lunar. The grass was covered with stones and the wind was rising with each step.
We are getting closer to the top of where is located the „command center” of the Tour de France. The place is dedicated to television, the press and above all the teams and players participating in the race.
We are at the top. It was only when we reached it and passed the summit from the south that we felt the wind on Mont Ventoux. It blew so hard that sometimes it was hard to stop or taking a good picture. Post with a information about the height of which we are rocked in every possible way.
The more admirable arouses gentlemen (and ladies too!), who came here on bicycles on the south side. Dressed very thin, at the top they just put on jackets, they ate the sandwich and went on. We added that we were wearing winter jackets and caps.
This is the way from the south which cyclists in recent years ride one of the most spectacular and most difficult stages of the Tour de France.
Coming down from the summit, we were accompanied by beautiful sunny weather and beautiful mountain views.
To the end 15 kilometers, but 10 of them are already overcome by car. As you can see, all the time we go and drive down.
In the next week we will be, for the first time during our trip, on the Mediterranean Sea (Lyon’s Bay, Languedoc).