We found there were lots of things to see near Antibes. Cannes, the home of the famous film festival is only a 30 minute drive. We intentionally wanted to catch a glimpse of the city a week before the festival so we wouldn’t have to encounter all the mobs. Again, another lovely promenade along the sea and we definitely had to take pictures of the hotels all ready for the celebrities to arrive. But as I think Rick Steves pointed out there’s not much there except for the film festival.
Since it was a pretty quick trip to Cannes, we drove back via Grasse so we could visit the Jardins de Musee International de la Parfumerie, the perfume gardens. The gardens were hard to find. We followed the GPS and it led us to a garden shop. We thought maybe the shop was connected to the gardens but when we asked, the clerk had absolutely no idea what we were talking about. We decided to look around and finally we hit upon it. Although it was still early spring many things were beginning to bloom and we could imagine how lovely (and crowded) it must be in the summer! Plants were well marked with an explanation of what scents they are used for. And it was helpful that the signs were in both French and English. We waited to visit the perfume factory later during the month, but things got so busy we never were able to check that off our list.
We decided to visit the Maeght Foundation Museum of Modern Art in nearby Vency. It’s a small private collection that contains some works by artists including: Miro, Chagall, and Caulder. It’s located in a picturesque setting with lots of sculpture surrounding the building itself.
Both Aux en Provence, or Aux as the locals call it, and Avignon were on our list of things to see in Provence. So we decided to make it an overnight trip It may seem odd that we rent anAirbnb and then leave there for an overnight trip, but traveling full time we find that we it just makes sense to book an overnight or two from our base in order to see things that would require a lot of driving to return to our home. We decided we’d spend a couple of hours in Aux and then go on to Avignon where we’d spend the night.
We found Aux difficult to navigate. We finally found a parking garage thanks once again to Google Maps. And then walked through the city market.
This time the market actually included violins! Wow! Paul Cezanne was born, educated and died in Aux. He even went to law school here. But decided early on that art, not law, was his chosen profession. We tried to get to his studio and even the cemetery where he is buried but because of road construction and detours we were unable to get to either. We decided to move on to Avignon.
Avignon, also known by many as “The Other Rome,” has more than four kilometers of walls built in 1355 to surround the city.
We had booked a room at the Hotel de la Palais. It had discounted parking and we thought we had finally, after navigating endlessly through the winding streets of Avignon, found the right parking garage. The walk to the hotel took about 15 minutes but we were stunned when the clerk told us that indeed we had parked in an Indigo garage, but it wasn’t the one for which we would receive a discount. Did we want to move? NO! We were happy to have the car parked. Our room had a spectacular view right out onto street.
I was going to ask where the Palais de Papes (Palace of the Popes) was, knowing it was nearby, but thankfully I didn’t because after we walked out the door of the hotel, for some reason I turned around and there it stood! It was dusk and the lights had just come on and it truly was something to behold! This was the home for Popes in 1305 when Pope Clement V became concerned for his safety in Rome. He was a guest of the Dominican Monastery. Seven Popes resided there until 1377 when the center of Catholicism returned to Rome but the palace remained under papal control for more than 350 years after that.
It was a warm night and a good time to walk along the street in front of our hotel that was lined with a carousel, a few historic buildings and open air restaurants. The following morning we were awakened by the sounds of singing and chants. I looked out our window where we had a great view of the yellow vests once again marching. This time right toward us. Of course, that made sense, it was May 1. Labor Day in Europe.
And again these were peaceful marches. We saw people of every age; some walking with canes, some with their kids; some with their pets. At one point I gave a thumbs up and a woman waved in return!
Right near the Palais des la Papas was the Little Silver Train. For nine euros we got a tour throughout Avignon with a guide explaining everything as we passed. At one point in a busy downtown area we came to a dead stop. The driver told us to just wait patiently as she left and talked to some locals next to the road. It seemed there was a car blocking the street. Several men on the side of the road, picked up the car, moved it aside and we were again on our way! Wow! Talk about resourcefulness!
Not far from the Palace of the Popes we found a pretty little square where the Elgise Saint Pierre is located. This church dates from the seventh century. If you look really closely you can see a statue of Bacchus with grapes high atop. One wonders why he was placed there.
To me though the highlight of Avignon was the St. Benezet Bridge. I remember it from childhood singing, “Sur Le Pont Avignon.” What a disappointment to learn that no one ever danced on the bridge! It still was fun to see! And the ditty stayed in my head long after we had left Avignon.
As we returned to Antibes it began to rain and we felt really lucky to have had such a beautiful weather to do all of our sight seeing. And there was still so much we wanted to see and do.