This full day Marseille shore trip
visits Avignon including the Palace of the Popes. Next you travel to the Provencal Luberon region which is famous for its small charming hilltop towns.
After meeting your drive guide, you depart for Avignon. In 1309 Pope Clement V decided that Rome was no longer suitable for the Papal Seat, and moved the Papacy to Avignon. Though he died in 1314, another six French Popes continued to reside here, and Avignon became a cultural center with a flourishing university and home to a beautiful medieval palace built by the Popes. From 1378 until the early 1400's two Popes simultaneously vied for power, one in Avignon and the other in Rome, until finally the Papal Seat was returned to Rome.
Today the Palais des Papes or Papal Palace is a highlight of any visit to Avignon. The Palace is composed of two buildings built, one after the other, in the mid-1300s. Quite different than the Vatican, this palace was fortified to withstand attacks from enemies. You'll find battlements, turrets, arrow slits and deadly gateways. Today the interior is empty except for tapestries and frescos. You can tour the palace (entry fee not included) by audio guide to imagine what life was like here and how the Popes lived.
After a visit to the palace, you can climb up to the Rocher des Doms, a park offering views over the town and its famous bridge, the Pont St-B̩nezet. This medieval bridge was once nearly 3,000 feet long and was supported by 22 arches. A flood in the 17th century reduced it to 4 arches and now it has been made famous by a French children's' song "Sur le Pont d'Avignon."
Your next stop will be in one of the small towns of the Luberon Valley just to the east of Avignon. For most people, this area is by far most reminiscent of Provence. There is no must-see site here, rather just small charming villages such as Gordes, Lacoste, Menerbes and Roussillon. It is a time to drink in a way of life, to revel in the beauty of French hilltop towns. Think of the book "A Year in Provence" by Peter Mayle, and you immediately know what we mean. Medieval villages perch on top, or cling to the cliffs, of the rocky hills and offer a view of life from another age. The towns were built in their dizzying locations for defensive purposes since the region saw many battles for control throughout history. Please remember not to rush. Enjoying the beauty and charm of a village and exploring it in detail will make the rest of your day memorable and rewarding.
While you are in the Luberon Valley, you will have free time for lunch (meal not included).
The strong wind that often blows in from the Mediterranean is known as the "mistral." You'll see that it affects the landscape and architecture, from windowless south facing walls, to hollow church steeples made from wrought iron. Today, lavender fields which bloom in July, sunflowers which bloom in June and wild red poppies which bloom in May line paths between the vineyards and olive groves of the valley.
You'll end your day back in Marseille dock where your tour began.Mobility
: NO wheelchairs
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