Head to Avignon, the gateway to Provence. It is colourful, culturally rich, full of artistic, architectural and gourmet pleasures – circled by 4.3km of superbly preserved stone ramparts. Inside the ancient city walls are broad, tree-lined streets and intriguing passageways leading to picturesque squares, shops, galleries, churches and museums. Take a mini-train ride around the city and have lunch in the bustling main square, Place de l’Horloge.
Avignon was the seat of papal power for 70 years, which has left a treasure trove of magnificent art and architecture, none grander than the Palais de Papes. Another famous landmark is the 12th century bridge, Pont Saint-Benezet (or Pont d’Avignon). It was an important strategic crossing between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea but frequently collapsed and had to be reconstructed; today only a few of the original 22 arches remain.
After lunch, head north of the city. A ruined mediaeval castle sits atop the village of Châteauneuf du Pape. It was built in the 14th century for Pope John XXII, the second of the popes who resided in Avignon. The area is famous for the production of red wine and almost all the cultivable land is planted with grapevines.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a famous French wine Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOC) located around the village and in the neighbouring villages of Bédarrides, Courthézon and Sorgues between Avignon and Orange and covers slightly more than 3,200 hectares or 7,900 acres (32km2). Over 110,000 hectolitres of wine a year are produced here.