Provence and the Cote d’Azur

Last modified 03.04.2022 | Published 14.08.19911990's, France, Southern Europe, Travelogue

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Our InterRail ticket had brought us to Provence and the Cote d’Azur. Here we went to visit the papal city of Avignon with an unfinished bridge, picturesque villages in Provence and a first look at the French Riviera.

This article is no. 5 in a series of 10. The 25 days long journey was on an InterRail train ticket a long time ago, in August 1991, to Germany, France and Italy. What follows are transcripts from my travel diary at the time. I have changed or added very little. 


Sunday 11.8.1991, Avignon

Despite the headline we did not arrive in Avignon until the afternoon. We took an early train from Blois to Paris and then south to Avignon in Provence. The journey into Paris was to be the fastest. The TGV from Paris however was disappointing and by far as good as the previous trip. Going south we met a family from Norway with two teenage daughters. We haven’t met or heard many Norwegians here in la France.

The terrain is very flat around Paris and a good distance to the south. The Rhone valley is wide and flat as well, but we do see the hills on the sides.

In Avignon we did not find any cheap accommodation. We checked into the…

  • HOTEL PROVENCAL, Rue Vermet (?). 250 FF for a double room with shower and WC. Breakfast, very good, was included. Nice and clean hotel with trapped air and traffic noise.

Avignon has an old restored wall around the city at least the old part of it. Within the walls there are narrow streets and alleys. Old brick houses all over.

The popes left years ago Rome and settled here for several generations. They built a large castle right in the middle. It is well maintained. Apart from this the city is known for its bridge where everyone was dancing (“sur le pont d’Avignon etc.”). The bridge is however only half, it doesn’t cross the river (part of the Loire river).

Monday 12.8.1991, Avignon

In the morning we were able to find a place to do our laundry in a cheap Laundromat. Then we went sightseeing in Provence, this famous French region. We took local bus for 30 FF northeast to the small town of Vaison-la-Romaine. It had a very nice old town up on a hill. Due to infrequent trans-portation we had to catch a bus and a train back rather early. On the way we managed to see vineyards en masse (Côtes du Rhône, you know). Pleasant small villages lay scattered around in the hillsides.


Tuesday 13.8.1991, Avignon

We had planned to join an organised tour but almost for the fun of it we made a phone-call to various car rental firms. It turned out that they had affordable rates compared to the tour and compared to a sense of freedom.

At Ardam we rented a Renault 5 for 340 FF. (We were going to spend an additional 60 FF in petrol, so we didn’t pay more than 400 for the whole day.)

This was a good idea. Driving was easy and so much more exciting picking the places we wanted to see ourselves, how long, and so on. We went to Pont du Gard to see the ancient Roman aqueduct from the first century A.D. It is 50 metres high and we walked on top of it. Afterwards we had a bath in the lovely river below the aqueduct.

We crossed the Rhone to a very pleasant village in the mountains; Les Baux-de-Provence is a must.

Later we got to Roussillon and Gordes. The former was coloured red by a special pigment in the soil. Gordes was the nicest from a distance and had an outdoor museum.

Wednesday 14.8.1991, French Riviera

We took an early morning train from Avignon to Marseilles, and boarded a train eastwards immediately. Our goal was CannesNice and Monaco with a night-train onward to Rome, Italy.

In Cannes we put our bags in a locker at the station (20 FF) and went straight down to the Croisette. We then walked the streets. Conclusion: Cannes is the Croisette and nothing more. Behind the waterfront, on which the Hotel Carlton was the noblest sight, there are boring streets. The beach lined with palms and filled with beds is on the other hand great.


Our journey on a map

This is the map of our journey through parts of Europe, on this InterRail. It includes all published articles, both travelogues and the World heritage sites we visited. There are also markers indicating links to articles with pictures from a particular country (including pictures from other trips). 

We travelled by train, however the lines on the map show what a road trip by car would have been. Unfortunately, it is not possible to draw train lines on Google Maps.





Read more

All chapters in this series from 1991:

(1) Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Germany: Here is my diary from an InterRail train journey through Sweden, Denmark and Germany, to France and Italy.

(2) Paris & Versailles: Sightseeing in Paris and a day at Versailles.

(3) Normandie and Bretagne: A famous tapestry and D-Day beaches in Normandy and a strange mountain in the sea in Brittany.

(4) The Loire Valley and its palaces: Grand palaces and parks in the Loire Valley.

(5) Provence and the Cote d’Azur: The papal city of Avignon with an unfinished bridge, picturesque villages in Provence and a first look at the French Riviera. (THIS ARTICLE)

(6) Monaco: A short stop in Monaco before continuing to Rome.

(7) Roma and the Vatican: In Italy we went to Roma (Rome), several cities in Tuscany and a final day in Venice, before returning to France. Here is first the account of the Eternal City of Rome and a visit to the Vatican.

(8) Toscana: A few hectic days in Tuscany, in the old cities of Florence, Lucca, Pisa, Arezzo and Siena.

(9) Venezia: Venice on a day trip, like many other visitors. But even a day made us realise the magic of this famed city.

(10) French Riviera: Lazy, lovely days on the Cote d’Azur… and the long way home.