Avignon is a great place to shop, and I managed to fit in plenty of browsing and window-shopping, and even a little buying during my two days there. I'm always pleasantly surprised to find that almost all of the clothing in a typical French shop window has some degree of refinement, even if it's not my taste. And almost all of it can be worn with confidence by women over 30. Or over 60. If only that were true over here. While there are French stores that cater to teens and young women seeking abbreviated club attire, of course, they don't predominate, as they do here. It's just too bad that the European prices are usually out of my range, because there are many lovely things.
Shopping district in Avignon
Instead of splurging on clothing, I kept my shopping low-key. I've been on a quest for new eyeglass frames, but hadn't seen anything I liked in the Boston area. I'd found one British style I liked, but my optician couldn't (or wouldn't) order it in a different color for me. So I decided to continue my search in France. There are loads of opticians in Avignon and I met many of them. I had a great time getting their reactions as I tried on frames. And, after visiting about eight shops, I found that British frame I'd wanted, in the right color. Voilà!
Spouse holds the bag with eyeglass frames before a celebratory lunch.
I also bought bought the typical Provençal souvenirs, which tend to be delicious or useful, rather than tacky, like most souvenirs. I visited Avignon's indoor food market, Les Halles, I bought herbs de Provence and fleur de sel de Camargue.
Olives at Les Halles.
Cheese! We need a market like this in Boston.
Mushroom display. Sigh.
This is almost certainly where my wonderful breakfast fruit came from.
I also picked up some lavender sachets, jars of regional jams (orange and chocolate, apple and caramel, apricot and almond) and a jar of tasty red pistou (pesto) of the region. My husband and I also stocked up on different flavors of caramels (chocolate, chocolate with orange rind, vanilla, nougat) and lollypops from the gorgeous candy store. I always go to grocery stores when I'm abroad for things like local seasonings, biscuits, cookies, and chocolate bars.
Finally, in a Swedish design shop, I met some friendly salespeople and picked up a present for an old friend who owns a printing company. I couldn't resist:
I visited two museums on my last day, the Musée Lapidaire, a former baroque chapel that now houses a collection of ancient sculpture, vases, and bronzes. If you visit one Avignon site at full price, you get a pass to visit the rest at a discount. My visit to this museum set me back 1 Euro:
Former churches make great exhibition galleries.
I also visited the Musée Calvet, a collection of 15th- to 20th-century paintings, sculpture, and crafts, housed in an 18th-century mansion:
View from the staircase of the Musée Calvet.
Detail of a gorgeously painted cabinet.
But it was a beautiful day and I wanted to be back outdoors. As I walked back to the hotel to prepare to leave town, I realized that whole town is museum-quality, despite the grafitti and a few modern encroachments. Everywhere there are architectural treasures:
On the way to catch the bus back to Paris, I encountered transit strikers. The town had been almost empty all day but, in the late afternoon, a steady stream of strikers streamed in from the portals, heading for the main square.
Strikers passing the hotel.
Strikers protesting in the main square.
That was my destination, too. I threaded my way through a lively mob and persuaded a gendarme to let me through the police barricade by waving my Forum ID badge. The conference was held in the palace, next to where the strikers had gathered. Shortly after I went into the palace, we were told that it was too dangerous to let anyone leave. So we all stood around, drinking apple juice and coffee and schmoozing. After more police arrived on the scene, we were allowed to leave in small groups, walking quickly past the boisterous, booing crowd of strikers.
Then we boarded another private, high-speed train and headed to Paris, where it was cold and rainy. We had dinner at the Café Deux Magôts, which was expensive and not worth it. Dessert was a Nutella crèpe (always wonderful!) at the stand across the street. That was our evening in Paris.
It's nice to be home. And we hear that at least one of us will be invited to the forum again next year....