Not wanting to waste the extra time we had before our bikes were collected, we decided to venture out again to Villeneuve-Les-Avignon, a reasonably short ride away. The day was still lovely and we were soon riding in past Tour Philippe Le Bel on our way to the 14th Century Carthusian Monastery – Chartreuse du Val de Bénédiction, the resting place of Pope Innocent VI.
However, our first stop on reaching the town, was a shaded and tranquil square where we had our usual baguette lunch. These Provencal town squares provide a wonderful opportunity to sit and soak up the atmosphere of each place, and to simply relax and do a spot of people-watching in the cafes bordering them – but beware of letting the lifestyle overtake you so that you can’t complete your mission for the day! The square we sat in was so ambient and cool that it would have been very easy to remain there, glass of wine in hand …..
Having resisted the temptation to stay on in the outdoor cafe, we headed off to The Monastery. It is an impressive place with its three cloisters, community buildings, gardens and beautiful chapel, providing a tranquil and shady respite from the hot afternoon sun. Here we were able to see the Cloister of St John, the tomb of Pope Innocent, housed in the chapel adorned with stunning frescoes by Matteo Giovanetti, and to wander though the pretty grounds. We were intrigued by the abandoned wheelbarrows we saw there, but discovered that they must have been the remnants of the barrows lining the walls outside the Monastery, which had been planted by local school children.
After spending an hour or two at the Monastery, we rode off back to our hotel, and had our evening meal by the pool. We were pretty elated to have finished our very own ‘Tour de Provence,’ realising that we had fallen for Southern France in a big way… and we weren’t quite finished – the next morning we were due to move to another hotel, and visit some historic sites in area, starting in Arles…