02.06.11 Avignon: Palais des Papes, Pont d’Avignon; Costieres de Nime.

02.06.11 Avignon: Palais des Papes and Pont d’Avignon; Costieres de Nime.

The Grand Tinel. More pics here
Made a first incursion into the Vaucluse today with a memorable visit to Avignon, in particular to two of the major attractions, the imposing 14th century Palace of the Popes and the 12th century bridge to nowhere Pont St Benezet.
It was a very rainy morning here when we headed out to a park and ride on an island in the Rhone. We parked no problem but there was no sign of the (bus) ride so we walked over a bridge and found ourselves at the gate of the Palace. The popes left war torn Italy during the 14th century and from 1309 to 1377 seven French Popes ruled unchallenged before a tempestuous return to Rome in 1378.
The palace walls cover some 4.5 km. There are 39 towers and seven gates. The scale is enormous. The Grand Tinel is one of the highlights and today there was a rose show and also an art exhibition among among many things to see. As usual, there is a souvenir shop on the way out and it is the usual type though distinguished by a tasting room (3 tastes for 6 euro) for the famous Cotes du Rhone wine, including some Chateauneuf du Papes.
Our combined ticket (€12.00 for seniors!) covered admission to the nearby 1177 bridge Pont St Benezet, also known as Pont d’Avignon, subject of the famous rhyme Sur le Pont d’Avignon. This bridge, which once spanned the Rhone but, storm damaged many moons ago, now falls short, stopping about two thirds of the way across. In the entrance tower, there is an exhibition of bridge technology and also a series of photos of bridges from around the world including the Limerick footbridge (the Living Bridge).
The rain threatened again as we walked back to our car park (no sign of the Navettes) but luckily held off until we reached the car. We were late enough in reaching Fontvieille and were lucky enough to find Le Moulin de la Grasiho open and with a table available.
Had a superb meal here for €84.00 for the two. My starter was a Melon and Coriander Gazpacho with slivers of Aubergine and Smoked Duck Breast. Delicious also was the slab of Foie Gras with four spices and a fruit chutney (4 euro extra).
We each went for the same mains: two fillets each of sea bream with craqaunts de sesame and coulis d’olive. A great combination, such a tasty match. The plate also had a mix of Mediterranean vegetables.
I picked the classic Iles Flottantes as my dessert and, for the first time in three, really hit the jackpot. It was absolutely gorgeous. The other dessert was possibly even better: a fantail of pear covered by carambar and served with an “iceberg” of chocolate. Reckon we’ll be returning here.
Another good reason to go back was the wine we had. It was a Costiere de Nime blanc 2010 (€16.00), a 14.5% abv 50/50 mix of Grenache blanc and Roussane, with great colour, great nose and smashing flavour. Must bring back some to Ireland!