Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Around Avignon

Walking through the plaza by the hotel in Avignon with Sweetie we approached the row of outdoor cafes, sitting right next to each other so that the only way to tell that it was a new cafe was that the chairs were a different color.

This same plaza had a lovely mosaic of a coat of arms...perhaps that of the Pope?

I was able to read the French descriptions of dishes pretty well and I had my handy bookmark sized graphic. I was able, in French (je suis allergic), to tell the waiter who wanted to seat us that I was allergic to dairy, but the graphic helped a lot. The waiter took it to the kitchen and showed the chef and all was well!

Our first meal in what was to become 'our' cafe was a simple herb omelet for me and a pizza for Sweetie. At dinner we both had the special which was an amazing lamb shank with chunks of vegetables, cooked in a slow braise method that yielding meltingly tender lamb and a delicious sauce. Thank heavens that we had plenty of baguette slices to help us enjoy every bit of that sauce. No photo of the lamb shanks, because we were so busy enjoying ourselves that we never thought of it as a photo op.

As long as I'm talking about their food, I have to say I was curious about the mussels (moules in French). Sometimes it seemed like every other table had at least one order of them and you could tell because they came in a large black metal pot...and with an order of frites (fries). This was not true for some of the other cafes in the area, so it seemed like it was a specialty of this cafe. For our last dinner in Avignon I wanted to order them, so I showed the bookmark to the waiter, asked 'moules et frites?' and he smiled and nodded 'yes'. It was an enormous portion of tender mussels with a lovely broth in the bottom of the pot to dip the fries into. If you go to Avignon, try out the moules et frites at Le Forum cafe. Sweetie enjoyed a plate of pasta and meatballs.

Still thinking about food, I have to say that I would have loved to try the brioche loaf

that the Hotel de l'Horloge served at breakfast. Sweetie said it was moist and very rich. He also enjoyed the petit croissants, served in a woven basket. I enjoyed the local honey that was available where they served jams. It went very well on the ever-present baguette.

The plaza has a lovely carousel, which the children especially seemed to enjoy riding, but the adults enjoyed looking at.

There was also the Theatre building which served for lots of cultural performances, including opera and ballet. Here Molière, who was an actor and playwright, watches over the entrance.

The pace was so relaxed that I confess that the various walks we took around town happened on different days, but I can't recall in what order. On one of those days we walked around the old part of town and discovered the traditional French candy Calisson, which is made in the region of Proven, especially in Aix-en-Provence where almonds became an established crop in the 16th century. The Calisson are made from a paste of candied fruit (mostly with a melon-like flavor) and ground almonds, with a thin layer of royal icing on the top. They are shaped almost like an almond and are about two inches long. As you can see from this photo, they come in lots of flavors including chocolate. Since these same candies were known in Italy in medieval times, I wonder if members of the Pope's entourage who came from Italy brought the yearning for them to Provence? 

The same shop had a lot of cookies and hard candies, plus beautiful trays of candied fruits.

Since in two earlier posts I took you through the Palace of the Popes, to the bridge at Avignon remembered in song, to a picnic in the gardens and to the Pont du Garde, as well as a walk through the town that included umbrellas in the air, we probably have had enough of Avignon, so it's time to say goodbye.

Read about those and see the photos at these two posts: HERE and HERE.

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