"The fine art of staring down the Antipopes" Villeneuve-lès-Avignon by CatherineReichardt
Villeneuve-lès-Avignon Travel Guide: 33 reviews and 115 photos
If ever a town had justification to suffer from an inferiority complex in the shadow of its larger, more famous neighbour, then it would be Villeneuve-lès-Avignon, which sits just over the river from Avignon. Except that I strongly suspect that few people in Villeneuve really sees it that way as they’re too busy enjoying Villeneuve’s exceedingly laid back lifestyle!
Several guidebooks that I have read seem to imply that you should choose between Avignon and Villeneuve. This is patently nonsense, as the two both offer completely different - but very wonderful - things and I don’t see why you should come all this way and present yourself with a choice of either/or. If in doubt, take guidance from the wonderfully disgraceful Mae West once so aptly quipped: “Too much of anything can be wonderful!”
Villeneuve was of immense strategic importance in the early Middle Ages as the Rhone served as the border between the jurisdiction of France and that of Provence (then a separate territory). The town was founded by Philip le Bel and fortified by Jean Le Bon (kings over this period seem to have been notable for either their virtue or good looks!). It rose to further prominence as the summer retreat of the cardinals at the Papal court in Avignon.
The strategic significance of the town started to wane after 1481, when Provence was incorporated into the kingdom of France, and by which time those troublesome Antipopes across the river had also gone away.
Villeneuve is not all that big, but both Fort St Andre and the adjacent Chartreuse du Val du Bénédiction monastery are heavyweight tourist attractions that require a couple of hours if you’re to do them justice. Also don’t underestimate Villeneuve’s laid back charm which make it exactly the sort of place that you shouldn’t rush around like a headless chicken … this is a place to linger at leisure and savour the chance to abandon your hectic day-to-day existence, albeit temporarily. So allow yourself half a day at minimum – preferably a little longer.
One last word of advice. Villeneuve is worth considering as an attractive alternative base to Avignon, particularly in peak season. However, if you decide to pursue this option, then bear in mind that this will require you to return from Avignon in the early evening as the navette service between the two stops quite early (see my transport tip): otherwise you’ll need to take either a taxi or a fairly long (3km) walk.
For other attractions in the area, follow these links:
My Avignon page (including Pont du Gard)
My Orange page
The monastery of Chartreuse du Val de Benediction (what a mouthful) was the largest Carthusian monastery in France... more travel advice
This market was underway the Saturday morning that I visited Villeneuve - it was the last Saturday of the month, and... more travel advice
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