Any visit to Lille must include some time exploring Furet du Nord, the largest bookstore in France.
This bibliophile's dream is a huge labyrinth consisting of eight floors and is the perfect place to escape from Lille's uncertain climate.
Stay at L'Hermitage Gantois for that special weekend.
Four star luxury with food to match, but you can sleep in a nun's cell with a chapel across the corridor and a gruesome medical museum on the ground floor.
Walkable from the station and totally unlike any other four star hotel you can reach by Eurostar.
Take advantage of the bus trips from the Avignon coach company Lieutaud, who will take you on day outings to the Camargue, the Luberon, Chateauneuf du Pape and the Pont du Gard.
Take care though. We were carried away by the Pont du Gard and walked right across the valley to photograph the viaduct from above. We well and truly had red faces when the driver had to come to find us. We hadn't been paying sufficient attention to our French listening and thought we had an hour for the stop, rather than the half hour that the driver had requested.
I think we understood the odd "les Anglais," though, as we re-entered the coach!
Take the earliest train that you can and pack a bottle of champagne, sandwiches and cakes for the journey. Drink the champagne after the Tunnel and before Paris and then sleep for an hour before you hit the Rhone Valley.
Remember you arrive at Avignon Central, not the TGV station so don’t try to hire a car from the wrong place. The Grand Hotel by the station is fine and the walk through the city gates and up to the Palace is easy and interesting. The café on Rue Saint Michel at the corner of Rue Paul Manivet opens early on Sundays and has the best coffee. Enjoy!
Should you care to rise slightly earlier on the last Friday in any month and make your way to the Post Office in Avignon you will enjoy the sight of hundreds of locals and a sprinkling of visitors setting off for a two-hour skate round the town.
Youngsters on skateboards, grandperes on ancient four-wheel rollers, and the more sportif flash past on inlines and even petites enfants wearing trainers with built-in wheels whizzed along by parents.
This entertaining spectacle reinforces the town’s reputation as the roller capital of France and in May/June it hosts the Avignon Roll'air festival.
Take a Summer Eurostar direct to Avignon: When you arrive, do NOT join the massive queue of visitors fighting for a hire car, instead wander straight in to the town of Avignon until you reach the Palais des Papes.
Then stay in an ideal location next door at the beautiful and luxurious Hotel La Mirande (www.la-mirande.fr Tel +33 90 12 20 20).
Alternatively if you cannot face all Avignon’s action, jump on a train to Arles (20 minutes away, same station, frequent trains) and enjoy the peace of the Hotel Particulier ( www.hotel-particulier.com T+33 90 52 51 40).
Would highly recommend visiting Avignon in July 2008 for the annual Festival d’Avignon. But book your accommodation well in advance. This huge multi-arts celebration will guarantee you lasting memories.
Stock up with gourmet delicacies at Les Halles Market for picnics along the way. Indulge in calisson pastries made with almonds and candied melons and a chocolate, sugar and oregano liqueur delicacy called Papalines.
Get the free Avignon Pass Card offering tourist attraction reductions, available at the Tourist Office. Enjoy opera at the exquisite 15th-Century Eglise St Pierre followed by dinner at 'Christian Etienne' for the very finest of French cuisine.
Once you’ve arrived refreshed from your rail journey, don’t rush away too quickly from Avignon Station. Do take time to appreciate this innovative building completed in 2001.
A curved façade and wall of overlapping laminated glass panels has been used by the architect to impressive effect. Look upwards to fully appreciate the scale of it all.
On your return journey ticketed passengers are allocated platform space nearest their booked train seat in order to reduce the usual rush when a train pulls in. Avignon is just one of four new stations between Paris and Marseilles commissioned in 1998.
The train is definitely the best way to arrive in this beautiful city - an experience enhanced if you're sipping some of the best wine ever made – Chateauneuf-du-Pape, which is a mere 10km from Avignon itself and should definitely be on your 'must-see' list.
In the meantime, there’s a fantastic restaurant at the hotel La Mirande in Avignon that serves the most delicious Foie gras imaginable. Mmmmm. I’m getting goose pimples just thinking about it. Or should that be duck pimples?!
To really begin to appreciate Avignon you should take the book The Dream of Scipio by Iain Pears with you and read it on the train on the way there.
It brings to life Avignon in the 5th, 11th and 20th centuries with three glorious plot lines interwoven to give you glimpses of the secrets that the city holds. Then go and see what you can find in the city from these periods - it is the ultimate starting point for the imaginative journey which matches the physical one.
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