Exploring Avignon

by Lucienne Brown
   
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A delayed flight (and rather confused cab driver from the airport) meant that my friend and I arrived at Hotel d'Europe considerably later than planned. The staff had retired for the evening, but the night receptionist took care of all arrangements instantly, and we soon felt the stress of the journey melt away. Walking through the ancient courtyard in the moonlight you can’t help but be captivated by the beauty of the building, which dates from the 16th century and was originally the home of the Marquess of Gravezon. It was turned into a hotel in 1799 by a lady friend of Napoleon Bonaparte, and has been welcoming guests ever since. Past guests include Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí, Jacques Chirac, Charles Dickens and Tennessee Williams.

We were led to our room, noting the mismatched antiques, uneven ceiling heights and creaking floorboards that make Hotel d’Europe such a change from modern hotels. Up and down stairs, along corridors, around corners; I began to think there would be no way I was going to find my way back to reception on my own! The four-poster bed, spacious marble bathroom and relaxing atmosphere meant that we were loath to get up and out in the morning… but we soldiered on and set off to discover the many delights of the area, including the Palace of the Popes and the famous Pont d’Avignon – both within walking distance. Hotel d’Europe is a glorious hotel worthy of such a glorious destination.

Heritage 

When Madame Pierron – the lady with the Napoleon Bonaparte connection – turned this building into a hotel in 1799, it was already over two centuries old, having been an aristocratic residence since the 16th century. Since then it has hosted some of the world’s most celebrated artists, authors and other luminaries. You really get a sense of history just wandering about the hotel – antique furniture, grand paintings and hidden nooks and crannies all provide clues to the secrets of days gone by.

Be sure to explore the many delights of Avignon – the hotel guide offers two-hour walking tours, which are a great way to get to know this quaint town. The Palace of the Popes and the Pont d’Avignon are unmissable, and everything is within walking distance. After a day spent exploring, we relaxed with a crisp rosé at a table under the 200-year-old plane tree in the peaceful courtyard – bliss!

Local history

  • Most of the building dates back to 1580 – it has been known as Hotel d’Europe since 1799
  • The hotel was listed in the first Michelin Guide for France in 1900 – and has been featured in every edition since
  • Previous guests include Charles Dickens, Queen Astrid of Spain, Victor Hugo and John Stuart Mill

Facilities

  • The restaurant (open Tuesday-Saturday) is run by talented head chef Bruno d’Angelis, who also runs on-site cookery classes. Be sure to try the home-smoked salmon
  • The bar serves light meals and a local wine list, with live piano music on Fridays
  • Free wi-fi and computer for guest use
  • Private garage and valet parking, personal tour guide, hairdressing appointments and more – just ask the helpful staff!

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