Known to most as the home of the bridge made famous by the children’s song, the city of Avignon (pop. 100,000) also hosts Europe’s most prominent theater festival. A reminder of Avignon’s brief stint as the center of the Catholic Church, the 14th-century golden UPalais des Papes keeps watch over the city with its gargoyles. Although Revolutionary looting stripped the interior of its lavish furnishings, the giant rooms and their frescoed walls are still remarkable. ( 04 90 27 50 74. Open July-Sept. daily 9am-8pm; Apr.-June and Oct. 9am-7pm; Nov. to Mar. 9:30am-5:45pm. 7.50.) The most prestigious theatrical gathering in Europe, the iilFestival d’Avignon appears in at least 30 different venues, from factories to cloisters to palaces. (04 90 14 14 14; www.festival-avignon.com. July-early Aug. Tickets up to 30. Some shows free. Reservations accepted from mid-June. Standby tickets available 45min. before shows; 50% student discount.) The also well-established, more experimental Festival OFF also takes place in July. (OFFice on pl. du Palais, s 01 48 05 01 19; www.avignon-off.org. Tickets purchased at the venue or the OFFice; not available over the phone. Tickets 0-16.) Tickets are not necessary to experience the festivals; free theatrical performances often spill into the streets, especially at night. During the festival most eateries stay open late as well. Place des Corps Saints has a few lively bars.
Trains (04 90 27 81 89) run from porte de la Republique to: Arles (30min. 19 per day, 5.70); Marseilles (lMhr. 15 per day, 16); Nimes (30min. 12 per day, 7.10); and Paris (TGV 3Mhr. 13 per day, 80). Buses leave from bd. St-Roch, to the right of the train station, for Arles (45min. 5 per day, 7.80) and Marseilles (2hr. 5 per day, 16). From the train station, walk through porte de la Republique to cours Jean Jaures to reach the tourist office, 41 cours Jean Jaures ( 04 32 74 32 74; www.ot-avignon.fr. Open Apr.-Sept. M-Sa 9am-6pm, Su 10am-5pm.; Oct.-Mar. reduced hours.) Take an Internet break at Webzone, 3 r. St-Jean le Vieux, at pl. Pie. ( 04 32 76 29 47. 4 per hr. Open daily 9am-midnight.) Avignon’s hotels and foyers usually have room; although they fill up fast during festival season; book well ahead or try staying in Arles or Nimes. The Foyer YMCAUCJG O, 7bis chemin de la Justice, is across the river in Villeneuve. From the station, turn left and follow the city wall, cross pont Daladier and Ile Barthelasse, walk straight ahead, and turn left on chemin de la Justice; it will be up the hill on your left. ( 04 90 25 46 20; www.ymca-avignon.com. Reception 8:30am-noon and l:30-6pm. Demi-pension obligatory in July. Dorms 15. AmExMCV.) The Hdtel Splendid , 17 r. Perdigu-ier, near the tourist office, lives up to its name, ( 04 90 86 14 46; fax 04 90 85 38 55. Breakfast 5. Reception 7am-llpm. Singles 30-34; doubles 40-46. MCA7.) Camp at Pont d’Avignon O, 300 Ile de la Barthelasse. ( 04 90 80 63 50; fax 04 90 85 22 12. Reception daily 8am-10pm. Open Mar. 27-Oct. 28. 15 per person with tent or car, 4 per extra person. Off-season reduced prices.) Rue des Teinturiers hosts a number of restaurants. A Petit Casino supermarket is on r. St-Agricol. (Open M-F 8am-8pm, Sa-Su 9am-8pm.) Postal Code: 84000.