Avignon: Once Home to the Popes

The basement kitchen at La Mirande Hotel, where visitors may take cooking classes or even have dinner.

The basement kitchen at La Mirande Hotel, where visitors may take cooking classes or even have dinner.

The building was wrecked during fighting here, but the basement is original and now home to a wonderful old-fashioned kitchen where visitors may take cooking classes or even have dinner. The resident chef and cooking students work with copper pots over a huge wood-burning cook stove. My mother briefly had a cook stove, too, but it didn’t look like this one!

The rebuilt residence has seen changes over the centuries, but the one that really matters to guests was quite recent. Martin Stein, co-owner and general manager, said his family bought and then spent about three years restoring the building before debuting La Mirande in 1990.

The hotel is meant to reflect the style and ambience of an 18th century aristocrat’s home. Of course, it does that with modern amenities, such as the in-room TV, sneakily embedded in the bedroom mirror.

Room rates start at about $470 a night without breakfast and rise during Avignon’s July theater festival.

By dinner time, all of us, I think, were happy to collapse into our seats, this for a meal prepared by the hotel’s award-winning chef, Jean-Claude Aubertin.

Food and wine were predictably good, all with emphasis on locally sourced and fresh ingredients. Come to think of it, that could have been true in the days of the Avignon popes, but I’m sure I prefer the 21st century iteration.

In any case, I ate appreciatively, but the best part was those Carpentras strawberries, which come from a town of the same name.

This is what it means to have access to the markets of Provence.

Reposted with permission. Copyright 2013 Travel Weekly.

The Pont d'Avignon, Avignon's bridge of legend and song.

The Pont d’Avignon, Avignon’s bridge of legend and song.

 

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