Avignon, the capital of Provence, is full of local specialties and quirks that jumped out at sorbet stands, in restaurant menus and in the Les Halles markets – the perfect place for a wandering foodie to spend a few days. If my photos are anything to go by, most of my time in Avignon was spent eating, at the Parc des Rocher Doms or being lost.
Apricots are very popular in Provence, and this sorbet was almost better than the real thing. Hands down, it’s the best of any sorbet, gelato or ice cream I’ve had overseas, and that includes many weeks of daily gelato in Italy! This sorbet tasted like summer in a scoop.
This is one Provencal specialty that I didn’t “get.” I tried a strawberry, and found the texture and flavour of the marzipan to be pretty much unpalatable. I found these in one of the many specialty food stores not far from the Place d’Horloge, which had a huge range of Provencal sweets and snacks. Most things are quite cheap, so it’s worth picking a few different things and at least trying them!
On our first morning in Avignon, we discovered that slow pace of life in Avignon means most cafes don’t open until nearly lunch time. There are no breakfast menus. We ordered ham and cheese crepes with an egg on top and a side of orange juice to make lunch feel a little more like breakfast food. It was the best brunch of the trip!
Another “breakfast”, advertised as the “ham & cheese special” turned out to be an indulgent walnut salad, with prosciutto for the ham and camembert and goats cheese, another Provencal specialty. The best “ham & cheese” dish ever!
Les Halles Market
While the indoor market wasn’t as ambient as I imagined a Provencal market to be, it was full of interesting local specialties. I’m not a fan of hard lollies, but I did try the crystallised pear, in the bottom right hand side of this picture. More sugar than fruit, you could easily split one between two people! On the top shelf, you can see the almond-shaped Calissons, which are like marzipan but fruitier. They’re a specialty particularly from the nearby Aix-en-Provence, but can be found throughout Provence.
You can’t go to a cafe (or a McCafe, for that matter) without tripping over macarons these days, which does make finding them in France less exciting. Despite their ubiquity, you still can’t beat a good, French macaron, enjoyed in France.
Due to a history of Italian occupation, it’s easy to see the Italian influence on Provencal cuisine. Olive oil is used in cooking rather than the butter used in northern France, which makes it healthier, and in my opinion, tastier. Basil-infused olive oil made a great gift for Mum, and the candied pear and some macarons were useful sugar hits as we got lost in the labyrinth-like streets of Avignon later that day.
The mouthwatering variety of breads and pastries in French boulangeries are impossible for me to resist, especially when everything is so cheap!
The Vodka Lemonade from Hell
Yes, that is a full bottle of lemonade beside my glass. Yes, that glass is full of only vodka. Chloe and I spent a long time trying to discreetly juggle our vodka into different glasses and water it down enough with sprite to be palatable…without any luck. I was surprised how many times this happened in France. That’s around three drinks worth of vodka in Australia, which would have cost me $27 at home. While I appreciate how cheap it was for that much vodka, getting plastered at dinner wasn’t on the agenda, and so it was kind of wasted. We quickly learned that wine is a much safer bet in France.
Equal portions of meat, garlicky beans and fries, each section of the dish richer than the last.