Historic La Mirande hotel occupies an exalted spot in Avignon: originally a 14th-century cardinal’s mansion, it sits opposite the former popes’ palace, the Palais des Papes. The building has served as a hotel for the past few centuries, and today combines its long heritage of hosting travellers with its history as a grand and opulent home. The current owners spent three years working with a Parisian interior designer and a local architect to restore La Mirande to its former grandeur… as well as filling it with their personal collection of art and antiques and readying it for discerning modern guests.Time your visit to coincide with one of the monthly cooking classes. The hotel’s chefs take turns to dish out shopping baskets, lead guests to the market, guide them in picking the best ingredients and then, back at the hotel, cooking an expert Provençal meal.
Dance your way across Pont Saint-Bénezet — the mediaeval “Pont d’Avignon” made famous by the French folk song; below it, in the Rhône, you can ride horses, hike, camp or swim on the Ile de Barthelasse (6 rue Pente Rapide, 84000 Avignon). Right opposite the hotel is the Palais des Papes, the grand popes’ palace in the Unesco-protected heart of historic Avignon. It's Europe’s largest mediaeval Gothic building (84000 Avignon; +33 (0)432 74 32 74; www.palais-des-papes.com).