Saturday, April 25, 2015

The Little Train and lunch at La Mirande Restaurant in Avignon

One morning a few months ago, we headed to Avignon to ride the tourist train around the major historical sites in Avignon and eat lunch at La Mirande Restaurant. I had been to La Mirande once before at the suggestion of fellow blogger, cooking instructor and friend Barbara at Cuisine de Provence, but this would be the first time for Shirley.

We got to Avignon and parked at our favorite parking garage (Hotel Mercure) close to the Popes' Palace. When we walked out of the stairway from the garage, we see the sight below. Notre-Dame des Doms Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral located next to the Popes' Palace in Avignon. It is the seat of the Archbishop.

The cathedral is a Romanesque building, built on Rocher des Doms primarily in the second half of the 12th century. The bell tower collapsed in 1405 and was rebuilt in 1425. In 1670, the apse was rebuilt and extended.

The building was abandoned and allowed to deteriorate during the Revolution, but it was re-consecrated in 1822 and restored by archbishop Célestin Dupont between 1835 and 1842.

Notre-Dame des Doms Cathedral

Right next to the garage stairway, is the Hôtel des Monnaies (mint), the earliest private Baroque monument in Avignon. It sits opposite the main entrance to the Popes' Palace. It was built in 1619 by the Vice-Legate Jean-François de Bagni, and is dedicated to Paul V, the then reigning Pope. In 1860, it became the Conservatoire National de Musique. It was used as such up to 2007.

Hôtel des Monnaies

The Popes' Palace is a historical palace in Avignon, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe. One time fortress and palace, the papal residence was the seat of Western Christianity during the 14th century. Six papal conclaves were held in the Palace, leading to the elections of Benedict XII in 1334, Clement VI in 1342, Innocent VI in 1352, Urban V in 1362, Gregory XI in 1370 and Antipope Benedict XIII in 1394.

The Palace is actually made up of two buildings: the old Palace of Benedict XII which sits on the impregnable rock of Doms, and the new Palace of Clement VI, the most extravagant of the Avignon popes. Not only is the final combination the largest Gothic building of the Middle Ages, it is also one of the best examples of the International Gothic architectural style.

Pope's Palace in Avignon

We walked around behind the Popes' Palace and found the restaurant at the 5 star hotel of the same name at the foot of the Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace).

Popes' Palace and entrance across the street to La Mirande

La Mirande is named after the room in the Palais des Papes, La Mirande, where the Pope’s representatives held receptions for the city’s notables and visiting high-ranking officials.

The walls of the hotel hold years of history. Originally a cardinal’s palace in the 14th century, the ruins of La Mirande were restored during the 17th century to create the Hôtel de Vervins with its baroque façade by architect Pierre Mignard, later becoming the Hôtel Pamard between the late 18th and 20th centuries.

The Stein family opened La Mirande as a hotel-restaurant in 1990 after restoring the property to recreate the atmosphere of an 18th century aristocratic residence, where period tapestries and chandeliers harmoniously co-exist with tufted armchairs and master paintings.

Terrace dining at La Mirande Restaurant

The Chef is Jean-Claude Aubertin, who comes from Epernay in the Champagne region in Northern France where he cooked in Champagne houses such as Moët et Chandon, Taittinger, Pol Roger, and Perrier Jouët.

Shirley relaxing on La Mirande terrace

The Restaurant has an extensive wine list but we chose a wine we were familiar with from our own Sablet.

2012 Domaine Piaugier Cote du Rhone Villages Sablet

To get our meal started the chef sent out two amuse bouche to get our appetite going. The first was a plate of Crudités with Aioli and the second was a little plate of Caviar d'Aubergines with toast.

Crudités with Aïoli

Caviar d'Aubergines

For my starter, I chose Coquilles St. Jacques, scallops with mushrooms in puff pastry.

Scallops with mushrooms in puff pastry

Shirley chose Butternut squash soup with chestnuts, hazelnuts, and pine nuts topped by softly poached egg.

Butternut squash soup with chestnuts, hazelnuts, and pine nuts topped by softly poached egg

For main course, I chose the roasted chicken breast.

Roasted chicken breast with spinach, haricots verts, garlic and roasted potatoes

Shirley chose a very tasty traditional dish of Skate with sauce Grenobloise.

Skate with sauce Grenobloise and baby vegetables

For desserts, we chose the Millefeuille, and


we chose the Sablé cookies topped by raspberries and whip cream and raspberry sorbet.

Sablé cookies topped by raspberries and whip cream and raspberry sorbet

To finish, the chef sent out a plate of mignardise, tiny pastries and sweets, usually served with coffee.


View of Popes' Palace from La Mirande terrace

La Mirande terrace

Several hours later, we pushed away from our table and headed to the tourist train. We have never ridden the train because we think it is totally touristy but we have been curious if they showed monuments or sights we had missed. The Petit Train offers a guided tour around the historical parts of Avignon. The tour takes 40 minutes and departs and returns from the Popes' Palace.

Tourist train in front of Popes' Palace

One of the things we saw from the train was the Avignon Town Hall (Hotel de Ville). It is located on the town's main square, Place de l'Horloge (Clock Square). The building ironically separates the clock tower (seen in the distance) from the square that takes its name.

Avignon Hotel de Ville

The train departs and returns to the Pope's Palace

From Avignon, we headed out across the Rhone River to Villeneuve-les-Avignons to say hello to cousins Andre and Mauricette.  On the way, we passed Philippe-le-Bel (in English, Philip the Fair) Tower in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

The Tower marks the French end of the Saint-Bénézet Bridge across the Rhone River between the Kingdom of France and Papal territory of Avignon. It is named after the French king Philippe-le-Bel who was responsible for its construction.

Philippe-le-Bel Tower

We thorough enjoyed our meal and the tranquil setting in the shadow of the Pope's Palace.

La Mirande Restaurant
4 Place de l'Amirande
84000 Avignon
Tel: 04 90 14 20 20

A bientot. Have a great week.


  1. Nice. Thanks for all the great info... and that lunch seems wonderful ;-) Have a nice sunday, Dina

  2. This is not the sort of thing to look at before lunch! My mouth is watering!

    I used to turn my nose down on "petits trains" and tourist busses, but have found they can be quite fun, actually -- at any age.

  3. Michel, I am glad that you enjoyed La Mirande - the next time I bet that you both would really enjoy one of the special dinners "dans la cuisine"! And there is a very good wine shop within the Pope's Palace! If you enter into the gift shop (just across from the hotel) and walk up the stairs in the back you will find it.