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Obama family begin holiday in southern France

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Avignon (France) (AFP)

Former US president Barack Obama and his family arrived Friday evening in southern France for a week's vacation near Avignon, the Provencal city that was home to the pope in the 14th century, local authorities said.

Obama, his wife Michelle and their two daughters Sasha and Malia landed at Avignon airport around 10:00pm (2000 GMT) and headed to Villeneuve-les-Avignon, on the other side of the Rhone river from the historic city.

No official information has been released about the exact location of where the former first family will be staying.

According to the daily Midi Libre and other local media, the Obamas will stay on Bathelasse island at an 18th century home owned by an American family. The rental for a week is reportedly 55,000 euros ($62,000).

The rumours were circulating for the past week that the Obamas might reside at the magnificent home of former French Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi, high above Villeneuve.

A security detail from the Gard regional police will surround the Obama's residence. But the ex-US leader's personal Secret Service detail will provide security as the family visits the area.

From 1309 to 1377, Avignon was the papal seat of the Catholic Church. That history can be seen at the medieval Palais des Papes (Pope's Palace) in the centre of Avignon.

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