Today we pulled up to a small town along the Soane River near the province of Beaujolais. We boarded tour buses and were taken through the French countryside to the Abbey of Cluny, built in 11th century. It was the largest cathedral in the world until the construction of St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. Only about 5 % is still standing. But impressive none the less. We also visited the required chèvre farm and tasted goat cheese and Macon villages, a white wine made with the Chardonnay grape. We also travelled through the town of Belleville. We only have one more full day On board before traveling to Paris 😦
Monthly Archives: September 2013
So what can I say about Lyon? It is the second largest city in France located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saone. It doesn’t seem quite fair that Charlotte gets no rivers and this city gets 2. It was a major pathway for the Romans to get just about anywhere. We started the morning with a tour of the food market made famous by the three-star Michelin chef Paul Bocuse. Here, you will find 365 different varieties of cheeses at the fromagerie as well as beautiful meats and desserts. (please look at the photos of this place after you have eaten!) we then crossed over both the Rhône and Saone rivers and traveled to the top of Fourvouiere to the ABC on top. Beautiful inside and out and also great views looking down into the city. We then went to the old town where we had time to view the shops as well as some secret passageways that were used by the resistance during the German occupation here. While the rest went back to the ship we stayed here and had a nice lunch of salads, crepes avec jambon- fromage. While it was good, it is sort of amazing how slow the service can be over here. The French do not appear to be in a hurry like Americans are. We did a little shopping and then back on board. Yesterday we had time to grab a couple bicycles and ride a few miles up and down the Rhone.
This morning we took a stroll through the old Roman city of Vienne. We had our obligatory ABC tour, for those you don’t know, it stands for another bloody cathedral. One this one was built in the 12th through the 16th centuries… started in Roman style and finished and Gothic style. Apparently, after traveling north to see the cathedrals in Reims and Chartre, they felt their cathedral here needed to be bigger, hence the 400 years of construction were mainly remodeling. We hiked up to the top of the city and had a wonderful view down over the town and old roman amphitheater (now used for a major jazz festival each year in June). Interestingly most of the old Roman structures as well as cathedrals weren’t stone colored as they are now, but actually painted in bright reds, blues and greens.
We now sail on to Lyon
This morning we spent a pleasant three hours in town of Viviers in the Ardeche region. It is really quite a quaint 14th century town. We weren’t expecting a lot as they didn’t make a big deal of it. Narrow streets with cobblestones that eventually end on top of a limestone cliff with a cathedral We were treated to a five piece organ recital which included Bach’s toccata and fugue in G minor and two pieces from Cesar Frank (short, lively pieces… I actually enjoyed it). Again, lots more history of senseless bloody religious wars which seem to permeate the entire landscape over here. I think it when it comes to violent painful tortures and deaths between the Catholics and Protestants, it seems to be a draw.
This afternoon, we had a cheese tasting, with of course authentic local market cheeses including Rocquefort, Compte, Epoisses, and Camembert along with the traditional baguette and Cotes du Rhone. Another beautiful 78 degree day.
We have gone under numerous bridges and it’s kind of amazing to watch these guys work. All the deck chairs and railings have to be laid flat and the center wheelhouse motorizes down into the deck. I understand some of the bridges around Lyon we will clear with inches to spare. Several of the spring time cruises are not able to continue up the Saone river because of high water so planned this pretty perfect so far.
I realize I forgot to show you the picture of the Vineyard with these stones around the roots of the vines. They are also apparently not allowed to irrigate the vineyards and thus are at the total mercy of mother nature with regards to the quality and quantity of wine they can make. We also found out that we are lucky in that there is a wind called the mistral which comes down the Rhone valley and reaches gusts up to 80 miles an hour. It lasts always for three days and they’re never sure when it’s going to happen so on occasion people on this trip have a windy ride on the Rhone. For us, no wind and temperatures in the 70s
So, we had a beautiful wine tasting this morning at 8:30 AM but this is France, non? The winery was Skalli one of the many wineries in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape region. Two of the three wines were served with chocolates that were infused with either lavender or thyme… A fascinating degustation du vin. The wines of this region are all different in other words it makes no sense to say I’ve had a chateauneuf -du-Pape. Each can be a blend of 13 different varietals of grapes… Mainly Grenache, Mouvedre and Syrah. We toured the vineyards as well as the village and ruins of the castle of the Pope. The stones are placed to absorb the sunlight and then radiate the heat back to the roots at night.
Setting our course for tomorrow’s day we cruised by an apparently famous bridge (or what is left of it) that was built in 1177 and was about the only way to cross the rhone other than by boat. It was popularized in a song that all French know… Sur le pont D’avignon. I of course, never heard of it
This morning we saw the pont du gard. For those of you who don’t know this was a Roman aqueduct built around 50 A.D. It is the last remaining part of a aqueduct system 50 km long but dropping only 17m from the springs of Uzes to Nimes. The whole aqueduct only took around 25 years to build and this particular bridge was constructed in 10 years. Pretty impressive when you think about it. I think even with modern equipment the way the French people work, it would take a lot longer than that now Of course, I had to climb up to the top of both sides, very cool structure.
We also went to the small medieval town of Uzes. This whole area of Provence and Languedoc has such beautiful weather this time year highs are around 80 with very low humidity and blue skies i’m starting to wish I brought more T-shirts than sweaters.
This am we toured the14th century Palais des Papes. Avignon is a walled city. Limestone facades and narrow streets. Seems very clean. Stores are closed on Monday mostly. I guess when you hit the top tax rate (52%) at just 65K euro per year, your incentives change. The bus ride to the ship was in minimal traffic as trucks are not allowed on the roads on the weekends without a special permit. Socialism at its finest!