Saturday, July 22, 2023

22nd of July 2023 - Arles

Our final excursion was a walking tour of Arles.  Arles is another ancient city with a collection of Roman ruins and medieval houses.


The Roman amphitheatre is still used for sporting events including bullfighting but the less said about that the better.


There is also a Roman theatre where productions are still held and Roman baths.


Van Gogh painted some 200 paintings in his time here.  The Café de Nuit was painted in 1888 and is one of Van Gogh’s most well know paintings. The cheery yellow café is still there and still functioning as a café.  And it’s still yellow.


‘Le Jardin de la Maison de Sante’ was our next stop. The arcades featured in the painting are still in place and the garden bears some similarity to its original version.

We visited the large farmers’ market with wonderful displays of seasonal fruit and vegetables.  I would have loved to have been able to buy some of the local cheese and cured sausage to bring home.

There were also vendors selling hot food such as paella.

All good things come to an end so I spent some of the afternoon packing but did take a break to have a drink with a fellow passenger in the lounge.  I haven't had a pastis in years.

Tonight we had our final dinner together and said some goodbyes,  Some of us will see each other again tomorrow while waiting for our transfers to our next destination.  In my case this is London Heathrow.

Friday, July 21, 2023

21st of July 2023 - Avignon

The Avignon popes built the ramparts that still surround the Old Town of Avignon and the huge, nearly impregnable fortress of the Palace of the Popes that dominates the UNESCO-designated district.  The big wheel was an easy landmark for returning to the ship.

We walked through the streets to the Palace of the Popes past the Clock Tower and streets lined with inviting looking cafés.

There is an arts festival taking placing in Avignon and we saw a number of musicians giving teasers of their performances.

We climbed many steps in the heat to visit the Palace of the Popes with its high, thick walls.  Sadly we were not allowed to take pictures of the ancient frescoes even without flash.  I also tried to imagine what the large rooms would be like when covered by tapestries in the days of the pope.


After we left the we had a quick visit to the Basilique St-Pierre, in the centre of Avignon.  This was built between the 14th and 16th centuries in the Flamboyant Gothic style.

Our final visit of the morning was to the covered market of Les Halles which was thankfully airconditioned.  The average person comes here to do their shopping yet the chefs from the best restaurants also buy their produce here.  I would love to have such a market on my doorstep.

In the afternoon I walked down to the Saint-Bénézet Bridge or, as it is better known, the “Pont d'Avignon” with the famous song known around the world.  The bridge itself has four arches remaining as well as the Philippe le Bel tower on the Villeneuve-lès-Avignon side.

20th of July 2023 Viviers, truffles and Chateauneuf du Pape wine tasting

Viviers has a long history going back more than 1,600 years.  At one time, Viviers was a rich town under the patronage of the Catholic church but now is quite poor.  There are no hotels or shops for visitors which adds to its charm.  

We climbed up the hill through cobbled streets to read 12th-century St. Vincent’s Cathedral which is the smallest cathedral in France.  It was lovely to sit in the quiet of the cathedral.

From St. Vincent’s Cathedral  we climbed further to the Belvédère of le Rocher de Châteauvieux, a 14th century fortification which gave us sweeping views over the rooftops and the Rhône.

We are starting to see more lavender as we go further south.  The scent of the lavender up on the Belvédère was very strong.

We then returned back through the Old Town with medieval houses and narrow cobblestone lanes.  There were holes among the cobblestones which meant being very wary of where we put our feet.

Our guide took us into her beautiful home for refreshments.  These included a lovely aperitif of chestnut liqueur and white wine.  We also tried the local saucisson.

On our way back to the ship we stopped briefly to watch a game of pétanque.  Pétanque is based on the same principle as horseshoes except it is played with steel balls.

After lunch we visited a family owned truffle farm for an explanation of truffle hunting.  These days dogs are often used instead of pigs.  We were given an explanation of how the dogs were trained including rubbing truffle oil on the mother dog's teats so that the puppies become familiar with the scent.

A truffle hunt followed however the farmer was honest and said that he had planted the truffles as he farms predominantly winter truffles.  A truffle tasting followed accompanied by local wines.

Our final stop of the day was to the Bouachon wine cellar in the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine appellation where we sampled one white wine and two red wines.  The white wine was tasted both with and without a lavender scented dark chocolate.  I was surprised how much the chocolate enhanced the flavour of the wine.  We also tested the second red wine both with and without a thyme scented dark chocolate.  The thyme scented chocolate rounded the flavour of the wine.