Day 7 of our trip was the transit day from Nice to Avignon where we boarded the Viking Delling. This entailed a 3.5 hour bus trip with the requisite stop at a tourist trap where they tried to show us expensive souvenirs to purchase. The only thing we bought was a rather expensive cup of coffee, and if I’d known that they had vending machines I’d have waited to purchase it from there as getting a decent cup of regular coffee is a bit of a crapshoot in France. Specialty coffees on the other hand are everywhere and usually pretty decent.
Then it was on to the ship where we got settled in and they proceeded downstream a bit to Arles where we had our first excursion the next day. There we saw the Roman Amphitheatre which is still used today for such things as bull fights, a wander through town which included seeing the ruins of the Roman baths (many of these structures were dismantled to provide building materials for subsequent castles and churches), a peek at a church and inside the city hall and finally a stop at Espace van Gogh which is now a cultural center dedicated to the painter and was the subject of many of his paintings. One thing we learned quickly on our tour is that there is no ‘Pick up after your pet’ culture in France. You have to be VERY careful where you put your feet. Even outside churches there was lots of little (and not so little) aromatic reminders of Fifi or Fido.
They took us back to the ship, and after lunch we signed up for an optional tour to Le Baux, an ancient walled city, and the hospital where van Gogh was housed for a year while he tried to recover his sanity. He produced over 150 paintings and 100 drawings while he was in the hospital.
Just outside the hospital is a Roman Arch and Mausoleum. For centuries no one could figure out why they were there, but in the 1800’s a city was found just a few hundred yards away from these edifices that had been buried by silt. It’s now been excavated and is open for viewing.
Le Baux is where Sylvia discovered the delicious treat called Nougat. Once we got home we started looking up recipes to make it ourselves.
The next morning we cruised back up to Avignon where we toured the walled city and spent quite a bit of time exploring the Popes Palace which was built in the 1300’s by a succession of Popes while they were resident in France to escape from power struggles going on in Rome. Two of the popes were French and were never recognized by the church so their remains are buried in Avignon unlike all the rest who are interred in the Vatican. We then proceeded on to a walk around Avignon before heading back to the ship.
The next day we motored upriver to Tournon and on the way we found out that when we were going through the various Locks (there are 15 on this trip I believe) you didn’t always have the best view. That also applied at some overnight stops where even our deck on the middle floor was inches away from the dock. During the cruise we were given a short lesson on cooking a Chocolate Soufflé and Sylvia volunteered to be the Chef’s Assistant. She didn’t lick the bowl once!
We stopped in the afternoon and spent some time exploring Tain L’Hermitage across the river. Our stops included a Chocolate Factory (very very good chocolate!), an Art Museum where we picked up a small print, and finally a winery before heading back to the ship.
That’s about all I have time for today (and I’ll bet it’s all you have patience for too) so you’ll have to wait a day or so for the rest of our cruise pics.