S: David & Lea Anne - Fifteenth Anniversary Trip, September 2009
FC: The French Riviera, Provence & Burgundy Our Fifteenth Anniversary Trip September 2009
1: Nice, France
2: Thursday, September 10, 2009 - We flew into Nice and rented a car for the first leg of our trip. We spent two nights at the Hotel Royal Nice. Our room had a balcony and a great view over the Mediterranean. For lunch the first day we ate at the Negresco Hotel's brasserie - La Rotonde, which had the decor of a carousel. It was awesome! | Nice
3: After lunch we drove up the coast to Monaco and slightly beyond! What an amazing drive. We passed so many incredible cities, our favorites were Villefranche-sur-Mer & Eze. Judging by the cars and yachts everywhere, this is clearly a place for the super-rich. We had a list of places we had hoped to go to, but time got away from us. In Monaco we had dinner at the Cafe de Paris. We walked just into the lobby of the Monte Carlo Casino, but didn't go in to gamble. It was beautiful!
5: Friday, September 11 - Good morning Nice! It was a lovely day when we got up. We decided to drive along the coast again, this time West towards Cannes, and see where we ended up (as long as we made our lunch reservations on time)!
6: Sights along the drive to Cannes - We didn't stop anywhere for long, in order to get to Grasse for lunch
8: One of our best meals and favorite places of the trip (the lunch we didn't want to miss) was at Bastide St. Antoine, in Grasse. It was listed in Provence's Top 10 Gourmet Restaurants. The food was phenomenal, and the beautiful grounds & outdoor seating added so much to the experience.
11: For dinner, we went to Chateau de la Chevre d'Or in Eze. It was the most beautiful place we've ever been! It's on a cliff overlooking the Mediterranean and Villefranche-sur-Mer. The grounds were so incredible & the food was divine (it was also one of Provence's Top 10 Gourmet Restaurants). We would love to come back here to stay sometime!
12: Saturday, September 12 - We took the train from Nice to Avignon (our luggage took 2 extra seats!) | Avignon
15: Our hotel, Hotel Mercure Pont D'Avignon, was located almost inside the medieval wall that surrounds the old city. We loved everything about Avignon! It has retained so much of its medieval charm, and has great food & great shops. The papacy moved to Avignon for 70 years in 1309, and the papal palace & gardens still dominate the center of town. There was a really cool laser light show going on that night in celebration of the 700th anniversary of the move! We ate dinner at a cute little brasserie on one of the many squares throughout the town.
16: Avignon, Sunday, September 13 | We had breakfast at a cafe near the carousel, then went to explore the papal gardens. (This was where we received a 9:15 am, 3:15 a.m. Johnson City time, call from Ellie!) We had gorgeous views of the Rhone River & valley, and over the city.
18: After checking out of our hotel we waited an hour for a taxi to take us to our boat, the Viking Burgunday, not realizing it was less than 10 minutes to walk there! It wasn't time to check into the stateroom yet, so we went back into town, and toured the St. Benezet Bridge, also known as the Pont D'Avignon.
19: We rode around town in one of these trains! | The bridge was originally built in the 12th Century, by a shepherd turned priest. There were once 23 arches that spanned from one side to an island in the middle to the other side. Now only 4 arches remain. | A chapel under the bridge dedicated to St. Benezet | After the bridge, we went back to the boat to check out our stateroom. At first we thought it was spacious, but the tiny couches on either side of the room turned out to be our beds (We thought they folded out)!
20: The Viking Burgundy & our Itinerary
22: We got to Arles at 9:30 Monday am after leaving Avignon early. We had a great guide, Catharine, who was so proud of her Provencal heritage. Arles, as an important Roman province, had amazing Roman ruins, an arena still intact & used for bull-fights & races to this day! There is also an amphitheatre, and a huge area currently being excavated. As Arles was once home to Vincent van Gogh, there are proud monuments dedicated to him throughout the town. | Arles September 14
24: St. Remy de Provence | We took an optional afternoon excursion and our first stop was St. Remy de Provence, and a tour of the mental hospital where Van Gogh spent a year and had one of his most prolific times of painting. (It is also famous as the birthplace of Nostradomas!) Many of Van Gogh's paintings were posted along the walkways and we took many pictures of them. The grounds and gardens were absolutely lovely!
26: Right outside of the gates to St. Remy were ruins (that were almost perfectly preserved) of a mausoleum and triumphal arch from nearby Roman Glanum. | Glanum
27: Les Baux | After leaving St. Remy, we drove to the town of Les Baux. It is an old citadel town once destroyed by Louis X111 in 1632 because it was a Protestant stronghold. Only recently it became a booming tourist town with great shops & cafes.
28: Tuesday, September 15 - Avignon (again) We came back upriver to Avignon & our first excursion was to the papal palace. We hadn't gone before, knowing we'd be back with the ship. It was really interesting to see - it had mainly been used as an administrative center & wasn't ornate at all.. Many additions had been made over the years and still evident.. A big stage from a recent festival was still set up in the inner courtyard.
30: This was the view as we arrived the night before, returning from Arles. It was absolutely gorgeous! | After our visit to the Papal Palace (Palais du Papes), we took one more small tour of the town.
31: We went to a small church and an indoor market, Les Halles. It had a cool outdoor wall that was covered with moss & plants grown by hydroponics.
32: For the afternoon we went to Chateauneuf Du Pape, (which means , "New Castle of the Pope" and was built in the 1300s), walked through the town past the shops of all of the wineries, & went to a wine tasting at Maison Bouachon..
34: We loved Chateauneuf Du Pape! It served as the summer residence of the Avignon popes, and all that is left of the castle itself are a few walls in ruins.
36: Wednesday, September 16 Cruising up the Rhone River | In the morning we had a lecture on quiches, and one on mustard in the afternoon. Of course, both came with samples! Fun!!
37: These are the towns of Tournon & Tain Hermitage. We arrived after lunch, went to a wine tasting in Tain Hermitage, visited a chocolate factory, an art museum (Musee Palue), and came back to tour Tournon, before heading back aboard.
38: We enjoyed both the wine tasting at Ferreton Pere & Fils, and the tour at Valrhona, the chocolate factory. We bought gifts for the kids (wine for Hunter & Jess; chocolate for all) & had a great time!
39: The last stop of the day was at Musee Palue. It is a museum showing the works of a little known artist Pierre Palue, who studied with Masters such as Van Gogh & Cezanne. His daughter runs the museum out of her home. It was quite lovely, and we enjoyed seeing his paintings.
40: Thursday, September 17 Vienne is a beautiful town full of Roman ruins (some still fairly intact, such as the temple dedicated to Livia by Augustus). Only one half-timbered house remains. | Vienne
41: A mural of the city has been painted to tell the story of the history of the town. We took a train ride up to the top of a hill overlooking the town. The views from above were amazing! We also enjoyed touring the hilltop church.
42: After we left Vienne, we cruised upriver to Lyon. We sat on the top deck of the ship as we approached. As we went under some of the bridges, the whole captain's room was lowered & it was very cool to see. We had the afternoon free to roam the town & had an awesome time! We loved the blend of the old & the new, and were entertained by a college initiation that had kids running all over town. | September 17, Lyon
43: As we were approaching Lyon, all our cruise director could talk about was Paul Bocuse, the "Father of Cuisine," and how a trip to Lyon | wouldn't be complete without a visit to his original restaurant. We shared a taxi with another couple, Frank & Gaye Nichols. It was a phenomenal meal! We | ordered the tasting menu, which included tomato soup mousse, fois gras, a provincial ham soup with puff pastry crust, and some of the best chicken we've ever had! When it was time for dessert, they kept setting up table after table for the display! We got pretty tickled. At the end of the evening, Frank & Gaye had a gentleman play us a song on an antique hand-turned music box for our anniversary. Probably the best | highlight of the evening was when Paul Bocuse himself came to our table! I got one of his cookbooks, which he autographed! | Auberge du Pont de Collonges
44: We had a tour of Lyon with a funny guide named Christian. Lyon sits at the confluence of two rivers - the Rhone and the Saone. The peninsula between the two forms the heart of the old town. | Friday, September 18, Lyon
45: We saw many interesting things in the old town. Of course, there was a beautiful cathedral. We saw early forms of "advertising," where specialty shops would have carvings of their wares on the outside of the buildings. There was a tall building fully covered with a mural of historical figures from Lyon's past, starting with Romans in their togas on the top floors, to modern figures at street level. Paul Bocuse in his doorway was one of these & people from the ship were using it as a photo op (we didn't bother since we had the real thing the night before)! Christian also took us to secret passageways, only accessible by residents, and they showed a different, quieter side of the city. The passages contained medieval towers, built both for spying & for showing wealth centuries ago - very cool! One last highlight of the morning was when we found a pastry shop with my new favorite food - brioche au praline!
46: We spent the afternoon cruising north from Lyon on the Saone River. It was a beautiful ride and David got some great pictures, including the Paul Bocuse restaurant!
47: After dinner, we arrived in Macon. It had rained earlier but was nice while we were there. It was a beautiful little town, and seemingly fairly affluent. We strolled around and had some famous Macon white wine (They are the largest producing white wine area in Burgundy.). | Macon
48: Saturday, September 19, Cluny Abby & Market
49: We took a bus through Burgundy for our early morning excursion to Cluny Abbey. It was founded in 910 A.D., and grew to be quite large. It was sacked and mostly destroyed during the French Revolution. Many parts are now just ruins. We only stayed with our group for a little while, then broke off on our own to go to the market just outside. We had phenomenal olives and a goat cheese-filled pastry that was to die for! I also bought some clothes; the fitting room - a small round draped rod with huge gaps - was quite entertaining!
50: One of the many reasons we could move to France: great houses like these! Seen on our bus ride from Cluny Abbey back to the ship, docked in Chalon-sur-Saone.
52: Beaune We took a small afternoon excursion to Beaune from Chalon. It is a beautiful town in Burgundy and one of the key wine centers in France. We had some time on our own, and some time with a group. We would love to come back here to spend more time some day!
53: There must have been a car show going on nearby - old cars were everywhere! | Our last wine tasting of the trip was in Beaune at Le Cellier de la Cabiote. Our favorite was the Pommard, but we also loved the Creme de Cassis!
54: Our last stop was the Hospices de Beaune, or the Hotel Dieu. It was founded in 1442 by Nicolas Rolin, the Chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, and his wife, as a hospital for the poor and needy. The glazed-tile roof became a landmark of architecture in the area. In the Room of the Poors, the visible painted frame ceiling is in the shape of an upside-down boat skiff. There are two rows of curtained beds, meant to house two patients each, but sometimes had up to four during the plagues.. There was even a pharmacy, very unusual for the time!