We continue our series on the Colors of Provence river cruise aboard the AmaCello. Here’s what you’ve missed so far:
- Colors of Provence – an Overview
- Lyon with AmaWaterways
- Lyon and Barcelona bookends
- Beaujolais and Vienne, wine and Romans
Today we tour Tournon and Avignon
In Tournon, some of us did the hike up the vineyard and others did the Chocolate and wine tasting. Interestingly we both ended up at the Chocolate museum / store at the same time.
The hike up to Chapoutier vineyard in Hermitage was really enhanced by our guide. She was actually a grower herself and she gave a month by month account of the activities of the grape vines. The soil was very rocky – mainly granite. Between the soil and the southwestern face of the hillside, the terrior at Chapoutier is unique. The slopes were really steep; with the slight rain, the going was a bit slippery. The views of the Rhone valley were terrific from high on the hillside. By the way, Cote de Rhone means slope of the Rhone valley. Our guide reviewed how to prune (like a goblet, leaving 2 buds on each branch), how they harvest the grapes (they pay about 10 E / hour) as well as planting and repairing damaged vines. The vines last between 50 – 90 years. All are hybrids bought from local AOC approved nurseries.
After climbing down the hill, we got a chance to sample several of Chapoutier’s wines. The presentation was great as they gave us a variety of new and premier wines to try – from an easy to drink white to an 80 Euro a bottle of red. We bought a bottle of white to share at the next day’s meals
More great food
The chocolate shop in Tournon Valrhona was full of free samples, which we took advantage of. And there were lots of products – everything from nuggets to bars to hot chocolate mix. On the way back we walked along the river, then crossed over on the pedestrian bridge.
That morning, Sue did the Chocolate and wine tasting excursion. Here a certified chocolatier custom made some chocolate to be paired with various wines.
The afternoon was spent relaxing, working out, bookended by lunch and dinner. Dinner was AmaWaterway’s Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner which featured lamb chops. Always delicious. There’s four of us at a table served by one of our favorite waitresses. Another couple joins us a little later and it was fun listening to their story. They were from Romania but lived in LA for some years. By the time we finished dinner at 9 that night, we decided to watch a movie in the room. Nice and relaxed.
We woke up to a nice view of Avignon with the walls of the city visible from our window. We decided to do the traditional city tour which included the papal palace tour. A 12 – 14th century wall, which is fully intact, completely surrounds the old city. The papal palace tour is quite interesting as it’s consists of both an older and newer (14th century) section with lots romanesque and gothic styles clearly visible. Most of the ornamentation was gone from the walls – either pilfered across the ages, ravaged by soldiers or ruined during the French revolution (especially true of any beheaded statues). Two rooms had restored colors – one chapel and the pope’s bedroom. We visited many other rooms including the kitchen and main banquet hall and justice hall.
Just past the palace is a small chapel which overlooks a very nice garden. If you continue around back there’s beautiful views of both the town and the Rhone river valley. And the circular steps from the top reveal even more views.
Of course there’s the famous D’Arrivngon bridge. Only 4 of the original 22 arches remain, but it is still striking to see a partially completed 14th century bridge spanning the Rhone. This is the most famous part of Avignon for most French (they learn the song of the same name in grade school).
A ride in the park
Later in the afternoon, we split up. I did some shopping in Avignon and Dave went on a bike tour.
On the bike ride, we rode across the bridge to Ile de piot. This is the largest island in a river in Europe. Very flat and very agricultural growing apple, peach, apricot and pear trees throughout. The island only has 800 residents. After a few hour’s ride, we stopped at a small farm stand and tried the local Chanticlear apple – small and excellently fresh taste.
An excellent way of getting some fresh air, seeing a slice of local life and enjoying the agricultural scenery. Such is Provence aboard a river cruise.
Sue went shopping at some local shops featuring distinctly Provence specialties like lavender soap. Our friends procured a table cloth and other linens. Best yet, these shops are within the old city walls and are both unique and fun.
Our final post in this series: Arles on the Rhone