Paris May 2nd

Today was Judy’s last day in Paris so we met back at Musee D’Orsay which was open this time. What better way to see an art museum than with an artist! Located on the left bank of the Seine this muesem was formerly a railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly french art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post impressionist masterpieces in the world. It is one of the largest art museums in Europe.

My favorite exhibitions were the Jean Millet and Van Gogh sections of the museum. We spent all morning there then had lunch at a little cafe across from D’Orsay before parting ways. Judy was off to visit the Louve and I wanted to revisit my old friends the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triumph though I didn’t go up this time. Then the petit Palais and the grand Palais, the Champs Elysees, Tuilaries Gardens, the Louve (didn’t tour this time). By the end of the day 20,243 steps 9.02 miles for me.

Paris May 1st

Reunited today with my artist friend Judy who I met on the SS Catherine. Spent Tuesday and half of Wednesday together exploring Paris. We tried to do Musee D’Orsay, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle and a few other sites but everything was closed because of the Labor Day holiday. Accidentally stumbled on Hotel Dieu the oldest hospital founded in 651 and the oldest hospital worldwide still operating. It still resides on the bank of the Île de la Cité next to Notre Dame, connected to the “Rive Gauche” by the Pont au Double. Although the facility had been ravaged by disastrous fires on several occasions (the current architecture dates back to 1877), the two buildings of the facility were originally built in the 7th and 17th centuries. It was built as a symbol of charity and hospitality. It was the only hospital in Paris until the Renaissance.

Next we hopped onto the Metro for Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur, a large hill in Paris’s 18th arrondissement on the right bank. You can lose yourself in the steep and cobbled streets of one of the most historic and interesting neighborhoods in Paris. The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur (the big white church) sits on the crest of the hill, so as long as you are heading uphill there is little possibility of being lost for long. We lunched in the heavy tourist area at a little cafe with excellent people watching. At the bottom of the hill is the Boulevard de Clichy which is lined with bars, kebab shops, and cafes. This is now my favorite place in Paris and yes we climbed our way up no funicular for us! 16,350 steps 7.06 miles this day even though we made good use of the metro.

Day 7 Macon/Beaune April 28th

It is the last full day on Riverboat Cruise from Provence to Burgundy. Once again have made wonderful new friends, experienced exciting new cities and adventures, tasted amazing cuisines and so much wine, wine and more wine. It has been a beautiful journey so far. Currently in Macon, will return to Lyon tonight. Tomorrow afternoon will disembark and take the train to Paris for a week in my favorite city. But first Macon!

Decided to stay in Macon rather than take the motor coach to Beaune which is a 3hr round trip journey. Out side the ships doors is a bustling market with everything possible item you could possibly need. From tools to clothing, to furniture, to drapes and all household goods. The food market portion is ginormous. Cheeses, breads, pastries, fruit, vegetables, herbs simply everything!

You get the sense that you’re approaching the Mediterranean (I’m told having not been there myself) in Mâcon, which despite being small has lots to hold your attention for a day or two. You might not know the place, but you may know the name, as Mâcon is where a lot of Burgundy’s best chardonnays come from. Strolling around I found myself in Place aux Herbes where a young couple had just wed. I chose to explore on my own today rather than join a group. My independent tour included shopping, the Pont Saint-Laurent, the Wooden House (more about this below), the Place de la Paix, Cathedral St Vincent, Vieux st vincent, place de la prefecture and more shopping.

Tonight is the Captain’s Farewell Gala and I will enjoy spending time with my new friends one more time. Tomorrow we will say goodbye and go our separate ways. Au revoir SS Catherine.

 

Girl on a Train aka Metro Girl April 29-30

Bonjour! Success! Made it from Lyon to Paris via train. Met the owner of the flat I’ll be staying at this week. He is so lovely and had laid out a delicious spread of three cheeses, baguettes, almonds, raspberries, strawberries, wine and a delicious bottle of Galucha Brut Special Cuvee to welcome me. There are fresh flowers everywhere and this room is filled with the fragrance of fresh cut lilies. I will photograph every room in this flat in great detail while I’m here. I am living in a small museum full of 16th-18th century art, lavish furnishings and wonderful knick knacks. The building itself was built in 1642 and is located on the Il Saint Louis across from Notre Dame with stunning views of the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon.

Got some sleep and woke up to a cold, windy day. Headed out to the Opera area and the beautiful Paris Opera House Palais Garnier. Wow! It is still considered the most magnificent opera house in the world and I see why. After the opera house stopped in the fabulous shopping mecca of Galeries Lafayette. The pictures do not do it justice. Day on one of the ginormous archways at a cafe drinking cappuccino looking out over the swarms of people.

Navigated the metro and am starting to feel very comfortable with it. Still get lost though! Paris is a walking city and it’s easy to see why everyone is so thin. I stayed on the metro most of this drizzly day so only logged 6939 steps. Have a feeling that will increase considerably.

Day 6 Lyon, April 27th

Pulled into Lyon around midnight I think and opened my curtains to a bustle of pre sunrise activity. Bikes, strollers but most impressive an outdoor park/gym in full use all day long. Reminded me of Muscle Beach in Venice California….. the muscle beach of Lyon!

Lyon is the capital city in France’s Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, and sits at the junction of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Its center reflects 2,000 years of history from the Roman Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules, medieval and Renaissance architecture in Vieux (Old) Lyon, to the modern Confluence district on Presqu’île peninsula. Traboules, covered passageways between buildings, connect Vieux Lyon and La Croix-Rousse hill.

Today Cheryl, Mike and I joined a walking tour of Lyon. We strolled through the historic old quarters filled with spectacular medieval and Renaissance architecture. through the cobbles of Vieux Lyon and the Croix Rousse are Lyon’s historical secret passageways. Winding their way through buildings, courtyards, and up and down staircases, Lyon’s secret covered passageways, or traboules, are an ideal way of visiting the city’s hidden and colourful past.

Every traboule is different though. Each has a unique pastel colour, a particular curve or spiral staircase, vaulted ceilings or Renaissance arches. Some have counted as many as 400 traboules in Lyon, but just over 40 are open to the public, each clearly marked with a small identifying seal. It’s the atmospheric Vieux Lyon and the arty Croix Rousse that house the lion’s share. Residents of this are used the passages to openly move around. However during the Second World War when the Nazis occupied Lyon these hidden passages were used by the resistance to secretly move Jews and possessions alike right under the Nazi noses.

Lyons history is entwined with the art of silk- weaving, which dominated the city’s economy for centuries. Exquisite silks and stunning designs were created here and travelled across the globe to exotic, regal and spectacular locations but that wasn’t without casing considerable suffering to the silk weavers of Lyon. Up until the fifteenth century the French imported all their silks, from places such as Asia and Italy, but as you can imagine, this was incredibly expensive, and so Louis XI decided to establish French production in Lyon simply in order to save money.  Later, in the sixteenth century, François I allowed Lyon to control the monopoly of the silk production – and so the City of Silk was born.

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is another vital part of the Lyon cityscape offering one of the best views over the entire city. Below is the Place Bellecour which is the largest pedestrian square in Europe. We also shared the experience of riding the metro (their subway) and the tram which you can pick up anywhere and visit each area doing a full circle around Lyon. I really loved this 3rd largest city of France. It is the 2nd largest french metropolitan area after Paris.

Day 4, Vivier April 25th

Well dang it! I put in a couple of hours writing all about this lovely city and downloading pictures but evidentially I neglected to save it so this will be a quick condensed version. Viviers is a small town in southern France. Our favorite tour guide Jeanette lives in this city with her husband. Founded in the 5th century and situated against a beautiful mountain setting. In the city some buildings date back to the middle ages where time seems to stand still among the cobbled streets. First we visited the smallest Cathedral in France, the 11th century St. Vincent Cathedral located in the town square where we enjoyed a 20 minute organ concert.

Next up was a pottery demonstration by Jean Luc at his studio. Afterwards we were treated to an array of hors d’oeuvres and an aperitif. Very interesting watching how fast Jean Luc could create something beautiful out of a glob of clay. He uses black clay and makes up to 10 pieces an hour. Each piece has to sit for fifteen hours before being glazed and baked.

I’m sure a little shopping and lunch followed but honestly I can’t remember now! This is why I write this blog, so I have an accurate journal of these adventures.

Day 5 Tain l’Hermitage April 26th

Skipped breakfast and slept through the Van Gogh lecture. Slightly cooler today took a light jacket. By noon it was back in the 70s. Today I did the walking tour of the twin cities of Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage nestled on opposite sides of the Côtes du Rhónes and home to 6k residents and both M. Chapoutier wines and Valrhona chocolate. A stairway of terraced vineyards and dry stone walls descend to the town of Tain below. First up a wine tasting at 11am. With no breakfast, or even coffee this morning I got buzzed pretty quickly. But the wine is so pure containing much less sulfates it was enjoyable without any of the negative affects.

Second stop Valhrona chocolate company. A massive range of chocolate is available along with a large variety of chocolate related goodies. It’s a chocolate tasting fest!

Joined up with my new friends Donna and Phil and we experienced an exceptional lunch at Cafe de Nice. Later that evening I joined them and more new friends Cheryl and Mike from Auburn Washington who own their own travel agency. Turns out we only lived about 40 miles apart in Washington state. This was a special alfresco dinner prepared by our own chef in the Jaquar Lounge. We were joined by the corporate hotel manager Yan. Really delicious and beautiful dinner.

Day 3 Avignon, April 24th

Today I spent another amazing day in Avignon in Provence. Avignon is a historic city best known for being the location the Popes fled to after leaving Rome in the 14th century. This led to the building of the incredible Palais des Papes – one of the city’s most famous attractions. It is also known for Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the wine produced in the area, and the name roughly means “The Pope’s New Castle”. The Palace of the Popes is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We toured the inside 25 interior rooms that are open to the public. All of the furnishings were either lost in a fire or carried away by the Popes. But they couldn’t remove the frescos which have either been restored or are being restored. These hand painted scenes on limestone walls are truly remarkable.

After the tour I stopped for a cappuccino at Place de l’Horloge, this gorgeously serene square is at the very heart of the city of Avignon, in both its location and its vibe. There is a sophistication and splendour to the square, something reinforced by the wide range of restaurants and stylish cafes found here. Next up a little shopping, then stopping for a leisurely 2-1/2 hr lunch at la Sperlongaise on the square by the Carousel. I had planned on joining the kayak tour under Le Pont di Gard. This three-level stone aqueduct bridge is one of the best preserved pieces of ancient Roman architecture in the whole of France, but I didn’t make it. The day was warm and breezy i was content to have an enjoyable lunch and do a little people watching. The bridge is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and stands 160-feet tall, the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts. I was told that the group that went kayaking returned to the ship covered in mud so I think I made the right decision!

The last stop I made in Avignon was Les Halles, the food market. An authentic and local experience, a visit to the colourful and aromatic market at Les Halles is a must. Once inside there’s a huge range of vendors selling a delicious selection of Provincial foods giving you an opportunity to sample the local produce.

There are so many landmarks and buildings to discover across the city, as well as some fantastic art museums and gorgeous squares to sit back and watch the world go by. In addition to all this history Avignon also has a lively, modern feel with lots of great shops, bars and restaurants. There is much more to see in Avignon and some day I hope to return.