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Published: June 10th 2017
Geo: 46.5656, 4.90841
This is the first time I've taken a tour with Vantage Travel, and each morning it seems we start off the day with a bus and walking tour plus a wine tasting, but of course we are in France. Getting used to wine at 10AM is an acquired taste, but one that's been quite easy to incorporate. Today we are in Tournus, having sailed south from Chalon-sur-Saone, a really lovely city that neither Bill nor I had heard of before taking the train there. In fact, we had never even heard of the Saone River, nor knew how to pronounce its name. It turns out to rhyme with Rhone, so that's very easy to remember.
The Saone River is a very beautiful river, so it's unfortunate that few Americans know of it. Travelling to Lyon will change that, as both the Saone and the Rhone help to shape that lovely city. We have sailed on the Saone for two days now, and I am happy to be sailing here, stopping at Beaune (pronounced Bone) to visit the 15th century Hotel Dieu, a former charity hospital built to care for the poor, famous for its gorgeous, patterned roof tiles, and then continuing sailing south to Tournus, where we are today.
This morning some of us chose to visit the 10th century Abbey at Cluny, a Benedictine monastery until the 1700s. I love to explore ancient buildings, ruins, places of worship, so walking through parts of this abbey that was built in 910 AD was a visual and psychological gift for the morning. Our guide, Sofie, was excellent, directing us through the open areas and rooms, offering its secrets and history as we walked along. In the incredibly high transept she said we would sing a French song so we could hear the exceptional acoustics, and so we sang "Frere Jacques". Another group had entered the transept right after we sang, and, after hearing our song, their tour director suggested we sing together, raising all our voices to fill the vast space. I suggested we sing in a round, as "Frere Jacques" is supposed to be sung, and so we did, our group singing in French, the other in German. What an exceptional experience to be in that holy space, singing a simple song, filling the room with music, hearing it in both German and French! Magnificent.
After leaving the abbey, our group stopped at a goat farm, to meet the goats and to taste goat cheese (for those who desired), and for, of course, a wine tasting. What delightful mornings we have onboard this tour!
Winding our way back to the ship (no pun intended as we had a very reliable and relatively sober bus driver) we passed through such lovely countryside, filled with vineyards, farms, sheep, and distant hills. Everything was green, green, green, a result of the unusual and devastating amounts of rain France had received earlier this year. But the grapes are behind schedule, small, or in many cases, clusters are not yet even formed. This does not bode well for the harvest, which is predicted to be, at best, at least one month late. This could be a catastrophe for the vintners, for the French, for all those world-over who appreciate good French wines. And I am one of them. But we will see what might happen. As the French shrug and say, "Who knows?" And so we drink another glass of wine, enjoying the day we have at hand.
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