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Published: November 28th 2017
Time to move on from Lyon and head to the next “big destination” of Avignon. That will be considered another milestone as that is the last big stopping point until we get to our destination on the Med to put Tsamaya back together as a sailboat.
When based in Lyon we always traveled “north” to the historic area of town, but when you leave on the river and head south you pass by numerous modern buildings and the more industrial section of town. You also see plenty of river cruise ships as this is a popular stopping point as well as Avignon so am sure we will run into many of them again. Our first lock out of Lyon we went through with two other pleasure boats, but once we were through we separated ways based on the various speeds we were cruising at.
Lyon is at the junction of the Saone and Rhone River so now we are traveling on the Rhone. It is a beautiful section of the country with its numerous vineyards on much steeper hills than what we saw in the Champagne area earlier. They use stone walls on the terraced hills and some of
On Our Way Out of Lyon We Noted Quite a Few
modern buildings with interesting shapes & colors
them even have clearly marked signs of which winery the vineyards belong to. We had read that there was a pontoon located in St. Villiers that would allow one boat to stop. We got there and it was empty, but as we were coming to the pontoon we hit something in the water – it stopped us dead, but then got off it fortunately and made it to the dock. No water coming into the boat, but when we haul out the boat next time we will see if it made any permanent “indent”. When we walked up the dock to land we found that it belonged to a commercial boat that takes people out for tours of the area which we weren’t aware of. Fortunately there was a phone number on the sign so we called and were told that their boat would not be back there for a couple of days so we are welcome to stay for free – we were really happy with that answer as it was getting late in the day and didn’t have a good alterative of a place to stop that would be close by. Today we had a current that helped
us move along as we got up to a speed of 6.8 knots. We only had 3 locks and were able to travel 76 kilometers in 7 hours – definitely moving faster now that we are in the rivers.
Even though it was getting late in the day we decided to walk into the village of St. Villiers to stretch our legs. Everything was closed up for the day, but we could see that many of the buildings are made out of a lighter color stone and that the church steeples are much simpler than the Gothic and Renaissance style ones we had seen farther north in France. Just a quick but pleasant stop for the night (and great for the budget with a free night of dockage – what else could we ask for)! If there was a down side it was that there were numerous barges that traveled through all night long and without any buffer we did a little rocking and rolling, but not bad enough to keep us from a good night sleep.
The next day was filled with sightings of numerous ruins of castles – it seemed that around every curve and along
Everywhere You Look Here there are Vineyards
and many clearly tell you which vineyard it belongs to
all of the ridges of the hills you’d see another castle (or remains of one). Many blended in so well to the scenery that you had to look closely and then you were rewarded with sightings of numerous towers and castle walls. This day was a short one on the river as the stops are not very evenly spread out here on the river. With wanting to stop in Avignon the next day we decided it was better to make a stop here in Valence. There was a marina there and when we started to come in we went aground, but fortunately were able to move to a bulkhead so we could get off the boat easily. This part of the river is very scenic with mountains in the distance and castles in the foreground. We only had 2 locks to go through and we had very little traffic. With getting to Valence early in the day we thought we would treat ourselves to lunch out, but we didn’t have any luck finding anything open except a fast food place – oh well. Definitely not the best lunch but we didn’t have to cook or clean up so it worked
and it was better to go grocery shopping afterwards with having eaten something. Not every town or village we stop in needs to be full of memories, just having a place to stop on this river is what is more important as you can’t just stop and tie up to the riverbank with the current that is flowing here.
In making our plans for the few days of travel between Lyon and Avignon we talked to a few people along the way and a couple told us we could stop at a marina in Viviers, but that they have strange docks – they didn’t explain what they meant by that but we soon found out the next day. On our way to Viviers we passed numerous ruins as we have been seeing the last few days, but also power plants and wind turbines.
The comment about the docks at Viviers was more than true! We can understand now why they didn’t try to describe them as they were very unusual. Fortunately for us when we started to pull in there was a person that came over to help with our lines. Even with that it still was quite
the job to get the boat tied up to a dock that angles, isn’t long enough, doesn’t have cleats on it where you need it, and if that wasn’t enough had a couple of metal pieces sticking out on the side! It sure was interesting to walk on as well as it was quite narrow and very “bouncy”!
We found out that the person that helped us is from Germany, but traveling through France by bicycle as he is a shepherd (yes, a real live shepherd!) that is looking for work as his last job ended and is on his way to the Netherlands. He had stopped in Viviers for a few days as he was trying to figure out the best route to take with his bike that he pulls a “trailer” behind as there is plenty of high terrain between here and the Netherlands. By the time we left Viviers we had gotten to know him a little more as he was camped out close to the boat. With all the help he provided we were happy to provide a “little” something to help him out on his travels as he had been without work for a
Looks Like This Would Have Been an Interesting Stop
but we pushed on to knock off a few more kilometers
little while. Since we departed we wonder how he has made out – he seemed like one that is able to adapt to any situation and kept a positive attitude.
The marina is on the edge of the town of Viviers, but found that is the “lower” town and the upper town which is where the Cathedral of St. Vincent is located in the walled section of the town. It was afternoon by the time we got settled in at the marina as we had to search for the person to pay, then we took a wander through the town.
What a wonderful find Viviers was! You first walk up a long road from the marina into the lower town which is lined by beautiful trees. This leads up to the base of the hilltop where the upper walled town sits. We just wandered up various alleyways that looked interesting and kept heading in an upward direction. As you walked higher in elevation it felt like you were slipping back in time… there weren’t too many people out and as it was near dusk the light was right to give you the feeling that you were heading into
medieval times again. When we reached the top we were rewarded with wonderful views of the Rhone valley as well as had a chance to walk around the walled area of the town with the St. Vincent Cathedral being the central focal point at the top. Just as we started to head down the hill we ran into a large number of people coming up with name tags on showing that they were off one of the river cruise ships. We talked to a few of them and found that they were only in Viviers for the evening and then would leave early in the morning. We counted ourselves very fortunate to have had a chance to see the historic area of Viviers before the “invasion” as it definitely looked much different as we walked down with a large number of people. Nothing against the river cruise ships, but the number of people that tour a small village or town definitely does make an impact on the feel of the area. We got back to the boat in the dark and saw that there were actually 2 river cruise ships docked here for the night! About an hour later we
saw the tour groups return to their ships - it must have been quite interesting to take a night walking tour of Viviers, but felt sorry they would have missed the wonderful views we had.
One thing we would have gained if we were on the cruise ship tour would be entry to the St. Vincent Cathedral which was closed to the general public at the time we were there. We learned later that it had been built in 1119 and has on display tapestries that had been given by Napoleon. Viviers was actually settled by the 5th
C. Viviers in medieval times had a population of 30,000, but now less than 4,000 live here. With all of the tourists that come to Viviers it must seem like it is still being “invaded” like it had in the past by Napoleon! Who knows, maybe that is why we didn’t see many people while walking the alleyways.
All we know is that we were transported back in time and enjoyed our relaxing stroll through Viviers, but it was time to move on the next morning with our destination of Avignon in easy reach. We know that we will stay
in Avignon for a few days as we have heard wonderful things about this area from others that have passed through here.
Eight hours after leaving Viviers we arrived in Avignon. It was a very hot day, but fortunately the wind picked up about 1PM which helped cool us some. The current in the Rhone was getting stronger so we were able to move a little faster and made it up to 8 knots. We continued to pass numerous castles, more power plants and enjoyed the view of mountains. When you make the last turn heading toward the marina in Avignon you see the remains of the Pont Saint-Benezet (Avignon Bridge) which most everyone has seen in pictures. It was originally built between 1177-1185 and when it was completed it was the only way to cross the Rhone between Lyon and the Mediterranean Sea. All that remains of the original 22 arches is 4 arches and the Chapel to Saint Nicholas. It is another of those places that we have come to on our travels that is somewhat surreal – passing by places that we had seen in photos before, but now are passing by with our own “home”.
After you pass the bridge with the numerous tourists waving at you, we concentrated on trying to find a place to dock Tsamaya as we knew it is typically a busy place. Fortunately for us we found a place right on the bulkhead so we didn’t have to raft to anyone – definitely our luck was with us. Even better when checking in we found that we could pay for 4 nights and stay for 7 and this included having free showers and free washer and drier – an even greater deal!
As we used Avignon for a base for a few days to explore here as well as neighboring villages, will close for now and tell you more about our time here in the next blog entry.
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