Edit Blog Post
Published: September 9th 2017
Oy! Life has a way of taking over and here it is more than a year after my trip to France and I'm finally trying to catch up a bit. I thought I might tell you a little about this trip. I started in Nice, which I loved, and then moved on Arles. That was where I embarked on the boat for the Rhone river cruise. It had a capacity for 43 passengers but there were only 38 in our group.. a nice size. Olivier was our guide and he fit the sterotype of a handsome, charming Frenchman. He made the trip worry free and more than pleasant. I always travel with Grand Circle, a company out of Boston. They are especially cognizant of women travelers and those traveling solo.
The Rhone is the only major European river that flows into the Mediterranean Sea. It is 505 miles long and is the fastest and most powerful. It originates in the glaciers of the Swiss Alps, then runs into Lake Geneva before flowing into France.
As you know I like me some history and the Rhone didn't disappoint. The Greeks, in Marseille, began transporting goods on the Rhone in the
sixth century BC. They traded ivory, spices, cloth and other products imported from the Orient with the Celtic inhabitants of northern France in exchange for their tin, copper, and skins. River traffic increased dramatically in the first century BC when the Romans, under Julius Caesar, crossed the Rhone and defeated the Celts. Remember your Latin 1- "Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres",
we, it all started here folks. The Rhone became the main artery, in Europe, with its new capital being Lugdunum
better known today as Lyon. In 2008, divers unearthed a bust of Julius Caesar from the bottom of the Rhone that dates back to 46 BC.
Trade, throughout the Middle Ages, turned cities, like Avignon, into rich and opulent strongholds. It was so powerful that during the Great Schism in the Roman Catholic church, the seat of the Pope was transferred from Rome to Avignon for 70 years (1370-1378). After Avignon, we made stops in Viviers, considered to be the gateway to Provence. Because we were a small boat we were able to tie up right in the center of Lyon. I walked up a flight of stairs and could go in any direction I chose.
The last stops were Macon and then Beune. After touring the spectacular 500 year old Hospices de Beaune
with its beautiful multi-colored roofs, we boarded a bus into Paris. Paris will be in a later blog as it deserves a place of honor.
So that's an overview and now for some highlights....
The bull farm. I never thought of France as being a place of cowboys and bulls. But, like the little grasshopper, I had much to learn. Apparently, bull fights are held in the ancient Roman amphitheater, where 21,000 thrilled to gladiator fights in the 1st. century. The bulls are special to the Camargue area. A place lined with sand bars and reed covered marshes. The keepers of the land are called gardians,
akin to our cowboys. Yahoo! I got to ride a farm wagon and to visit the bulls in their natural environment. That's not something I do everyday so it was great fun.
Avignon was to me a song, a French nursery rhyme, Sur le pont d'Avignon
, ("Under the Bridge of Avignon"). For many centuries it was the only fixed river crossing between Lyon and the Mediterranean. The bridge was destroyed during a medieval
dispute-big surprise there. Today, because only four of its 22 arches remain, it looks like a bridge leading to nowhere. Central Avignon is still enclosed by a medieval wall, built by one of the nine popes in the 14th century. It is written that it was a "lively place when the papacy was here. Every vice flourished in the overcrowded, plague-ridden town, full of hangers-on to the papal court." Oh, my! According to Petrarque it was a "sewer where all the filth of the universe has gathered
". Wow! and we think we have problems today!
I like to observe people. I opted not to see an 'ABC' (another beautiful church) but instead to sit at a sidewalk café in the square across from the Cathedral and see people. Considering that it was a Sunday it was rather boring. Nothing was happening. My guess is that most of the people were either in church praying or at home sleeping off their Saturday night vices.
I must tell you about a stunning visual experience in the heart of the Alpilles mountains. Over the years, quarries were excavated to extract limestone in order to build various monuments and buildings. As usual,
when on a tour, one justs follows the guide. I really had no idea what we were going to see. Our bus climbed up a mountain, dumped us out, and we dodged other tour groups while waiting to get our tickets. We walked into complete darkness illuminated only by projections on the walls.
This was an OMG, 'drop my jaw' moment. I sat on a low bench placed against a wall and watched while giant Chagall paintings were projected onto the immense walls, pillars, and even floors. I never wanted to leave. It was fascinating, mesmerizing and something I'd never experienced. My pictures don't do it justice. Go to:www.carrieres-lumieres.com and click on the Chagall show. It is located Route de Maillane, 13520 Les Baux-de-Provence. I have no idea if the shows change. If so, I'm sure they all are spectacular.
We visited a vineyard outside of Lyon and had a wine tasting. Many of my fellow travelers bought bottles for about $5. They were planning ahead to our days in Paris and missing all the wine with meals that were served on the boat.
Enough for now....favorite moments to come- Giverny, D'orsay, Rodin, and much more.
Tot: 2.431s; Tpl: 0.055s; cc: 18; qc: 60; dbt: 0.0505s; 2; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb