River Cruising: On to Avignon, Pont-du-Gard and Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Tuesday morning of our river cruise holiday on the River Royale found us in Avignon – from our stateroom, we could see the walls of the old city. This morning, our goal was to visit the Palace du Popes. The cobblestones in the streets were lovely (and a bit treacherous for my poor foot, and I was tempted to find a walking stick like Marty’s. Yes, it turns into a stool.
No, I’m not 60.
I will apologize now as you will soon discover my love of windows and archways.
I really could have played with these and edited them but I’m too lazy I’m liking the images without filters.

After our morning tour and another feeding at the lunch buffet (I really need to take a walk…or a nap) the Hubs and I took one of the optional excursions while the kids hung out with Gmom Phyl, and later went on another walk through Avignon with Pierre and a few of the other lovely moms (thanks, ladies!)

The Hubs and I, on the other hand, we were off to explore te Pont du Gard. Boo had been particularly excited to see this ancient Roman aqueduct (the term he studied the Roman really lit a fire in him) but the draw of other kids on the boat proved too tempting, so he made me promise to the plenty of photos. (Did he forget who he was talking to???) This aqueduct/bridge has been in place since 19 BC.

It was, in a word, spectacular.

This is the Gardon River, where a kayaking excursion was offered to the kids earlier in the day. It was gentle and lovely, and I wanted to be out paddling on it. And not just because three years of the Welsh weather has turned this Chicago girl soft…it was really hot!
After that, we boarded our coach and made our way out into the vineyards, crossing from Provence into Burgundy and through the vineyard covered countryside of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.
There were grapevines – heck, vineyards – as far as the eye could see.
The truly amazing thing was how stony and sandy the soil was. They explained how roses are planted at the end of the rows to be indicators of disease in the vines and soil. The primary type of grape in the are is Shiraz, although most of the wines produced seemed to be blends.
Our next stop was the Skalli Winery. The casks were massive!!! I wouldn’t mind being the one to sample, but I’d hate to be the person (seriously) who has to climb in them through a tiny door and scrub them out when they are eventually emptied. (We were told they were given a light, a metal scrub brush and a mask to cover their nose/mouth so to protect from the fumes.)

And now, onto the tasting! This was the first tasting I’d been to that explained the “three noses” – I’d only been taught to sniff nose resting on the top and inside the glass. It was all pretty fascinating, although the wine was young and pretty acidic for my liking.

Our tour guide had been funny and informative, and I definitely don’t think she was spitting out her wine into the bucket after tasting (in fact, she may have had a few extra tastes” as she was in form on the ride back to the boat, singing French songs and trying to find one that we knew. She figured we would all know “Alouette” and got everyone singing that…and then tried to get us to sing “in the round”. Too much sun and wine, we failed miserably. But the trip went faster for her efforts, to be sure!

We quickly found the kids and listened to their adventures of the afternoon, and then stuffed them into the showers to get ready for dinner. Tonight was a salad nicoise, garlic soup and rack of lamb with ratatouille. And wine. Lots of wine.

Actually, in retrospect, I think my weight gain can be partly attributed to the not-low fat meals and desserts, and partly to all the wine we consumed. It was a lot.  I found myself partaking of a glass with my lunch as well, just because they offered it.

Me, who usually only has half a glass with dinner, if that. Unless we are out.


Anywho…Oh! I haven’t even talked about the locks!

The locks.

Big locks. Very long, very tall. Massive in a way that makes you wonder at the power of the river and the smallness of yourself. Oh, and only 12 inches of room on each side of the boat. That’s some darn fine driving.

It’s a bit nerve-racking, the first time you go through the locks at dinner time, and suddenly all you see out the window of the restaurant is concrete walls. It was tough to keep Boo and the Hubs at the table.

Tonight we were going through the tallest locks of the trip – 70 feet. Yes, the boat was lifted 70 feet!  This particular lock, however, we went through at 11pm, and Pea was fast asleep, and I wasn’t brave enough to leave her in the stateroom sleeping…and then I remembered the television! The River Royal thoughtfully broadcasts a view from the front of the ship on one of the tv channels, so I was able to watch us go through on the TV and peeking out our stateroom window.

Thankfully, Boo was pretty fascinated by the process, and not overwhelmed or frightened.

And with that, watching our safely traverse the big lock, I went to bed.

Next up: Viviers and Tournon/Tain L’Hermitage.

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