Tag Archives: Avignon

Morning in Avignon and Les Halles Market

This morning’s deep fog gives way to a bright sunny day by the time we depart for a guided walking tour of Avignon. Expected high, 27 degrees. One of the nice parts of the Viking walking tours (and other tours about) are the quiet boxes they supply. You tune into the frequency dictated by your guide, adjust the volume, hang the unit around your neck and put the ear piece in. The gear is very light and comfortable and as you are touring and in range you can hear the guide and therefore they do not need to shout in the streets which I imagine would be quite annoying to those living there.  It also allows you to wander quite a bit and take photographs and still get the down low. Our guide today was once again very knowledgeable and interesting.

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Avignon, so very different than Arles, offers views of exquisite architecture, ramparts, gargoyles, narrow cobble streets, tall buildings and the papal palace. The spilly floral displays and colourful shutters of Arles are absent but are replaced by tall windows and detailed wrought iron work.

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Our tour ends at Les Halles, a fabulous food mecca and one of the highlights of the morning. After spending an hour perusing the candies, flowers, spices, meats, fish, charcuterie, vegetables, bread, chocolate and ready made goodies, we choose a cafe for lunch and people watching before returning to the ship.

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We lunch at one of many little sidewalk cafes, Perigord Gourmand on Rue du Vieux Sextier. Here we eat from the Formule Plaisir — “fun menu” , which includes an appetizer, main and dessert for 16 euro.

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Rob chose the foie gras on gingerbread with fig compote and pear and I had the in season, asparagus cream soup. Both apps were light and delicious.

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For mains Rob ordered the duck with mushroom sauce and potatoes. The sliced duck was done a nice medium rare and the potatoes were roasted to a perfect crisp. I had the panfried, very thin steak ordered medium  but so thin it could only be cooked through. It came with a thin Roquefort sauce.

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Rob definitely won the round. I have to remember not to order beef in Europe. It is at best, just fine. We both opted for the very well made lemon tart for dessert.

After lunch we return to the ship to relax and look at our photos and check in with friends and family. The ship departing for Viviers at 3:30, hosts a classic French tea as we cast off. Tea includes a selection of herbal and black teas, French press, home made goodies such as madeleines, fresh apple filled donuts, apple and lemon tarts, and sandwiches of lox and cream cheese, delicate, savory ham and cheese, and egg with peppery watercress.

By 4 pm we are well underway and spend a relaxing afternoon on our private balcony, watching Avignon recede in the distance and enjoying the pretty Rhone coast while sipping sparkling wine.

Dinner on the ship this evening celebrates the spring produce in Provence. White asparagus graces each dish offered up by the chef. Our appetizer choices are delicate quail breast and leg with buttery risotto and monkfish with pesto and garlic chip.

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Main courses opted for are sole fillet with white asparagus, cucumber salad and quinoa, and pork chop with mustard crust and au jus, asparagus, roasted fingerling potatoes and apple compote.

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Apricot clafoutis and apple rhubarb cake completed our spring time bounty of Provence meal.

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We are finally feeling mostly normal after two long days. Tomorrow we have lots of time to sleep in before our afternoon excursion via steam train to Ardèche.

 

En Route to Avignon!

Cloudy, humid and very warm in Ottawa. Leaving behind a city bursting to life with the first tulips and new leaves. My driveway is a carpet of tiny white petals. I will miss my azalea bloom but be back for the lilacs. Scout gave me an affectionate send off. Josie laid on the kitchen floor sighing and doing her best end-of-the-world impression. Smudge refused her treat and isn’t speaking to me. There was a single wet, black nose in the window as we pulled out. Never look back.

Our flight at the civilized hour of 4:55PM, finds people traffic light and we breeze through security. Viking Cruises has done all of the bookings. First class all the way. I’ve never flown in a first class “pod” before. Looking forward to it. Tons of space and leg room, big monitor, full sized pillow, blanket quilt and real food. We are treated to Champagne and orange juice while the rest of the plane boards. Sit back and relax. Later my pod will become a bed.

Dinner in first class includes a choice of wine, including an excellent California cab and a French red, a well presented and very nice light appetizer of a marinated shrimp, paper thin ahi tuna on a bed of fennel dotted with fresh dill, unremarkable mixed greens salad, bland beef tenderloin, distinctly untruffled truffled potatoes, carrots and green beans.

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Rob’s tandoori chicken biriyani was excellent and served with spiced okra.

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A nice complement of cheeses (yes, served chilled, truly roughing it here) grapes, water crackers and port follows the main. Sticky toffee apple cake with lightly sweet whipped cream and tea completed the meal. Much better than anything the plebs in the back of the plane are getting, and quite remarkable for coming out of that tiny galley.

I watch a little TV and then try to sleep for three hours before simulated dawn and breakfast. The pods are certainly more comfortable than a regular airline seat but alas, sleep never comes.

We land in Frankfurt. Every bit the hellhole Rob says, a total zoo. Eventually we get to our gate where we then have to board a bus to take us to our plane. And off we are to Marseille where our trip along two French rivers begins! Our flight path carries us over breathtaking views of the snow capped alps, lovely patchwork landscapes and tiny villages, emerald green pasture, meandering rivers and glacial blue lakes.

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Soon we are over sparkling blue waters and a sea of terracotta roofs. Ancient fixtures rise from the cliffs they are built in to and are visible from the air. Reunited with our luggage and placed in a taxi by Viking reps, we speed off to Avignon to board our ship, The Viking Buri.

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During the hour and fifteen minute trek over well maintained roadways, we breeze through countless roundabouts and are treated to a visual feast that is the Southern French countryside… Past fields of red poppies, yellow and blue wildflowers, sun washed stucco homes with tiled roofs and pretty shutters, vineyards, olive trees, huge, dusty, blue green agaves and sandstone hills dotted with cypress and deep green shrubbery.

Nearing Avignon we notice the ancient ramparts from the 14th century that encompass the old part of the city. Built of local sandstone and pockmarked with age and likely acid rain, they are magnificent. Joggers, moms and infants in strollers, and people catching some sun at lunch hour, carry on their business, bustling about in the ancient shadow. Can’t wait to explore…but we are exhausted. We have been up for over 24 hours now. Luckily, check in is smooth, we are shown to our lovely, spacious and very well designed stateroom, unpack and catch some shut eye. Dancing on a bridge must wait. Tomorrow our adventure begins!

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Dinner this evening will be aboard ship in the main dining room after our muster station drill and welcome orientation in the ship’s lounge. Here we met a lovely couple near in age from Britain, one via Chicago. They have cruised with Viking before and we are immediately comfortable with them. They follow us to dinner and we are seated with what must be the youngest couple on board, thirty somethings from LA. The table turns out to be a great match and conversation lively.

The wine steward has a generous hand while menus are delivered. LA immediately spills an entire glass of water and much laughter ensues. The ice, now broken kickstarts a lovely evening of good food, wine and chatter. Viking offers a surprising number of options for each course. Rob chose the salad Nicoise, determined to stay with the “when in France…” theme. Excellent by all standards.

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I chose the goat cheese souffle, light, tangy, delicious.

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Mains follow at a leisurely pace. Rob chose the lamb with potatoes, elegant with a lamb au jus reduction and deliciously French.

IMG_3152I opted for the pasta with a full, ripe tomato sauce topped with brie.

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For dessert I had an underwhelming chocolate pot de creme with pineapple gelee. Just too sweet after a long day of travel. Rob’s small taste of apple crumble with excellent chocolate ice cream was perfect.

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After cappuccinos, more conversation, the ugly lights come up and we are kicked out. Lovely ending to a loooooong day.FullSizeRender