PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 9-Monday– Arrival in Nice, France

After we arrived in Nice, we unpacked a bit and rested for about an hour. Then we grabbed a Hop On / Hop Off bus and rode on top the whole route around Nice and Villefranche-sur-Mer. It was gorgeous and sunny – a wonderful first day!

Place Masséna is a historic square in Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France. It is  the main square of the city and is now bordered by red ochre buildings of Italian architecture.

Belle Epoch (Italian) and traditional French architecture are found in various districts of Nice. The Italian influence of Belle Epoch is especially apparent in the Cimiez district and along the Promenade de Anglais, a walkway designed for/by the English who loved to winter along the French Riviera. In this picture, the curvy lines and soft colors align with the Belle Epoch style.

More traditional French baroque style.

The Port is located in Villefranche-sur-Mer on the eastern edge of Nice along with the ancient Mont Alban Fort, a 16th century citadel, which once perched menacingly on top of the cliff.

Britain’s Queen Victoria built a summer palace on the French Riviera. The crown perches atop one of the towers to indicate it is indeed “Hotel Regina”.

We settled into Bistrot Jennifer for an early evening meal in the Vieux Ville (old town) before returning to our hotel. We shared an appetizer of melon and ham. Norm tried “daube”, a traditional Niçoise beef stew. I had lasagna in a French version.

So ends day one of our Provence-Burgundy-to-Paris journey.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 10-Tuesday Rainy Day in Nice, France

After a very full first day, we awoke to rain showers, much needed here. We settled in for a restful day and awaited the arrival of friends, John and Nancy. Later in the day, we walked to Messina Place for dinner at Cafè Nissa. We were enjoying our visit, so there are limited food photos, but the artistic menu depicts it all. We enjoyed brushcetta and additional appetizers. Nancy and John tried the daube (beef stew) and I had spine of wild boar.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 11-Wednesday– French Riviera: Cannes, Antibes, Monoco, Èze

We headed out for a daylong French Riviera Viator van tour, guided by Robin. Cannes, Antibe, Monaco, and Èzè, followed by a Welcome drink with our Grand Circle guide, Michel Etienne at the hotel. After our group meetup, the 4 of us went for our last dinner in Nice on our own. Tomorrow night, Grand Circle will host us at a restaurant of their choice. Choosing someplace within an easy walk, we chose Le Loft – oh well, more meals ahead. We enjoyed our visit, once again. The picture to the left is the Cannes Festival Theatre.

Handprints in the walk of fame; Nancy and Mary on the red carpet; Port of Cannes – luxury yachts only! With a quick visit to Antibes, we walked through the market area (a good place to purchase Herb de Provence), and above the beach and port. Next our van driver, Robin, took us all the way to Monoco where we viewed the palace, the shopping area, and the Monti Carlo casino. I was able to turn 5 Euros into 5 cents on the poker machine! We had a light lunch at L’Aurora, an Italian “provencale” restaurant – an area so close to Italy and once governed by the Romans. I had pissaladière. (Pissaladière is a classic dish in Provence. Its thin pizza-like crust is piled high with caramelized onions, then topped with anchovies, olives, and fresh herbs.) Nancy had Caesar Salade; John had mousse au chocolat.

Upon leaving Monoco, we headed back to Nice with a stop at a lavender perfumery and the village of Èze. Nancy climbed to the top to enjoy the cathedral. I stopped midway and had a beer. It was a long day…. but very enjoyable.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 12-Thursday Nice, France – Vieux Ville Food Tour

Nancy, Norm and I headed out for Place Messina to meet Marion Pansiot of The French Way for a walking food tour in Vieux Ville (Old Town) Nice. John met with his Russian friend, Sergio, for a day of visiting and activities which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Pistou, mirabelle plums, dried sugared violets, candied orange rinds, chocolate powdered almonds – these are just some of the delicious items available on your daily shopping run to the local food market.

Our guide, Marion Pansiot, the owner of The French Way, explained that the French have a tradition of 13 candies/sweets at Christmas. A traditional bread, called fougasse and smaller versions called fougassetts, along with fruit and nut breads were available and she picked up samples of everything to share with us..

Marion gathered up samples of many of these foods and assembled delicious plates to pass around the table at the end of the tour. She also took us to a wine shop, and oil and vinegar shop, and managed to gather up a variety of cheeses for us to sample. Another special treat was a stop at a socca shop. Socca is a traditional bread or tortilla-like treat that the poor people depended on, but it remains popular. It is made with chickpea flour, oil, salt and pepper and fried on a large round grill. It was reminiscent of lefsa, a Norwegian bread, that was eaten also by the poor people and is made on a large round grill. Delicious! Recipe here.

After the tour, we walked to the Castle Hill elevator and rode it upward for 80 meters to the overlook of the Nice Promenade des Anglais and Baie des Angels on the Côte d’Azur (Blue Coast, commonly called the French Riviera). This was the first place settled because of the protection of the high cliff. No chateau remains, but there is an old wall and a lovely park with a viewing area. There are two languages spoken in Nice, French and a native dialect. This is reflected in the street signs -Rue Droite is the French name. The same street is Carriera Drecha in the native dialect. The umbrella photo shows a unique way to shade the street below.

Norm and I took an Uber to the Saint-Nicolas Russian Orthodox Cathedral, a site well worth seeing, but a bit of a ride from the hotel. It was interesting trying to get a cab for the return ride, but we eventually figured out how to use our iPhone to make a call in France – no extra numbers at all. I called Michel, our Grand Circle guide, and he told me where to stand and the next cab driver gave us a card with the cab number on it. Later, we had dinner out with our Grand Circle group for a pre-ordered meal -daube (beef stew), salad, polenta and creme burl. Tomorrow we leave Nice and have a bus ride to Arles, France where we will board our small ship appropriately named, Provence. Au revoir.

The remainder of our trip, on bus, ship and TGV train will be under the capable guidance of Michel Ettiene, tour leader with Grand Circle Cruise Line. Michel put every effort into giving us historical and cultural information about the locations we visited, as well as acknowledging our individual comfort needs. Thank you, Michel, for a wonderful visit to your beloved country, France.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 13-Friday Bus Ride To Arles, France with a stop at the Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial Cemetery honoring those who lost their lives in WWII.

We boarded the bus and were on our way to Arles with a stop at the Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial in Draguignan. Along the way, I discovered that Provence did not fulfill my imaginary visions of it. I expected it to look more like Napa, CA or Tuscany, but there were large limestone outcroppings and the Las Arpillas National Forest. The French map below shows the French Departments, or states as we call them. We passed by a beautiful Frank Gerry building which seemed so out of place in the middle of “nowhere” and a Roman aqueduct.

After visiting the cemetery, we journeyed into the town of Draguignan for lunch. Then we headed out for Arles, a city of only 52,000 or 62,000 including its suburbs. We enjoyed the Captain’s Dinner on board the Provence this night. Following dinner, Michel took a few of us on a nighttime walk to the ancient arena where Norm got these great shots. Tomorrow we will visit it in the daylight.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 14-Saturday Arles, France

Michel led us on a tour around Arles old city- Baths and Arena- and Forum. We visited the hospital area where Vincent Van Gogh willingly lived for one year, creating over 300 paintings. The first photo is me in my tourist garb – whisper headset with earbuds so I can hear the guide, name tag so Grand Circle can find me, collapsible 3-legged stool, my iPhone on a cord, and my cane for uneven walking surfaces. Point me on my way!

Norm and I spent the extra hour remaining prior to lunch on board to stop by the Foundation Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890). Six of his paintings were being displayed alongside those of Niko Pirosmani. Unfortunately, one hour is not enough time to take it all in. Van Gogh’s works were grouped under the title “Speed and Aplomb” and conveyed his “urgency to paint and attest to the humble look he gave to the people and things surrounding him.” The exhibit featured “The Return of the Sewer”.

Lunch on Board:  Créme Dubarry – cream of cauliflower soup with strips of ham; Paupiette- classic French minced meat roulade (meatball wrapped in bacon) with mashed potatoes and steamed vegetables; Tarte au Fromage Blanc (cheese cake) and vanilla ice cream. The Provence chef always serves ice cream with the others desserts in deference to the preferences of most Americans (USA).

Norm ventured out on the excursion to a family owned bull farm in the Camargue Region. Surprisingly, like Spain, France also supports bull fighting, but in this game, the animals are not killed. In the Las Corridas game, ribbons are wrapped around the bulls horns, which extend upward rather than straight out. The bull fighter, raseter, uses a tool to grab the ribbon and run “very quickly” to escape the charging bull. Music from “Carmen” is played at the end. The owner, a law school graduate, is shown standing in front of the horses. The farm has been in her husband’s family for 150 years. The horses live in the wild on their own, never fed or watered, their coat is dark at birth, but changes to white after about five years. Awards are given to the best rasters, bulls and bull farms. Bulls entertain in the games 5 to 6 times per year, and are retired at about 14 years. When they die, they are buried upright facing the sea. Mary lounged on board to enjoy the sun deck and to rest her feet. We passed a castle after we sailed at 5pm, on our way to Avignon.

Dinner on Board: Tourain Soupe de Pouletà l’all (garlic chicken soup with eggs and vegetables; Filet de Sandra – pan fried zander (pike perch) with beurre blanc with zucchini, wild rice, and provençal tomato and cheese filling, Tarte Tatin – original French apple pie with vanilla sauce and vanilla ice cream.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 15-Sunday Avignon, France: Pope’s Palace Tour Les Baux and Carriérres des Luminaires

First on order this morning was a walking tour of the Pope’s Palace (Palacio des Papes). A Tuk Tuk (like a golf cart) was provided for four of us to ride to that destination in order to help us save some steps. Those not touring the Palacio des Papes boarded a tram, taken by John, which took them around the local area. In the photo gallery below, pictures were taken of various video display screens inside the palace. These screens were used to display the history of the palace in contrast to the reality of my photos. This first set of photos shows the docking area and the immediate views with the Palacio de Papes stretching at great lengths nearby on the far side of the parking lot.

The walls were once decorated with frescoes, some of which can still partially be seen. The digital display screen shows how the decor probably appeared in the 1300s. The two spires, while beautiful, serve a functional purpose – one for releasing the smoke and fumes from the cooking area, the other for releasing gases and fumes from the toilettes. The photos below give you just a taste of what you will see. Do not let the threat of too many steps turn you out – the steps come a few at a time and there are ledges where you can sit and rest. Go slow and inhale the history!

After touring the Pope’s Palace, Michel led us to the market area of Avignon. Following that walking tour, we shopped on our own, finding a shop where we purchased table cloths from Provence at Brin de Mistral. John returned to the ship for lunch. Then Nancy, Norm and I enjoyed lunch in the market area rather than returning to the ship. The lunches on board are always fantastic, but we wanted the local experience. I enjoyed my tomatoes and burrata with basalmic dressing.

We had a very full morning, but after we returned from lunch 1:30PM, we headed for Les Baux, a beautiful remote medieval village. Before we arrived, the bus stopped across the gorge so we could view the medieval commune from afar. This Les Baux link is a beautiful brochure detailing this commune.

As we sailed away from Avignon after our Les Baux tour, we passed by the Pont Saint-Bénézet, the famous Avignon medieval bridge which as been destroyed and rebuilt many times due to spats. We sang the famous song as we passed by it. :Sur Le Pont D’Avignon (On the bridge of Avignon), On Y Danse (We are Dancing), On Y Danse (We are Dancing); Sur Le Pont D’Avignon (On the bridge of Avignon); On Y Danse Tous en Rond (We are dancing round and round).

“The Luminaires show was a light show in a limestone quarry featuring Vincent Van Gogh paintings. The movement and light in his work is enhanced by the fast moving light surrounding us. The show was set to beautiful music of all varieties. I am still trying to find the music list which was shown in the credits, but I couldn’t click fast enough to get it.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 16-Monday Avignon to Viviers, France

Mary rested on deck today as we sailed towards Vienne. in the afternoon. During the previous night, the propeller caught a branch while transversing one of the seven locks. This made for a noisy and rough ride during the night, as our room was just above the engine. I took my pillow and spent some time in the lounge. The captain carries an extra propeller just for this reason – it has happened before this summer. We will put into dry dock after we arrive in Lyon so that the propellers can be changed out. It is not noticeable up on on the main floor or deck.Norm, Nancy and John walked in to the medieval city of Viziers guided by Michel. The photos by Norm show a wonderful old city, just the type I love to see, and it was more of village than a city. Aren’t these old buildings beautiful?? I am so sorry to have missed it, but sadly needed to rest my feet. Luckily, Norm and Nancy selected some delicious pastries from the Patisserie to bring back to me. Yum! They agreed that the walk would have been challenging for me. Shucks.

As we floated along, suddenly several fire fighting airplanes began to swoop into the river in front and behind of us to scoop up water. It was interesting to watch them make several runs.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 17-Tuesday Vienne, France – Host Visit – Saône River Night Sail

We awoke to another village adjacent to our pier. Michel led us into Vienne after breakfast to tour a much smaller village than many places we have visited. It was scenic and relaxing to visit.

In the afternoon, a small group of us visited the home of Phillippe and Jocelyn Pion who live in a two story condo across from the pier where we are docked. They have completed some renovations, making the condo on the two tops floors quite contemporary. Phillippe is lawyer by profession and a photographer by hobby, and Jocelyn teaches French. They are both art lovers, so their condo was filled with interesting artwork. Phillippe was very kind to send us these photos after we returned home. They treated us to a delicious plum torte and custard torte plus a champagne cocktail which combined champagne, brown sugar, and contreau. Everything was delicious and they were a marvelous and intriguing host and hostess. In the evening, Grand Circle hosted those of us who have traveled with them at least three times. One person had traveled with GCCL on 24 trips. The captain took us on an extensive night sail along the Saône River before we sailed on to Lyon during the night.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 18-Wednesday Lyon, France

We were in Lyon by midnight, well ahead of schedule, so it was easier to sleep with the noisy propeller shut down for the night. Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site, also known as a gastronomic capital. All of us would have to exit the ship for the entire day, so Michel had prepared an extensive walk with a hosted lunch. The captain would put the Provence into dry dock for the day in order to repair the propeller, so we spent all day off the boat. Our walk started at Place Bellacour by the flower tree sculpture, adjacent to the ship, and went first to the Notre Dame-Lyon cathedral and then included a visit to the last working/weaving silk workshop since the 16th century including a silk market with a demonstration of the complicated looms, Soierie St. George. Luckily, we could also purchase silk scarves of the very light silk designed for scarves rather than for the tapestry weight they weave for upholstery and drapes for places like Versailles. We continued our walk to the funicular which we board to take us up to a viewpoint over all of Lyon. Once we descended, Norm walked into the Roman built tunnels, traboules, passageways leading between the Renaissance buildings to connect the cobblestone streets and angular ascents, which were used as a black market during WWII – things like food etc. that were in short supply for the local French. Now there are restaurants there. I stopped for a break at a sidewalk café for cafe-au-lait while the group explored these traboules. Michel then led us to Chabert & Fils, a restaurant attached to the Chef Paul Boscano Institute for chefs which is highly rated. Lyon is famous for its bouchons, bistro-style eateries first established to feed the silk workers that built Lyon’s industrial heyday.   I ordered quenelles (walleye/zander fish dumpling and shrimp sauce) a traditional French dish, which was delicious!. Then we started on a very long walk to the Resistance Museum – note to self – use an Uber!

In 1943, the Resistance Museum building was confiscated and run by the so-called “butcher of Lyon”, Klaus Barbie, whose job it was to track down resistors and Jews. In 1992, it was transformed into Lyon’s Resistance Museum.

The talk was of interest to me because I had read “Wine and War”, which I recommend, prior to this trip which details the resistance the French used to protect their country while occupied by the Germans in WWII. The speaker mostly featured a history of the war, so it was not as interesting to me as I expected. The museum was extensive and would take at least a whole day to read and digest. It looks quite interesting… next time. We grabbed an Uber to return to the Provence which was once again waiting at the pier and enjoyed some time on deck as we took our leave of Lyon.

We had a delicious dinner on board followed by a piano concert.. The pianist was excellent, closing with an advant-garde piece using tongue depressors, chop sticks, and hair clips connected to the wires to elicit fascinating rhythms and sounds.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 19-Thursday Lyon, France, Market and Shopping; and on to Macon, France

After a short time in the market of Lyon, we sailed on the Saône River to Macon, France. Here we celebrated our final dinner aboard the Provence, packed our bags and set them outside our doors for an easy transfer to a van. Our bags would be delivered to the Millennium Paris Òpera Hotel in the 9th Arrondissement on Rue Haussman. The street is named after the architect who redesigned Paris after the revolution. He designed wide streets that could not so easily be blockaded. While our bags travel to Paris, we will head down the Burgundy Wine Road!

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 20-Friday Burgundy Wine Road (Route des Vins). Paris by TGV train -Paris Millenium Hotel Paris Opera for the next two nights. On our way to Paris, we spent the day driving through Burgundy and visiting the Moulin á Vent (wind mill) winery and vineyards. We sampled 6 Beaujolais vintages and had a delicious picnic on the grounds of the chateau. My pictures show many of the setting as this is what I expected Provence to look like. However, we are now in Burgundy, not Provence. It’s all beautiful! The first photo is from Macon where we were docked last night. It is the oldest wooden structure in France.

As you can see by our smiles, it was a very good day! Now, we board a speedy TGV train for a two hour ride to Paris! Life is good! After checking in and settling a bit, the four of us headed out to find a nearby café. We ate at a casual placed called the Haussman Corner Café.

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 21-Saturday Paris, France – Morning Bus Tour; Afternoon Covered Passages Tour. We will be busy, but the morning bus ride is a repeat of sights we have seen on a previous trip. We found this to make it even more enjoyable as we revisited favorite places and sights. I will show just a few of those taken in rather random order. On the ones with colorful window shades, they are taxed on the amount of windows they have, so covering them lessens their taxes.

The golden domed building is the Invalides built by Napoleon 1, who loved war, so he built a place for his soldiers to recuperate. The last photo above shows Notre Dame in the distance. All of the photos are through bus windows – not the best – just a quick glance at Paris. We stopped for a croissant at the Farmer’s Market in the Mouffetard region, Arrondissement 5. There were numerous protests in Paris concerning the protection of the environment, so the bus could not always go where planned. Thus we had a very nice time to walk around the French Market and time to sit and have another croissant. Our time in France is drawing to a close and we like to stretch it out as much as possible. Our local tour guide, Anna, was delightfully humorous!

The bus dropped us by the Louvre where we met our local guide, Gilles, who would take the three of us on a walking tour of the Covered Passages of Paris. These passages were built between elegant buildings in order to give the gentile people a clean place to walk, staying out of the mud and other less agreeable stuff while they walked. A person was hired to wash the boots of people entering. It was a wonderful walk – although challenging – as we were all getting a bit tired. I highly recommend this tour the next time you are in Paris.

For our last night in Paris, we were on our own for dinner. Michel recommended Au Petit Riche near the hotel and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal there. Then it was back to the hotel to pack one last time and be ready for a 7:45 AM van to the Charles De Gaulle Airport. Delta – get ready for us! Just have to have one last pastry at the airport!

PROVENCE-BURGUNDY-PARIS: September 22-Sunday Au Revoir, France!

French Wine Lists:

Sept. 19 

Aimers Vanel Syrah Rouge, Vin De Pays D’OC 2017 France: Aroma Red Fruits with bak currants hint. Full Bodied

Plaint Colombelanc l’Original de Gascogne, 2016, France; Taste lightweight on the palate with sparking acid kick

Sept. 18

Driven Boréaux, AOP, Rouge, 2016 France; Fine brie and flower aromas. Young, fruity taste

Edition Vielie Mission, Blanc, 2017, France. Supple on the palate

Sept. 16

Syrah Marrenon Lubermon Rhone, 2017, France; Full-bodied red wine with ripe fruits note

Chardonnay Castan Finesse Colombard Vin de France, 2017; exotic fruits and limes. Fresh and lively with mild acidity.

Sept. 15

Aimers Vanel Merot Vin De Pays D’OC VDP, 2017, France; red fruits with blackberries hint, taste medium might bodied, fruit and light

Aimers Vanel Chardonnay Vin De Pays D’OC VDP, 2017, Fresh delicate aroma with fruity taste.

Sept. 14

Plaint, Colonelle L’Original Rouge, Côtes de Gascone 2016, France; rich with fruity notes (blackberry, wild strawberry) with a hint of licorice

Plaimont colonelle L’Original Blanc Côtes de Gascone 2016 France; aroma flowery with exotic. Taste lightweight on the palate with sparkling acid kick.

Sept. 13

Beaujolais Pastier Designees, Rouge, 2017, France Fine and fruity with hints of small red fruits. Smooth and light with a fruity finish.

Chardonnay Castan Finesse Colombard Vin de France, 2017. Exotic fruits and limes. Fresh and lively, with mild acidity.

French Cheese Lists:

Sept. 15

Brie: non-pasteurized cow’s milk, from Seine t Marne region, Central France

Tome de Savoie: Non-Pasteurized cow’s milk from Savoie-Alpes Region, France

Munster: Non-Pasteurized cow’s milk from Vosges, Aples region France

Sept. 14

Morbier: Pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Morbiere, Comte-France

Beaufort: Non-Pasteurized cow’s milk from Savoie-Alpes region.France

Bleu De Bresse: Pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from Normandy France

Sept. 13

Chaumes: Pasteurized cow’s milk cheese from South-West France

Saint Agur: Pasteurized cow’s milk cheese

Emmental Francais: Pasteurized cow’s milk from the Aples region, France

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