Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Amadagio Provence Cruise, Part 2

Wine & Chocolate Pairings
 As I‘ve stated many times before, weather happens. On this trip, we experienced intermittent rain, although we mostly managed to dodge the big stuff. Still, it was cool and damp and we were often grateful for AMA‘s large complimentary umbrellas.

The small city of Vienne holds an unexpected delight: a small museum housing artifacts and statues from the nearby Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia. Currently closed due to safety concerns, the outside of the temple itself is minimally impressive; however, the museum was reminiscent of Cairo‘s Egyptian Museum in its displays--mostly items removed from the temple. The town is also home to the medieval churches of St. Andre-Le-Bas and Abbey St. Pierre. In one, the organist was rehearsing for the upcoming Sunday masses. A few on our cruise opted for a visit to Chateau Rousillon to learn more about the pottery tradition of the region and helped support the local economy a bit.

Temple of Augustus and Livia
An afternoon cruise through the beautiful Cotes du Rhone valley brought us to Tournon where we docked for the night. I must say I so appreciate NOT sailing at night for two reasons: (1) going through locks can be noisy, and (2) we‘d miss too much beauty along the way. On our first river cruise years ago, I remember those night-time noises, although policies have likely changed over the years.

The string trio La Strada is a staple of AMA cruises and and the musical organization apparently features different trios and quartets in several regions. You don‘t sail on a river cruise for top-notch entertainment and production shows, so it‘s especially wonderful when a group like this one treats us with such a lovely concert.

The call on Tournon again brought choices: most of the passengers departed the ship for a Cotes de Rhone tour to the Cornas winery and a wine tasting event. One of our group, who has toured more wineries than he can count, said that this tour proved particularly interesting when the owner demonstrated the process of removing sediment quickly from the bottles by machines--with bottle caps popping on and off! 

Ben and I, however, opted for AMA‘s Culinary Delights excursion offering, “Red Wine and Chocolate Tasting“ in Tournon‘s Chateau on a rainy morning. Never before had we sampled such exquisite pairings of the two!  We were presented three different types of chocolate and three different types of wine.  Dessert, anyone?

"Noel Albert"
An afternoon cruise brought us to Viviers for an evening Ghost Walk tour of this once thriving medieval town. The story line revolved around a man named Noel Albert, a wealthy salt trader and merchant who built the House of Knights towering over the river, but destroyed part of the cathedral and other religious buildings.  He was ultimately captured and beheaded for his sins. Legend says he still haunts the town, and an actor dressed as Albert in ghostly hues appeared on our pathway at times during the tour to elaborate on his story. Our guides were dressed in medieval costumes and led us through the city streets and up to the illuminated courtyard of a beautifully  restored villa where we got to the best part of the tour: a mini- concert by two talented flutists. A delightful conclusion to an otherwise rather slow excursion.

Dogs Eying Their Truffle Find
Grignon is a lovely village perched atop a hill overlooking lavender fields, not yet in bloom. Our ship actually docked in St. Etienne where we boarded buses for a truffle farm in Grignon at Domaine de Bramarel. What an interesting tour! The third-generation owner told us about his dogs, the hunts (two hours each morning; four each evening), the special oak trees, and types of truffles found. We sampled delicious fresh shaved truffles spread on French bread sprinkled with olive oil. Heavenly! Then he released the dogs in a nearby field for a sample hunt. No big “finds“ that day, but it was a fascinating display of canine skill. Yes, he also sold bottled truffles and truffle oil; and yes, I‘m looking forward to cooking pasta with truffle sauce for my family next time we‘re all together!

Truffles and Wine!
Next stop: Avignon and the Palace of the Popes, Pont du Gard, or French cooking school.  So far, we've sampled truffles with wine for hors 'd'oeuvres and chocolate with wine for dessert.  We needed a main course, right?  Watch for my photo with our chef in Avignon...and you'll know what excursion Ben and I selected!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Lynn. Your blogs help me remember just where I was when I saw a particular item, building, person, etc. Great Blogs pertaining to our recent trip. ecp