Tuesday, September 18
Partly Cloudy Chance of Afternoon Rain
High 76 Low 56
We docked this morning during breakfast. Then we were off for our morning excursion promptly at 8:45.
Lyon is 2000 years old and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were bused to the Basilica Fourvière (known locally as the upside down elephant). It is on the highest hill in Lyon.
Unfortunately, it was very hazy so the view wasn’t quite what it would be on a sunny day. We were told that on a clear day you could see Mount Blanc, the highest mountain in the French Alps.
We were then bused to the old city of Lyon and had a walking tour of old city. After the tour we had quite a bit of free time to wander around the old city.
On the way back we stopped at 2 buildings that had the most amazing trompe-l'œil murals that we’d ever seen. Two sides of the building were covered with windows, balconies with people, animals, etc. However, there were no actual windows, balconies or people.
On our way back to the ship we had a bus tour of Presqu’île.
After lunch, Paul and I took the optional tour to Pérouges. This beautiful town was restored in 1911 by the Beaux Arts Commission, and is conserved to this day.
There are people actually living in the town; however, modern amenities are well hidden. Every once in a while you would see the metal outline of a manhole cover, but it was covered in the same cobblestones that were on the very narrow streets.
The cobblestones were very high and uneven. It was difficult walking when we started. After it started to rain, not only was walking difficult, it was slippery.
Apparently the town is still used for exterior shots for French movies.
After our tour, our guide told us to be back in the town square by 4:00 because they had a surprise for us. They served a gallete. Our guide likened it to pizza, but it was more of a tart. The dough was a flaky crust that was spread on pan like a pizza pan. The one we had was made with butter, lemon and topped with a very course sugar. Heavenly. We were told that we could wander around but “don’t” get lost, or go have a coffee. Every single person on the tour opted to go for coffee after the very difficult walking we had done.
We got back to the ship in time to catch the end of a silk demonstration by 2 staff members from L’Atelier de Soierie silk factory in Lyon. Silk was a major product of Lyon for many years. They no longer grow the silk worms, but they still do fine silk work.
Of course, there were silk scarfs for sale. I didn’t see anything I liked well enough to spend 49€ (about $60) on.
Paul and I had thought about going to dinner in Lyon. We were glad that we didn’t have dinner reservations, because we were so tired from our Pérouges excursion. We also thought that we really could not have had a better meal than the one we had on board the ship. The dinner was a “Seasonal Dinner.”
After dinner, “Spirit of France” was performed in the lounge by the ensemble “Sound of Europe.” They did everything from opera to jazz. We all really enjoyed the program.
This was the only evening entertainment on board as most evenings were spent underway.
Wednesday, September 19
Sunny and breezy High 67 Low 54
Lyon, Vienne and Tournon-sur-Rhone
This morning found us still anchored in Lyon. Paul and I walked to the beautiful bridge near our docking spot and took photos.
There was an optional tour to Les Halles de Bocuse in Lyon with Magalie. It is a food market similar to a very large farmers’ market named in his honor. We choose not to do this because we have been to many excellent farmer’s markets where we live.
A French lesson was given on board by one of the program managers. We sat in the lounge, and listened. We already had been tutored in what she was teaching and then some.
We set sail during lunch for Vienne. We went through several locks, one with a huge drop to move from the Soane River to the Rhone River.
After lunch the ship’s engineer and the hotel manager had a question and answer session in the lounge. We’d done a similar thing on our previous cruise. Since it was the same ship, we did not go.
Our afternoon tour in Vienne started at 2:45. Morning and early afternoon gave us some down time.
In Vienne, we took a mini-train ride to the highest point. We visited a small church at the top of the hill. The view down into the old Roman theater, which is still in use today was perfect. The view down over the town was spectacular. There are numerous other Roman ruins including the Temple of Augustus and Livia dating from the 1st century. Additions have been made at the back so that you really do not see them. It is still in use today. Sadly, it is showing the ravages of time and pollution.
We opted for the leisurely tour in Vienne and regretted doing so. We thought that we spent way too much time sitting in the cathedral. We also felt like we missed quite a bit. However, Fran and John told us what they saw and said there really wasn’t that much more to see. This did put an end to our signing up for the leisurely tours.
Tonight was the Viking Explorer Society Cocktail party. With 90 members, they simply told the people (not previous cruisers) that “crashed” the party that they should stay because it would be impossible to weed them out, and they could see what would happen on their next cruise. It was done in such a way that everyone felt welcome.
We set sail for Tournon-sur-Rhone at dinner time. Tonight’s dinner theme was “Viking International Dinner”.
Thursday, September 20
Partly Cloudy High 70 Low 41
Tournon-sur-Rhone, Tain L’Hermitage, and Viviers
We docked in Tournon last night. The views from the ship were very scenic overlooking hills full of vineyards and the a bend in the river.
There was a lecture at 8:30 on “France Today”. The speaker was Christian, who had been our guide in Pérouges. Because of that, we knew that he would give a great presentation. Time just flew while he was talking. He was serious, funny, informative, and charming.
Our tour to Tain l’Hermitage started at 9:45. We were taken to a winery that was much larger that the one we went to in Beaune. Our guide translated what the owner was telling us. That part was pretty interesting.
While this was going on, there was a little black kitten wandering around and pouncing on light beams and just generally having a good time. People were smiling and laughing, and we all hoped the owner was not upset. He didn’t seem to be. I’m pretty sure he knew what was happening, because he made a quick trip up to the second level, and came back down the steps right where the kitten was playing.
The tasting was all red wines made from shiraz grapes. We didn’t like any of the 4 wines we tasted, and we were not the only ones even though these were supposed to be very fine wines. The slosh buckets were getting a lot of use. A few people did buy wine.
From the winery, we went to a small private museum, Musée Palué. Pierre Palué is considered an artist of the New School of Paris. It was opened by his daughter, Mary, to honor her father.
She renovated the 16th century Hotel Coubis herself. She talked to us quite a bit about the renovation, why she opened it, etc. She was charming.
This discourse was all in rapid fire French and translated by our guide. Paul and I were able to pick up a few words here and there, but our poor old brains just couldn’t work that fast. We didn’t particularly care for the artwork, but the building and garden were very attractive.
From the museum, we went to the Valrohna Chocolate Factory Boutique. I knew before we went that Valrohna chocolate is considered by some to be the best chocolate in the world.
Apparently, top restaurants, hotels, etc. send their chefs to Valrohna to learn how to work with chocolate. All of the chocolate desserts on board the ship were made with Valrohna chocolate.
The actual manufacturing area is under very tight security. As you walk down the street you smell chocolate from the factory.
When you enter the boutique there are samples everywhere including free hot chocolate. There is a counter where you can make your own selection. Since we don’t use the metric system in the US, it is hard to figure out just how much you want.
That was not a problem because there was a huge selection of pre-packaged boxes, chocolate bars, and much, much more. We bought 5 boxes: a thank you gift for Lois, Christmas gifts and a box of the same for ourselves for a total of 81€. Valrohna chocolate is expensive but considerably less when you buy it as we did rather than in the US. Anyway, we were given several handfuls of chocolate sticks, and a gift box of 16 ganache.
When we were leaving, Paul and I decided to take a short cut across what looked like a parking lot. I stopped and said, “I don’t think we’ll be doing that”. Paul asked me why not. I pointed to a barrier being lowered. When we turned around we saw a security guard sitting by a door to the factory. She had started to put the barrier down as soon as she saw us. It was odd though because we were walking away from the factory not toward it.
During a late lunch (1:00) we set sail for Viviers.
There were several onboard activities as we sailed. One was a Wheelhouse Tour. The guys didn’t do this because they’d done it on our last cruise on this ship.
There was a cooking demonstration showing how to prepare “Chocolat Fondant.” The finished product looked like a brownie, but was very light with a great chocolate taste. The most fun was watching the chef de cuisine and the pastry chef beat egg whites with a whisk. Fran and I said we’d never seen a whisk move so fast. Both chefs were new hires. David, the chef de cuisine, had worked for Viking for a month. When the pastry chef was asked how long he’d been with Viking, his answer was 3 days.
On our last cruise Fran, Marti and I were given a tour of the gallery thanks to Fran asking the Maître d’hôtel if we could. It was all done very discreetly, and I didn’t include it in my trip report because we’d been asked not to tell anyone.
On this cruise it was a scheduled onboard activity. The kitchen is very small. The hot foods are prepared and kept hot on the same deck as the dining room. All cold foods are down a steep set of steps that the waiters must negotiate to get salads, ice cream, etc. That they can prepare the number of high quality-gourmet meals that they do in a very limited space is absolutely amazing.
In the early evening there was a “Talk on Provençe.” We had our before dinner drinks and listened to the presentation.
I don’t remember why, but the Disembarkation Briefing was given early this evening instead of Friday or Saturday evening.
After the “Chef’s Dinner,” we docked in Viviers, a medieval village. A night walk was the only excursion offered. It came with a warning that the walk is physically challenging with steep steps and uneven grounds. After our experience in Pérouges, we stayed on board. Later seeing picures of it, we knew we’d made a good decision.
We cruised overnight to arrive in Arles the next morning