Day 4 - Monday, April 29, 2013 - Stroll Through Avignon and Papal Palace; Visit the Villages of the Luberon Valley; Optional Wine Tasting and Dinner
After breakfast we began our day meeting the group at the entrance of the Papal Palace at 8:30. Jean-Sébastien took time to give us a 30 minute condensed version of the history of the Medieval Catholic Church.
He explained the corruption of the 12th century Popes and the rivalry between the Church and the Kings of France. From 1309 to 1376 the Popes, from France, ruled the Church from this palace in Avignon.
At 9:00 the gates to the palace opened and we received our audio guides for our self-guided tour of the fortress. We went down into the lower levels to the Treasury and then up to the ramparts for a great view of the Rhône River and the Pont de Avignon.
We were able to spend 90 minutes climbing the stairs and retracing the steps of the seven Avignon Popes. Jean-Sébastien was waiting for us at the front gate. The bus was parked near the bridge enabling us to take a few more photos.
The original bridge was 900 m (2950 ft) long and included 22 arches. The bridge was the source of wealth for the Popes. Travelers and traders had to cross the Rhône River and this bridge was the only way to cross.
The Church had a monopoly charging a toll on all traffic for centuries until 1609. At that time two of the arches collapsed. They were repaired but a short time later two more collapsed. The bridge was never replaced; only four arches remain.
We traveled for about an hour to Cavaillon. Jean-Sébastien pointed out the shops, the cafés for a quick lunch, and the old town with the church. We had a great lunch in a bakery that served croissants with ham and cheese.
Gennie bought a new umbrella because hers broke. As soon as she did, the rain stopped! We met back at the square at 12:50 and were off again to explore two villages of the Luberon Valley.
Jean-Sébastien told us how much the French love Provence and that the highest concentration of beautiful villages was in this region. In addition to the fragrant flowers and quaint stone villas, this is also truffle country.
Unfortunately when we got to Ménerbes the fog was so heavy we could not see the houses and churches above or the valley below. When we got to Bonnieux, the fog lifted a little just as we were leaving the village so we could take a few more photos.
The fruit orchards of apples and pears were blooming. The wild red poppies in the ditches were beautiful but the lavender had not started to bloom yet. The summer months are the times to see and smell the lavender.
We drove back to Avignon and made good time until we got to the residential area where the schools were getting out at 4:00. Jean-Sébastien had hoped we would make it at 4:15 but it was 4:55 by the time we reached the hotel.
We left the hotel as soon as possible for our optional wine tasting and dinner. Our reservation for the wine tasting was at 5:30 but we did not get there until 5:40. The route to Chateauneuf-du-Pape took us north of the city of Avignon.
We went directly to the wine cellar at Chateau Domaine Mousset. In this region of the Rhone Valley the soil is extremely rocky, causing the vines to struggle and the grapes to become heartier. The rocks help to keep the vines and the young grapes warm at night.
Our wine tasting instructor, Nathalie started us with a white wine. Her advice before we began was never say "this wine is not good" rather "this wine is not of my taste." She also reminded us that wine is pleasure and wines are very personal. Tastes vary with the person who drinks, the food eaten, and the occasion.
There is usually a correlation between the color of the skin of grape and the color of the wine. The weather has an affect on the color and thickness of the skin of the grapes. The taste is often related to the flowers and trees in the area that the bees pollinate and then come to pollinate the flowers of the grapes.
The next wine was a rosé - Nathalie answered questions about the process and vineyards. The vines can be used productively for 65 years. One should always hold a wine glass by the foot or the stem; never warm the wine with the hand. She described the foods that go well with various wines.
She then served a red, a full bodied wine that Nathalie saved for last. We discussed the reasoning of using cork, plastic, or screw-on tops. She said they still are using the corks, but are experimenting with other stoppers.
Gianni took us back to the hotel to drop off the wine purchases and then we walked to New Ground a restaurant where we had a menu of typically French cuisine. We did not arrive until after 8:00 and we were the first ones seated. The French, like many European countries tend to eat much later than we do in Colorado.
We finished our dinner at 10:00 and then walked back to the hotel in the rain. Our mileage today was 9.94 miles; a great day for “walking in the rain”!
Gennie had most of the journal written on the iPad while we rode on the bus, but we still had over 400 photos to go through. It was another late evening for us but it was worth every minute to remember our adventure in Avignon.
Accommodations: Hotel Bristol - - - Meal: B - - Rating: A-
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I love the Provence area, but have never been there in summer to smell the lavender. Your walking tour is not what I thought you would have. It is nice to get transport to places and then walk instead of only walking to get anywhere. I'm sorry you have so much rain, but weather doesn't seem to be "right" anywhere! I meant to tell you that we, too, love Carrefour. In France we have also shopped at Ed and it is always interesting with discounted and dated "finds". Hope you can keep dry, Carol
Day 13 - Saturday, April 22, 2022 - Depart for U.S.
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