Monthly Archives: March 2017

Tarascon Tour

Is a visit to a castle on your bucket list? It was on our friend, Jerry’s, and he was especially excited when the opportunity presented itself on day 2 of our Viking River Cruise. After a tasty lunch onboard, we set off on foot to see Tarascon Castle, or Château de Tarascon, as it’s called in France.

Rebuilt by Louis II, Louis III, the Dukes of Anjou, and the Counts of Provence in the early 1400’s on the site of the previously destroyed castle, Tarascon Castle was used both as a residence and a military base. When the castle was later converted into a military prison, graffiti engraved by prisoners appeared on the walls and is still evident today. None of the sumptuous furnishings that would have once filled the space remain but one can imagine how resplendent it looked.

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Jim and Jerry on the bridge at the entrance to Tarascon Castle

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Tarascon Castle

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Jerry at the Castle door

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The old moat

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Tarascon Castle

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Tarascon Castle gardens

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Tarascon Castle

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Tarascon Castle

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Studying the brochure

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Chapel

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Salle des festins where banquets were held, Tarascon Castle

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I was fascinated to see the toilet that emptied down the side of the castle wall

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View across the river to ruins of Beaucaire Castle from Tarascon Castle

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View of the town of Tarascon from the top of the castle

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Decorative drain spout at Tarascon Castle

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Jerry and Lori on the roof of Tarascon Castle

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View of the Rhône River from the roof of Tarascon Castle

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View from the top of Tarascon Castle with the Viking Buri on the right

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View across the top level of Tarascon Castle

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View of the garden from the top of the castle

After making it all the way to the roof and back down, we discovered we hadn’t visited all the rooms so we went back through to see what we had missed. The rooms containing graffiti engraved by prisoners were some of the most interesting to me.

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Graffiti

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Graffiti

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Graffiti

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Jim and I at Tarascon Castle

Jerry told us his first visit to a castle exceeded his expectations and he looked like he thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

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Jerry at the end of our visit to Tarascon Castle

When we left the castle, we continued into the town of Tarascon.

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Jim, Jerry, and I walking in medieval Tarascon

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Another view of Tarascon

The Church of Sainte-Marthe was built on the site where Martha, sister of Lazarus and Mary, lived in Tarascon. According to the Golden Legend, after the resurrection, Martha traveled to Provence and preached the word and converted the people to Christianity. She also tamed a fierce dragon, the Tarasque, by sprinkling holy water on him, after which the people of the town killed the dragon. Sainte-Marthe’s relics are entombed in the church.

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Church of Sainte-Marthe

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Interior of Church of Sainte-Marthe

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Interior of Church of Sainte-Marthe

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Crypt of Sainte-Marthe

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Sarcophagus of Sainte-Marthe

After a full day of touring first Arles then Tarascon which racked up more than 15,000 steps on my Fitbit, we were more than ready for dinner that evening. We decided to take our waiter’s recommendation and ordered the chef’s choice. We enjoyed a delectable dinner accompanied by French wine and authentic French bistro music.

 

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Lobster and shrimp bisque

 

 

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Poached asparagus with prosciutto, ricotta panna cotta, quail egg, and balsamic reduction    

 

 

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Châteaubriand

 

 

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Soufflé au chocolat

 

Following dinner, we enjoyed nighttime views of the Bridge of Avignon as we returned to the city where we would begin day 3 of our cruise.

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Based on events from October and November 2016.

 

References:

Tarascon Castle brochure obtained at the castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Europe, History, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

A Walking Tour of Arles, France

We first glimpsed Tarascon, France through the early morning mist on the Rhône river. As the castle came into view, we knew that day 2 of our river cruise promised to be at least as delightful as the first. Our ship docked at this small town of 13,000 inhabitants, 11 miles (18 km) north of Arles. Tarascon would have to wait until later in the day, however, because we were scheduled for a walking tour of Arles that morning.

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Dawn on the Rhône River approaching Tarascon

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Tarascon Castle from the Rhône River

But first, a good breakfast was in order to fuel our explorations. We were offered an outstanding array on the buffet or we could order from the menu or both.

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Scrumptious breakfast

Following breakfast, our motor coach waited to transport us to Arles, pop. 50,000. Arles was settled by the Greeks as early as the 6th century, BC, and the city was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its Roman monuments dating from the 1st century, BC, and Romanesque monuments from the 11th and 12th centuries.

As we walked through the city, I was charmed by almost everything I saw.

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The Roman Amphitheater, still in use today for bullfights and other events, was built in the 1st century AD to accommodate 21,000 spectators.

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Lori and Jim at the Roman Amphitheater

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Inside the Roman Amphitheater

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Inside the Roman Amphitheater

The nearby Roman Theater, built in the 1st century BC, was not as well-preserved as the amphitheater but it, too, is still used today for outdoor performances, accommodating audiences of 8,000.

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As we continued our stroll toward the Place de la Republique, I captured a few views along the way.

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The Place de la Republique, where the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) is located, is the center of the historic district. The ancient Egyptian obelisk was moved here from the amphitheater in 1676.

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Place de la Republique

Facing the Place de la Republique is another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Church and Cloister of St. Trophime, named for an early bishop of Arles. The facade of the Romanesque church features sculptured scenes of the Last Judgement including Christ in Majesty surrounded by symbols of the four Evangelists above the doorway, the righteous being delivered to the saints on the left, and the chain-bound souls being delivered to hell on the right.

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Christ in Majesty with the Evangelists

Version 2

The righteous delivered to the saints

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The damned with chains around their waists delivered to hell

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Inside the Church of St. Trophime

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Church of St. Trophime Interior

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Church of St. Trophime

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Church of St. Trophime

Incidentally, the Church of St. Trophime is a stop along one of the pilgrimage routes of the Camino de Santiago. We didn’t see any pilgrims while we were there, however.

Vincent Van Gogh arrived in Arles in 1888 at age 34 and spent 15 months here producing 300 paintings including some of his most famous. It was here that he cut off his ear and was hospitalized at the old Arles Hospital where he painted Le Jardin de la Maison de Santé a Arles. Today this hospital is a cultural center featuring many of Van Gogh’s works. Sadly, the artist died young in 1890.

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Sign to mark the place where Van Gogh painted Le Jardin de la Maison de Santé a Arles

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In the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh

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Sign to identify the cafe where Van Gogh painted Le Café Le Soir

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Location of the painting Le Cafe Le Soir (Cafe Terrace at Night)

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Another view of the café

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Marker for Van Gogh’s La Nuit Étoilée

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View of the river where La Nuit Étoilée was painted by Vincent Van Gogh

We saw one more ancient Roman monument on our walking tour, the Baths of Constantine, dating from the 4th century.

 

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Baths of Constantine

 

 

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Baths of Constantine

 

Before boarding our bus to return to Tarascon, I took a few photos of The Bridge of Lions. The bridge was destroyed in a WWII bombing but the lions have been restored and stand regally on guard on the embankment of the River Rhône. IMG_0326

Upon our return to our ship, the Viking Buri, we were greeted by staff with a welcome aboard drink for us.

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Check back for a tour of Tarascon Castle.

 

Based on events from October 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Europe, History, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 1: Sur le Pont d’Avignon

Day 1 of our Viking River Cruise, embarkation day, provided us with just a brief sample of the city of Avignon, France in the region of Provence. We arrived late in the afternoon and, after settling into our cabins, we joined the welcome walk through the historic center with a local guide.

Avignon is a walled city with narrow medieval streets and loads of French charm. The historic center is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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View of historic Avignon from outside the city walls

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Avignon city walls

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The Avignon City Wall

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Our group on the welcome walk

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Beautiful architecture with typical French charm

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Another charmer 

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A gated view 

Avignon is historically significant as the seat of the Papacy from 1309 to 1378. (More on that later.) The view in the photo below of the outside of the Palace of the Popes stirred our anticipation for the tour of the palace scheduled on day 3 of our cruise.

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Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)

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Palais des Papes

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Conservatory of Music on the Place du Palais across from the palace

The main square, Place de l’Horloge, is the center of many community activities with the National Opera Theater, the Hotel de Ville (City Hall), and even a carousel. It’s also a perfect place for people watching.

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National Opera Theater

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Hotel de Ville (City Hall)

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Place de l’Horloge

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Carousel on Place de l’Horloge

There are over 50 locations with trompe l’oeil (a painting technique to create optical illusion) in Avignon and our guide pointed out one for us on the Place de Sorano. Window peeking is acceptable in this building.

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I learned the children’s nursery rhyme, Sur le Pont d’Avignon (On the Bridge of Avignon), in my high school French class and I can still sing it to this day. The bridge in the song was built across the Rhone River in the 12th century but flooding destroyed it several times until finally, in the 17th century it was abandoned. Today only 4 of the original 22 arches remain but it’s one of the major tourist attractions in Avignon.

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Le Pont d’Avignon

After our guided stroll through the historic center, we stopped to shop at Le Chateau du Bois to purchase some lavender oil, a well-known product of Provence.

 

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Le Chateau du Bois in Avignon

 

 

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Lavender growing in Avignon

 

 

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Lori and I with our lavender purchases from Chateau du Bois

To close out day 1 of our river cruise on the Viking Buri, we enjoyed our first meal prepared by Executive Chef, Pascal Vallee, and his staff.

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Desserts

Everything including the wine was delicious and we looked forward to each and every meal thereafter.

 

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Dinner on the Viking Buri

Based on events from October 2016.

 

 

 

Categories: cruise, Europe, Food, Travel, Uncategorized, UNESCO | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

River Cruising

Several friends have long recommended we take a river cruise. I’ve looked at the brochures for years with great interest and yearning but always concluded it was too expensive. Then I received an email from Viking River Cruises in late September 2016 with an offer that looked too good to be true. As we drove to a college football game, I told my husband and a friend about the offer and we decided I should at least check it out although I suspected it would still be too expensive once all the additional charges were added in. I called from the car and was stunned to learn the price in the offer was the total including taxes and port charges.

So what was the offer? This was an 8-day cruise on the Rhone River in the south of France through Provence from Avignon to Lyon beginning October 30. It included airfare from Minneapolis; transfers between the airport and the ship; a veranda cabin; excursions at each port of call; unlimited beer, wine, and soft drinks at lunch and dinner; and free onboard wifi. And if we paid with a debit card rather than a credit card, there was an additional discount. The total cost for Jim and me was $4800.

We booked it. My friend booked it. When a couple from our church heard about it, they booked it, too. And we’re all glad we did.

We flew out of Minneapolis to Amsterdam and then to Marseille where Viking staff met us and escorted us to our bus to transport us to Avignon and our ship, the Viking Buri.

Check back over the next several weeks as I review each port of call on my first river cruise.

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Lori, Kathy, Jerry, and Jim awaiting our flight from Minneapolis

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Our group arrives at the Viking Buri in Avignon, France

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Our cabin

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Our cabin with a view

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Our veranda

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Kathy and Jerry on their veranda

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Our ship, the Buri, with Lori and Jim on their verandas

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Lori and Jim on their verandas

Based on events from October 2016.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

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