Lyon is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the third largest city if France. It's also the culinary capital of this famous culinary country. After breakfast we boarded the bus for a drive to the top of Fourvière Hill for marvelous views and a visit to the Basilica of Notre Dame. It's beautiful, but according to an Aussie aboard, this is a "ABT - Another Blasted Church".
Lyon is famous for it's murals (trompe l’oeil painting).
After a drive past the magnificent St. Jean Cathedral and the Palace of Justice we enjoyed a walking tour through the cobbled streets of Vieux Lyon (Old Town) - charming.
Lyon is also known for it's traboules, unique hidden passageways made for busy merchants in medieval times. The traboules wend through buildings and courtyards, connecting streets of the old city.
In the afternoon several took the Pérouges Walking Tour to a stunning medieval walled village, a wonder of engineering and of brute strength, where farmers and linen weavers led simple 13th-century lives. This town of stone has been the setting of period films, including The Three Musketeers. I'd originally planned to take this tour until Viking announced that their Chef would take a small group to the renowned Paul Bocuse Food Hall. I jumped on the opportunity and was not disappointed.
We've been BUSY the last couple days so no time to tell you about our adventures. I'll try to give you a short recap...
Wednesday we disembarked our river boat on the Seine to continue our two week France's Finest tour on the Saone and Rhone Rivers in southern France. We expected to be transported by full day bus ride, but were delighted to learn we'd be taking a high speed train instead. What would have been a 5 hour bus ride (not including stops) became a comfortable 2 hour train experience.
We arrived at our new boat and quickly settled in as our rooms were almost identical to those we had last week. We had the afternoon to explore Lyon. Most took the one hour walking orientation tour. A few of us took off for the nearby French Resistance Museum.
We expected to sail up the Saone to Macon for our Thursday events, but the river was too high (making passing under bridges very chancy) so the boat remained docked in Leon while we bused to our activities for the day. Fortunately distances are not great and the inconvenience was minor.
A welcome drink and a wonderful dinner capped off the evening. Do you notice how the theme of great food and wine permeates these updates?
Our first stop for the day was a Beaujolais winery in is one of France’s most beloved wine regions. Vineyards stretch for miles along the Saône, and the granite soils and warm climate make it ideal for growing grapes that produce a light flavor. Our guide educated us on the art of wine making and gave one of the most informative tasting discussions I've heard.
Another wonderful lunch.
After lunch we had the option of visiting the historic Cluney Abbey or visiting working farms to learn more about two of Burgundy’s most beloved culinary treasures, goat cheese and truffles.
Sticking with the culinary theme most of us did the farm visits. Our first stop was a truffle farm where a US educated PhD Agronomist has successfully cultivated truffles on the property he inherited from his grandmother. The highly prized fungus has been called “the diamond of the kitchen” for its rich, earthy flavor. Truffles are usually hunted by pigs, but we watched the farmer’s dog Chinook hunt them in the soil. We later enjoyed a tasting of bread with truffle-flavored butter and saffron flan. The saffron crocus are also cultivated on the farm.
Last stop - a goat farm where we sampled goat cheese. We tasted 1-day old, 1-week old and 1-month old varieties. Most of us preferred the 1-week version. And, you guessed it, another opportunity to sample the local wine..
Another cool and rainy day... We're beginning to look forward to our transfer to Provence. That's tomorrow (Wednesday) In the meantime, we're undaunted by the weather as we continue our voyage on the Seine.
This morning several of us took the optional tour to the luxurious Palace of Versailles, former home of Louis XIV. Those of us who stayed behind had a leisurely breakfast, followed by free time in the “City of Light”.
Most of us chose to visit Chateau de Malmaisois where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his final days in France. Along with the Tuileries, this elegant manor house, purchased by the emperor’s wife Josephine in 1799, served as the seat of Napoleon’s French government from 1800 to 1802. After the couple’s divorce, she collected an annual pension of 5 million francs and kept the house, which she called home until her death in 1814. The emperor returned the following year after his defeat at Waterloo and received news here of his exile to the island of Saint Helena.
The gardens were beautiful, but beyond their prime. A few weeks ago they would have been splendid. We saw Josephine’s beloved music room and library, viewed the emperor’s bedroom and the stunning mahogany decor of his study with its original furnishings.
If those two outings weren't enough for the day, some people also enjoyed the "Paris by Night" option. Not me - to bed early because Wednesday morning we transfer by fast train to Leon for the second half of our trip.
Some of you have asked if there's stepped up security or if we feel "uncomfortable" here. Not at all. We feel very safe in our surroundings.
Grand Champions of The Evening Contest! Karen, Terry and Marion were the overwhelming winners of the evening competition. They answered questions like, "What do women do better than men?" Everything, of course. There were a few responses which were a bit more bawdy responses, but I won't repeat them here:-)
Cool, overcast and rainy again today. After a long day visiting the Normandy beaches we enjoyed a leisurely morning cruise to the small town of Les Andelys (The Angels). This tiny town has only a few short streets, but some great shops. I doubt anyone came back to the ship without at least one new scarf, hat or handbag.
The Viking crew provides plenty of entertainment to keep us busy during our cruising. This morning our chef demonstrated the creation of a Citrus Tart. This simple and delicious recipe can be made with lemon, lime or orange.
After lunch most of us joined a guided walk to Château Gaillard. The stronghold was built in the 12th century by Richard the Lionheart of England, who was also Duke of Normandy. The structure is considered the most dramatic sight anywhere along the Seine between the coast and Paris. The strongest and most magnificent castle of its age, it guarded the Seine River Valley and was the key structure in a vast system that defended Normandy during the Wars of Religion. It was also of critical importance in Richard’s campaigns against France. After a short climb we toured the exterior of this example of medieval siege warfare construction, considered invincible for as long as Richard lived. This is one of the most fantastic fortresses of Normandy.
For many of us the visit to the Normandy Beaches is the reason we're on this trip. Many of us have been to Normandy before but haven't been to this historical site, so we were looking forward to this day.
After breakfast we begin our full-day tour to the Normandy beaches. We boarded the motor coach with our guide and headed for the Normandy Coast. We passed through the beautiful Normandy countryside before reaching two of the beaches, Juno and Gold, where Commonwealth troops came ashore. We stopped at the town of Courseulles-sur-Mer, where Canadian troops unloaded countless tons of supplies after D-Day. Here we visited the small Arromanches Debarkment D-Day Museum, where we discovered the genius of the portable, temporary Mulberry Harbor that moved a huge volume of troops and supplies. .
A quick lunch and we were off to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Colleville-sur-Mer. Located high on a cliff over Omaha Beach, it is the final resting place of nearly 9,400 American service men and women. You walked among its many white crosses and browsed the visitor center. Viking added special notes to our visit - We were each given a rose to place on a grave and they provided a ceremony which included our National Anthem and a moment of silence. Both gestures made the visit even more poignant.
Our last stop was Omaha Beach, where many US soldiers lost their lives on June 6, 1944. Today Omaha Beach is a thriving beach resort area - a far cry from the devastation that occurred there 70+ years ago.
This was a sobering day. We honored the 24,000 allied forces who landed along the 50 miles of Normandy Beaches that day. There were more than 10,000 allied casualties with more than 4000 confirmed dead.
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