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“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” ~ Nelson Mandela

Today is our last day of cruising as tomorrow and Friday we spend the days by trains, plane, and automobiles, going our separate ways to wherever we call home. Today we arrived early in Arles. Arles is the largest wetland in France. The city has a long history and was considered essential during the Roman Empire and the monuments of Arles are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

Many artists have lived and worked in Arles because of the southern light including Picasso, Gauguin, Reattu, Brown, and Van Gogh. We traveled to Les Baux to the Carrieres des Lumuieres exhibition. It is held at a quarry that was dug out over many years to extract the limestone. Masterpieces are projected onto the quarry’s huge walls, pillars, and floors. by over 100 video projectors. They transport you to colorful worlds with music. It was incredible and I am sure better seen in person.

Then we took a short bus trip to Baux en Provence. It is located in the Alpiiles mountains, atop a rocky outcrop that is crowned with a ruined castle overlooking some plains. It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, It boasts only twenty-two residents. The cobblestone streets and the hills that only seemed to go up and never down were my undoing. It felt as if I was in the Sound of Music singing Climb Every Mountain!

“Climb ev’ry mountain,
Search high and low,
Follow ev’ry byway,
Every path you know.”

I made it less than halfway up the steep treacherous narrow street. The cobblestones won.

“The things that I see as I walk along the streets, a little flower that blooms in May, a lovely sunset at the end of a day, someone helping a stranger along the way, that’s heaven to me.

~ Sam Cooke, singer, and songwriter

We stopped in a cafe for a cappuccino and a pot of tea to rest.

We spent the afternoon packing and having a glass of rose with some friends in wonderful conversation. It’s been a lovely trip and though I am a little sad to see it end, I am happy for the experiences we have, the friends we learned more about and the new friends and new memories made.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr Seuss

Memories of Laughter
~Catherine Pulsifer

“Memories so sweet, we do not forget.
Filled with laughter, good times with no regrets.
Surrounded by the love of family and friends,
May moments and memories of laughter never end.

Life passes so quickly, in an ever twisting-direction,
Moments spent together are those that get our affection!
We’ll cherish the memories for many years to come,
Laughter and smiles make our hearts hum.”

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” ~ Jimmy Dean

Today we decided to wander part of Avignon on our own. The Mistral winds were blowing forcefully today, almost enough to blow you over. They are the cold and dry strong wind in southern France that blows down from the north along the lower Rhône River valley toward the Mediterranean Sea. It may blow continuously for several days at a time, with velocities that average about 45 miles per hour. Despite the strong winds we carried on, walking canes in hand, and traveled a couple of miles into the city. We stopped of course for a cappuccino and watched the world race by.

“They say the best way is to just live one day at a time. If you try to live the seven days at a time, the week will be over before you know it.”

~ Sally Brown, from Peanuts on living in the moment

We wandered for a couple of miles remembering that we had to retrace our steps to get back to the ship. We bought some French chocolates and walked over uneven cobblestone passing churches and stores along the way. We took our time and walked about a city square with restaurants and a museum and a lovely carousel.

We spent the windy afternoon relaxing and reading and sharing wine and cheese and “Jesus sausage” with Tom and Barbara Haas and booking a future cruise, go figure! It’s been a relaxing day though I am getting the “need to go home jitters.” We still have one more day of eating and drinking and making friends and touring, oh did I mention drinking? Tomorrow we head to Arles where we disembark on Thursday to begin the journey home. Tonight there is a farewell cocktail and dinner party and we are of course dressed to participate.

“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” ~ Mae West

“May the wind always be at your back and the sun upon your face, and the winds of destiny carry you aloft to dance with the stars.” ~ George June

“Life is like a train station, people come and go all the time, but the ones that wait for the train with you are the ones that are worth keeping in it.” ~ Unknown

Today we were in the town of Touron on the Rhone River The tour options for today were a hike to the Hermitage and wine tasting, a wine and chocolate tasting, or a steam train ride which is what we chose. About 125 miles north of the city of Avignon along the Rhône River in southern France is Doux Gorges, The area features some of the most beautiful and remote wilderness in France and attracts tourists, hikers, and bikers from all over. A  network of railway lines was constructed between 1898 and 1903 to provide access to markets for farms and vineyards in remote areas of the region. When the railway network closed in 1968, a group of enthusiasts decided to acquire it and some of its rolling stock. In 1969 a tourist operation started between Saint-Jean-de-Muzols and Lamastre. The Meyzieu Tourist Railway Company was created, and supported by a group of volunteers who restore and maintain the railroad rolling stock. In 1970 access was restored to the railway station at Tournon, and the new Tournon – Lamastre line, 21 miles long, was officially opened for full service.

We boarded the train and took about a thirty-minute ride through rolling hills, farmlands rich with grape vines, forests with rabbits, and wild boar, and aqueducts constructed in Roman times

When people ask me how the trip is going, I would say it is a wonderful trip. We have had conversations with great people, some that we knew, and some new friends. We have had lovely tours where I am certain we learned important historical and geographical events I will be remiss to recall. The part I have enjoyed the most is being relaxed and listening to others perhaps over one or more glasses of wine. To me life is about making memories, hopefully more good ones than bad. Today’s excursion was not too short and not too long and interesting. The steam train and the whistle blown made me think of some of the lyrics of the Johnny Cash song Folsom Prison Blues

“I hear the train a-coming, it’s rolling round the bend And I ain’t seen the sunshine since I don’t know when I’m stuck in Folsom prison and time keeps dragging on But that train keeps a rolling on down to San Antone “

“Fill your heart with better memories, better actions, better friends. That’s all any of us can do.”

~ Wolverine in X-23: Vol 3, # 10

This afternoon was a very relaxing time as we make our way down the Rhone River to Avignon. We sat on our deck for a while and watched the world go by. We went through a few locks that control the water level, the sounds of birds were spectacular, the interesting houses and jut the sounds of the breeze though the grasses and the sun though the clouds.

“There’s a lot of beauty in oridinary things. Isn’t that kid of the point?” ~ Pam Beasley in The Office

“He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much.” ~ Bessie Anderson Stanley

Today after breakfast our ship sailed a short distance to Vienne. Vienne has excellent Roman ruins, cobbled lanes, a historic abbey, a castle, and some of the best food experiences in France. Our view from our balcony is street level and we saw some interesting people while we waited for our tour.

We decided not to take the bike or hiking tours and joined the gente walker’s group, which was a train ride to the top of Mount Pipet.

Vienne is a town in southeastern France located 35km south of Lyon. After being taken by the Roman Empire the town became a Roman provincial capital and remains of Roman constructions are widespread across modern Vienne. It was an incredible view though a bit overcast, of a Roman Amphitheater, a castle and ruins, and a church.

Although the train ride was longer than the time we spent at Mount Pipet, it was still another wonderful day despite the rain and the chill.

We returned safely and had lunch enjoying food and wine but mostly conversation with friends old and new.

Sometimes life feels like lyrics from the song “Moon River” by Henry Mancini

“Moon river wider than a mile

I’m crossing you in style someday

Oh dream maker

You heartbreaker

Wherever you’re going I’m going your way

Two drifters off to see the world

There’s such a lot of world to see

We’re after the game rainbows end

Waiting ’round the bend

My huckleberry friend

Moon River and me”

This afternoon we just sat on the tiny deck and watched the beauty of the world go by.

Today was filled with especially wonderful conversations with Cindra, Maureen, Ed, Karen, Roger, Diana, Tom, Barbara, Lynn and Maria and I am sure a host of others whose names I can not remember.

“In the best conversations, you don’t even remember what you talked about, only how it felt. It felt like we were in some place your body can’t visit, some place with no ceiling and no walls and no floor and no instruments”
~John Green in Turtles All The Way Down

And my final thought for the day:

 “One good reason to only maintain a small circle of friends is that three out of four murders are committed by people who know the victim.” ~George Carlin

“A bottle of wine contains more philosophy than all the books in the world.” ~Louis Pasteur

Today after a fairly good sleep and a leisurely breakfast we took a bus to the Beaujolais region of France. Beaujolais is a French wine generally made from the Gamay grape which has a thick skin and is low in tannin. The wine takes its name from the historical Provence of Beaujolais which is a wine-producing region, north of Lyon.

The lovely vineyard we visited was Domain Paire. It was on a beautiful rolling hillside with villages dotting the roads. The vines looked much shorter than traditional vines I have seen, but the hillside was beautiful and on a sunny day must have been stunning.

The owner of the vineyard said the winery had been in his family for generations. He explained the wine-making process from growing the grapes to the fermentation and bottling. We had a wine tasting, a white chardonnay, and two red wines made from the Gamay grapes. All were exquisite,

My only regret in life is that I did not drink more wine.”~Ernest Hemingway

“I shall drink no wine before it’s time! OK, it’s time.”~Groucho Marx

As it had been already a couple of hours since our last opportunity to eat and drink we went to the sip and sail cocktail hour and then to the chefs table for dinner. It was a wonderful dinner of unique and delicious food and wine pairings with a lovely presentation. There was good food, good wine and good friends. What more could one want?

“Thats what I do: I drink and I know things.”~ Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”~George Bernard Shaw “

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ~Hippocrates

Today we took a bus ride and tour to Les Halles de Lyon – Paul Bocuse. Lyon’s mythic indoor food market with an international reputation for offering the very finest gourmet food. Think of almost any food you could, in the most artful presentation imaginable and booths upon booths of these foods. The aroma was intoxicating and the visual presentation was like art.

There were sausages, any kind of meat, chickens with their headless head attached to the package, sweet treats, wine, cheese, fruit, and vegetables.

There was a bachelor party at one of the food stalls filled with boisterous men enjoying themselves with food and drink, There was escargot, every cheese you could imagine, and more, meats I had never heard of before and foods I imagine i would never see again. The locals use it as a food market, it is not just a tourist trap.

Tonight was beret night on the cruise and Rodger and Karen, Skip and I got into the spirit of day!

And sometimes, life is just the right combination of positive forces and good luck and you get to spend some time in another country, across the sea with one of your best friends share some time, food, and wine and it is just perfect. We had such a moment today ( or a couple of hours) when Vinny and Edie and our friend Arlene happened to be on a different cruise line spending some time at the same port in Lyon, France.

“The very best gift… is that anyone can experience those unexpected twinkles of joy that make a magical moment. At these moments, you feel true, deep joy because of a great new insight, a beautiful prospect, or a glimpse into the radiance of another soul. They are the magic moments when life seems better than you ever realized.” ~ Richard M Eyre

“There are friends, there is family, and then there are friends that become family.” Jay Shetty

“I’ve forgotten a lot of things in life. A meal has never been one of them.” ~Author Unknown

Today after a good night’s sleep and a lovely hotel breakfast we packed our luggage and dropped them off at our home for the next week, the Ama Kristina River Cruise Ship and took a cab into Lyon. I was diagnosed with Celiac disease years ago it is sometimes challenging when we travel to control both what I can eat and if the food is safe for me.

“As far as I can tell, the biggest side effect of a gluten sensitivity is that you actually become the number one symptom: a huge pain in the ass.” ~Cecelia Rivenbark

After we dropped off our luggage our cab took us across town to Les Gasteliers, which is a dedicated Gluten Free bakery. It’s a real French patisserie shop but entirely gluten-free. It was amazing.

There was a gluten-free cinnamon roll that called my name. Here is how it went.

There were limitless choices – it was like being in Willy Wonkas Chocolate Factory, everything looked magically delicious.

“Where there is cake, there is hope. And there is always cake.” ~ Dean Koontz

We walked a couple of miles through the city to try to negate some of the calories of the delicious cinnamon rolls, then cabbed it back to the ship where we began the next part of our journey through France. We settled into our room and had a lovely dinner with friends with more adventures to come tomorrow.

“Some people arrive and make such a beautiful impact on your life, you can barely remember what life was like without them.” ~Anna Taylor

“Whose your table Daddy?” ~ Tom Haas

After another successful night of sleep, a hearty and healthy breakfast at the hotel, and an after-breakfast rest, we walked what felt like several miles to our lunch. destination. Today we were dining at L’Institut Restaurant Paul Bocuse. On Place Bellecour, this training restaurant feels nothing like a school! In a contemporary decor designed by Pierre – Yves Rochon, with open kitchens giving onto the restaurant, the students deliver a high standard of service. The dishes are extremely well made and deserve a high mark. We dined on beautiful foods accompanied by wine pairings at our assigned tables with Tom Haas being our “table daddy” his words, not mine.

“Food is a language of care, the things we do when traditional language fails us when we don’t know what to say when there are no words to say.” ~ Shauna Niequis

This afternoon we took a car ride throughout the city. We went to the cathedral area which overlooks the city of Lyon. We visited some plazas and saw some fascinating painted buildings and architecture. With my limitations of being able to walk with a torn meniscus, it was a good way to see some sights.

The long history of Lyon, which was founded by the Romans in the 1st century B.C. as the capital of the Three Gauls and has continued to play a major role in Europe’s political, cultural, and economic development ever since is vividly illustrated by its urban fabric and the many fine historic buildings from all periods.

“Never doubt the courage of the French. They were the ones who discovered that snails are edible. ~ Doug Larson (American Journalist)

“They were content with each good day as it came, taking pleasure in every meal, and in every word and song.” ~ J R R Tolkien

Not to be done on our foodie journey, tonight we dined at La Gargotte in Lyon. Once again, Dave and Thierry had reserved the entire restaurant for our group for a private dinner. There were choices of fish, beef, risotto with squid ink, and choices of appetizers and delicious homemade desserts. And once again plentiful wine and friends both old and new.

“When I eat with my friends, it is a moment of real pleasure, when I really enjoy my life.”~ Monica Bellucci

“Find a group of people who challenge and inspire you, spend a lot of time with them, and it will change your life.” ~Amy Poehler

After an excellent night’s sleep and a wonderful brunch at our hotel, we walked to our cooking class at “In Cuisine” which was within walking distance from our hotel.

“No one who cooks cooks alone.” ~ Laurie Colwin

About twenty of us from Daves travel group were split into two groups of about ten each at this lovely, bookstore/cooking instruction class. While one group created our entree of chicken and mashed potatoes with copious amounts of butter and cream, our group learned how to create the “healthy” dessert of carmelized apples with spices and red wine and whipped cream.

“I love cooking with wine—sometimes I even put it in the food.”  ~ Julia Child

We had to peel and cut the apples into tiny pieces, chop herbs, and stir the apples in the carmelized syrup, and of course add wine and butter, after all, we are in France!

The next part was what we were waiting for as we got to sit and enjoy the fruits of our labors. We enjoyed the delicious chicken and potatoes the other group made for our main course, and then of course the piece de le resistance, the caramelized apples topped with fresh whipped cream. Even better was the conversation as we sat with friends and made new friends.

“You know why the French hate us? They gave us the croissant. And you know what we did with it? We turned it into a croissandwich.” ~Denis Leary

If you’re afraid of butter, use cream. “– Julia Child

We had a quiet relaxing afternoon, then drinks with friends in the Dome lounge of the hotel which was quite spectacular.

Dinner was Daves’s welcome dinner for his loyal passengers at Le Comptoir Cecil. We had the entire restaurant and it was boisterous, welcoming and joyful. The photos say it all.

“Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive.” ~ Hafiz

It was indeed another wonderful day of new friends, old friends, and new memories made.

“In the sweetness of friendship, let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed. ~ Khalil Gibran

“Travel brings power and love back into your life.”~ Rumi Jalalud-Din

On Sunday we left North Carolina to fly to Paris, then the TGV train from Paris to Lyon, then a Blacklane car to the InterContintenantal Hotel in Lyon. In summary, it was planes, trains, and automobiles and little to no sleep.

“Sleep deprivation: the closest thing to time travel, because you’re never sure what day it is.” ~ Unknown

It was still a lovely day and we met our friends Barbara and Tom and traveled with them on the train to Lyon. One of the best parts of travel is to meet friends who are now your family and to make new friends.

We had a lovely quick lunch, a two-hour nap which was incredible. Then after a quick shower, we met the group for a welcome reception – this is my only photo!

After a delicious dinner of pork rougail and rice at Le Comptoir Cecil, we returned to the hotel and wearily walked down the longest hallway in Lyon to our hotel room to catch up on over thirty hours without sleep.

“Sometimes I lie awake at night, and I ask, “What can I do to keep my life from going by so fast?” Then a voice comes to me that says, “Try slowing down at the corners.” ~ Charlie Brown, from Peanuts, on the speed of life.