As part of my recent trip to France I took a river cruise on the Rhone. When Dean, the agent who helped me arrange the cruise asked me what my favorite part was my answer was quick: Viviers. He seemed a bit surprised, his favorites had been Arles and Lyon with their dramatic Roman ruins.
Viviers doesn’t have, at least that I saw, dramatic Roman ruins. They may be there, possibly in the walls or under the floors of the existing buildings. But Viviers is, in my opinion, charm itself.
I loved the cobblestones. The guide pointed out how they laid the stones differently in the middle and on the sides to make it easier to walk, better traction, or roll carts, less bumpy.
I loved the narrow streets and passage ways. The space is so tight that they use the buildings to support each other by building arches over the streets. In one spot someone when needed more room for his expanding family he bought the house across the street and built a sky bridge between the two places.
I loved the tiled rooftops and lovely views of the surrounding countryside. It was worth the climb through the narrow streets to get there.
There were also some fun quirky details:
I’m sure that my warm buzz about the morning was augmented by the tasty tomato bisque they served up for lunch, perfect after a rainy walk.
But the reason it was my favorite part of the cruise was this: I would never have gone there on my own. Traveling on my own I’d have spent more time in Arles or Avignon and never even known this little gem of a city was there.
Sometimes I take a picture because it has elements that show what a place was like then, when I pull it up, it seems blah. That happened with this one:
Since I was up anyway, thanks to jet lag and a hungry cat, I started to play with this in Topaz Studio 2. Doing artsy stuff fits with Arles, since it is where many of the impressionists came to work, argue and drink.
Amie-Lu and I migrated today. The easy way-we took the Train de Grande Vitesse from Gare de Lyon to Avignon. Gare de Lyon is a lovely old train station that is a major hub for all trains heading south and east.
Avignon was noticeably slower moving than Paris. Some of that might be the heat, but I think it was more the approach to life showing through.
I took the wrong straight (I needed to take the bent one) and eventually realized it. Sitting next to a dog who looks a lot like Max I decided that everything happens for a reason, and the reason for this mistake was clear: cassis sorbet. It was meant to be.
Instead of making a reservation and spending the evening dining Amie-Lu and I picked up a sandwich and some fruit at a grocery store and went exploring as the day wound down.
Avignon has a lot of warm yellow stone in the walls of its various edifices, and intriguing little passages.
We wandered along the outside of the city walls, took in the famous Pont d’Avignon then found a stairway up the Roche des Doms and enjoyed a gently lovely sunset from the top of the town.
My deer friend, Amie-Lu*, has been having a great time exploring the town. Amie-Lu has plenty of energy…she rides comfortably in the pocket of my travel vest.
I, on the other hand, find myself hitting a point where I just need to rest. One art of traveling is knowing when to get off the boat and just enjoy the view for a while…before you are exhausted. It’s fine to have a list of potential ideas, just don’t mistake it for a to-do list.
*Amie-Lu is a Chinese talisman for safe travel; James says they typically hang on rear view mirrors in cars. She was given to my husband and I by one of my son’s co-workers, a Chinese woman named Amy. Her name is from Amie-French for friend and Lu-Chinese for deer. We don’t take selfies when we travel, we take Amie-Lu-ies.