Friday, the last day of our Viking River cruise was very good and unique. MA had signed us up for a shopping tour with head chef, Cesar Mata, as he goes to select vegetables, meats, fruits and cheeses for the Viking Foresti. The ship was still docked in Pauillac but everyone who had a tour boarded a bus after breakfast. Our tour took us to Bordeaux’s Marche des Capucins, the central market. While we were shopping the crew moved the ship down river to Bordeaux and it would be waiting for us after the tour. It was a short 50 minute ride by bus to the center of Bordeaux. Our Irish guide, Sarah, provided plenty of commentary about French food as we traveled to Bordeaux.
At the outdoor fish booth: lobster or shrimp or how to tell a fresh fish from a stinker.
As we got off the bus the chef took over as guide and took us to one of the outside vendors, a fish seller. He not only had all kinds of fish, but lobster, crabs, even squid. Chef Cesar showed us how to recognize fresh fish from not so fresh fish; look at the gills, they should be bright red and it should still have a clear sheen.
We went inside the large market filled with vegetables, fruits, meats, cheeses, wines, and pate. We stopped at a large cheese booth, fromage in French. The owner provided samples for everyone of four different kinds of cheeses; even goat cheese was included. I did not care for the goat cheese.
You have probably heard of goose liver pate or foie gras. I’m not sure how they make it, but I passed on the sample.
One of the recurring sights I’ve seen in markets across France is the little old lady pulling her two wheeled cart through the aisles. I was not disappointed this day.
We topped off the tour with a sit down snack at the small cafe in the market. They had everything from cheese, sausage, ham, bread, and white wine. We were given some free time before heading to the ship so I wandered around taking photographs.
We boarded our bus which took us through central Bordeaux and the river where the Viking Foresti was now docked. We began the job of packing for our departure on Saturday morning. We enjoyed a very nice dinner “departure dinner” with our new friends Bill & Jordy and Robin and Peter. We hope to see them again on another Viking River cruise.
We are spending the next three nights in Bordeaux.
Thursday afternoon we docked in town of Pauillac located in the estuary on the left bank of the broad marshy Gironde River. The Medoc wine region is located here and it contains some of the most legendary chateaus for producing wine: Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Kirwan, Chateau Palmer and Chateau Pichon Baron, the later two being favorites of MA’s son Jim. When all our groups from the the Viking Foresti boarded one of four Merceds Binz luxury motor coaches, we set off on our tour of this area.
Outside the small town of Pauillac the geography changed to vineyard after vineyard, rows after rows, acres and acres of grape vines growing. Some of the vineyards employed a small tractor that travels between three rows of vines and plows the dirt. Some vineyards use horses and some had workers hand manicuring the planted vines.
We stopped for a visit to the Chateau Giscours where we were shown the grounds and storage buildings, and given a fairly detailed talk about the wine making process including about how and why Bordeaux wine is the best. Something I did not know is that the best soil is made up of mostly gravel. We looked at an example of what a 9-foot deep hole looks like that the vines have to grow down to. From the first foot down to the clay it’s all gravel. The vine has to grow down that far to reach clay and water. It’s the minerals in the soil that feed the vines. None of them are fertilized chemically. After the technical stuff we were offered a tasting of three of their wines.
Our next and last stop of the evening was at the Chateau Kirwan where we were hosted by Viking for a chateau dinner in a beautiful room with wonderful wood beams all across the ceiling.
Dinner was a four course meal supervised by the ship’s chef and served by the ship’s wait staff. MA has wanted to buy her son, Jim, a bottle of 1999 Bordeaux wine. He and his wife Sue were married in 1999 and that makes these 1999 vintages special for them.
One of the waiters we had made friends with, Girondl, found a 1999 bottle at the chateau for her. She bought it on the spot which made her very happy. Our meal was four courses: Onion & garlic soup with a pastry top, a salad with duck on the side, veal filet mignon with asparagus, carrots and potato gratin and topped off with a chocolate Viennetta. Do I have to say it was delicious! We then boarded our bus which took us back to Pauillac and our ship. We were ‘done for the day’ to say the least.
Tomorrow we visit the main market in Bordeaux.
The Viking Forseti docked at the village of Blaye shortly after lunch. We decided to walk into the citadel and have a look. We gathered our hats, coats and camera and walked off the ship, across the parking lot and went into the 400 year old fort on the Gironde River.
A little history is in order. The imposing fort was built in 17th Century on the orders of King Louis XIV. He directed his commissioner of fortifications, Vauban, to build a fort to protect the prosperous wine trade in the Bordeaux region of France. Vauban looked for a spot and found it at on the eastern side of the Gironde. It took the French four years to build it, 1685-1689.
The citadel has huge thick walls, lookout towers, and canon emplacements. The original town was inside the fort but has since grown largely outside of the walls. We climbed the hill with no problem and once we had seen enough we started back down. On the way back to the ship I noticed a dark colored hawk flying near the surface. As he came by I snapped a few images of him. Google says it’s a Marsh harrier.
The Citadel entrance, the jail, and another 400 year old door.
The Viking Forseti sailed down the Dordogne River last night and docked in the French village of Bourg. (Remember the last letter is silent.) We had a wonderful dinner with new friends Bill & Jordie and Peter & Robyn. We all went with the chef’s recommendations; a cheese souffle, roast lamb and a chocolate dessert. The food was delicious and the conversation seriously enjoyable.
As we were getting up from the table, Peter, who is a doctor, got up with us. He said he noticed that MA was struggling with back pain and truth be told, she was although she rarely complains. He said that he had a mini anti-spasm handheld electronic device he wanted her to try. We followed him to their room and he hooked the four sensors on her back and turned it on. Mary Alice said it felt like one of those pedicure chairs going up and down the back. We thanked him profusely and went to the room. I hope this will alleviate some of her annoying back pain which we are sure is a result of our 2015 accident. She was very touched by his concern.
After breakfast this morning we decided to explore Bourg on our own. We walked off the ship and around to the far west end of the port. MA did not want to climb the 75 steps to the top of the town so she went a different direction making me promise I would be back by 10:30 as the ship was leaving at 12 noon. She fusses because I sometimes have a little habit of getting so involved with the camera I forget the time.
Anyhow, after climbing the stairs up to the top of the cliff I wanted to go inside a small Gothic church, however, it was locked up so I only have photos of the exterior.
Walking around the small village I found the covered market, empty. It is only open Sunday’s. The old ramparts which surround the town are from the 13th to 17th Century.
Wandering around the village I found a WWI memorial. There were many names engraved on the monument. It must have been devastating for this small village to lose so many young men. I am reminded of the many memorials I’ve seen throughout Texas as I photographed the county courthouses. War is a terrible thing for humanity but when some nation or entity threatens your country and kills innocents it is time to act. To all the brave young men who take up arms in defense of freedom, I salute you.
One last thing before I go. I was serenaded this morning by a French rooster in a small park. He was strutting around with one of his hens and crowing loudly. He posed for a moment while I took his portrait. I returned to the ship on time (!) and we wandered down to the lounge for coffee and iPad games.
Libourne is a royal walled town known as a Bastide. It was founded in 1270 at the request of King Henry III of England. Try to understand that this part of France, the Aquitaine, was part of England in the 11th Century. King Henry III put a lieutenant in charge of building the town, a Sir Roger de Leybourne. He was successful in building a really nice fortified city.
Located at the confluence of the Isle and the Dordogne rivers at the far end of the Gironde estuary, Libourne is the first shipping port on the Dordogne, nearly 80 miles inland. This unique location opened up foreign trade opportunities and businesses soon flourished, particularly the wine trade, making it one of the most prosperous Bastides in western France.
Our ship, the Viking Foresti, docked adjacent to another river ship, the Ama Dolce. The bridge you see in the featured image is the Bridge of 1820. I think it was built that year. We docked late in the day Tuesday and after dinner MA and I walked off the ship for an evening stroll. Some of the best light of the day is after the sun sets in the horizon, especially if there are high cirrus clouds. You can see this in the photos of the bridge and across the river.
To get off the ship we had to walk up to our top deck, across the top deck of the Ama Dolce down to the gang plank and across to the dock gate. You need a code to get back through the locked gate. Our walk took us to the Port Tower, built in the 11th Century. I noticed a good amount of bullet holes in the side of the tower and could only speculate as to how those occurred.
We ran into a drunken teenager carrying a beer bottle. He could not have been over 16. He mumbled something but I could not understand what he was saying and I’ve been know to accurately converse with drunks. Anyhow our walk into Lebourne was short and we made our way back to the ship. A hot shower and warm bed was waiting for us back on the Viking Forseti.
This Viking ship is very comfortable. We have a queen size bed and we have learned to adjust to the smaller size. We normally turn the a/c down to 70 and both of have no trouble going to sleep and staying asleep.
The next morning we were up and ready for breakfast at 8:00. The chef prepares your eggs exactly how you want it. Today I ordered two over easy and I made myself toast. It’s a breakfast I really like.
Our tour of Libourne began at 9:15. MA decided to stay back on the ship. At first I was going to pass on the walking tour but decided that I probably never be back this way and went ahead with the tour group. The weather this morning was cloudy and cool and there was a distinct possibility of rain. Our small group followed the river to the Port Tower and turned into town.
The street was being rebuilt and I was fascinated by the work crew laying the bricks. Six men were engaged in the reconstruction of the cobblestone street. I took some photos of the process. One guy was operating the fork lift, one person mixing the concrete and four men were laying the bricks in the street.
Our tour group went into an open air market and then into the covered market. There was everything there from fresh vegetables, fish, beef, cheese and then the used clothes. I tried to capture the flavors and scents of the market in my photos, except for the clothes! It was time to return to the ship and have lunch with MA.
After lunch we boarded buses for a short drive to Saint-Emilion, the wine capital of Bordeaux. We once again found our new friends; Bill and Jordy and Robin and Peter on the bus with us. Once we got to Sainte-Emilion, MA decided to go on the “easy walking” tour and I went with the regular tour.
Sainte-Emilion is a town built into a cliff that is surrounded by vineyards, literally. The town was built in the late 12th Century. Between the 12th and 15th Centuries, the Collegiate Church and its monastery was built. Walking down from the upper streets to the lower street level is an experience, especially on wet cobblestone streets. My tour ended and I want to go back to the church and cloister to get some better photos. As I came out of the church, MA was in the courtyard. We went to lunch together and walked back to the bus. Here are some photographs of Sainte-Emilio.