Saturday morning early, we continued our tour of the Loire. After breakfast at the Chateau Belmont we walked down the hill and boarded the bus. Viking took care of all the details, like our suitcases. The weather could not have been better. It was about 60 degrees with a clear blue sky. The flowering trees and the wisteria were in full bloom. The air was clean and crisp.
Our first stop was in Tours at the Saint Gatien Cathedral. This is a truly Gothic church; flying buttresses, high ceiling, lots of light in the central areas and graceful Gothic arches in the ceiling. It was built over a period of time from 1160 to 1547. There are glorious stained glass windows capped by a huge rose window in the front. It is a true masterpiece of the 15th Century. Renovation of the church began in the early 1990’s and continues today. The tomb of Charles VIII and Anne de Bretagne’s children are located on the first floor.
Our tour moved to the outside and a visit to a huge Cedar of Lebanon tree that was planted in 1804, making it over 1200 years old. It is 31 meters high (100′) and 33 meters in diameter (100′ +). The lower limbs are so heavy they require pillars to hold them up off the ground. It is one big beautiful tree. We climbed back into the bus and continued our journey toward Bordeaux.
We stopped along the way at an Avia rest stop. These rest stops in France are huge, immaculate and filled with delicious coffees and snacks, kind of like a Buckee’s! We did notice all the trucks parked at the stop. The guide said that trucking is heavily regulated requiring them to stop and rest. Most are not allowed to drive on the weekends.
Our tour stopped next in the town of Poitiers and being Saturday, it was market day in the square. The market went around all four sides of a very large Romanesque church, known as the Notre-Dame la Grande. Going inside these Romanesque churches is similar to going into a building with all the lights out. By that I mean it’s dark inside. The central worship area was also dark and at the time of our visit the altar was bathed by two natural light beams from the ceiling.
The Saturday Market in Poitiers
I took several photos until I was happy with the exposure. We had 1 1/2 hours of free time for lunch and on-our-own exploration so we walked around the market and I stayed busy taking photos right and left. I really enjoy these markets because the fruits and vegetables are absolutely beautiful, shiny and fresh. And there was so much to see: vegetables, fruits, cheeses, sausages, breads, flowers, and starter plants for vegetable gardens. Our rest stop ended and we boarded the bus again and continued our journey to Bordeaux.
We arrived in Bordeaux and the bus took us right to the Viking ship called The Forseti. My first impression was that the ship was longer than I imagined. The decor is kind of like a upscale IKEA store. The crew was warm and friendly. We were quickly checked in and escorted to our cabin which is small with the bed taking up most of the space. We unpacked and got everything out of sight. There was a scheduled introduction welcome at 5:30.
Our first meal aboard the Viking Forseti was so, so. MA had steak and I had salmon. They are very generous with the wine that is on the house. We will hold off judging the food until after a few meals. Our experience on Princess ships tell us they save the best for toward the end of the cruise and therefore those meals become your lasting memories of the food!
Viking offered a complimentary “evening walking tour” at 9:30 and I wanted to go try some night photography. There were about 60 of us and we were divided into three groups of about 20 each. We walked to a tram station and boarded a train to the central downtown area. I took several photos of some of the iconic Bordeaux buildings all the time feeling “rushed” by the guide which is why I really prefer winging it on my own. But this is a good way to get oriented in a place we haven’t been to before.