Sauternes is French for Sweet & Cadillac is a Village, not a Car

750_2354a_resizeSauternes Is French for Sweet & Cadillac is a Village, not a Car

Well, it’s Monday here in France and we are currently river cruising south on the Garonne River.  Earlier our morning began with breakfast at 7:00am.  I tried one of the omelets and watched the chef cook mine.  He squirted some olive oil into a pan and then threw in some chopped onion, chopped green peppers, chopped mushrooms, chopped ham, and bacon bits and sautéed them for about a minute.  He then poured in the equivalent of two eggs on top of the sautéed vegetables.  He then allowed the eggs to cook for a couple of minutes and he added some cheese.  Thirty seconds later he folded it over and put it on a plate for me.  I am talking one great omelet.

After breakfast we boarded our Viking buses.  We were joined by four new friends: Robin and Peter Klainbard of New York and Jordie and Bill Chalupnik of League City. One nice touch on Viking is that anytime that we leave the ship for a Viking excursion, the hotel manager and assistant are at the gangway handing out bottled water.

The buses headed south out of Bordeaux and onto A62.  The “A” routes are toll highways in France. The scenic landscape was an assortment of planted pine forests and vineyards. You know you’re in wine country when all you see is vineyard after vineyard.

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Vineyards of the Chateau d’ Arche

The guide talked about the wine of Bordeaux but I honestly did not listen to her.  She kept talking about what wine went with what food, something quite frankly I think is a personal choice.  After about an hour and a half we arrived at our first stop: Chateau de Arch.  They make a sweet wine (Sauternes) that you could substitute as a dessert.  The qualities of wine are its color, its aroma and its taste.  I was busy taking pictures and skipped the talk by a young lady of the winery about all of the intricacies of the wines.  From the vineyard we were invited to taste three of the wines.

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Grape Vines at the Chateau d’ Arche

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These small grapes produce some of the sweetest wines

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Our Wine Guide

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Our tour group

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Entrance to the village of Cadillac

We then climbed back into our buses and made a short trip to the village of Cadillac. I didn’t know I was mispronouncing the name all this time.  The first thing I learned about French is the last letter in a word is usually not pronounced.  They also don’t pronounce the “L” in some words.  So the French say ”caw-di-yak” and not Cadillac.

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The Moat Around the Chateau de Cadillac

There is a chateau there that was closed so we did a short walk through the little village. There is a huge wall that surrounded the town a couple of hundred years ago. See the photo.  Oh, Antoine Laumet de La Mothe Cadillac was born near here in 1658 and traveled to

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Walled City

Canada in 1683.  He fought against the Iroquois and established the town of Detroit in 1701.  The city of Cadillac, MI, Cadillac Mountain, ME and the Cadillac car are all named after him.

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French candidates for President, the two on the far left win; Macron & LePen

We took the bus back to the ship where lunch was waiting for us. We will have a safety drill at 1:30 and then a nap.  Oh, what about yesterday, no blog?  We didn’t do anything yesterday except visit a museum and I don’t like museums.

Note from MA: But he DOES wander off and take hundreds of photographs!!  Later!

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Taken at the skate board park next to the docked Viking Forseti

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Tours to Bordeaux: A bus ride and a night walk

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Miroit d’Eau in Bordeaux

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.

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Wisteria at Chateau de Chenonceau

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.

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Saint Gatien Cathedral in Tours

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.

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Cedar of Lebanon

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.

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The French countryside is a patchwork of yellows and greens; the yellow is rapeseed from which canola oil is extracted and the other is a green alfalfa like feed.

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The Market at Poitiers and the Cathedral

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.

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Interior of the Cathedral

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.

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From the arriving tour bus

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.

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I found this crane silhouetted against the twilight sky waiting for our night tour to start.

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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!

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Bordeaux’s Pont de Pierre

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Opera House

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.

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Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas (Modern Bridge)

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Chateau Chenonceau & the Tours Cathedral: Saint Martin de Tours

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The French Countryside….from a bus window

Our tour today took us through the French countryside to the Chateau Chenonceau, a French chateau that was literally created by women.  I don’t have time to explain but it began with a King’s girlfriend to whom he gave the property and after his death the Queen snatched it back from the girlfriend!

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Chateau Chemonceau

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Yes, it was built over a river

We are tired so I’ll make this short. We went to the Chateau Chenonceau and to another,the Chateau Amboise and then to the old part of Tours.

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Chateau Amboise

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Ceiling of the Cathedral of Saint Martin of Tours

We had dinner at the hotel and we’re calling it a night.  See you tomorrow.

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Paris to Tours: The Adventure Begins

Our tour bus

Paris to City of Tours

Our first day with Viking began Wednesday early in Paris after our overnight flight on Air France.. The highlight of the first day was getting to see our friends Chantal and Michel for dinner out. They are just now boarding a Princess Cruise.

The hotel in Paris was Le Meridien Hotel near the Arch de Triumph. Next day Thursday started at 5:30 am with a wonderful breakfast provided by Viking River Cruises. If you left hungry it was your fault.  While we were enjoying that, Viking was worked behind the scenes picking up our bags for transfer to the bus. Service from Viking has been 1st class so far.  We gathered with 14 other couples for a 3-day tour of the Loire Valley, visiting Chateaus and Cathedrals and then onto the River Cruise from Bordeaux next Saturday.

In Orleans: Cathedral of Sainte Croix (of the Holy Cross)

The route out of Paris took us along the Seine River and on to Auto-Route A10 to the city of Orleans. We said auvoir to Paris for now.  We were under God’s protection because the terrorist attack happened 12 hours after our departure at a location where we had been just the previous evening. Our prayers go out to all the police families affected.

The weather was a chilly 40 degrees and the sky was clear blue.  Our first new friends with Bill and Jordy from League City, Texas, both Christians and active in missions.

So we settled back and left the driving to Viking, arriving at Orleans along the Loire River about 10:45.  Our guide Vincent described the Loire as France’s wild and beautiful river.  The bus let us off near the old part of Orleans, the adopted home of Joan of Arc. Vincent began a detailed history of Orleans and Joan of Arc as well as a lot about the history of France. Everyone was issued a small receiver with ear piece so we could hear him.  He (and I) are very impressed with Mary Alice’s French. It’s clear all that money I’m spending on her lessons is paying off!

Joan of Arc

The tour of Orleans included the Cathedral of Saint Croix (of the Holy Cross).  The church is a prime example of Gothic architecture meaning it has huge spire and high walls and arched buttresses holding it all together. It began as a Chapel in the 8th Century. Side chapels were added in the 14th Century.  Joan of Arc came to pray shortly before she was killed in 1429.  During the wars of religion (Hundred Years War) the church was damaged by the Huguenots. It was rebuilt under Henry IV and Louis XIII.  MA remarked that the chairs in the cathedral were so uncomfortable that no one would fall asleep during the sermon.

The cathedral is currently undergoing a restoration of its exterior.

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We got back on the bus and headed to our first chateau, Chambord, pictured above.  Our tour lasted between 3-5pm and all I can tell you is it’s a huge place, a true castle surrounded by a moat with adjacent hunting grounds, which are definitely not a wildlife preserve.

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Chateau Belmont..our hotel

We headed toward the town of Tours where we are staying for two nights. Our hotel is the Chateau Belmont, a real chateau with an iron gate and beautiful grounds. The hotel staff was ready for our arrival and every couple was issued a preassigned room.  Dinner was again with compliments from Viking.   Mary Alice and I were so tired that when we were finished we quickly called it a night, not even turning on the TV!!

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IAH to Paris….long flight

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The day began early for us.  I was up early and finished packing. MA makes a check list for the house when we leave and I was checking things off. We elected to take a shuttle to the IAH this trip because the parking would have been $50 more than just having someone else drive.  That is an easy decision.  We finished packing and our driver showed up right on time at 11:30.  His name was Ty and from his accent I figured he was from Nigeria.  I was right.

We arrive at Terminal D, found an abandoned luggage cart in the parking lot.  We rolled into Terminal D and got checked into Air France.  Our flight was delayed an hour so we decided to walk over to Terminal C to the United Club and relax there for a couple of hours.  We were just in time for lunch, Tomato Bisque soup.  It was delicious or maybe I was just hungry.  The time whizzed by and we walked back to Terminal D and gate D11.  We boarded on time and MA and I had two seats to ourselves.  It was still a miserable nine hours of sitting in one position, unable to sleep. It’s the only part of travel that I hate, however, if you have to fly someplace to get started on your cruise, you have no other choice.

The cabin steward, Fredrico Silvitri, was excellent.  He always greeted us with a smile. He made sure we had water or something to drink. He made us feel like we were sitting in first class. Towards the end of the flight he gave MA a book on Bordeaux and then went around the cabin personally shaking hands and saying good bye to each passenger in his care.  MA says in all her years and years flying, she has NEVER seen that! The guy was just top notch. IMG_1122_Out-the-window

MA took this shot out of the window just as the sun was coming up…somewhere over North Atlantic bit approaching the west coast of France.

We arrived at Charles De Gaul Airport in Paris around 9:00 am local time. We gathered our stuff and made our way to French Customs.  We were among about 1000 people going through the passport control.  It took about an hour to get through the line and we met some fellow Viking passengers along the way.  After retrieving our luggage and exiting the doors to the ground level, there was the Viking reps waiting to check us in and arrange our transportation to the hotel.  We stayed at the Le Meridien Hotel which is near the Arch de Triumph.  The computer’s battery is running low so I’ll close for now. Thanks to Susan L. for taking care of our Tanner while we’er gone.

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Viking River Cruise….our next adventure

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It’s something I’ve wanted to do ever since I heard about river cruising, take a Viking River Cruise.  MA was not so interested because she enjoys the ocean and cruise days at sea. For me, there’s just not a lot of photo ops on the Atlantic Ocean and how many photos can you take of a Princess ship. We both compromised and decided to take a Viking River Cruise in France.  I get lots of photo ops and she gets to use her French.

We chose April on the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers leaving from Bordeaux.  We have also dreamed of visiting the Loire River valley, home of the aristocratic French chateaus. So, we arranged a three day scenic tour which will take us through the Loire Valley chateaus before getting on the Viking boat.  So, come aboard and join us on this journey through the heart of the French wine country, Bordeaux. We depart in a few weeks.

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Fogged In/Out….Not a Good Beginning

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3:00pm We were supposed to be on this ship in the Port of Galveston at the Cruise Terminal, instead we are still home waiting for Carnival to tell us what time to board.  The ship is still off the Galveston jetties waiting for the fog to lift so they can get into the port. Oh well, such is cruising out of Galveston this time of year.  We are taking a week cruise to the Caribbean with stops in the Jamaica, Cozumel and the Cayman Islands.  We are excited about getting packed and going, except we haven’t left home yet.

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See you later……Wayne

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