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Author Topic: Alex Cruise - Part 9 – Oh say, can you say Marseilles?  (Read 2214 times)
Ohhh.. I'm so hot, Brrr
Posts: 136

Tack för en underbar kväll, Alex.

« on: September 03, 2012, 10:29:36 PM »

These early days are killers but this was my last shore excursion and it was an early one.  Today we were docked in the French port of Marseilles and today's tour was to two relatively small inland French towns.  Once again I was on a smaller than usual tour and we all fit on one bus, although it was a full-size one this time.  We left the port around 8:30 and headed west on the expressway to Avignon.  Our guide was French woman named Dominique and like all the other guides I had she was was very nice and extremely knowledgeable.  She also had a delightful French accent which was quite pleasant to listen to.

There are several things that Avignon is famous for.  The first is that it was the home of the Catholic Popes for a century or so when Rome was in turmoil.  While there, and over the course of many years, a huge fortified palace was built.  Called, somewhat obviously, the Palace of the Popes, is was largely abandoned when the Papal home returned to Rome.  Used for a variety of purposes in the centuries since and almost destroyed in the French Revolution it is now open as a museum.  While most of the furniture, paintings and statues were sold or looted, the buildings and even some of the original mosaics and wall paintings survive.  Others are being restored or recreated.  It was very interesting.

The other thing Avignon is famous for is the bridge across the Rhone River, the Pont d'Avignon.  Some of you may remember or perhaps even have sung the children's song Sur le Pont d'Avignon.  That song originated here and refers to this bridge.  Over the centuries since it was built, all but four of the arches have succumbed to battles or floods but what remains is amazing to look at.  The stonework is quite impressive and it leads directly to and through one of the fortress walls.

After about 2 hours we were on the way to our next stop, Le Baux de Provence.  This small town sits high on a mountain top with a full 360 degree view of all approaches.  Like most towns built before and during the Middle Ages it was built as a fortress and was located here because of its defensible position.  Natural and man-made caverns provided protection against the many armies of the time but the residents failed to consider the one disadvantage of their isolated position.  While it was easy to spot anyone approaching it was also easily blockaded and they were starved into surrender.  While it is primarily a tourist attraction today, much of the original fortifications remain and the town itself is a marvel of construction with stone houses and a gorgeous church built around and into the rocky mountain.  Here's one interesting bit of trivia for you: the raw material for making aluminum (or “aluminium” as our guide pronounced it) is called bauxite because it was first mined here.

I think I logged another couple of miles of walking today and the seat on the was bus was a very welcome sight.  The drive back to the port included quite a lot of travel on small roads through the southern France countryside.  The biggest industry in this part of the country is olive oil and we passed hundreds of acres of olive orchards.  Some of the best extra virgin olive oil in the world comes from here.  Another interesting thing about the French roads is that most intersections where relatively major (but non-expressway) roads intersect are traffic circles.  They are usually small and our bus was a snug fit around most of them.  I think I saw more “rotaries” today than I've seen in the rest of my life combined.

Eventually we made our way back to the expressway for the last leg of our return to the port and the timing was perfect as I caught another picture of the TGV train just as we passed near the tracks.  The one other unusual thing about today was that it was the first time I had seen clouds during the entire trip.  It even rained a little on the way back.  The ship was sailing at 4pm instead of 7pm today and we were deposited at the gangway at 3:15 with plenty of time to rest and get cleaned up for the evening.

Peter's show for tonight was the grand finale and would feature each of the artists who had performed individually throughout the week.  The Festival Brass performed several numbers and they accompanied Peter, Alex and various members of the Ulster Operatic Company.  Alex sang Take That Look Off Your Face and Don't Cry for Me, Argentina.  After the show we all got together on deck for a group photo and then we had a group dinner just like on Monday evening.  This time I was at a table that was mostly American and Dutch, with a few Irish and one Canadian thrown in for good measure.  This was not just an international trip but an international group, as well.

The after dinner plan was to hold an open-mic night on deck but the wind was too strong and the sea too rough so that event was replaced with a simple mingle and greet at one of the bars.  Since it was the final night I was glad that I was able to chat one last time with Alex.  Even though I had gotten pictures Wednesday night after her solo show they didn't really show the special shirt I had made.  Alex graciously agreed to a retake and we shared a hug and said our goodbyes.  I told her that if she came to the U.S. I could fill a theater for her and she jokingly said she might take me up on that.

After that it was time to pack and get organized for an early departure in the morning.  I was worried that the roughness of the sea might keep me awake but once I stopped the hangers from banging I slept like a baby.  Homeward bound tomorrow...

Sunrise over the port of Marseilles.

Palace of the Popes.

A small portion of the wall that surrounds the city.

Pont d'Avignon, the bridge over the Rhone River.

Le Baux en Provence, the approaching army's view.

An overview of Le Baux en Provence.

The small church built into the rocky hillside.

The view from the cliffs, note the olive orchards.


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