A week on the Rhone with AmaWaterways
15 May 2017 • style="text-align: justify;">After a very busy period, a week of slow cruising on the Rhône River sounded indeed very appealing.
This time my parents were coming too, for their first river cruise. There was also a group of media friends that would be on board. In short, an interesting week ahead!
We embarked in Lyon, new for me. As we stayed two days in town, I had ample time to discover. The weather was simply gorgeous. First I explored the old town, charming in the way it is supposed to be. I particularly loved the walk in “Parc des Hauteurs” and reading the last section of Nicci French's latest thriller in the rosary garden, in the park. And yes, La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière is really worth climbing all those stairs.
What a luxury; travelling on a river cruise ship. The ship was docked at Quai Claude Bernard, so we were right in the centre of the city and near the Star-Wars-like outside swimming pool (can we have one like this in Ghent pretty please?).
On the same side of the river, a short walk away, there were several barges with bars (even a Belgian beer bar(ge), named 'Volle Petrol' which means 'full throttle'). People were enjoying this glorious day on the river bank. Finally spring had arrived.
For the shopping lovers, the usual French brands have boutiques in Lyon. I did not expect to like the city that much. Lots of green, enough organic shops and attractive squares to enjoy a good coffee, might be the reasons for that.
Another thing I love is discovering hotels. I knew there was a Mama Shelter in town, so I went for a coffee. The hotel was as original and funny as I had imagined, although I did not expect a television in the toilets!
Paris is beautiful; no doubt about it, but Lyon is a city to live in, to enjoy life, to enjoy the good things France has to offer.
The second day, Mike and Ralph (aka the Avid Cruiser) jumped on their bikes to take pictures of the ship as it slowly sailed from the River Rhône to the River Saône (right tributary of the Rhône) and back. They were doing a good job, cycling fast while stopping when necessary to take pictures.
On the third day we finally left Lyon. The sun was out, perfect for enjoying the landscape sliding by from the sun deck. Until the very last meters Lyon kept on surprising us, such as with the impressive architecture of the Musée des Confluences.
Next stop of the cruise: Vienne. Once it was a major centre of the Roman Empire. Nowadays it still has an impressive number of remains that can be visited.
Vienne's didn't impress me too much on the first day. There were a lot of construction works going on in the commercial streets and the view we had from the ship was not that great either.
The next day, when I strolled through town with my mum, I was charmed nevertheless.
There is almost not one street without a historic building or monument. Also the graveyard (Cimetière de Pipet) situated on a hill is beautiful, very peaceful and it offers great views on the city and the river.
The town is mostly known for its Jazz festival, held in the Roman Theatre. The playlist of 2017 looks more than promising with names such as Herbie Hancock, Jamie Cullum and others.
A perfect combination, it was, discovering new cities and then sailing under the sun, through beautiful green landscapes. We had to pass many locks, which is fascinating. Imagine you are in your cabin enjoying the warmth and sun through the French balcony windows, once in the lock, the ship slowly goes down while the water level lowers. After a while all you can see is nothing... except the dark walls of the lock. Then the lock opens and the ship is free to continue its journey.
We sailed through the Côtes du Rhône region, a splendid part of this world with lots of green, vineyards and monuments. My dad and me loved looking for monuments, imagining what they were.
Time flies when you are having fun…so true. The fifth day we docked in Tournon in the Ardèche region.
What I love is to get up early, go off the ship and see how the city slowly wakes up. And then have breakfast when the other passengers get ready for their excursions, a heaven of peace in the breakfast room.
Next stop: Avignon. I was here before on a solo trip; this time arrival in grandeur next to the city ramparts. Same scenario as in Tournon, early wake up to discover the city before the tourist herds arrive. A small group of Japanese men were discovering their way: running in colourful gear. They just stopped to ask me to take pictures of them and off they went again.
In Avignon you can walk for hours, strolling though the small streets, be in awe for the grandeur of Chateau des Papes. And then shopping, lots of boutiques to spend your money in – if you want. And good food, as we went for lunch on a quiet square a bit away from the crowds.
And then Arles. Now I’m writing this blog post at home, I still don’t know what to think of this town, I loved the endless market with nice produce, the small streets with worn down houses, the terraces on the colourful Place du Forum, the stylish Van Gogh museum, the beautiful mansion in which the National School of Photography (the only one in France) is situated. Happy to have visited the town but not one I would visit again soon.
So, and no excursions I hear you say? Nope. I enjoyed a lot my solo discoveries, walking around with my mum and eating together in the evening with the group. Just as others enjoyed the biking tours, winery visits, the trip with the steam train and other well-organized excursions.
A big plus of cruising with Amawaterways is the freedom they give you to book excursions on board (even last-minute), the laidback clientele, and mostly the wonderful crew. Never ever have I seen such a good-humoured personnel on a ship, having fun while doing their job in a professional, excellent and fast way.
Add to that an elegant ship, crazy dinners and evenings with our group and you will not be surprised that I absolutely loved my week on Amacello.
Photos: Mike & Véronique