My barge trip from Arles to Sete took place on CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie June 17 through June 26, with pre- and post-trip overnights and activities. This post picks up on day 10, the last day of our adventure, June 26
Often I find that good trips become better in retrospect. I reflect on one particular moment, and I long to be back in that moment. I remember, for example, sitting in Frontignan’s town square among French families and couples enjoying late-evening karaoke outdoors. That moment was not scripted into our trip, as were the many tours that I also enjoyed. We had simply walked into town on an impulse after dinner. Sitting in that square with a glass of wine, listening to a young girl perform “La Vie En Rose,” well, life doesn’t get any better than that.
During each of our ten days traveling in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, I knew there would be moments I would remember long after I returned home: an exquisite lunch in Chateauneuf du Pape; marveling at the Roman arena in Arles; a hay ride through olive groves — I could go on.
If permitted to use a metaphor, I would say that like a good red wine, our trip in the south of France grows better as it breathes. The aroma becomes intense and each sip presents the palate with something that is full-bodied and delicious to the very last drop.
I will need moments of tranquility and joy to reflect on. We all need them. In my busy life back home, I am continually looking for tools to subdue stress. I seek out methods to combat the barrage of activity that forces agendas on me. There are many philosophers who emphasize the importance of living in the now as a means of eliminating the anxiety that too much to do creates. For me, though, it helps to live in the past, to immerse myself in those moments that brought such joy, or as they say in France, la joie de vivre. Following are a few of those memories.
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 1, Arriving In Arles, Almost
See the beautiful photograph above? That is where I would be about right now, on a Tuesday evening, taking a walk along the river after having washed down a bowl of moules-frites with a glass of rosé from Provence.Instead, I am Washington, D.C. sipping on a Starbucks Cafe Latte and preparing for a flight to Brussels that will connect me with Marseille. Once in Marseille, I’ll pick up a rental car and drive to Arles, arriving (hopefully) around mid-afternoon on Wednesday.
I wasn’t alone in travel disruptions this week. A series of storms along the East Coast of the United States made travel a tempest. The storms are still brewing. Already, I can see that my Washington to Brussels flight is delayed, but only by 15 minutes at this point.
I made a few mistakes yesterday. Here’s what I would do differently next time. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 2, A Surprise Trip To Uzes
In my previous post about our barge trip from Arles to Sete, I wrote about missed connections and lessons learned when flying transatlantic from the United States to Europe. The challenges that the airports (particularly the U.S. airports) throw at us can be disheartening. Of course, Mother Nature plays a role, especially during the hot summer that we’re having, which makes for more frequent thunderstorms than under milder conditions and, correspondingly, delayed flights. The lesson: Plan accordingly and be prepared for interruptions to your trip.
And so it goes that I made it to Arles a day late and a few hundred dollars poorer (because of a hotel room I had to pay for in the U.S.). It is lovely to be in Arles, though, well worth the minor hassles that airports and delays pose.
I arrived around mid-afternoon yesterday and checked in to the Hôtel Jules Cesar, a five-star property housed in a former convent dating back to the 17th century. Our group would be here for two nights before boarding Anne-Marie on Friday. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 3, Avignon, Chateauneuf du Pape, Pont du Gard
Following yesterday’s surprise trip to Uzes, we set out this morning for a full day of exploring Avignon & Châteauneuf-du-Pape. We were to have visited Pont du Gard, but we managed to do that yesterday as well. In hindsight, it may have been too much to do Avignon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and Pont du Gard in one day, so today the pace was more relaxed than it might have been otherwise. With an adventure ahead of us, we stepped aboard our two vans and headed, with our guide Catherine, to Avignon.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Avignon’s medieval walled city has a fascinating story to tell, from its impressive Pope’s Palace that was once the seat of Catholicism to a bridge that has captured the imagination of millions of people over the ages. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 4, Arles & Gallician
Late yesterday, after a full day tour of Avignon and Chateauneuf du Pape, we boarded Anne-Marie, which was docked in Arles (pronounced Arl). We enjoyed a restful overnight on board, and following breakfast this morning, we headed out to the countryside to learn about olive oil production in Provence and to taste some of the local products.
The highlight of the morning tour was our transport once we got to the farm. We stepped on board a trailer pulled by a tractor and sat on bales of hay for a 15-minute or so ride through olive groves. Through our guide Peggy, we learned that the olive groves benefitted from the mistral, the strong northwesterly wind that blows through the Rhône valley. The mistral keeps insects from damaging the olives. Indeed, the wind had been exceptionally strong last night in Arles, and thankfully, had settled some today. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 5, Gallician & Aigues-Mortes
After a beautiful sunset last night in Gallician, our morning aboard Anne-Marie started with breakfast, followed by an included excursion to the Camargue. As the largest river delta within the entire continent of Europe, the Camargue is wrapped within both arms of the Rhône river and hugged by the Mediterranean sea in the south. So abundant is the nature here that UNESCO named the Camargue a World Heritage Site, as well as a biosphere reserve, in the hopes of protecting its incredibly delicate ecosystem, especially within its natural park, the Parc Naturel Régional de Camargue. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 6, Aigues Mortes & Palavas-les-Flots
After exploring the Camargue yesterday, I woke up to a still calm on the canal this morning as Anne-Marie had docked overnight in Aigues-Mortes. I peeked outside my stateroom window to reveal a basin of water so flat that it appeared glass-like. The houses on the shoreline reflected in the canal. The canal’s beauty and its gentle rhythm make for easy starts to our days. Here, there is no rush, no pressure. One of our group gave a toast on the first night of our trip that essentially said, “Let’s live in this moment, in the now, together,” and we all seem to be embracing that, enjoying the stillness of time and sense of togetherness on our little Anne-Marie. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 7, Palavas-les-Flotes & Sete
I never knew there were cowboys in the south of France, but indeed there are. They may not wear the broad-brimmed Stetsons that top the heads of North American cowboys and the French cowboys (known as guardians) don’t amble along bow-legged from hours in the saddle, but they do have a kinship with their brethren in the American West: They both herd cattle.
This morning we were back in the Camargue, not far from Aigues-Mortes, to learn more about the cattle here and to watch cowboys at work. Our visit took us once again on a hay ride, just like on day four of our trip. We headed out past vineyards to pastures where the cattle grazed and returned to a roundup demonstration and, of course, a wine-tasting, just like on any ranch worthy of its name in the south of France. Here is our day in photos. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 8, Exploring Sete
As noted in yesterday’s post, this morning we have a special tour ahead of us. This tour is not offered by CroisiEurope; rather it’s something I set up for our group: a Gourmet Walking Tour that will allow us to explore Sete’s colorful markets and a few of the food outlets that serve up regional specialities. Of course, there will be a wine-tasting at the end of the tour. C’est la vie. In the afternoon, we’ll head out for an oyster sampling along the Étang de Thau. [Read More]
Barging In The South Of France: CroisiEurope’s Anne-Marie, Day 9, Montpelier
This morning we said our farewells to the crew of Anne-Marie. I can’t praise them enough for all that they did for us, from welcoming us on board, to preparing delicious meals for us, to taking care of our rooms, to preparing the bicycles when we felt like pedaling. They were present and engaged, and, as often happens, among us there was some discussion about gratuities. How could we show our appreciation of the crew? We agreed on 10 euros per day per person, which we placed in individual envelopes at left at the bar. Zoltan had told us the evening before that the gratuities are shared evenly among the crew. [Read More]
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