Harvest time in Burgundy and the grape pickers are taking a morning relaxation from their toils with the assistance of baguettes and wine.
The solar is excessive and music blares from a radio however not as loudly because the banter. Working in pairs, one trims the vine leaves whereas one other fills a basket, harnessed to their again, earlier than emptying bunches of chardonnay grapes right into a small trailer.
Right here in Puligny Montrachet, in japanese France, it’s valuable cargo — solely wine from hand-picked grapes can carry the Grand Cru label. It’s a uncommon alternative to look at the centuries-old harvest on the 50-mile Route des Grands Crus, which runs alongside the foot of the Cote d’Or escarpment.
Lesley passes by Avignon on the banks of the Rhone River, pictured, on Riviera Journey’s tour
Lesley finds that the passengers on Riviera Journey’s river cruise ship MS William Shakespeare, pictured, are all from the UK and filled with joie de vivre
Passengers on Riviera Journey’s river cruise ship MS William Shakespeare are all from the UK and filled with joie de vivre, becoming a member of an array of each day excursions (included within the worth). We cease for wine tasting in Cellier De La Cabiote, within the Burgundy wine capital of Beaune, attempting younger whites and fruity reds within the Seventeenth-century cellars earlier than strolling available in the market to seek out stalls overflowing with vibrant late-summer produce.
Chestnuts, almonds, plums and tomatoes are piled excessive however the longest queue is for the truffle stall with buyers tripping over Rae, a truffle-sniffing border collie, lazing on the pavement, whereas his proprietor, Gerauld Theibaut, and son Jordan do swift enterprise promoting seasonal nuggets of the black gold.
Throughout the street from the market is the Lodge-Dieu de Beaune, a former hospital for the poor, and one of many most interesting examples of Fifteenth-century Burgundy structure with glistening patterned roof tiles in black, inexperienced, pink and gold.
We go away the great thing about the River Saone to sail on the Rhone, Europe’s strongest river which rises within the Alps and empties into the Mediterranean. The glacial water is fantastically inexperienced and, because the river widens, Cotes du Rhone vineyards cling to the hillsides.
In response to Lesley, the Lodge-Dieu de Beaune, pictured, is ‘one of many most interesting examples of Fifteenth-century Burgundy structure’
Lesley’s river cruise stops off in Arles, the place the river divides into Nice Rhone and Little Rhone. Pictured is town’s outdated city
Our principal leisure goes by the locks. We depend 18 from Lyon to Avignon, all masterpieces of engineering with the spotlight being Bollene Lock, a part of the Donzere-Mondragon hydroelectric dam. This nice instance of Fifties Brutalist structure is among the deepest locks in Europe and we descend 75 ft into darkness.
With spotlights shining and the sound of water operating down the partitions, we enter what appears like a James Bond movie set as Captain Michel Cartier navigates the ship inside 8in both facet of the lock partitions. It’s nerve-racking to look at, not to mention steer.
Capt Cartier, 36, from the Camargue, says he might ‘just about steer a ship earlier than strolling’. His father was a fisherman and Cartier has spent his life on the Med and the Rhone, the place he is aware of each bridge and lock ‘just like the again of my hand’.
It is a relaxed cruise and we get pleasure from loads of house because the 140-guest ship is half full whereas travellers take time to return to holidays on the Continent. Many are having fun with abroad journey for the primary time because the pandemic and lapping up the chance to socialize and delight in sunshine. Most are ‘Riviera regulars’, having travelled on the corporate’s land excursions and at the moment are attempting a river cruise. They’re a pleasant bunch and love the ship for its welcoming crew.
Lesley toasts the day with a glass of Cotes du Rhone at a pavement cafe in Place du Discussion board, pictured, the place Van Gogh painted Starry Evening
In Avignon – the tour’s final port of name – Lesley and her group spend a morning exploring the Palace of Popes (pictured)
Lesley sailed on Riviera Journey’s Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence cruise. The eight-day cruise on MS William Shakespeare on September 29 begins from £2,149 pp together with flights, wifi, seven excursions, all meals and a captain’s dinner (rivieratravel.co.uk, 01283 523431).
There’s a each day diary of outings, quizzes, dancing, port lectures and night leisure from a pianist.
‘Each lunchtime I promise myself salad however fail as a result of there are such a lot of temptations,’ says new-to-cruise passenger Lesley D’wan, from Lee, South-East London.
In Arles, the place the river divides into Nice Rhone and Little Rhone, we discover the Saturday market. It’s a heady expertise with scents of lavender, lemons, garlic and cheese whereas a jazz band performs and, bizarrely, cheers echo from crowds within the Roman amphitheatre the place the French Nationwide Seashore Volleyball championships are going down. We toast the day with a glass of Cotes du Rhone at a pavement cafe in Place du Discussion board the place Van Gogh painted Starry Evening (Cafe Terrace).
For our final port of name in Avignon, now we have our personal starry night time over the Rhone, a magical sail in to see the 14th-century metropolis partitions and towers bathed in golden mild, reflecting on the river. Within the morning, we stroll to the Palace of Popes.
And that’s the true great thing about river cruising; you may step off the ship to find Roman ruins, vineyards, markets, palaces and gardens, galleries and museums — or just settle on the nearest bar to lift a glass to being again on the river.