Every Wish Fulfilled on AU Trip

Posted on July 7th, 2015 by Emily Tomlinson

by Paul Lash

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. – Zora Neale Hudson

Preparing to embark on the River Discovery II with the 2015 Averett Alumni & Friends river cruise in France, I thought of this classic first line and my expectations for the voyage. Past experiences with Caribbean cruises were unsatisfactory and left me somewhat skeptical. Unexpectedly, I was in for a level of information, education and entertainment that left me totally satisfied. The value of this cruise far exceeded the price paid!

After flying into Lyon, we transferred by bus to the ship at the river port town of Chalon-sur-Saone, a large town close to the wine-growing region. Following a welcome drink and briefing and a good night’s sleep, we left the next morning on an excursion to Beaune in the Burgundy region. First was a wine tasting at a local cellar followed by a visit to the Hotel-Dieu, a hospice for the poor and needy founded in 1443. After returning to the ship, we enjoyed a French language and culture lesson while sailing to the city of Tournus.

The next morning, we visited the Abbey of Cluny just a short drive away. A thousand years ago, it was the site of the world’s largest monastic establishment and home to more than 400 Benedictine monks. Then we traveled to a goat farm that offered cheese and wine tastings before a lunch of beef bourguignon at a local restaurant. After returning to the ship for dinner, we listened to a classical guitar and cello recital by La Strada while sailing to Macon.

Early the next morning, we rode by coach from Macon through the vineyards of the Beaujolais region with a stop at the Georges du Boeuf wine museum. Of course, there was a wine tasting. The afternoon and evening were spent relaxing onboard the ship as we sailed on the Saone River past beautiful scenery and through several locks from Macon to Lyon, France’s third largest city.

On the fifth day of our tour, we visited a large food market and took a guided walking tour of the Old City of Lyon that is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The afternoon was spent at leisure exploring and shopping. Honoring the city’s heritage, a demonstration of silk making was presented onboard later that evening.

Our ship moored overnight in Lyon and the next day we took a very interesting optional tour of the medieval village of Perouges, a flourishing center of the cloth trade until the 19th century. The guided walking tour ended with a sampling of wine and galettes or “sugar pie.” After lunch onboard and while sailing to Vienne, we listened to a lecture, France Today, watched a crème brulee presentation and enjoyed a Vantage Memorable Journeys reception. Later, the captain’s gala reception and dinner was followed by dancing to the music of a party band while the ship sailed 20 miles south to Vienne.

On day seven, there was a choice of tours of the old Roman town of Vienne — either by tram or by foot. We walked the cobblestone streets past a Roman theater to the top of Mont Pipet for a spectacular view of the city. Our ship departed Vienne for Viviers shortly after noon and the afternoon was spent relaxing onboard and listening to a presentation on French cheese, wine and bread.

The next day, we walked through the well-preserved medieval town of Viviers in Southern France and up a steep hill to the Cathedral of St. Vincent for a private organ concert. Our reward for walking back to the ship was a lesson in playing the game of pétanque while drinking a glass of pastis liqueur served with sausages. The rest of the day was spent at leisure interrupted only by a tour of the ship’s galley while we sailed toward Tarascon.

A guided walking tour led us through the streets of Tarascon and to a medieval castle. That was followed by an optional tour of the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct. After dinner onboard, we enjoyed listening and dancing to a lively gypsy/rumba band and sailed toward Avignon.

With only one day left on our French Waterways Tour, we were guided through the streets of Avignon past the Pope’s Palace. It was the papal residence in the 14th century and many of the buildings and miles of defense fortifications have survived. At one point, our cruise director surprised us with an olive tasting in a shady park.

The next day we returned home on a flight from Marseille.

All in all, this traveler was very pleased with a relaxing and educational transit of pastoral French countryside. We learned about local wine appellations, tasted the products and visited a wine-making museum. The captain and his crew, the ship’s hotel manager and staff, the executive chef and staff, and the cruise director and concierge all receive “full stars” for a job well done. This will go down as a memorable vacation and have me looking forward to another river cruise. Final thought – The AU Alumni & Friends Tour of the Waterways of France and Vantage Deluxe World Travel delivered on my wishes proving Mme. Hudson correct in her assertion. Au revoir!

Paul J. Lash lives and works in the Annapolis, Maryland, area as a Certified Professional Yacht Broker, has travelled extensively, and is always looking for the next great adventure.

(The next AU Alumni & Friends trip will be to the waterways of Belgium and Holland April 4-14, 2016. For more information, email Dr. Larry Wilburn at lwilburn@averett.edu or call 434-770-3285.)

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Dave Slayton ’73 holds the “Reserved for Averett Alumni & Friends” sign while kneeling next to Janet Holley. Seated are: Gloria Hollerbach ’64, Jeanette Taylor, Lorraine Womack, Marilyn Booth ’85, Marilyn Pagano. Back row: Sharon Scott, Martha Wilson ’64, Lamar Barr (on arm of chair), Gerry Belton, Boo Compton (former AU VP & Professor ’69-99), Joyce Wilburn ’90, Larry Wilburn (former AU Associate Dean & Professor ’86-’12, B.A. ’03), Claudia Moore, Sylvia Harris, Connie Roland, Paul Lash, Christine Lash.