Cote de Roam

We’ve been packing away vast quantities of (really spectacular) food for the past week. But, even though we’ve been averaging over 20,000 steps a day, they just haven’t been strenuous enough to expend the number of calories taken in.

So we were very glad that we had arranged a pretty active Rhône Valley Vineyard Hike for that morning. We were in the northern Rhône Valley and had to explore the local landscape, culture, and wine culture of the area.

We drove a winding mountain road through hectares and hectares of old and new Syrah grapes most of the way to the top of the highest hill in Tain-l’Hermitage and climbed the rest of the way to the Chapel of St. Christophe.

If you believe the legend, Knight Gaspard de Sterimberg build the chapel in 1224 where he spend the rest of his life as a hermit after the Crusades.

From the entire boat, Bonnie and Steve, Marsha and I were the only ones to book this hike. I guess the other passengers are not into things too physical. Good for us though as we then had our own private guide, who happened to be wonderful by the way. She provided us walking sticks to help keep our feet from sliding on the steep gravel path.

Besides the vines, beautiful wildflowers were blooming everywhere. Some of the hillside was blazing in red with poppies. The rose bushes above are planted for a very specific reason. The growers watch them for signs of fungus that will mean they have to spray the vines with specific (organic) substances to keep the fungus off the fruit.

Now on down to taste the world famous Hermitage wines. It was a pretty long step away from the gamay of Beaujolais with deeper ruby colors and more depth and earthiness. Chocolate samples were offered while we tasted the reds, that foreshadowed our next stop as we walked toward the boat.

Tournon is the home for Valrhona chocolate. Well, you know how kids are in a candy shop. Substituting old(er) people doesn’t make much difference. Samples were everywhere; chocolates from every country, in every different format imaginable, chunks, coating things, even samples of hot chocolate. If you were to watch from a distance we probably looked like ricocheting balls in a pin-ball machine. Needless to say, we bought lots of chocolate.

On our continuing walk back we crossed the pedestrian footbridge built by Marc Seguin, the inventor of the suspension bridge. It was commemorated by the bridge itself and a statue nearby.

A view from the bridge towards our riverboat in the distance. We walked through a local Saturday flea market and back to the boat for lunch and an afternoon cruise from Tournon sur Rhone toward Viviers.

Here’s a sample of our daily menus. This one is Dinner, but lunch is almost the same. Again, walking won’t do it.

Dinner on deck.

Before the day ended, we had a night time walking tour of Viviers, a charming, idyllic, riverside village. We’ve never been in a quieter, darker, sleepier place. We found the oldest house in town and the smallest cathedral in France, the 11th century St. Vincent Cathedral in the town square. It was really too dark for photos, but imagine the most incredible movie set you’ve ever seen. I just can’t believe no production company has discovered this place yet.

Off to Arles tomorrow where we’ll spend the entire day following in van Gogh’s footsteps, even taking a painting class. From wine to turpentine, exchanging one palette for another.

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