The Magic of the Unexpected
Which is better? Doing research before your trip, or relying on the element of surprise? There are pros and cons to both. When we travel on our own, I tend to do a lot of research and have a plan. But on our AmaWaterways Colors of Provence trip in 2019, it just didn’t seem necessary. And it wasn’t! We let the magic happen through the element of surprise. Here are some of the unexpected delights.
The Traboules of Lyon
In Vieux Lyon (old Lyon) we enjoyed the architectural features unique to this city. Traboules are delightful renaissance passageways, some 40 of which are open to the public, running beneath buildings in the direction of the Saône River.
They are easy to miss if you do not know they are there.
They gave the city’s silk workers direct access to river bank, making it quick and easy to transport textiles, while also offering shelter from the elements.
During the Second World War, the Traboules were used by the resistance for secret meetings, thus preventing the Nazis from occupying the whole of Lyon.
The Musee Archeologique Saint-Pierre – Vienne
(The Archaeological Museum of Saint-Pierre)
Visiting this museum caught me with tremendous surprise. At first you think you are just going into a smallish church. But It is very aptly named, because once inside, you feel that you have stumbled into an archaeological find.
Its interior is rustic and punctuated by streaming shafts of natural light filtering in from the high windows, while electrical illuminations highlight the arches, stones, and broken columns. It is a wonderful atmospheric display of shadow and light.
Reputed to be an ancient Roman basilica from the 5th century, with a 12th century facade, it is full of excavated artifacts from Vienne. Some stunning items here including altars, statues, mosaics, and sarcophagi, stoneware, and earthen ware pots.
Les Remparts d’Avignon
(The walls of Avignon)
In Avignon, it is especially easy to feel you have stepped back in time – close to a thousand years.
The city boasts a Papal palace where Pope Clement V moved the papacy from Rome to Avignon in 1309. It’s famous bridge Pont Saint-Bénézet, also known as the Pont ‘Avignon is a medieval bridge across the Rhône. The bridge was the inspiration for the song Sur le pont d’Avignon and is considered a landmark of the city.
But It is the walls that enchanted me.
The Avignon city walls constitute the 2nd longest continuous wall in the world, after the Great Wall of China. They were originally built in the 14th century during the Avignon Papacy, and have been continually rebuilt and repaired throughout their subsequent history.
INTRA-MUROS is how Avignon inhabitants refer to the inside of the ramparts. The rampart walls were originally built to protect the intra-muros inhabitants from outside assailants. They also protected – and still do – from the floodwaters of the Rhône. The ramparts encircle the historical city and give it a timeless, special atmosphere. The ramparts are also ranked as UNESCO World Heritage.
A visit by the Gipsy Kings!
As an avid fan of the Gipsy Kings, you can imagine my surprise when I learned our local entertainment on the ship for our last night would be none other than family members of the Gipsy Kings! (this is included by the way, no extra cost!) Who knew the Gipsy Kings lived in France? I didn’t.
We spent an extraordinary 90 minutes with Tony and his crew, and about 30 other passengers. Don’t ask me why the rest didn’t come; they are nuts! It was an absolute highlight of the trip, and a wonderful surprise.