Traveling: The smell of lavender surrounds us…

Today our port is Marseilles, France. Having gone to bed at 8:30pm last night and having some jet lag, I wake up at 3am wide awake this morning. Finally, after some serious Angry Birds, I take a shower around 5:30am, then Kurt and I go get breakfast. Our excursion to Avignon meets at 6:45am, so we have plenty of time for cereal, pancakes, bagels, and egg sandwiches. At around 7:30am, we are on the bus, on our way to Châteauneuf-du-Pape & Avignon to see the Palais des Papes.

Our first stop is a winery. We are able to taste three different wines: white, rose, and red. The white is my least favorite, as it seems to have a very bitter aftertaste. The rose is my favorite, very light and crisp, with a hint of sweetness. The red is surprisingly light too, with almost no aftertaste. I don’t usually enjoy red, but this one is pretty good. We also have the most amazing olives that are grown on property (of which I bought a jar) and some little rye crisps. Being in Provence, the olives are seasoned with Herbs de Provence. The vineyards here are beautiful, up high and overlooking fields of grapes, with mountains in the background. Truly breathtaking.

The Vineyard: Chateau des Fines Roches

The Vineyard: Chateau des Fines Roches

Sampling the blush wine at Chateau des Fines Roches

Sampling the blush wine at Chateau des Fines Roches

The red wine at Chateau des Fines Roches

The red wine at Chateau des Fines Roches

Outside Chateau des Fines Roches

Outside Chateau des Fines Roches

We then make our way to Avignon to see the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). Though not as impressive as Vatican City, this fortified structure once held 7 true Popes and 2 “double” Popes (this was during the Great Schism, so the “real” Popes were elected in Rome while these were labeled two false Popes). [Kurt’s note: Just maybe a hint of Cristina’s Italian bias in that historical opinion?] The Great Chapel is massive, and reminds me of Notre Dame in Paris, with its high Gothic ceilings and expansive feel. There are some gorgeous views from the high windows, overlooking a garden and the city.

Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)

Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)

Inside Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)

Inside Palais des Papes

High ceilings in Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes)

High ceilings in Palais des Papes

At this point, I start feeling hot and achy, so instead of walking to the bridge, we elect to get some glacé (ice cream) and just sit in the palace square. Every time I think that the gelato places in New Orleans get gelato right, I taste real European ice cream and realize how much better it is here. There really is no comparison. I have cheesecake drizzled with raspberry, while Kurt has ice strawberry. Perfetto. On our way back to the bus, we pass a field of lavender. Provence is known for its lavender, there are fields everywhere, and there are whole stores dedicated to selling everything imaginable lavender. I buy some small satchels of lavender to put in a drawer or closet, so that every time I open it, I’ll smell that wonderful lavender smell.

Lavender field in Avignon, Provence, France

Lavender field in Avignon, Provence, France

We finally make it back to ship about 3:30pm and take a two hour nap. Dinner tonight consists of Yukon Gold Cream of Potato Soup, Braised Lamb Shank, and Bitter and Blanc. The dessert is not my favorite, but it isn’t horrible. The lamb is very tender, but I wonder if European lamb taste different than the lamb back home because of the grass they eat or something. There is definitely a different taste to it; good, but different. Kurt has smoked duck with caramelized oranges and a shark and langoustino fire cracker roll, which according to him is utterly forgettable as it’s so bland, as a starter, with the lamb shank also.

Yukon Gold Cream of Potato Soup

Yukon Gold Cream of Potato Soup

Braised Lamb Shank

Braised Lamb Shank

Bitter and Blanc

Bitter and Blanc

Tonight we are sitting on the Lido deck, waiting for the EURO 2012 match between Italy and Germany at 8:45pm. It’s the semi-final, so whoever wins tonight plays Spain in the final match. I’m hoping and praying for an Italian win! Speaking of Italy, we will be there tomorrow. We have another early day because we are taking an excursion to Pisa and a Tuscan winery. I hope Italy wins swiftly in the 90 minutes, with no overtime or penalty kicks!

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