The Viking “Portraits of Southern France” river cruise I recently took was one of the most enjoyable vacation experiences I’ve ever had. Our plane landed in Marseille and a one and a half hour coach ride took us to Avignon where we boarded our cruise ship. Our eight day cruise took us to Arles, Vivier, Tournon, Vienne, Beaune and Chalon-sur-Soane. These old cities were built right along the rivers so we were able to easily walk to and explore them. I have been asked so many questions about this cruise and I have several friends who are taking this same river trip this summer so I thought I would share some of the requested highlights and photos.
Avignon is one of the major cities of Provence and is famous for being the place to which popes fled in the 14th century to get away from the Church’s corruption in Rome. It is located on the banks of the Rhone River and the Pope’s Palace still stands in the city center. In Les Halles a group of approximately 40 small family-owned shops sell regional products: cheeses, charcuterie, meat, breads and fish, along with such items as dozens of varieties of tapenades or sea salt perfumed with rose petals.
The market hall was built in the heart of the city at the end of the 19th century. In the 1970’s shopping malls threatened its existence so new parking facilities were built and the old market demolished and rebuilt. In 2006 the city of Avignon covered the stark market hall façade with a huge and dramatic vegetable garden designed by the botanist Patrick Blanc, who also created a similar installation at the Musée des Arts Premiers in Paris. We visited many indoor and outdoor food markets on our trip and, if you can believe it, this is the smallest one we explored.
As you approach the market hall the first thing you will notice is the stunning display of flowers and plants.
Wine, bread and cheese are on everyone’s shopping lists.
What an impressive display of herbs and spices! I bought an herb blend for fish and a large bottle of herbs de Provence.
This was our first sighting of the large white asparagus that is available for a few weeks in the Spring.
The olive vendor’s booth was one of the most popular spots at the market. Our cruise director (red jacket) was in line to purchase olives for the evening dinner buffet.
The variety of available prepared foods was amazing. I wanted to try every single item.
It is easy to spend several hours browsing the aisles of a wonderful market like this one. You can purchase little bits of this and that so you can try foods you aren’t familiar with or have always wants to taste. Les Halles wasn’t a part of the organized tour but it was easy to walk to on our own. There are several restaurants inside where you can stop for lunch, or picnic supplies are available to take to the park in the town square. The market opens early and closes at 1:00 pm.
This post is linked to OH, THE PLACES I HAVE BEEN at The Tablescaper