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5/25/17- Today we had the opportunity to explore the twin cities of Tournon-sur-Rhône and Tain-l’Hermitage in the heart of the Côtes du Rhône, wine-producing region of southern France. Separated by the Rhone River and connected by the 1847 Marc Sequin Suspension Bridge (original 1824), the two cities are easily accessible to one another via this historic pedestrian bridge.
The design of the Marc Sequin Suspension Bridge inspired the design of New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the construction of many other bridges across Europe.
We were docked on the Tain-l’Hermitage side of the river and began our visit touring there first. Of the two cities, Tain-l’Hermitage has the more modern, industrial town center. Though it doesn’t feel at all touristy, it has received many visitors including Thomas Jefferson.
With a population of just under 6,000, Tain-l’Hermitage has a relaxed, small town feel that is very welcoming. We enjoyed a wine-tasting at the famous Cave A Vins Fromages. We sampled many different local wines from the region.
I’ll say this: I’m really not a fan of the red wines from southern France. Of course, this should mean nothing to a true wine connoisseur. I know next to nothing about what makes a good wine– only what I like. Of the probably (close to) two dozen red wines I sampled during this trip, I might have liked one or two. On the other hand, I enjoyed nearly all the white wines from the region.
Across from the shop, we wandered through a rather large open air market before leisurely walking back towards the Rhone river.
We finished our visit across the bridge in the (older) city of Tournon. With a population of about 11,000, it remains a quiet, pleasant little town; not unlike many others found throughout Europe. We enjoyed a relaxing walk through the streets, especially enjoying the sunshine.
James Barbour In Concert.
JAMES BARBOUR just finished starring on Broadway for nearly three years as The Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera. He has also starred on Broadway as Sydney Carton in A Tale of Two Cities (Drama Desk, Drama League, Outer Critics Circle awards nominations), Czolgosz in Assassins, The Beast in Beauty & the Beast, Billy Bigelow in Carousel, Officer Lockstock in Urinetown and Edward Rochester in Jane Eyre (Drama League nomination). James also appeared on Broadway in Cyrano, opposite Jeremy Irons in Camelot and in the national tour of The Secret Garden. Other recent credits: Jean Valjean in Les Misérables (LA Ovation Award, Best Actor), Daryl Van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick (U.S. premiere), Daddy Hogan in Anna Nicole (BAM). TV: “The District,” “Just Shoot Me,” “Flashpoint,” “Sex and the City,” “Ed,” “That’s Life,” “Beauty & the Beast in Concert” (CBS), “Great Performances,” “An American Experience,” “A Tale of Two Cities” (PBS). Film: Alchemy, Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights, Waiting for Lefty, Twinkle Toes with Sally Kirkland. Recordings: Broadway in Concert, The Gift, Dracula, Tears from Heaven, The Count of Monte Cristo, Excalibur, his many cast recordings and two solo CDs, A Gift of Christmas and Bring Me Giants. He hosts TV’s “James Barbour Now” on WITNation.com. His production company, Laughing Dog Media, creates and controls original content for VoiceAmerica.tv’s new Internet TV network. JamesBarbour.com
We thoroughly enjoyed James Barbour’s evening of story and song. He has a rich, beautiful voice and masterfully connected his passion to the heart of the audience.
Travel Date: May 25, 2017, Thursday (Day 13)
Playbill Travel’s “Broadway On the Rhone”
Last day in Saint Petersburg, Russia and we’d be spending it on two more excursions, “The Hermitage: A Wealth of Art and History” and “Canal Cruise and Shopping“. What a beautiful city!
The Hermitage or State Hermitage, is one of the largest and oldest museum collections in the world. The complex that houses it is made up of six buildings including the Winter Palace, the former main living quarters of the Russian tsars. Catherine the Great started the collection in the late 1700s but it wasn’t open to public until the mid-1800s.
My numbers could be wrong but I believe our guide told us we only saw about 1% of the collection and that only about 15% of the collection is ever on display at any one time. In all, there are more than three million pieces in the Hermitage collection!
We viewed works by Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Monet and Picasso to name a few. I recognized several pieces I’d seen in books or as reproductions over the years and found myself drawn to the larger murals and sculptures the most.
I think overall, I was as intrigued and impressed by the Hermitage architecture and the layout of the gallery displays as I was the actual art collection itself. We viewed room after room of gorgeous, grand halls beautifully restored and elegantly decorated with art by the Masters. Too much to see in a short period of time.
At one point on the tour, we were passed by workers pushing two carts of painting through the halls. The paintings were unprotected, bouncing and rubbing against each other and I was a little shocked that greater care wasn’t being taken with the priceless art.
Once the museum opened to the public for the day, we could barely move. The line outside to get in was ridiculously long as well.
That afternoon, we met for our canal cruise and shopping. It was a little overcast so we took umbrellas, just in case. Our guide took us shopping first.
Our bus pulled up to the equivalent of a strip mall and our guide, Alexey, told us what store we were going to shop. Now I realize that many people have different interpretations of shopping but let’s be real here. Michael and I assumed we’d be going to an open air market or shopping district that would have, among other things, souvenirs. Others on our tour thought we’d be going to a street with designer shops. We were all wrong.
The shop we entered was basically a small overpriced souvenir warehouse that was laid out like a small American dollar store. I was only interested in purchasing matryoshka (nesting dolls) and maybe a t shirt. Well, they had one small rack of ugly, cheap looking t shirts (for around $30 USD a piece) but they had lots of nesting dolls. Only they were marked up about 400% to 1000% in price. So shopping was a joke. We were there quite a while, most of the women on our bus bought something, while most of the men stood outside the bus shaking their heads. For a moment, I thought I was back in America.
The weather cooperated as we boarded our small boat for the canal cruise. Just in case, the boat had an open, upper deck and an enclosed lower deck if it rained. Michael and I sat in the back of the upper deck and I was on a raised storage box that doubled as a seat, so I could take pictures. I literally had to duck every time we went under one of the many bridges we passed under.
There was a nice breeze and it was a relaxing ride. I loved seeing the city from this different perspective.
I have to say something about our guide, Alexey. He was a young, tall, skinny guy, probably in his 20s and he spoke with this sort of Russian-French dialect. Michael refers to him as Pepe le Pew. Alexey spoke with a very breathy voice and ended each phase with a breathy chuckle or laugh. This was our second tour with him, so we knew what to expect. It was funny to watch all the first-timers’ heads turn, open jawed and bewildered as he started this second tour. He certainly entertained us. Michael and I still find ourselves imitating him, randomly, to make each other laugh.
After the canal cruise, it was back on the bus, crossing through passport control one last time, saying proshchaniye (farewell) to Saint Petersburg.