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A Taste of Twin Cities: Tournon-sur-Rhône and Tain-l’Hermitage

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.

 

Tournon frames the Marc Sequin Suspension Bridge from the Tain-l’Hermitage side of the Rhone River.

 

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.

 

Fountain in the square, Tain-l’Hermitage, with their famous vineyard hills in the background.

 

Looking up the steep hillside vineyard.

 

The vineyards above Tain-l’Hermitage.

 

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.

 

Ready for our wine tasting.

 

Across from the shop, we wandered through a rather large open air market before leisurely walking back towards the Rhone river.

 

Crossing the Marc Sequin Bridge to Tournon.

 

Ruins on the hillside in Tournon.

 

The steeple and clock tower of St. Vincent.

 

A view of the city of Tournon on 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.

Tournon Castle.

 

Facing the river, is a War Memorial created by sculptor Antoine Sartorio on the granite rock below Tournon Castle.

 

The streets of Tournon.

 

We spotted these beautiful dogs outside the entrance of Church Saint-Julien in Tournon.

 

Church Saint-Julien in Tournon, France.

 

Caisse d’Epargne in the town centre of Tournon-sur-Rhône, Ardèche, France.

 

Roof peaks and towers of the Gabriel Faure School, Tournon-sur-Rhône, Ardèche, France.

 

Comprehensive School Gabriel Faure founded in 1536. “Lycée Gabriel Faure”.

 

The Vineyards of Tain-l’Hermitage, against a beautiful blue sky, as we crossed the bridge, returning to our ship.

 

Our floating home on Rhone River, Uniworld’s luxury ship, the S.S. Catherine.

 

James Barbour In Concert.

 

James Barbour.

 

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

 

Broadway On the Rhone concert performed by James Barbour.

 

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.

 

Broadway’s current Phantom, James Barbour entertains on Playbill Travel’s Broadway On the Rhone.

 

Travel Date: May 25, 2017, Thursday (Day 13)

Playbill Travel’s “Broadway On the Rhone”

Travel 2017: A Special Concert in Viviers: Day Twelve

We woke up this morning to another beautiful sunrise. This time, docked at Viviers in southern Ardèche, we had the beautiful Viviers Suspension Bridge in full view from our balcony. We’ve had the most wonderful weather in southern France!

 

Viviers Suspension Bridge.

 

We decided ahead of time to join our friends for a morning walking tour of Vivier.

Our small group entered town, enjoying a relaxing walk under the canopy of ancient Plane trees before reaching the town’s center. We then slowly made our way to the upper town, as our guide gave us some history and noted points of interest along the way.

The small commune of Viviers, dates back to the 5th century. Today, it has less than 4,000 residents. It is a medieval town that has largely escaped the ravages of time. Scenes from the 2000 movie, Chocolat (Johnny Depp), were filmed here.

 

Strolling to town under a canopy of Plane Trees.

 

The Quiet Streets of Viviers.

 

A Famous Viviers Butcher Shop.

 

Sausages, anyone?

 

One of the buildings tied to an interesting piece of local history is the Maison des Chevaliers, or the House of the Knights. The age of the actual structure of the building is unknown but the fascade was constructed between 1545 and 1560. Several houses were combined to create what was to become the House of Knights for Noel Albert.

Albert, a rich merchant– had converted to Protestantism, opposed the king– and as a result, was tried and beheaded in 1568. As bailiff of the bishop of Viviers, he was believed to have been skimming money from the taxes he collected as well.

 

On the left, Maison des Chevaliers, the House of the Knights.

 

Marianne- Goddess of Liberty.

 

Beautiful Centuries-Old Buildings.

 

Roses climb many of the buildings’ fascades in Viviers.

 

Morning Sunlight Seemed to Stream Through Every Possible Nook and Cranny as we approach the entrance to Viviers Cathedral.

 

Saint-Michel Tower (11th century) of the St. Vincent Cathedral.

 

Entering a covered passageway in Viviers.

 

The Sampzon House (16th Century) Viviers, France.

 

Saint Vincent Cathedral.

 

Beautiful scenic spots everywhere.

 

Looking out over Viviers and the countryside.

 

The Fortress Walls of Viviers from the Upper Town.

 

Medieval St. Vincent Cathedral.

 

Gargoyles of St. Vincent.

 

Viviers Rooftops from Belvédère de Châteauvieux.

 

Viviers From Belvédère de Châteauvieux.

 

Château de l’Ourse in Belvédère de Châteauvieux Square.

 

We visited the shop of Jean Luc Allonneau, Atelier 3 Ceramiques where he has been handcrafting functional ceramic pieces since 1981. After a tour of his workshop, he gave us a brief demonstration at the potters’ wheel.

Independent craftsmen like this are finding it more and more difficult to stay open and competitive with the accessibility of mass produced goods– priced much lower but of inferior material and design.

Jean Luc still hand selects his materials and completes each piece entirely on his own. The process for each, takes more than a month to complete with drying, firing and glazing to be done. He produces pots and dinnerware collections in addition to some pieces created from handmade molds.

 

Atelier 3 Ceramiques Handcrafted Pottery Shop.

 

Inside Atelier 3 Ceramiques pottery.

 

Jean Luc Allonneau at work.

 

On the street in Viviers. The 11th Century Clock Tower on the right.

 

Viviers is the  birthplace of the Society of Lime and Cement Lafarge. Naturally occurring hydraulic limestone is mined here. The lime is burned to create a product that is used in mortar for construction.

I was particularly interested in this because the brick in our own 1889 house– is held together with a lime-mortar that has to be specially mixed for tuck-pointing (repair).  It is seldom used today in new construction– now, mostly Portland Cement. The advantages of lime include a slow drying process and a much stronger, resilient, finished product.

 

Mining Lime Lafarge.

 

On our way back to the ship, we stopped for a photo op with our friends before returning to the ship for a late lunch. We had a few hours before we would walk back into town for a special concert Playbill had arranged for us.

 

Group Photo Op with Friends.

 

Viviers Cathedral aka St. Vincent Cathedral. Earlier in the day, we didn’t have a chance to go inside the cathedral but we saw the exterior from virtually every angle. I suppose, aside from the fact that we saw the performers entering to rehearse, when we passed in the morning– the main reason was: we’d return for our special concert in the afternoon.

St. Vincent Cathedral, built in the 11th century, is the smallest, if not the oldest, medieval cathedral in France that is still active today.

During the French Wars of Religion between the Catholics and the Protestants in the 16th century, the vaulted ceiling was destroyed. It was not  rebuilt until the 18th century.

At the front of the church, in the semicircular apse, hang all but one of their highly prized tapestries. Two were stolen from the church in the 1970’s and one was later recovered (found in Italy). The famous 18th century royal tapestries were manufactured by Gobelins in Paris, representing scenes from the Bible. You can see the empty frame of the stolen tapestry, which depicted The Last Supper, in the picture below.

 

 

Inside St. Vincent Cathedral, Viviers.

 

Chandelier in St. Vincent.

 

Concert at Viviers Cathedral. This was a first for Playbill Travel. Not only were we getting a concert in a beautiful venue– they were doing a second concert for the entire town, after ours. So you might say– ours was the dress rehearsal. (Wink.)

 

Left to Right, James Barbour, Liz Callaway, Rebecca Luker and Paulo Szot open “A Concert at Viviers Cathedral”.

 

The concert truly was special. Having the chance to hear some of the great music of Broadway, resonating through this beautiful cathedral was breathtaking. The performances were great and the setting gave it an added magical touch. James Barbour, Liz Callaway, Rebecca Luker, John McDaniel and Paulo Szot all received a well-deserved standing ovation. A truly memorable event.

 

James Barbour.

 

Rebecca Luker ‘s angelic voice fills the cathedral with “The Sound of Music”.

 

Paulo Szot’s inspiring and thunderous, “The Impossible Dream”, was one of the highlights .

 

Liz Callaway relives “Memory” from Cats.

 

Musical Director John McDaniel singing, “Anyone Can Whistle.

 

James Barbour and Rebecca Luker serenade one another.

 

Paulo Szot and Liz Callaway share a tender moment, singing Sondheim’s “With So Little To Be Sure Of”.

 

The Broadway on the Rhone Performance in St. Vincent Cathedral, Viviers, France.

 

We found out later, that after our concert, several of the performers thought they’d get a bite to eat in town between shows. Only one problem– everything had closed down because everyone was going to the concert! The whole town attended, including the mayor. Some said they didn’t know what to expect from the concert. Very quickly they were drawn in, thrilled when they recognized some of famous Broadway tunes. The crowd loved it and it was a huge success.

Bravo, Playbill Travel!

 

Travel Date: May 24, 2017, Wednesday (Day 12)