Mission: To respond thoughtfully and responsibly to my experiences of drinking and dining at restaurants with regard to the quality, service, preparation, presentation and overall experience received thereat. The standpoint is one who respects the crafts of the chef and sommelier and who seeks to understand their choices in the kitchen and cellar and grow in knowledge. In this, I will seek to be fair, reasoned, direct and constructive and aim to keep my ego in check on our mutual journeys through the worlds of food and wine.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Cannes to Paris Avalon Cruise September 2017 - Day Six

View from the cabin
Thursday September 21, 2017

We awoke to a moving ship slipping along the Rhone banks and slowing as we pulled up close to the town of Avignon. The view from the window was of an imposing and large pink Great Wall of China like brick fortress wall that seemed to stretch for miles. The trees on the bank masked the Cathedral and skyline of the town, but the blue sky and bright sunshine were unmistakeable. And the stillness of the trees signalled the clear news that the Mistral had gone. No dressing up like an Arctic resident today. I quickly dressed to get some coffee from the backbar for Lenglui and myself to drink in the cabin whilst we got ready for the day. There were a lot of people already up and shipshape at 7.30am, though not all looked too bright and bushy tailed, myself probably included. Once we were presentable, we tootled off for what would become a standard breakfast of ham, cheese, baguette with more coffee. Though I would begin with some oatmeal and some magnificently fresh honey spooned straight from a comb - absolute belter and good for the cholestorol. After breakfast, we came back to cabin to rest up a little before the venture into Avignon town. I made some notes on the iPad mini. Must say that this is a magnificent little machine - email, writing, music, photos and able to weld them all together. 

The Great Wall of Avignon
There was an optional 8.30am tour to the Pont du Gard which was a bit up the road on a bus.  There was also a 9am tour of the town that would take the faithful into the centre and up to the Palais des Papes but we figured this was a bit early. It also warned of lots of steps inside the Palais which put the absolute kibosh on that adventure. 

I snagged one of the free street maps provided by Avalon which showed where the ship was docked but not how to get through the Great Wall of Avignon and into the town. Not to worry, front desk would probably able to tell us. They did - straight across the road and look for the subway. 

Fantastic light in Avignon centre
We disembarked the ship and decided just to follow the people in front of us, figuring that if they did not know then we would find someone who did. This required crossing a fairly major road and onto a pleasant manicured patch of greenery which led to some steps down and under a second major road and to a small gap in the wall which would prove to come out on to the Pass de l'Oratoire (presumably Speaker's Lane). This got us on the map. After this, it was easy - straight all the way into the centre of town. Lenglui's legs and knees have of late not been able to take too much walking, especially where cobble stones are involved. And the flat was also now proving of some issue, hence the purchase of the walking assister the day before in Arles. So we figured to just take a gentle stroll around the town and get back to the ship for lunch and figure out the rest of the day later. So it was that we came out into the Place de l'Horloge (Clock Square or Time Square?) where we could opt to go left to the step laden Palais des Papes or meander straight and turn back at some time. We opted for straight - it was a glorious day and we figured a walk in the sun to be a bit more attractive than breaking knees across cobble stones and stairs just to stare at the inside of a cathedral building. Seen one, seen them all. Well, many of them - I concede that some are indeed worth the trip, but couldn't quite see it for Avignon's. We always opt for the present rather than the past. The past is history; the present has life. Learn from the past but live in the present. Maybe the Palais next time. 

Flea Market in Place Jerusalem
Lenglui enlightened
Avignon is an absolutely delightful town, and more so when the sun is bright and blazing as it was on this day. Just wandering the streets, finding pharmacies, ambling and taking photos when the mood struck was wonderfully relaxing. Some hugely pretty buildings. And the pedestrian area is mostly marble tiles (except for one stretch of main street which was all rubble due to beautification works ongoing). On our stroll, we came across a beautifully sunlit church which made for a superb photo opp. Then further along we came across a street flea market with some amazing junky style antiques and vintage clothing (near the Synagogue on Place Jerusalem). Then it was on to the Market which was clean, bright and buzzing with life and massively fresh produce - fish, meat, poultry  - and loads of Provencal vegetables and all so blazingly colourful. We bought a couple of snacky things for the ship and some souvenir style bits (I forget what at this time). Then it was a right turn back and wander along the central Rue de Bonneterie for a few more pharmacies and a pre-lunch ice cream before retracing our steps from Place de l'Horloge and out of the Great Wall to return to the ship. There we dumped the booty and went for a light and easy lunch after which we went back to the cabin for a sleep. Pretty tuckered out. I thought about doing the walk to see the famous Pont and seriously considered the Excursion to Chateauneuf du Pape but balked at the cost and the memory of reading that for us winos it was not that much of a deal. Same with the Pont - apparently it is only half a bridge. Consequently, I opted to stay on board, enjoy the Affinity and make notes and snooze. 

Les Halles d'Avignon - Avignon Market
Hugely fresh Seafood - no chance to try!!
Market Cafe
Pies and Pizzas
Coffee and Crepes
The newsletter whispered of coffee and delicious crepes at 4.00pm which we did before heading back to the cabin to polish off the remains of the lovely white bought in Arles the previous day. Later we met new friends Charlie and Karen from the USA who were returning from their visit to CdP town and talking about their purchases and a promise to arrange a shared tasting with some of our booze. 

At dinner, we got invited to sit with Karen and Diana from Australia and new friend Leonie, John and Virginia. I opted for the escargots in herb garlic butter crust, a spicy tomato soup with what would be tasteless dumplings, and stodgy but tasty tortellini. Wines were a crisp French SB and a nondescript Beaujolais. Karen shared that she had never eaten an escargot in her life, so I took it upon myself to ensure that her snail duck would be broken. I launched into my YOLO rant and that all the gastronomic stars had aligned to make this for her le nuit d'escargots - the night of snails. She took her first ever snail off my plate, and she is now a convert. We discovered that we would be joining them for a food and wine match dinner coming on the Friday, it having been shifted from today as a result of…  something, maybe chef not free or something central ingredients not available. So it goes. I felt like some kind of gastronomic priest from the Temple of the Belly rejoicing in the saving of a soul from the ignorance of the palate. Om.

Booze and Blini
We took a look in the lounge which did not look entertainingly promising with pianist Mitko gamely trying to roust up the Cruisers, so we went back to the cabin and hit the sack. Lovely day. Good night Avignon, hope to come back to you one day! 

Lunch Menu
Seasonal lettuce and condiments
Avalon House vinaigrette, Caesar dressing, American dressing
Cucumber dill salad with sour cream, Curried Tuna salad Celery salad with apple

Creamy vegetable soup with ham strips
Chilled cucumber soup with sour cream

Carving Station
Roasted whole turkey with natural gravy

Daily Live Cooking with Head Chef
Pasta Aglio e Olio - spaghetti tossed in virgin oil, garlic and chili

My Lenglui
Main Course
Barbecue Ribs - Oven baked barbecue ribs wrapped in bacon
Poached Limanda fish fillet - with herb vinaigrette
Sandwich avec saucisse Lyonnaise - Lyon sausage sandwich with iceberg lettuce and ovlive dip
Lavash - Lvash bread filled with Halloumi cheese and red cabbage quinoa

Sides - Herb potato, basmati rice, seasonal vegetables, Vichy carrots

Sweet Temptations
Double Chocolate Cake
Eclair au chocolat - chocolate ecalir filled with vanilla pudding
Passion fruit sorbet with kiwi and pineapple, whipped cream and cones
Fresh seasonal fruit

Reserve Speciale Sauvignon - Gerard Bertrand, France, 12%
This 100% Sauvignon Blanc comes from carefully selected cool climate vineyards and displays citrus and exotic fruit notes

Gris Blanc - Gerard Bertrand, France, 12.5%
The colour of this Rose is crystalline. The nose and the palate show fruity flavours. The wine is very tasty and has an acidulous finish

Perrin Reserve Cotes du Rhone Rouge - Famille Perrin, France, 13.2%
Beautiful deep ruby colour with purple undertones.An intense note of red fruit, raspberry jam,spices and black pepper. The wine is soft and round, structured with freshness. 

Dinner Menu
Bread and Dips - Freshly Baked Bread with butter and our dip of the day

Cucumber Mousse - with blueberries
Escargots a la Bourguigonne - Baked escargots Burgundy style gratinated with garlic herb butter
Tofu en salade des aromes framboises - Green sald with vinaigrette and spicy marinated tofu

Tomato Consomme - with homemade basil dumplings
Creamy Chicken soup - with fried leek

Main Course
Tortellini de Formagio - stuffed with walnuts and bloue cheese
Skin friel fillet of Sea Bass - on sund-dried tomato pesto with mashed green peas and Jasmin rice
Roasted barbary duck breast - On Calvados sauce with red vcabbage and duchese potatoes
Stuffed zucchini - with tomato sauce

Bourgogne Aligote Buissonier - Vignerons de Buxy, France, 12.5%
A very fresh wine usually wiht a pale gold colour, with bright white glints. The nose opens with floral and fresh fruity hints and hazelnuts aromas.

Gris Blanc - Gerard Bertrand, France, 12.5%
The colour of this Rose is crystalline. The nose and the palate show fruity flavours. The wine is very tasty and has an acidulous finish.

Beaujolais Villages - Louis Jadot, France, 13%

Strong red purple colour. Fresh red fruits on the nose with a hint of dark cherry. Slightly spicy with a touch of pepper,liquorice and rose flower. 

Avalon Affinity in Avignon sunshine

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