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 Four

Lenglui and flowers at Carlton International
Cannes to Paris Avalon Cruise September 2017 - Day Four

September 19, 2017

Restless sleep tonight for some reason. Woke at 2am to use the bathroom was awake till 4. This is not unusual - most of my nights follow this kind of pattern, though usually it is as a result of a large night and the alcohol still running around the system. So it goes. When like this, I fire up the iPad and write lyrics. Usually get some good ones; there is this little window as the brain drifts into sleep that gets hugely fertile for words and lyric lines that seem to work amazingly well, and I have to stir to write them down before they vanish as sleep takes over. Some of the better ones seem to last through to wake up, but better to catch them fresh. 

Awake at 7.30am in an insanely darkened room - the curtains were amazing; barely a shred of light slipped through. Got showered and dressed and packed and down to the Restaurant for a well tasty breakfast of ham, croissants and cheese with coffee. We normally take advantage of breakfast and make and pack a couple of Bread Roll sandwiches for the bus ride - experience finds us a bit peckish and when lunch is uncertain those ham and cheese rolls fill a gap nicely. Met with two new friends, Thompson and Wife, Scots lady, he an engineer, pipes I think. Can't remember them now. 

Hotel view from the restaurant verandah
On the way back to the room, new Cruiser friend Janice took a photo of us in the lobby. Can't remember her neither. 

Lenglui and coffee. And hat.
We decided to check out early and go for a stroll and also pick up the Caviar set reserved the day before. Got a slight shock with the bill with a Four Euro charge for a Nespresso capsule. I had made the assumption that the coffee in the room was complimentary and clearly now It was not. Four euro for a capsule! Literally this left a bad taste. Lesson -  never trust an expensive hotel to give things for free. 

Another ongoing story - Lenglui had previously fallen for the Carlton phone charger and had requested a new one for to buy. This process took over fourteen hours to finalise; seems front desk Concierge had to talk to Room Service who had to talk to Supplies who had to talk back to front desk…  I think it was only on threat to walk away and get on the bus that it finally got resolved. "Eeet ees no more mai problem, Ai 'ave spoke to theee perrrrson 'oo eees eeen charge…  whai 'ave zey not spoken to yooo, Ai don't know…." - quintessentially French. 

The instruction had been to leave the properly tagged bags in the rooms and they would get loaded on to lorries and transported ahead whilst we Cruisers would travel a shade later by bus. Theory was that all bags would be in the cabins by the time we arrived. Which almost worked out - bags were in the cabins about ten minutes after we were. Guess they needed to finalise who would be having what rooms and using this as a double check to avoid bags going astray. Makes sense. Guess they know their logistics - always a good sign. 

View across Cannes bay from Carlton Verandah. With the Celebrity.
We had been advised that we could park our hand baggage in a side room (the Sirocco) which we did and then it was off into the brilliantly blue Cannes morning. The stroll took us past a couple of obligatory pharmacies for Lenglui to stock up on necessaries and to scout for new pharmaceutical treasures before bending back to the wine store and payment. The backstreets are cool in the shade but the sun can beat you without notice if staying too long in it. Sunblock is necessary. 

We decided it was a bit warm for a long walk so we decided to get back to the hotel and snag some more coffee. This would prove to be one of the most delightful hours I have spent on this planet. We sat in the garden section of the Restaurant under some big shady umbrellas and chilled in the delightful and gentle sea breeze that was kissing the Riviera coastline. Lenglui had by this time learned how to make great coffee at the restaurant - get the big cup, pour in one espresso, top it up with hot water and hot milk et voila! Magnificent cup of coffee. We went back for a second after checkout and parked ourselves in the outside open air section of the hotel restaurant. This proved most pleasant - the combination of Cannes sunshine and gentle Riviera breeze, visiting birds, warm but not hot sunshine warming the palms on Le Croisettes was just perfect. The light in the South of France is just exquisite. I have memories of pigeons scrapping for dropped food, Edna taking photos, me writing notes on the iPad, whispers of cars slowly trundling past, smell of herbs and pizza from the kitchen, and the only celebrity in sight being a Celebrity Cruise ship anchored in the Bay. Absolutely chilled, relaxing and delightful. To relive this, I would happily go back to the Carlton. 

We tore ourselves away from this idyllic setting and wandered to our appointed meeting place for direction, having retrieved our hand baggage from the Sirocco. It all got processed quite painlessly and we were pretty soon on the road and heading for Arles to meet the ship. There was a guide on the bus who talked for most of the time whilst most of the cruisers (myself included) tried to listen and take in all the detail about this area of France. It just does not get absorbed by me - some switch goes into neutral and phssssht straight in one ear, bypass the brain and gone. The countryside was pretty, with occasional vineyards and prospects of the sea over the hills. Lenglui dozed for most of the ride whilst I gazed out and watched the scenery flash by. 

Dear Lord I hope to return - one of the most pleasant hours of my life...
There was one brief stop en route for a swift tuna sandwich and a pee and the driver's obligatory rest and then back on the A8 for a punch through straight to Arles. The bus arrived at the dock at about 4pm and as we got off we got our first taste of the Mistral. This is a wind that whips down the mountains and along the river valley and is fast, fierce and whipsaws into the bones. No joke, this Mistral. We scrambled aboard the ship and into the lounge where we all did the Passport checkin and got the doorkeys to our cabin 215. As said, luggage was quick to get into the room and we unpacked and showered and headed off to the meet the captain and crew with the Prosecco and a toast to a safe and memorable cruise. There would prove to be a lovely view at sunset from the lounge of the bridge over the river - we would later learn that this was the famous Van Gogh Starry Night view. Very pretty. 

The cabin was surprisingly roomy. Our expectations of a cramped little cabin with little room for baggage generated by our Uniworld experience was totally destroyed by the size and roominess and airiness of the place. Hugely well designed space, bags all fit nicely under the two single beds, and we were able to pass each other easily round them. Good size fridge to store our booze and odd bits of food bought en route. And free wifi. Fantastic. Most impressed with the Avalon. 

The lovely CdP - all silk and chewy fruit
During the unpack, it was mutually agreed to open the CdP we had bought from the Cannes wine store. It was a Domaine Lucien Barrot et Fils 2011, a standard GSM with some Cinsault added. It was a lovely wine - very silky in the mouth and on the finish, though not as full bodied as most CdPs tasted. Faint floral and berry nose with first fruit and cherry mouth. Some cardamom notes and cassis. Wonderful mouth and finish. Think we paid about 50 Euro. Worth it. 

We then went to dinner which was quite tasty and was accompanied by a swift cruise around the estuary. I have little memory other than a most pleasant meal with tasty wines and chatting to an elderly chap from New Zealand who loved to cruise/ We would see him on and off over the remainder of the days, but he didn't seem to acknowledge us. Perhaps a bit Alzheimic? Not sure. But everyone seemed to know him, and he said hello back to everyone who said hello to him. Can't remember his name. We finished up and got back to the cabin and fell into bed. Good night Arles, see you in the morning. 

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