Excursion From Marseille: The Papal Palace In Avignon
21 Jul 2016
Day 4, Marseilles, 05 June 2016
We arrived at Marseille port the day before and I was very excited about the itinerary in Avignon. I must admit that I had actually already visited this little town, but I knew that this time would be very different. In fact, we were going to have a guided tour of the magnificent Papal palace and lunch in a local restaurant. In addition, the day before I attended a lecture on board focusing on the troubled historical period in which Avignon and the Vatican city were in dispute to nominate the Pope, therefore I was able to imagine exactly what the atmosphere would have been like in the Avignon of the Middle Ages.
Continental breakfast at the Lido bar: healthy breakfast
Before departing from the excursion I enjoyed a lovely continental breakfast in the Lido bar, which is conveniently located on the top deck of the ship next to the pool. This was the first time I had breakfast there, I must say that the difference in variety and quantity compared to the Terrace café is huge. Nevertheless, a continental breakfast is certainly healthier and lighter; plus the location is quiet and relaxing. Ideal for someone who wants to read their paper in peace or enjoy the sea view.
The food available for the breakfast is:
- Selection of Danish pastries and muffins
- Fresh bread
- Jams and honey
- Milk and juices
- Coffee and tea
The sun was shining and the view was stunning. A perfect balance between modern and old architecture: on one side, the old cathedral of Marseille, in black and white marble, on the other side the newly built modern complex hosting museums and art galleries and in the background the magnificent Notre Dame church up on the hill.
Excursion from Marseille to Avignon
My group was supposed to leave the ship at 9.10am to go to Avignon by bus for a full day excursion. We left on time and were advised that the journey would take approximately one hour and a half. The transfer was pleasant and our guide talked about the history of Avignon and the villages we were passing through.
As we arrived at Avignon, we saw the famous "Pont de Avignone" upon which the famous French song is based. The Papal palace was just a short walk from there.
We got into the palace relatively quickly, the guide warned us that some of the steps were quite unstable so if anyone did not feel like entering he was happy to wait for us at the restaurant or in some cafés.
The Papal palace was the main seat of the Pope, in contrast with the Vatican city in Rome, between 1305 -1378. Subsequently it became a prison. The Papal palace was very grand with frescos from Giovannetti, a famous Italian artist, whose signature was the deep blue colour.
The palace was majestic, sumptuous and enormous. Nevertheless, due to its troubled history it is now bare so you need to use a lot of imagination to picture how it looked during its glorious days. The visit was very interesting and some of the rooms in the palace still preserve their original beauty: unfortunately it was not possible to take pictures of these. One room was particularly remarkable with frescos about the daily activities of noble men, such as hunting, peaking fruits from trees and fishing.
Lunch in a local restaurant in Avignon
After the visit which lasted approximately 2 hours we went for lunch in a beautiful old French restaurant just outside the Papal palace, the place was rich in charm and it featured some antique pieces such as the marble basin.
Lunch was included in the tour, so pretty much everything was included in the cost of the cruise. To start we had a light salad with tomatoes and feta and some bread with warm local cheese. As a main we had a typical french dish which was new to me: HachisParmentier, a dish made with potatoes and beef, which is considered the equivalent of the English Sheppard's pie. For dessert, a nice tart with red berries and crème patissiere.
I was happy with the menu because we tasted something local, something difficult to find outside of France.
After lunch we had 45 minutes of free time to browse the local souvenir shops. Then we went back to Marseille by coach.
Back to the ship after excursion from Marseille to Avignon
We arrived at ship just after 4 o'clock. So this gave us enough free time to take part in one of the activities in the journal.
4.15 pm Tea time with melodies from Deborah
4.30 pm Pilates with the Spa manager, Afa
4.45 pm Afternoon quiz
5.15 pm Lecture "The Gothic art and architecture of France" by Hugh Ellwood
Whilst the tribes of northern Europe were viewed as barbarian invaders by the south and their capture as something foreign, nevertheless their Gothic art and architecture produced a tradition on a monumental scale which lasted for centuries throughout several countries. The structural principles of Roman architecture were developed along more innovative lines and resulted in magnificent cathedrals like Notre Dame, Chartres, Reims and Amiens.
The other options available were to enjoy some sunshine by the pool and perhaps grab a drink at the bar. The rest of the group decided to take this option and I decided to watch the lecture from my cabin on the TV the day after. In fact, on Voyages to Antiquity cruises, if you miss a lecture on board, you have the opportunity to watch it from the TV of your cabin the following day (it is on repeat all day long!).
After sunbathing and a quick shower, we were ready for dinner at the Marco Polo restaurant. At dinner the atmosphere was very relaxed as usual, we did not have to wait to get a table. I must say that during the cruise we never once had to wait to eat, we were always served quickly. The menu was amazing, I had a cream of Porcini mushrooms which was divine, it actually contained real PORCINI, which is not always the case on cruise ships. Halibut fillet with vegetables was my main and again was absolutely gorgeous. As for dessert, I went for the sugar free version by having aChocolate roulade with orange sauce, a very delicious one! I am incredibly happy with the dinners served in Aegean Odyssey and the wine and soft drinks are complimentary during dinner which is always a great bonus.
After dinner we fancied a bit of entertainment, so we went to the Ambassador lounge. The night featured a tribute set of songs by Neil Sedaka with the cruise director, Richard Syke: the lounge was packed. Everyone stayed for the whole show, approximately 45 minutes. Richard was absolutely brilliant and not only he was singing but also playing the piano.
The entertainment finished at about 10 o'clock and as usual we went for some drinks afterwards in the Charleston lounge. We didn't stay too long as the following day we had a whole day of excursions planned in the wonderful towns of Carcassone and Narbonne.