Our trip down the Mighty Rhone River – despite dire warnings, we loved it

From Lyon the Saone river converges with the Mighty Rhône River, and becomes one river.  From the Saone we went through the huge lock of de Pierre-Benite and onto the Rhône.

With this amount of water forging its way towards the Mediterranean the flow can be strong, so instead of our usual sedate speed of 6/7 km/h we hit 14 and felt like we were sailing, speeding. It was fun!  Until la Mistral wind turned the river into a sea.

Love the tranquility of barging along with only the odd camper and/or fishermen along the banks.

Passing villages mostly with lots of vineyards on the hillsides.  However, despite all the vines, lots of natural bush remains.

There aren’t a lot of places to moor along a river such as the Rhône, so planning is needed.  Our first stop was at the village of Chavanay on the pontoon you can see in the distance.

With very few boats around or inhabitants, swimming in the water in 38 degree heat was wonderful.

Such a free feeling to swim in the river

Then a ride into the village – France is big on cycling (of course!) and there are many dedicated cycle paths, clearly marked – such as here.  It’s a pleasure to cycle in France, the cars give one a wide berth. I believe if you hit a cyclist, it’s lock up and throw away keys …

We rode into the village and found the only place open, a very pretty Gustation bar, a tasting bar. 

And a very pretty young woman advised us on the local wine to taste

Local wines.  Each region in France is proud of the wines in their area, and because of the terroir, a words which encompasses the earth, the layers in the earth (lime, clay, ) the water , each wine has different flavours, which the locals are quick to distinguish and point out 

Pretty and QUIET mooring that evening

And on to the next town called Tournon-sur-Rhône .  I don’t think this setting can be beaten.

The old castle built on a rock of granite

A walk to “The Garden of Eden”, which was a monastery and until recently had monks living there.  Then after it was abandoned, it was bought by a keen gardiner, and tons of good soil and loving care makes it a little piece of paradise, restored to a rambling magical beauty.   I was enchanted. You climb stone stairs up many levels on the sides of the hill, and the reward is the views. There was an “angel” in red singing sweetly, we could hear her voice singing throughout the garden. Prayers from long ago, Religious Icons and water features make the presence of god tangible.
 

As you climb the steps through the garden, the views are spectacular.  Two of the four original look out towers remain.

Idyllic “garden rooms” along the way, with lots of water features creating tranquility 

The views from the garden

Then a walk to the old castle and great views again. Another tower with the icon of Mary protecting her inhabitants 

I went for a walk the next morning before we left as I wanted to walk over the First Suspension Bridge” ever built.  

The suspension bridge invented by Marc Seguin, the first of its kind, (built in 1825)

Nearly 200 years old, still strong

Taken from the aft deck into the sun as we were leaving, 

All of Robs 4 wind apps warned that la Mistral vent was about to race through the valley.  We ran for cover and tied up in the hamlet of Saint-Etienne-sur-Rhône ( I love the word hamlet, described as a few houses with around 60 inhabitants). We tied every rope and our chain to the floating pontoon.  Sojourn rocked and rolled as the wind gusted up to 70 km p h

It was completely unpleasant on board, so off we went into the hamlet and found a really cute restaurant – the village square in the background and locals out walking their dogs.  Always time in a village for a lengthy chat.

A really good home made meal, with my favourite dessert, creme brûlée 

And accompanied by local wine of course!

The village square

Rush hour traffic in the village 

I couldn’t resist taking this photo of a lovely local young woman walking home along the cobbled streets in high heels, tres chic!

And one day of little wind so we scuttled off the pontoon heading for Avignon and adventures into Provence.

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