Ardeche Gorge

Judi Travel Caricature It was mid-week on my Viking River Cruise to Lyon and Provence and it was nice to explore some of the smaller towns and areas along the River Rhône, including Vienne, Viviers and the charming region of Ardeche. Per my previous posts, the Viking team invited me for an 8-day voyage on the River Rhône this past May. My sister N was my traveling companion.

Hiking to the top of Vienne

”We’ll be going on an active walk,” said our guide Corinne. N and I were glad we wore sneakers. First we stopped at Cathedrale Saint Maurice, built over almost 500 years. The cathedral’s stained glass windows were destroyed during the French Revolution in 1789 and rebuilt years later. Some are still being refurbished.

Stained glass windows at the Cathedral in Vienne France

The stained glass windows at the cathedral in Vienne

Then it was time for the climb. Up, up, up we went. There were twists and turns. Up, up, up we went with another hill to conquer — I huffed and puffed. Up, up, up a little more. Phew! We finally reached the peak. It felt victorious looking out over the city vista. “We did it. We did it,” I said to N. “We reached Mount Pipet!”

Top of Mount Pipet, Vienne France

An expansive view of all of Vienne from the top of Mount Pipet

In Roman times the top of the hill was a vast sacred area forming a line of monuments with the theatre and forum below it.

Roman theatre in Vienne

The Roman theatre below Mount Pipet was being renovated

Before descending we stopped in the cathedral where the statue of Mary stands tall. “You pray to her and good things will happen,” noted Corrine. I figured I would say a few words to Mary so I asked her to heal my BF E who is getting over cancer treatments. (Ooh, ooh, ooh, I wonder if it was Mary who came through as E is now out of a wheelchair and walking with a walker.)

Mary statue at Mount Pipet in Vienne

Here’s Mary’s statue. If you’re in a bind and can’t get to Vienne, look at the pic and ask her for help.

The climb down was easier and we had a chance to visit the farmers market, tool around town and walk through the botanical gardens before our afternoon sail.

Strawberries in the Vienne market

We couldn’t resist the delicious fresh strawberries at the farmers market

A relaxing afternoon sailing the Rhône

One of the best parts of a Viking River Cruise is down time during an afternoon sail. It’s lovely to have a leisurely lunch and sit out on the upper deck or cabin veranda, read a good book, and relax as the ship rolls along the river. The Rhône landscape is especially rich with mountains of vineyards on each side.

Vineyards alongside the Rhone river

Vineyards were in full-view along the river

An escape to the region of Ardeche and land of lavender

The rainy cold weather didn’t deter us on the following day from venturing out into the Ardeche region to learn about lavender. “This is a full day tour,” said our guide Gigi. “We’re in the north and are going to the southern part of the region. It takes two hours to get there.”


Gigi giving lesson about lavender

Our guide Gigi was very knowledgeable about lavender

Upon arrival at the House of Lavender we were treated to a lesson on the different types of lavender including: fine lavender for everything from helping with headaches (drop some on a pillow and it won’t stain the pillowcase), for cooking in cookies and tea, or adding to perfume; spike lavender for medicinal purposes like massaging into burns, bug bites or sprained ankles; and laventine for household use in sachets and bathes.

While we did venture into the lavender fields, I have to admit that there was not a purple bud to be found. “The lavender blooms in July,” said Gigi.

Lavender fields in Ardeche

Lavender fields in Ardeche were not in bloom

I made up for my disappointment by buying up lots of lavender sachets and other souvenirs at the lavender shop. After all, I do love lavender and felt a certain responsibility to support the Ardeche economy.  Gigi provided a useful tip for when sachets lose their smell. “Crush the lavender in old sachets and it will rejuvenate,” she advised.

Gorgeous gorge and a Vogue walkabout

Finally the rain stopped and the sun peaked out. After a hearty lunch at Auberge du Pont d’Arc, we stopped to admire the Ardeche Gorge, known as the “Grand Canyon of Europe,” and see the Pont d’Arc, a massive bridge that spans almost 200 feet across the gorge.

Nancy and Judy at Ardeche Gorge

N and I in front of the Ardeche Gorge, one of France’s natural wonders

Before we knew it, Gigi was gathering our group for the ride back to the Viking Heming. “We have one more stop,” said Gigi. “We’re going to Vogue, pronounced vo-gu-ee. Lots of people rent summer homes here. Only 150 people live here full time.”

Village of Vogue in Provence

Vogue is a teeny-tiny village in Provence

While our day tour was about to be over there was no rest for the weary. A night tour was on the Viking schedule which would begin at 9:30 p.m. and we were on it.

Viviers night crawl

No early pjs that evening. N and I were up and ready to partake in a night crawl through Viviers. Walking through the sycamores and along the cobble stones, we both kept close by our guide Harriet. It was dark and we didn’t want to lose our way climbing up the narrow medieval streets.

At the top of the hill was a most magnificent view of the city. Harriet shared history about the area: “The Bell Tower is where the bishops kept all the treasures of the chapel. During World War II, resistance leaders came up here because they could have a good view of the countryside. However, Germans occupied Viviers during the war.”

Viviers at night

Viviers was beautiful in the night sky

A few more steps down and N and I would clock our 10,000th for the day. Nappy land was sounding pretty good.

There are only two more stops on our cruise: Arles and Avignon. Stay tuned I’m saving the best for last.

Au revoir mes amies,


* Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” Viking Cruises provided me with a complimentary press trip on the Viking River Cruise to Lyon & Provence. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.