At noon we stopped in Beaune, the wine capital of the Burgundy region of France. From outside the medieval town walls, we saw the distinctive glazed roof tiles of the Hotel Dieu, a 15th century hospice for the poor which was still in use until 1970.
|Rooftop of Hotel Dieu, Beaune|
We enjoyed a walking tour through the streets of the picturesque town.
The warm sunshine was wonderful after the rain we'd had in Paris. So we lunched outdoors and enjoyed two of the regional specialities.
|Le Galion, Beaune|
The Boeuf Bourguignon was tender and flavourful and the Kir Royale (black currant liqueur and sparkling wine) refreshing.
After lunch we had the option of joining a tour of Hotel Dieu (Hospices de Beaune) or a sampling of regional wines. We chose the wine tasting at the Marché aux Vins.
|Marché aux Vins, Beaune|
|Wine Tasting, Beaune|
It was a short drive from Beaune to Chalon-sur-Saone, the town on the Saone River where we boarded the MS Avalon Scenery for our river cruise through Burgundy and Provence.
The check-in process was very efficient. We had upgraded to a stateroom on the Sapphire Deck with floor-to-ceiling windows and a French balcony, and when we opened the curtains the resident swans welcomed us.
|Swan on the Saone River, France|
After settling into our stateroom, the first order of business was a mandatory safety drill. Then we assembled in the lounge for a welcome meeting with sparkling wine and canapés, followed by the Embarkation Dinner in the dining room.
|La Dinde Rôtie (Roast Turkey)|
|Orange Panna Cotta with Strawberries|
The meal was very good, with several courses and plenty of options on the menu, and there was no shortage of the complimentary wines. (The Georges DuBoeuf, Vin de France Rouge 2009 was a favourite.) More expensive vintages are also available at an additional cost, but we enjoyed the included wines served during the cruise.
|Georges DuBoeuf Wines|
After dinner I spoke with our Tour Director about the optional excursions that would be offered during the cruise, in particular the excursion to the lavender fields near Gordes. It was the reason for me to be here in France in the heat of July. It's on my bucket list!
He had terrible news. Due to heavy rains, the lavender had been cut and the excursion would not be available.
Next: Tournus and the Mâconnais