Aix-en-Provence, France

Our final shore excursion of the cruise took us from the dock in Marseilles into Provence. Our first stop was in the Luberon region, at the Val Joanis winery. We toured their award winning gardens and the cellar (a 200,000 bottle operation annually) and then had a tasting and lunch. They use mostly syrah, but must blend it according to AOC rules. Their best wine actually doesn’t carry an AOC designation, because it is 100% viognier. I also liked their 2003 mostly grenache blend. Lunch was excellent, simple provence style food, not too heavy, with a vegetable flan, lamb stew, and a fruit dessert.

Then we spent two hours in Aix-en-Provence (pronounced “X in Provence”), a beautiful town of 135,000 that is about 1/3 college students. We strolled through the medieval section, which is all trendy (and expensive) shops, and then sat at a sidewalk cafe, where we discovered that a Champagne cocktail can be something completely different.

The seas were high after we left port, with a 40 mile per hour gale, and there were quite a few green guests, but not us, as we headed for a farewell steak dinner in Polo. We’ll miss the ship, its great crew, and our nice cabin, which came to feel like home.