This morning we woke up and it was nice and sunny with less wind. Today we have our second Active excursion. We boarded a bus to head over to Val d'Enfer for our hike. The name comes from the unique white limestone rock formations. We learned that this location was the inspiration for Dante's inferno. The hike was so much better than the bike ride! It was a nice climb with lots of wonderful views to stop and see along the way. At the end we visited the old quarry which now hosts the Carrieres de Lumieres which was just amazing! You entered what seemed like a cave with lots of perfectly flat walls and many square columns. The show started and it was a moving collage of Van Gogh paintings set to music that were projected all over the walls, ceiling, and floors. You felt totally immersed in the experience and I just couldn't stop looking everywhere to take it all in. I could see how some people might feel a bit dizzy though. Our guide mentioned that the show changes every year so make sure to visit again next time we are in the area. I really enjoyed the Van Gogh theme since it really seemed to tie in with everything else we have been seeing in Arles. The Discovery option for today option was a painting class where you got to paint in the same spot as Van Gogh once painted. The Classic option today was a tour of Arles with a bullfighter who took them into the Roman arena and explained the games they do there with the bulls.
We arrived back at the ship for lunch and since it was so nice the ship offered a bbq lunch on the top deck which was just perfect. After lunch we headed back into Arles to do a little shopping and exploring. Arles is a very old town with lots of Roman influence. We explored the arena which looks like a mini colosseum and they still do bullfighting in there. We learned that it is not the same as the Spanish bullfighting though in that they do not kill the bull but instead it is more of a game where were are pulling the ribbons from the bull. There are plenty of shops and cute French cafes to enjoy. We did have to be back onboard before dinner time because the ship was moving onto our next stop, Avignon. On the way we did go through our first lock and it is a tight squeeze but we made it.
We only had the one night in Marseilles, and the transfer to the ship left at 10:30 am so we didn't get a lot of time to explore here and I am a little bummed about that. I would definitely go back to Marseilles. Our transfer to the ship was included with our pre-night stay we booked as part of our package which was nice since it was about an hour ride. We are boarding the ship in Arles where we have free time that first day and we set sail at 4:30 am. Our first stop is Port Saint Loius and this will also be our first active excursion choice.
Let me back up a little to explain what makes this cruise different from an ordinary Rhone Cruise. This is an Active Discovery cruise and it is the first time Avalon is doing this type on the Rhone. For all my Disney fans Adventures by Disney is doing something very similar next year (so I am sort of giving you a preview of what that might be like). On your typical river cruise you will have maybe 1 or 2 included excursions to choose from each day and most times they will be a pretty basic walking tour of the city you are stopped in. On the Active Discovery cruise we had at least 3 included options, and most times more than that. There is always the Classic type option similar to what is offered on the regular cruises. We also had Discovery options where you are doing a bit more hands on and in depth learning about something in the area, such as painting where Van Gogh painted or making your own chocolate bar. There is also an Active option which includes things like Biking, Hiking, and Canoeing.
Our first Active choice was for biking in the Camargue Regional Nature Park. I was expecting a scenic bike ride along the nature park where we might see the pink water along with the flamingos and wild horses. I was wrong, it turned out to be a rather strenuous 15 mile ride in total. We biked to a ferry that took us across the river over to the park and then we biked pretty much to the end of the park which was close to the delta of the river. Here we got off the bikes and walked through some areas of the park to see birds and learn more about the landscape. It was interesting to learn that the land we were standing on came down from the Alps and really is only a few hundred years old. Before that the area we were standing on was under the Mediterranean Sea. After that we hopped back on the bikes to go back the same way we came. The wind was not cooperating at all and actually seemed to shift just in time to be in our face both coming and going making the ride less enjoyable. After this ride I am not sure I would sign up for another Bike Ride on an Active cruise without asking how far we will be going. Some of the other options for today were a hike around the nature park which we heard was about 5K and doesn't sound like they saw much more than we did. Another option was a visit to the Oyster farm on the nature park.
After lunch the ship headed out for us to sail through the Camargue a little before going back to Arles. It sounds like we are one of the only ships to do this. We arrived back in Arles in time for people to opt to eat dinner in town if they chose. We headed to bed early after that exhausting bike ride and a hike on the schedule the next day.
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