AVIGNON… ARLES… AU REVOIR!

Well, in the words of William Jefferson Clinton, all good things must come to an end! (Oui, Monica!)  The time has come to bid farewell to France, and even though I enjoyed every minute, just in the nick of time…..  My liver is turning into foie gras and my brain into pate!  (All things considered, not such a bad way to go.)  Nevertheless, it is time to go, and I must say it has been quite a party.

Yesterday was spent in Avignon, once a Papal residence.  The old town is surrounded by a three-mile long wall fortified with 39 towers and a pair of pits.  (Or was that parapet?)  In any case, the place was built in the 13oo’s, which speaks well for the building unions of that time.  There are some cracks here and there, but by in large, it has held up well.  (Reminds me of a few mademoislles I saw!)  After an intriguing tour of the Papal Palace, we strolled over to Le Pont d’ Avignon, the most famous bridge in France.  French children learn to sing a nursery rhyme about the bridge at a very young age.  I think Simon and Garfunkel also wrote a song about the bridge.  Here in lovely Avignon I had the best coffee and quiche of my life, plus I met a guy in the village square who was the runner-up for Pope during the last installation.  (He took the defeat rather hard and is now selling postcards.)

Today was spent in Arles, which rhymes with “Carl,” but without the “C.”  (French ain’t easy!)  Arles has the most impressive Roman remains outside of Italy and Hoboken, New Jersey.  The town is simply stunning, and as some of you know, it is closely associated with a very famous painter named Norman Rockwell.  Wait, I got that last part wrong!  I meant to say Vincent van Gogh.

Poor Vincent led a troubled life.  If you ask me, he moved around too much.  (Dare I say that he was a “moving” van?)  So where, you might wonder, did Van go?  Well, he traveled all over France but spent 15 happy months painting in Arles.  I think this was after he cut off his ear, which the locals thought was “eerie.”  (I was going to go with “irritating,” but it was too easy.)  Walking around the old city, we actually got to see some of the locations that he painted, and that was very interesting.  The man was definitely talented, but he was no Olaf Weighorst.  (There was a man who could paint horses!)

This afternoon, we drove to a working olive farm (mainly because it didn’t make any sense to visit a non-working farm) and learned how olive juice, I mean, olive oil is made.  It was very “depressing.”  (Think olive press.)  By the way, the Countess thought that an olive press was the local newspaper!  Sometimes that girl is the “pits.”

All right, no more olive puns!

After sampling some great olives and olive oil, we drove up to a Medieval fortification and had time to tour a small, but fascinating museum dedicated to Grace Kelly!  (Her hubby was part of the Grimaldi family, which once owned most of the land in the area.)  The Mistral (cold winds) were acting up a bit, but we were still able to see many fascinating sites, including a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean.

Well, it is time to pack the ship towels, I mean, our clothes.  Tomorrow we take the High-Speed train back to Paris, spend the night, then fly back to New York City for some badly needed rest.  (This vacation wore me out!)  Thank you all for following my Elvis/Travel Blog for the last few weeks.  I have had over 1,000 blog hits since we landed in London, and at last count, I’ve heard from 33 different countries!!

I am VERY flattered that so many people took the time to read my blog!  Sincerely, I thank each and every one of you, and I hope I brought a little smile to your face.  You will hear from me soon…. whence I return to the Lone Star State and catch up with the mail!

Au revoir, my friends!

Monsieur Stephen…..  A homesick American!

MONSIEUR ELVIS IS EVERYWHERE!

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen…..  (I assume it’s morning!)

I have some truly amazing news to share with you today…..  THE PRESLEY PLOT is now being sold in the gift shop aboard our ship, The River Royale, and it has become an instant best-seller!  Granted, it is the only book for sale, but why does that matter?  Seriously, though, you can imagine my surprise when I walked out of the dining room last night and peeked into the gift shop and saw my own book in the book rack!  Who, I wondered, could have placed so many copies of my mystery novel on the shelves?  Well, why question “mademoiselle luck?”  Just go with the flow, as they say on the River Royale!

This evening is our “Epicurean Adventurer Dinner,” which means that our hosts will be preparing and serving some exquisite French dishes paired with the most famous French wines of the region.  Lord only knows how good this will be….. the food has been absolutely fabulous so far.  They did run out of pate last night, but I didn’t care, because I was traveling with Miss Pate!  (Patty)  Incidentally, they were kind enough to serve escargot last night, and as you might imagine, I consumed a fair share of the delicate little morsels.  (Not to be confused with mussels.)

This morning we arrived in a picturesque village called Tournon, and after a quick breakfast of shrimp and truffle eggs, we proceeded to Chapoutier Wine Cellars, to quench our thirst with some very fine wines from the world famous Saint Joseph Vineyards.  (Which ONLY date back to 1808!)  These folks produce some of the very best vino in the Rhone Valley, substantially better than the rot gut we drank in Burgundy yesterday.

By sheer coincidence, the good people of Tournon were holding their annual Onion Festival today, and we found that very “appealing.”  (The streets were lined with vendors selling all sorts of onion and garlic, as well as bread and cheese from different villages.)  Needless to say, we ate our way through town, stopping for…… oui, you guessed it, more wine!  (When I return to America I will be donating my kidneys and liver to medical science!)

This evening should be somewhat special for another reason…… the cruise director has asked me if I would mind being introduced as our “famous American author” during the opening wine ceremony.  As most of you know, I am very shy and humble, but I did consent to this honor.  (The rascal refused to let me make a short two-hour speech about myself.)  Before I close, I want to make a special birthday wish to my beautiful and talented daughter, Rebecca Lee!  The young lady is magnifique!!

I shall have to leave you now, as I must prepare for my big introduction!  I have written a SHORT acceptance speech, which I intend to deliver in French or my own native tongue.  (Whichever comes easier.)

Bon soir!  Best wishes to all……

The Marquis of Merriment!