ABOARD AMADOLCE-The AmaDolce visited two places: first, Blaye, a quaint little town with a 17th century citadel listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. In the afternoon, the ship would dock in Bourg-en-Gironde, built during Roman times and still living inside medieval walls.
So in the morning, I strolled the streets of Blaye and found the place pretty quiet. It was a Monday, in August, and many places, except for the fabulous and very fragrant bakeries., were closed.
Blaye, like many towns in Europe, has those little trains that do tours with commentaries, so I hopped aboard one that would meander through the town and then climb up to the 17th century citadel, which stands on the ruins of an ancient Gothic chateau. Planned and built by the famous military architect Marquis de Vauban, the Citadel complex covered 230 acres and almost formed a small city of its own. And, of course, since it was a military stronghold, the Citadel offers panoramic views of the river and surrounding countryside.
The wine lecture (and tasting) of the day involved Bordeaux wine. I abstained from sampling, though when our host, Christopher Silva of the St. Francis winery, later offered a taste of his vineyard’s port, I couldn’t resist. It was sublime.
When the ship docked at Bourg-en-Gironde at 3:15, I headed straight for the little train that would tour this designated Village Ancien (ancient village) that stands some 66 feet above the river. As an important military fortification, it, too, offers spectacular views of the port and the lower parts of the town.
Testifying to Bourg’s military history are monster concrete oil tanks built in the cliffs by the Germans during WWII to re-fuel their war ships based in Bordeaux.
On a lighter note was the 1828 wash-house, the laundromat of the early 19th century, nicknamed “The Parliament” because the women of the town hung out for hours, exchanging gossip while they did their wash. Nearby is the still-flowing ancient Roman spring that feeds the wash-house.
In the early evening, the ship’s guests were invited to a Fete du Vin at Bourg’s Maison du Vin.
And to keep the food and wine flowing our evening meal aboard the ship was a Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner. AmaWaterways is the only river cruise line that has been inducted into the prestigious culinary organization that was founded in Paris in 1950 to honor the traditions of the Royal Guild of Goose Roasters, originally chartered in the 13th century.
The dinner, like all the meals, was over-the-top; one of the entrees was an entire rack of lamb, gorgeously sauced and accompanied with picture-perfect vegetables. The recommended dessert was the classic French custard known as a floating island.
I know that at this time, some people are wary of traveling in Europe, and especially in France, yet with every day that passes, I am so very glad that I’m on a beautiful boat, cruising two historic rivers.