If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

Day Six of My Great Viking Adventure Part 2: Provence…and not the one of Québec

Sanary-Sur-Mer,  Picture Postcard Perfect 
         Today we visited the town of Toulon, the headquarters of the French Navy, the departure port for ferries to Corsica and Sardinia and a perfect jumping off spot to the magical places of southern Provence.  Every Viking cruise, whether on rivers or sea, offers a tour that’s included in your fare.  Then to satisfy the special interests of its passengers there are any number of optional excursions.  Today you could go as far as Aix en Provence, or tour Marseilles on your own.  Because I am taking this trip to create articles for The Daily Meal, all of the excursions I’ve chosen are food and wine oriented.  Today’s was no exception.  Off I went with about 25 other passengers to two stops:  the fishing village of Sanary-Sur-Mer and the tiny town of La Castellet, in the heart of the wine country of Bandol.  Viking guides are always locals, people who know every idiosyncrasy of their home towns and the region surrounding them.  Today, a very pretty Frenchwoman named Audré was ours. To me, her wonderful French-accented English added so much to the charm of her commentary.  But some Americans, who make up about 90 oercent of the ship’s passengers, seem to feel that now that English is the lingua franca of the world, everyone speaking it should sound like they just graduated from Harvard.   Despite the frequency of “What she say?”s,  which only made it harder to hear Audré, she forged ahead sprinkling her talk with information about everything….from history to botany to fables, myths and mysteries of this incredibly scenic part of France. 
All that’s missing to make these radishes truly French
is a little butter.

          First came Sanary-Sur-Mer; a town favored by retirees with less cash and less interest in flash than most of the better-known Côte d’Azur towns like St. Tropez, Nice and Cannes.  The harbor bobbed with tiny pleasure and fishing boats. Plunked right in the middle of town was a food market filled with the produce of the sun-filled part of France.  There was cheese and charcuterie, pastries, breads and, of course, fish of every description. And there were dozens of locals parading the market with their little dogs on leashes, beautifully turned out as ‘women of a certain age’ always are in France.   I stopped to chat with one of the vendors who has family in Quebec, which he has visited multiple times.  It was wonderful to hear him say how much he loves it there.  And I was able to say that we were ‘égale’ since “J’adore France.”

Though the walls of Le Castellet,
the vineyards of Bandol

        Off we went to the hill town of Le Castellet, an ancient medieval fortress inhabited since the 12th century.  The town is picture perfect, almost too much so, and would be very much at home in Disneyland.  But the views of the valley, filled with olive trees and vineyards were magnificent.  This is the Bandol region, which produce the A.O.C (Appellation d’Origine Controllée) Rosé, considered one of France’s finest. 

         From the town, we drove down to Domaine de Souviou, a winery and olive oil operation. There we saw 1000-year-old Olive Trees still producing immense quantities of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  There were 6000 Olive Trees in total and after a walk around the place, we were brought to a tasting room where we were given a lesson in wine making, tastes of the three wines produced there (Red, White and Rosé) and of two olive oils from two olive varietals.   All these were on offer for sale along with an enormous variety of olive oil-based soaps and creams and lotions as well the olive oils themselves.   I succumbed to the soap.  Every time I open the drawer that I keep it in, I am overwhelmed by the scent of Verveine, a ‘house fragrance’ for Andrew and I.  Back to the ship and the spa. Next stop: Monte Carlo.

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