Barcelona to the Somme - overviewJune 10 in Australia ⋅ 🌧 13 °C
19 May – 7 June “Barcelona to the Somme”
John has kept our daily diary of this amazing trip. This enabled me to get on with “washing the smalls” and resting up after our busy days. I would like to add some memories and observations on the very good times we shared.
Our accommodation was first class. The El Palace Hotel in Barcelona was very centrally located and reported to be the ‘best hotel in Barcelona’. The breakfasts at this hotel would have to be the best I have ever had (and I have had a few!). This proved a great venue to meet up with our new ‘tour’ friends.
Both the AmaCello and AmaLyra cruise boats were also fantastic. We were lucky enough to get a cabin with sliding doors and I found that after a busy day sightseeing there was nothing better than putting my feet up, a cuppa in hand, and watching the world of the river go past as we smoothly sailed along. At night this was the best sleeping tonic – both the fresh air and the movement. Sometimes you would see an otter or hear a cuckoo bird. The views were amazing of both landscapes and villages. In the morning you would wake to the birds twittering, swans and cygnets floating on the river, and the occasional rooster crowing when you sailed past a village. With the smell of freshly baked pastries or bacon wafting up from the kitchen in readiness for breakfast this was absolute bliss.
Each day there were off boat tours at the various villages and some venues of great interest. This offered a different view of the countryside to that on the boat. Lovely views, hundreds of miles of crops, plus inland villages and gardens. John has written in details of our selected tours so I won’t repeat things other than to say that the local tour guides provided were fantastic. Not only would we never have visited many of the places we saw if we were on our own, we would not have learned so much of the history, the local stories and highlights had we not had such amazing guides. They were really well informed, patient, amusing, and invaluable in making our days so good.
We needed very little cash as most meals were provided – either on board or at the various venues. We seemed to have three-course lunches and dinners on offer every day. We made friends with Paul and Trish from Sydney and shared many lovely meals (and laughs) with them. Paul was particularly partial to the ice-cream on offer. We had to join him, of course, and found they were so creamy and very addictive. We also found a passion for the French ‘baguette’ – French breads are really something.
Loved the French lace curtains in many of the older houses – have never seen them here but would love some for home.
We found each village and town to be very clean and well maintained. Oingt was pristine and I was really impressed that the wheely bins in this and neighbouring villages were a light brown/camel colour – to blend in with the colour of the stone buildings! We enjoyed a strong coffee in Oingt – or should I say “café au lait”. We had a lot of fun ordering in French at various places. One guide gave us the hint to ask for the bill early – l’addition – and we found this most helpful.
The weather was kind – mainly around 20 degrees with the odd cooler and warmer days. Rain threatened on a couple of days but it rained when we were under cover (in a boat or coach) and cleared for us to visit the planned sites. We definitely enjoy late May early June for the weather and longer days. It is also before the season is in full swing so less tourists.
It is hard to pick out favourite attractions as those on offer had been chosen very carefully to be interesting and have the ‘wow factor’. We enjoyed them all and were often not expecting such great experiences which seemed to double the ‘wow’. Despite the crowds at Monet’s garden it was one place I was glad I did not miss. I am still hoping to plant out our wetlands area with some colour and greenery to make it more attractive – not enough years left to produce the Monet look but we can do our best.
The staff on the boats were so friendly and helpful, the food on board kept amazing us, and the transition from boat to coach for daily tours and for return to the airport went smoothly. Like our last APT cruise, I am left with the feeling that if I never get to take another holiday I am happy as I have had another of the best holidays ever.