Transcript for Episode 442: Mediterranean Cruise, a Trip Report

Category: Provence

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 442 – quatre cent quarante-deux.

[00:00:22] Annie Sargent: Bonjour. I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France. Everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy and news related to travel to France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:36] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Helen Talley-McRae about visiting French ports on the Mediterranean by cruise ship.

[00:00:44] Annie Sargent: If you’ve ever been on a cruise you know that shore time is limited, so you need to make lots of choices. Where will you go once you get off the ship? How will you get around in port? What are the best places to visit on French ports? Helen does a great job explaining all of that.

Podcast supporters

[00:01:02] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app. And you can browse all of that at my boutique

Review of the Latin Quarter tour

[00:01:21] Annie Sargent: Someone left this review of my Latin Quarter tour:

[00:01:24] Annie Sargent: Annie, I’ve listened to many of your podcasts, but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to do one of your tours. The Latin Quarter tour was fantastic. You can talk me around Paris or any city anytime.

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No magazine section

[00:01:43] Annie Sargent: There will be no magazine part of the podcast today because I need to produce two episodes today, the one you’re hearing today, and the one you’ll hear next Sunday. This is because of the France Bootcamp taking place this week , and I’ll be sure to record fun bits to play on the podcast for episode 445to be published on June 11th.

New patrons, Thank you!

[00:02:03] Annie Sargent: But I do want to thank new patrons who make it possible for this podcast to keep going and allow me to spend my time thinking about ways to make the France experience better for Francophiles.

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[00:02:50] Annie Sargent: And I would love to play more voice feedback on the show. If you have a question or comment, record a voice memo on your phone and email it to me annie@JoinUsinFrance.Com and I will play it on the show.

[00:03:03] Annie Sargent: Just yesterday, someone sent me this email:

[00:03:06] Annie Sargent:I’m very interested in working with you, but before I commit, I wonder if you have references from people who have used your Itinerary Planning Service. I didn’t see any refs on your website. You have a super professional site and seem really approachable and knowledgeable, but I’d feel a little more secure if I do my due diligence”.

[00:03:28] Annie Sargent: This person is correct. You have to do your due diligence, especially since I charge enough money for my Itinerary Service, I mean, it’s not couch cushion change. I should probably put reviews on my website, but there are only so many hours in the day and I have no idea how to do this well, so it always gets sent back to the backburner.

[00:03:50] Annie Sargent: Honestly, I get more than enough business from podcast listeners without spending energy on a slick review system. But I wrote back suggesting that she listened to feedback I played on the podcast from two satisfied customers, and that did it. She wrote back a few hours later saying: “I’ve had a great feeling about you from the get-go and your customers praise clinched it”.

[00:04:14] Annie Sargent: So listeners, people who have used my itinerary service, your genuine audio feedback is priceless. So please, if you’ve walked my tours or bought an itinerary service from me and it was helpful, record a voice memo and send it to Annie@JoinUsinFrance.Com. Merci beaucoup.

Next week on the podcast

[00:04:34] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse Rivin about aviation in France. Lots of it happened right in our neck of the woods in my fair city, Toulouse.


[00:04:55] Annie Sargent W: Bonjour, Helen Talley-McRae, and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:05:01] Helen Talley-McRae W: Bonjour, Annie. Thank you for having me.

Visiting French ports on the Mediterranean by cruise ship

[00:05:03] Annie Sargent W: Lovely to have you. Today, we have a topic that we haven’t done that often, I think only once before, visiting French ports on the Mediterranean by cruise ship. So this is not something we’ve talked about enough and so I’m delighted to be talking to you.

[00:05:19] Annie Sargent W: I want to hear all about your cruise, what was the specifics of the cruise a little bit, to some extent. But also what ports you enjoyed, because people will be going there by cruise or not by cruise, so those tips are also very good.

Why a cruise?

[00:05:32] Annie Sargent W: Why did you decide on a cruise to begin with?

[00:05:35] Helen Talley-McRae W: My husband and I, the last time we traveled to France was in 2019, and we had every intention of returning in 2020. And so, you know, that didn’t happen. By the time we went on this cruise, it was September of 2022, so not long ago. And it was also a big anniversary of my husband’s, a big milestone birthday.

[00:05:57] Helen Talley-McRae W: So we just decided, there’s several places in the Mediterranean we’d love to see.

[00:06:02] Helen Talley-McRae W: And we talked about going on a cruise. So we just said, let’s find one that has places we’d like to go. I’d never been on a cruise before. And partly because I didn’t like the idea of the huge mega ships.

Choosing a Viking Ocean Cruise

[00:06:16] Helen Talley-McRae W: And I’ve been to Mexico, but I’m just not really a beachy Caribbean kind of person. We looked into some, into quite a few. I love to plan traveling, so I enjoy looking at things. We ended up picking a Viking Ocean cruise that started in Rome, Italy, and then ended in Tarragona, Spain, which is a little bit south of Barcelona.

[00:06:42] Annie Sargent W: Very nice.

[00:06:42] Helen Talley-McRae W: It was seven nights and three of those nights are in France. Well, there’s one in Monaco, which I know is a different country, one night in Marseille and one night in Sète.

[00:06:52] Helen Talley-McRae W: Those were actually our favorite places, the French ports.

Viking cruises

[00:06:55] Annie Sargent W: Did you like the Viking cruise?

[00:06:59] Helen Talley-McRae W: We really like, I mean, again, I have nothing to compare it to as far as other cruises.

[00:07:04] Helen Talley-McRae W: But we did really like it. I will say just in general, I don’t plan to do it again. I think it was a great experience. It’s something you dream about and think, oh, it’s going to be amazing. And it was really nice. But it wasn’t for me necessarily to, you know, my style of traveling.

[00:07:21] Annie Sargent W: It’s really interesting that I’ve talked to other – we have friends who went on a Viking cruise years ago because she wasn’t sure about cruising either, and they’ve since gone back on several Viking cruises, but they – like the same reasons that you listed, you know, it’s a smaller ship, it’s nice service.

[00:07:39] Annie Sargent W: I mean, Viking cruises are more expensive than most other cruise ships, and it’s only adults, and there’s a lot of stuff, and Viking is all-inclusive, right?

[00:07:50] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yes, all of the food was included, which was great, we didn’t have to worry, like the only thing that would be different is if you wanted higher end wine or liquor or beer, so we didn’t pay for that extra package because we were fine with just the house wine, so to speak.

[00:08:07] Helen Talley-McRae W: And you can reserve a couple nights in these like higher end restaurants, fine dining restaurants. You don’t pay extra, but you have to make a reservation. But other than that, there’s several places to eat on there. I think we had, I think the maximum on their Ocean ships is about 800 passengers, so that’s much smaller than a lot of the big ones. And as far as, real quick, when you were saying about the price, and it was definitely more expensive than what I’m used to spending on trips. But when I looked at the other small ship lines that visit French ports like Seabourn and Windstar and Oceania,

[00:08:48] Annie Sargent W: Oh, there are more.

[00:08:49] Helen Talley-McRae W: Viking was, yeah, there are a lot more.

[00:08:51] Helen Talley-McRae W: And a couple of folks we talked to on the ship, we met some really nice folks from England that we made friends with. And they’ve gone on 16 Viking trips, and it’s just what they do,

[00:09:05] Helen Talley-McRae W: what they do for their vacation. You know, and then some Americans who said, they really liked it much more than other cruise lines they’ve been on.

[00:09:12] Helen Talley-McRae W: So if you’re interested in going, if you, like we were thinking, this sounds like a fun thing to do, I would definitely recommend it.

Shore excursions with Viking

[00:09:20] Annie Sargent W: Well, and the other thing that Viking does that other cruise ship lines don’t is that they include some shore excursions. Because I’ve cruised Carnival in the US, and – Royal Caribbean and Norwegian we’ve done in Europe, and they don’t include any shore excursions.

[00:09:38] Annie Sargent W: So that’s good that some are included.

[00:09:41] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, and that was a little tricky, for sure. There were some things about that. So I started looking at this over a year before. And I know one of the things that was kind of frustrating was I had my heart set on this one excursion when we went to Marseille, that would be going to the Camargue and Arles.

[00:10:04] Helen Talley-McRae W: And by the time I went to book it, they didn’t offer it anymore. So I was disappointed, but of course, the alternative was still wonderful. We went to a couple of places in Provence, and those were extra compared to the included one, like you mentioned, they had some included ones where maybe it’s like two hours walking in Marseille.

[00:10:28] Helen Talley-McRae W: So they vary quite a bit as far as included ones. And also, even though they’re included, they still have a limited number of spaces.

[00:10:38] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, you have to sign up.

[00:10:39] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, and depending on how much you spend is when you get to sign up. So the folks who get the suites, they get to sign up first.

[00:10:46] Helen Talley-McRae W: So if all of them fill up by the time it gets to your window, you may not, even though it says it’s included, there may not be anything available.

[00:10:56] Helen Talley-McRae W: So you’ve got to take that with a grain of salt.

Pros and Cons of going on a cruise

[00:10:59] Annie Sargent W: Right. So you listed some very good pros and cons of going on a cruise rather than staying in hotels. I’d like you to go through that because that’s something people need to think about.

[00:11:08] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, sure. I will start with the pros. I do like to be positive. I don’t want to sound like I, you know, I’m pooh-poohing this trip because it was a wonderful experience, but I’ll just go through these.

Pros – Getting to visit many different places in one week

[00:11:18] Helen Talley-McRae W: And the pros were getting to visit so many different places in one week.

[00:11:23] Helen Talley-McRae W: And then having simpler logistics, we didn’t have to book separate hotels and transportation between locations. And once you’re on the ship, you just unpack once for the whole trip.

[00:11:34] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, that’s definitely a big, big plus of a cruise. You don’t have to think much.

[00:11:38] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yes. And it was a really nice stateroom and our service was excellent. We were really glad on a side that there were no COVID mask mandates in place at that time. All of the staff were wearing masks the whole time but we were fortunate that we didn’t have to wear. The only time the entire trip we had to wear masks were on our plane, on our flights, and on any buses that we went on tours in Italy.

[00:12:08] Helen Talley-McRae W: And that was it. So that was lucky. Yep.

[00:12:09] Helen Talley-McRae W: And so we had a veranda stateroom. So it was nice to always have the sea views from our veranda, from our room. So we picked the side of the ship that we knew, depending on the direction would be facing the port is the way that we wanted to do it. You can kind of think about that.

Pros – Non stop access to foos and entertainment

[00:12:31] Helen Talley-McRae W: Let’s see. And then the consistency of service and having easy availability of food. So if you know you had jet lag and you were off on the times. When you wanted to eat, you could just eat whenever.

[00:12:44] Annie Sargent W: You eat when you want.

[00:12:45] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah.

[00:12:45] Helen Talley-McRae W: There’s access to pools, spas, they had some little bit of entertainment and port and history lectures. Pretty sure they don’t have nearly the kind of entertainment they had on the big ships, like they definitely don’t do casinos, they don’t have that. So it’s not quite the theme park type of environment that you get in some other places.

[00:13:07] Annie Sargent W:It’s classier.

[00:13:09] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, I guess so.

[00:13:10] Annie Sargent W: They probably have like a jazz bar or something.

[00:13:13] Helen Talley-McRae W: They do. Yeah, they actually do. And they are definitely very, you know, push the whole that it’s Norwegian, the design of everything is very clean Scandinavian design and all that. So you definitely know you’re on a Norwegian ship, even though everyone spoke English.

[00:13:29] Helen Talley-McRae W: Also along those lines it was interesting, I would say on our ship anyway, it was probably like almost 50/50 British and American. There were, I’ve heard a few other guests that spoke in different languages but I was kind of surprised how it was almost all Anglo speakers so I guess that’s who they market to.

[00:13:51] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, of course.

Pros – onboard medical center

[00:13:52] Helen Talley-McRae W: And so a couple more pros, the variety of shore excursions we kind of talked about earlier, and then they have an onboard medical center. My husband bumped his toe on the suitcase in the hotel in Rome before we got on the ship.

[00:14:06] Helen Talley-McRae W: And by the time we got on the ship from walking, he was like, I got to go to the doctor.

[00:14:12] Helen Talley-McRae W: So, it was good that we were able to have a doctor check it, he x-rayed it and basically it didn’t spoil the trip. He just took it easy like one day didn’t go to Florence with me and he was fine after that.

[00:14:24] Annie Sargent W: That’s a big plus.

[00:14:26] Annie Sargent W: All right, let’s talk about the cons now.

Cons – the price

[00:14:28] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, so I had kept track of our trip that we went to Paris in May of 2019 and that was for our 20th wedding anniversary so that was also kind of a special trip.

[00:14:39] Helen Talley-McRae W: Plus my husband had never been to Paris before.

[00:14:42] Helen Talley-McRae W: So, we stayed in a nice hotel near the Pantheon, that had kind of a suite, it was really nice. We stayed there for about the same amount of time as the cruise was. And it was, I would say the cruise was about 50% more than what we spent for that trip to Paris.

[00:15:00] Helen Talley-McRae W: And that we also had to pay in full almost a year before we traveled.

[00:15:06] Annie Sargent W: That’s right, the cruise you have to prepay, yeah.

[00:15:08] Helen Talley-McRae W: So it was, I would say at least 10 months that they had all of our money which was a lot. And we did book it in a way that we got insurance and all that. Because at the time we booked it, it was still worrisome that COVID would just totally ruin our plans so we took a lot of precautions.

Cons – too little time at each location

[00:15:27] Helen Talley-McRae W: Another one is just, really this was a big one, is just too little time at each location and being so restricted by the cruise ship schedule. If you like a place, you can extend your visit. We didn’t really get to get as good of a feel of the place as we would usually do and prefer.

[00:15:48] Helen Talley-McRae W: We’re usually more adventurous when we travel on our own and these visits were just a little superficial. It was kind of a drive by feeling so wasn’t really our style.

[00:15:59] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, you definitely don’t want to miss the boat.

[00:16:01] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yes, that’s literally. Yeah. And so because we weren’t staying in a hotel we kind of felt detached from the places,

[00:16:09] Helen Talley-McRae W: because we were just there, you know, just stepping off and going around for a minute and then we didn’t, because I went with my mother to Ireland, years ago on a bus tour. And it was a similar experience where you’re going around like, every other night maybe you’re changing hotels, but it was much better to me than the cruise experience because you still had time between your organized activities to, oh let’s go to a pub for dinner by ourselves, things like that. You just had more enough time to see everything.

[00:16:45] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, that’s true, you’re always rushing. When you’re on a cruise ship, you know, you have to run.

[00:16:49] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah. So I can see that for some people, it’d be just right, and maybe it’s just, they just want to say, oh I’ve been to Monaco or something. That would be perfect for them then.

Cons – ports not close to the places you want to visit, time too short

[00:16:59] Helen Talley-McRae W: So number four I put some ports were not close to the places we visited and we had to rely on the shore excursions or shuttles to travel from the ship.

[00:17:09] Helen Talley-McRae W: And, you know, you couldn’t just walk off the ship and be where you wanted to be to visit.

[00:17:15] Helen Talley-McRae W: We only had that, we did in Monaco just by total chance happened to get a port right there in town but still you have to go through security, so it ‘s not like this: oh, I’m just going to, like in a movie you’re going to step off and there you are.

[00:17:31] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, no, it’s true, it’s true.

[00:17:33] Helen Talley-McRae W: Tours were pre-planned, that we pre-planned on our own for some of the ports didn’t work out because of logistics that we didn’t have any control over.

[00:17:43] Helen Talley-McRae W: And so, you know, I had heard like Rick Steve’s saying, hey if you go on a cruise like book your own tour when you get there. And so one of the ones in Italy like I had booked a free tours by foot so I didn’t really pay a lot of money for it. But it was, I thought I would get there in time, because the excursion took us there and just dropped us off and said okay see you in six hours.

[00:18:08] Helen Talley-McRae W: But the place that they dropped us was the other side of Florence from where the tour was meeting, and I had 10 minutes to get there so that wouldn’t work.

[00:18:20] Annie Sargent W: That was disappointing because then I ended up just walking around by myself with no tour. That’s when a VoiceMap tour would be really good.

[00:18:28] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yes, I should have found one for Florence.

[00:18:30] Annie Sargent W: There’s probably walking tours of Florence on VoiceMap. I haven’t checked, but probably.

[00:18:35] Annie Sargent W: That’s perfect, because you can just show up, and you can just download it, and that’s something to do, right?

[00:18:41] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, exactly. That’s a great idea.

Cons – The food

[00:18:44] Helen Talley-McRae W: Okay another one was the food was really not as quite as good, all the time, as it was advertised. And that’s in spite of several people on the ship saying, this food is so much better than on other cruise lines.

[00:18:57] Annie Sargent W: Mm.

[00:18:57] Helen Talley-McRae W: And I love food, but I’m not a food snob by any means. I’ll say the thing that really kind of put me off the food a little bit was that it must have been kind of salty because I got swollen ankles, which I never have.

[00:19:12] Helen Talley-McRae W: I don’t know if that was a combination walking so much, but I felt like maybe it was pretty salty food, I don’t know.

[00:19:19] Annie Sargent W: It didn’t agree with you.

[00:19:20] Helen Talley-McRae W: I mean, in general it was really good if I hadn’t had that side effect.

[00:19:24] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, that’s not a good side effect to have, no, it’s not.

Cons – too many lights on the ship you can’t see the stars

[00:19:27] Helen Talley-McRae W: And then, this was also, this was kind of another sort of fantasy thing that was a disappointment in reality was, we usually were sailing when it was dark, and we went too far from land to see much except maybe some lights further away. And it was also so, there were so many lights on the ship, like we couldn’t really see the stars.

[00:19:49] Annie Sargent W: Mm. Right. Right.

[00:19:51] Helen Talley-McRae W: My husband had been in the Navy in the Mediterranean long time ago, and kept saying, oh, I can’t wait to get to see all the stars because when he was on a Navy ship they turn all the lights off at night.

[00:20:02] Annie Sargent W: Yeah.

[00:20:03] Helen Talley-McRae W: So that was like, oh, shoot.

[00:20:05] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, that’s too bad, yeah, I agree.

[00:20:07] Helen Talley-McRae W: But the neat thing was I was able to follow Google Maps, followed where we were going so I could see even in the ocean like, oh that port must be, you know, Marseille or wherever.

[00:20:19] Helen Talley-McRae W: So that was neat.

[00:20:21] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, that’s cool.

Cons – the weather can change the itinerary

[00:20:22] Helen Talley-McRae W: Just a couple more here I’ve got, this didn’t happen to us thankfully, but sometimes the weather or other conditions can change the itinerary. We were super lucky with our weather. The only day that it rained was just one day in Pisa.

[00:20:36] Helen Talley-McRae W: We were super lucky.

[00:20:37] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, that’s happened to me on a cruise, that weather made it impossible to dock, and that’s it. You’re not docking.

[00:20:43] Helen Talley-McRae W: That’s right, that’s right.

[00:20:45] Helen Talley-McRae W: So really, that was pretty much my list.

[00:20:47] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, those are very good points, and you know, one of the things that you said about the artificial kind of feel, you don’t really feel there. When we go on a cruise, we haven’t in years, but next time I go, I just want to go on a cruise around the Mediterranean, because then I don’t even get off at the ports, because I’ve seen them so many times.

[00:21:08] Annie Sargent W: I just want to be on the ship and read my book and go to the pool and be pampered and do absolutely nothing.That’s a great vacation for a few days. I wouldn’t do that for days and weeks on end, but it’s so much, but I don’t even get off, like, unless it’s a port I haven’t been to, but you know, Civita Vecchia, how many times do I need to go into Rome? Like, I’ve been there lots, so…

[00:21:34] Helen Talley-McRae W: Well, yeah. And I think because I love to travel so much and had never been to any of these places.

[00:21:41] Helen Talley-McRae W: I was just, all I wanted to do was get off the ship and be somewhere.

[00:21:46] Helen Talley-McRae W: I really did not appreciate what was available as much as like you were saying which some of our friends that I mentioned that we met.

[00:21:55] Helen Talley-McRae W: I don’t know, I think the husband got off the ship maybe twice you know, but they, it’s also much more affordable and easy for them to get from England to anywhere in Europe. You know, then an American coming, I mean we, we met some folks from Arizona, and they had to take three flights to get to Rome. And I was thinking, wow, we had one flight direct 10 hours from Atlanta. It’s a lot if you’re coming from far away but

[00:22:23] Helen Talley-McRae W: I think the experience you’re saying, if I really wanted that I would go for a cheaper one maybe closer to home.

[00:22:29] Annie Sargent W: What I look for is when I walk by places that advertise cruises, I just go and look and see if they have cruises that leave Barcelona on a new ship. Like, I just want the newest ships and one that I haven’t been on. And then I don’t even care where it’s going, because it’s going to go to all the the same places and it’s just very relaxing.

[00:22:50] Annie Sargent W: To me, it’s the best way to empty my mind, empty my brain for a week and just, I don’t have to pick up after myself. I don’t have to plan any meals. I don’t have to, nothing.

[00:23:02] Helen Talley-McRae W: That’s a great point, it’s like being on a floating resort.

[00:23:06] Annie Sargent W: And it would get really old, it would get really really, old after a while, but seven days is fine.

Favorite places

[00:23:11] Annie Sargent W: So now let’s talk about the places you went and your favorites, because that’s really important and that’s going to help people, whether they are on a cruise or going there by themselves.

Visiting Sète

[00:23:22] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yes, yeah, absolutely. So, I ranked our top six experiences that we had and so really our favorite place was just when we went to Sète. And just walking around, eating, relaxing, just kind of, you know, experiencing what the town was like a little bit. We did go on the included excursion, little tour that just oriented us for a couple hours.

[00:23:50] Helen Talley-McRae W: They use local guides and all the guides except for one that we had were excellent. When we had he was just kind of going through the motions. But the lady in Sète was lovely, and we had a really nice, nice experience there. I know some other folks on the podcast have mentioned this before but being in southern France, it seemed like people were more apt to let you try to speak French than in Paris where they might imediately answer you in English so that was kind of fun because I got to practice my limited French so I appreciate that.

[00:24:30] Annie Sargent W: Where did the tour guide take you around Sète?

[00:24:33] Helen Talley-McRae W: We met her at the outside of the port and went across. I’m sorry, I don’t remember all the names of the canals but she took us and showed us some of the canals right by the port and explained about the jousting tradition, and how busy it is in the summertime with other visitors who come to see that. I forget when that happens.

[00:24:57] Annie Sargent W: The jousts, I think they’re in July, but you’d have to check, yeah.

[00:25:01] Helen Talley-McRae W: She talked about that and she took us up to the fisherman’s cathedral. Forget which saint it was named for. So we walked through the town, we walked through the market which was really nice. It’s really cool to see all the fresh produce and all the fresh seafood is amazing.

Cimetière Marin

[00:25:19] Helen Talley-McRae W: And then we went up to the cemetery and looked at that a little bit, and…

[00:25:25] Annie Sargent W: Was she walking you all the way to the cemetery? Oh, wow.

[00:25:28] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah,

[00:25:28] Annie Sargent W: Yeah. Because that ‘s quite a way.

[00:25:29] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, it was good and you know on every tour we had, there would be people that you know, by the time the tour ended, you didn’t see them anymore so we weren’t sure if they dropped off because they were just tired or bored or distracted.

[00:25:47] Helen Talley-McRae W: So that was kind of funny to see how many people were left by the time. And they didn’t keep track so if you like left, you’re just kind of on your own. So that’s, I guess another thing to think about, they’re not going to babysit you.

[00:26:00] Annie Sargent W: No, they’re not counting heads every few steps, no, this is not children.

[00:26:04] Helen Talley-McRae W: So, yes, I did that and then back down to the port and then we just went to a cafe and had some coffee and then my husband got really adventurous. He doesn’t speak any French and he said I’m going to go get us some pastries.

[00:26:19] Annie Sargent W: Oh, good.

[00:26:20] Helen Talley-McRae W: Because the cafe didn’t offer pastries but he told us, the waiter said, oh you can go, you know, 100 yards, meters down the street and you can find a patisserie. So Keith went there and he’s like, I’m not sure what I got but let’s try it. It was really fun, we had a good time and then we just walked around some more and then found a place for lunch and just really relaxed and enjoyed it.

[00:26:46] Annie Sargent W: That’s great.

[00:26:47] Helen Talley-McRae W: People were very, very nice there, it was really laid back.

[00:26:50] Annie Sargent W: I wonder if you remember who she took you to see at the Cimetière Marin, the cemetery, because I think that’s the one where, oh, what’s his name, the singer, Georges Brassens, and also there was a poet. Oh, what poet was it? Oh, I’m going to hate myself for not remembering this.

[00:27:11] Helen Talley-McRae W: I read about them and I’m also forgetting their names, but I will say she didn’t take us through the entire cemetery. She stopped inside, just inside and said, would anyone like to go, you know, walk around and not really people just kind of stood there. So she just told us more about customs and things like that. And she did point out when there is a lot of specific blue on some of the monuments, some of the mausoleums. And I don’t know if it was specific to Sète but it was a really pretty marine blue and there was an artist who I’ve also forgotten his name, but his film is almost as soon as you walk in the cemetery and he is known for his colors.

[00:27:58] Helen Talley-McRae W: He didn’t die too long ago so he’s a recent artist.

[00:28:02] Annie Sargent W: So the name I was not remembering is Paul Valéry, he’s a French poet, and so all the French people would know about him. And it’s a beautiful, beautiful cemetery, as far as cemeteries are concerned, this is one of the nicest ones. And Sète, in general is just a gorgeous little town, and it’s so full of charm. You walk by those canals and you see the little boats, and it’s just gorgeous.

[00:28:23] Annie Sargent W: They’re friendly people, they smile when they talk to you, it’s really fun.

[00:28:27] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, it was really down to earth and even though we were tourists and there were plenty of tourist things around it didn’t feel like, oh, I’m just in this complete tourist zone. Oh, we went into that big square that’s so neat with the giant octopus fountain.

[00:28:44] Helen Talley-McRae W: That was just neat. And just seeing like people walking with their kids or walking their dog, so we just got a feeling of, little bit of a feeling of how it would be to live there. And we were like, oh, I could live here.

[00:28:57] Annie Sargent W: Yes, yeah, it’s a really nice town, a really nice town.

[00:28:59] Annie Sargent W: So in the show notes for this episode, there will be more details of all the places, but we need to move on to the second place you enjoyed. But people can go to the guest notes, it’s called, and see everything you went through.

Provence tour

[00:29:12] Annie Sargent W: All right, so about your second favorite place in France?

[00:29:16] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, so we were fortunate that the day that we went on the Provence tour that it was a Wednesday, which is the first place we went was Saint-Remy-de-Provence. And we were really fortunate that was market day in the morning. So that was amazing to go around and frankly,

[00:29:37] Helen Talley-McRae W: that was only one of two times I really had a good opportunity to buy some little gifts or things that I was looking forward to take home, because every other time we were so busy and it was really nice to buy things from actual local French people. Some of them didn’t speak any English and it was great. I mean, I just again felt a little more of a taste of what it would be like to spend more time in this place.

[00:30:07] Helen Talley-McRae W: And obviously because it was market day,

[00:30:09] Helen Talley-McRae W: she didn’t take us, our guide didn’t take us on a guided tour of the town, she just sort of, we were only there for about an hour and she said, oh, just meet us back here and enjoy the market.

[00:30:21] Annie Sargent W: Really, I mean, Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, what else are you going to do? If she had told you about, oh, this famous person lived in this house or whatever, you would have forgotten all of it. And really, the market is so pleasant, like, yeah, enjoy the market.

[00:30:34] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, it was really cool and the theme of this tour in Provence was in the footsteps of Van Gogh.

[00:30:41] Annie Sargent W: Because, of course.

[00:30:42] Helen Talley-McRae W: He went many places in Provence.

[00:30:44] Annie Sargent W: Oh, dear. Yes, he did. In search of lunch, mostly.

[00:30:48] Helen Talley-McRae W: It wasn’t a super exhaustive tour about Van Gogh but all of the places we went, he had been so that was how that worked.

[00:30:56] Helen Talley-McRae W: I think so because actually, you can probably tell me, if I skip ahead to Les-Baux which is where we went that same day, I don’t know if he ever went there but it was just nearby.


[00:31:06] Helen Talley-McRae W: So, I guess I’m kind of going back in order on my list, Monaco Ville.

[00:31:11] Helen Talley-McRae W: We didn’t want to go. When my husband said, I’m really excited about Monaco, I was like… eh …because I just had the, mostly had the impression of the glitzy Monte Carlo consumer boutique situation which is totally not my interest, and the casino and all that stuff. So I was so pleasantly surprised that the old town, they were telling us it was called Monaco Ville, was much more like a old French city, then what we could see on the other side, which was the Monte Carlo area.

[00:31:50] Annie Sargent W: It’s very small. It’s all very, very small. I think Monaco is what, three square miles or three and a half square miles? It’s very, very small. It’s all on this hill, so you have these elevators everywhere, and steps, obviously. But they have put in elevators to go just about everywhere. So, if you don’t know where they are, you have to look for them, because you’ll be dead by the end of the day if you take all those steps.

[00:32:14] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, as I said, we were very fortunate that our ship got right there at the port and we didn’t have to go back and forth on the boats. And so our guide, we went on a little short orientation tour that only went to the old part of the town as well.

[00:32:31] Helen Talley-McRae W: So we just kind of went with that and that way we knew where to go and how to get back and then we kind of similar to Sète just spent a lot of time eating and relaxing and looking around and enjoying ourselves.

[00:32:44] Helen Talley-McRae W: The views were incredible, and one of our favorite things was the garden, the park that’s right on the edge that has a lot of native succulent plants. It was incredible. It was so pretty.

[00:32:59] Annie Sargent W: Yeah, the garden is beautiful. You didn’t make it to the, what was it called?The aquarium, yes.

[00:33:05] Helen Talley-McRae W: We didn’t go in there just because, so it wasn’t on our tour, and we just again we were kind of thinking this would be cool but we just felt like we had such limited time. And that’s like another theme throughout the trip, that a lot of, also because the weather was so nice, didn’t go inside a lot of places that were on our tour because I just was like trying to absorb some of the atmosphere of the town, rather than saying, Oh, I’m going to spend three hours in this museum or something.

[00:33:35] Helen Talley-McRae W: But we did and one really neat thing on the tour, she did take us in the Cathedral and Princess Grace, of course is buried there, and it had just been the, I think 40th anniversary of her death. There were flowers on her tomb and I know I told you my mom was from France and my grandmother loved Princess Grace. She was obsessed with all that royalty stuff so I grew up learning about her and Princess Stephanie, Caroline and all that so that was really special to see all that. It’s also a beautiful church, with a beautiful organ. I love the organ in that church. It’s beautiful, yeah. That.

[00:34:16] Annie Sargent W: Yeah. So you also recommend a few places where you ate, but we’re not gonna get into that people can look at your, as your at your notes, because we got to move on to number 4.

[00:34:28] Helen Talley-McRae W: So four was just, you know, really just seeing a little bit of Provençal countryside. Like, I just, again, I’d never been there and taking the bus through the different places we visited. It was just, you know, beautiful to see some olive groves and to actually see this place that you hear so much about, and it was beautiful so it’s great to see that finally.

[00:34:51] Annie Sargent W: So, this was a drive, or in general, every, you know, on various drives that you took.

[00:34:56] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, well it was on the Provence bus tour, that was a full day so that was like an extra that we paid to go on this tour. Because this was from the port of Marseille, and where our ship docked in Marseille was very industrial and we never actually saw the city itself, which was weird.

[00:35:18] Helen Talley-McRae W: It just felt weird and I was like, I’m here but I’m not here.

[00:35:21] Annie Sargent W: I was just wanting to say that the cruise port in Marseille is truly far away from the city. Like, you know, it’s a 20-minute bus ride or something. It’s far.

[00:35:31] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yes. And so the tour buses meet every morning right at the ship. So, you know, the only time we left the port for a tour on foot was if it was a walking tour. So, this one to Provence, we just got on the bus and take off onto the motorway and there we are off in the country.

[00:35:52] Annie Sargent W: That’s nice, that’s nice.

Lunch at Le Mas d’Aigret

[00:35:54] Annie Sargent W: I have a question about number five. You say lunch at Le Mas d’Aigret. So, what town was this in?

[00:36:01] Helen Talley-McRae W: So this was, this is a hotel and restaurant at the base of Les Baux-de-Provence And so this was all arranged, was included in our tour. Our tour guide had it all set up. On that day that we went on the Van Gogh tour it was, we went first to St. Remy, and then my final thing on the list jumping ahead is, we went to the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole,

[00:36:27] Helen Talley-McRae W: which was where Van Gogh had stayed in the sanitarium later at some point in his life. Then after that we went to have lunch, and then visited Les Baux after lunch.

[00:36:40] Annie Sargent W: Very cool. Yeah, that’s good because I never know what place to recommend in Les Baux-de-Provence because it’s so touristy. But that’s good to know that that one was good.

[00:36:49] Helen Talley-McRae W: It was nice, I mean it was a fixed meal. It wasn’t like we just ordered whatever we wanted. They had a three-course meal and wine. Everyone sat down and they were served the food and they ate it or not. And I was very happy with it, it was lovely.

[00:37:05] Helen Talley-McRae W: It was a really neat place because it was, the room we were in was kind of like a cave, so it had been cut into the mountain, I guess.

[00:37:15] Annie Sargent W: Nice.

[00:37:16] Helen Talley-McRae W: Yeah, it was really nice. And I looked on their website and they do have, you know, quite a few rooms there to stay and you could just walk from there to Les Baux.

[00:37:29] Helen Talley-McRae W: And in fact, our bus driver got in trouble from the police because they thought we were trying to just leave the bus somewhere at the restaurant. And you know, that he was like illegally parking but anyway, so it’s that clear that people will be tempted to do this.

[00:37:48] Annie Sargent W: Yes, and so, at Les Baux-de-Provence you visited the village and did you go to the projection Les Carrières de Lumière?

[00:37:54] Helen Talley-McRae W: No, we did not do that. That wasn’t included and there wasn’t time and I’m sorry because I heard you talk about it one time and it sounds amazing.

[00:38:04] Helen Talley-McRae W: So, I have to do that another time.

[00:38:06] Annie Sargent W: Another time. All right, well sounds like you had a lovely cruise, even though it was your first one. Obviously, you might not choose to do that again, but it sounds like you had a lovely time.

[00:38:16] Helen Talley-McRae W: It was wonderful and like I said, to just see all these places that I had never been before was fantastic. When I think about if I did do another cruise I think I would do a river cruise and probably go with, is it Croisi?

[00:38:30] Annie Sargent W: I don’t know the river cruises as well.

[00:38:33] Helen Talley-McRae W: Ah ok. It’s a French company C-R-O-I-S-I Europe, I think. They look more affordable and little more down to earth and, you know, just more my style I think. So that’s probably, if I do that again, will try them.

[00:38:51] Annie Sargent W: That’s wonderful. Well, thank you so much for talking to me about your cruise around the Mediterranean, because I think that this is something lots of people want to do.

Typical passenger for this type of cruise?

[00:39:01] Annie Sargent W: One last question, though. Who do you think cruises like yours are best for? What’s your typical passenger that will have a great time on those?

[00:39:10] Helen Talley-McRae W: I think, especially if you’re coming from the US, if it’s kind of a trip of a lifetime like you don’t, maybe you’ve never been able to afford to go to Europe or you’re not confident to travel on your own, I think it could be a fantastic trip for somebody like that. And also, maybe people who just like that resort feel that want to see more than one place.

[00:39:36] Annie Sargent W: I agree. Thank you very much, Helen.

[00:39:38] Helen Talley-McRae W: Thanks Annie. Thank you so much.

[00:39:41] Annie Sargent W: I hope you come back to France at some point.

[00:39:43] Helen Talley-McRae W: I plan to visit my cousins in Paris and Brittany in September.

[00:39:47] Annie Sargent W: Wonderful. Merci beaucoup.

[00:39:49] Annie Sargent W: Au revoir.


[00:39:57] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.

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Category: Provence