Tending vines the old-fashioned way: still a familiar sight in French provincial vineyards

31 October–7 November 2013


The late autumn of 2013 saw us enjoying the luxury of an exclusive boat on France’s River Rhône (and part of the Saône), cruising in style aboard the five-star Amadeus Symphony operated by Lüftner Cruises. We took a  leisurely pace through the wine-growing country of Burgundy and Provence, and although our original plans were thwarted by heavy rains, meaning we were unable to pas under a couple of key bridges, the cruise company quickly re-arranged our timetable, and very little of the itinerary was lost. We were treated to spectacular riverside scenery  and delicious on-board meals and wine.

Musically we were in the care of conductor Brian Kay and accompanist Maria Marchant, and our main work was Gounod’s St Cecilia Mass, with a few madrigals thrown in for a change of style. In addition to daily singing sessions afloat, we had the opportunity to sample local wines in various locations, including Beaune and Châteauneuf-du-Pape during our numerous shore excursions. We also visited the spectacular Roman aqueduct at Pont du Gard, the magnificent Palais des Papes in Avignon, and Cluny Abbey. Our plan to perform the Gounod Mass in Avignon’s Basilique Saint-Pierre was the single casualty of the high water levels.

Comments from participants:
‘Everything about the whole week was super – the food, the re-arrangements, the excursions and guides, the friendly and efficient crew, the ship itself, not to mention the singing led by Brian and the lovely Maria.’ SH, Guildford