Vineyards, wine and stories
Aboard the riverboat, your stateroom is where you end, and begin, your day – but the real riverboat experience is what you discover from the riverboat’s many different vantage points you’ll find outside of that stateroom. Passing views of terraced vineyards, or fairy tale villages surrounded by a kaleidoscope of vines and stunning colors, or legendary wine estates surrounded by budding grapevines are always new. And once ashore, whether in Portugal or France, you’ll have vineyard experiences and tastings that match the views.
On our Portugal cruises, a guided walk through the terraced vineyards of Pinhão is the ultimate way to experience, and immerse in, the vineyards themselves. All along the Douro you’ll spy these amazing terraced vineyards; they reach their dramatic peak around Pinhão, and a guided walk enables you to see them up close. You can see how the local rock, schist, affects every aspect of wine production from the mineral composition of the soil to the formation of the terraces that protect the vineyards from erosion.
And along the Rhône, wine growing on the terraces found in Tain-l’Hermitage is classic. On French Escapade: The Riviera to Paris, there’s an opportunity to take an active walk through the heritage vineyards that overlook the town and the Rhône, accompanied by a local guide who explains the history of the region and the wine it is known for producing.
An interesting note about Tain-l’Hermitage – in addition to its vineyards, the town is known for Valrhona gourmet chocolate, sought after all over the world. On the opposite side of the river, Tournon-sur-Rhône is famous for its Saint Joseph wine, a bold red beloved by royalty. How far and forlorn the distance between the two towns would seem, how achingly unreachable Tournon wine and the best chocolate in France would appear to one another… if it wasn’t for Marc Seguin and his double-wire suspension bridge.
Marc Séguin (1786-1875) was not the first engineer to come up with a wire suspension bridge, but he and his brothers were the first to make it work on a grand scale. In the 19th century, most suspension bridges were held up by iron chains. The cables Séguin designed were made of woven iron strands, cheaper to make than chains, which evenly distributed the weight of the deck to tall slender towers. His bridge at Tournon, built in 1825, was the first of its kind in France, and the technology Séguin pioneered enabled majestic bridges of even longer spans, like the Brooklyn and Golden Gate. In 1849, Séguin built an identical bridge downstream from the first, and that is the one that survives today – the oldest wire suspension bridge in the world, uniting the vineyards of Tournon-sur-Rhône with the chocolate of Tain-l’Hermitage. And no more than a scenic stroll over the Rhône between them.