With just over two weeks until we sail with Viking River Cruises on an itinerary themed Portraits of Southern France, we’re getting excited. Working hard to prepare for the experience, we took Viking up on their recommended reading list, tapping a variety of sources for rich background information. Reading now complete, these books will be coming along with us also, to supplement what we experience along the way.
Viking’s recommended reading list brought about as deep of an understanding of the places we will visit as possible without actually going there. To get a good overall idea of where we were going, I highlighted our itinerary on the Rhone Valley Map sent along with our Portraits of Southern France package ($69) purchased through Longitude books. I’ll buy another map when we reach Viking Hermod in Avignon, France; this one produced by Viking River Cruises. One of the few optional items to buy on board, the Viking map is one to have and keep with you throughout the voyage.
Knowing we would be sailing through the famed region of Burgundy, I was especially interested in Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher‘s Long Ago In France, about her three-year stay in the region. Her work highlights the notion that food and wine are very much a part of life in France, weaved together in a number of ways we might very well see first-hand on our visit, if we know what to look for.
Province is a geographical region of southeastern France on the left bank of the Rhone River that we will be visiting on our Viking River Cruise. A Pig In Provence by Georgeanne Brennan provides good reason to savor each meal in France with interesting and informative narrative about this enchanting part of the world. The author of many cooking and gardening books, Brennan details a different Province food in each chapter, tipping us off with information on not-to-miss culinary opportunities we might experience along the way. Goat cheese and Bouillabaisse top the list.
Not really very interested in history when the topic came up in elementary school, I have come to appreciate the subject more in recent years. Maybe its Viking’s destination-focus or maybe its because I have lived through a lot of it now but history is all of the sudden interesting. Still, I need help with studying it and found just that in The Road from the Past, suggested reading from Ina Caro. Mixing history in with the details of a driving trip Caro began in Province and ended in Paris, she goes further than we will. Still, written from an American point of view, Caro’s trip visits places in chronological order as they appear in history, which makes a whole lot of sense to me.
Also focusing on Province, a more standard travel guide resource from Eyewitness Travel with pick-and-choose information on specific places we will see on our 8-day river cruise. Cutwaways and floor plans from major sites, a huge selection of restaurants we might want to try along the way as well as festivals that will be happening when we are there are highlights. One of our favorite things to do on any trip is to find a sidewalk cafe or local restaurant to enjoy, if not spend the day at. This Eyewitness Travel guide gives us just that.
Why bring this reading material along with us on the trip? I know this will happen: we are at an amazing destination or some obscure place that was covered in one of the above and I will forget the details. Also, having fact-filled resources at hand makes for easy caption ideas on photos posted to Instagram, Facebook and elsewhere; something I am horribly bad at including. In the past, I figured “a picture is worth a thousand words” and passed on captioning. Apparently a picture may very well be worth a thousand words but a few are a good idea anyway.
Another good idea before visiting this part of the world: brushing up on wine knowledge, as we see in this Viking video: