Our ship cruised north along the Rhône overnight and this morning, eventually returning to Lyon in mid-afternoon. The ship docked at the exact same spot where it was when we first came aboard. We had the afternoon free, and quite a few people left the ship to for some sightseeing, or perhaps some shopping, in Lyon. Marg and I just sat around in the lounge all afternoon chatting to the friends we’ve made on the voyage. They come from Kingston and London in Ontario, Canada, and Boseman, Montana in the United States. Other friends from Adelaide joined us later. We’ve all had different life experiences, but we all grew up in the same era, so it’s really easy to sit around and listen to each others’ stories and compare the similarities and differences of our various backgrounds. We’ve shared quite a few meals together (another couple from San Jose, California have been dining with us as well) and we’ve been out on the Freechoice activities together at times as well. A few of us have exchanged contact details and it will be good to stay in touch.
Our cruise director, Andreea, asked all 120 passengers to join her in the lounge while she explained the logistics for leaving the ship when the cruise ends on Monday. Her task in organising this was not a simple one, as she has had to organise transfers to the airport, railway stations and hotels for people either continuing their holidays or jetting back home to all parts of the world. Everyone on board needs to be at a specific location at a specific time. Andreea clearly explained how it would work. We each received a sheet with times to have our luggage ready for collection and departure times when a taxi or other form of transport would be waiting. For example, Marg and I have to be packed and leave our cases outside our room at 8.30 am, but can stay aboard the ship relaxing in the lounge until 2 pm when our taxi will arrive to take us to the airport. Our list was colour coded too, so that people leaving for the same location at the same time were all issued luggage tags of the same colour and will share the same transport to the airport or station. It was brilliant organisation and everyone seemed really happy with their particular arrangements. On the same day, the ship’s crew will have to get the craft and all of the rooms in tip top shape for the next group of passengers, who will be arriving and coming aboard at odd times throughout the day.
This afternoon was an opportunity to acknowledge everyone who works on board the ship – from the kitchen staff and the waiters to the engineers and maintenance crews. They’ve been outstanding – always smiling, always willing to stop and have a chat. Their service and demeanour has been outstanding. They were introduced in teams and paraded through the lounge to receive our applause. As good as the locations, the activities and the facilities have been on this cruise, I’d have to say its the people who work on board that have convinced me that this company would be my first choice if ever I travelled this way again.
We have one remaining Freechoice activity tomorrow morning before we finish the cruise, but after dinner tonight, everyone on board was invited to attend a special concert as an enrichment activity. We boarded our buses in the rain and followed a route that crossed the rivers a number of times before arriving at the Chapelle de la Trinité, the first church built in the baroque style in this city. With a glass of wine in hand, we took our seats.
An ensemble of young performers, all clad in black, strode onto the stage and formed a semi-circle. For the next hour, we listened as they performed a range of a capella vocal arrangements. The group is known as Ensemble Vocal Syllepse and they are led by the very talented Ophelia Besson. As you might imagine, in such a beautiful space as this chapel, the performance was something to really savour. The high domed ceiling and the chapel walls provided a sound quality that was clear and pure, allowing every individual note and every individual voice to be heard. I didn’t know many of the songs, but there were some Shakespeare sonnets and an Edith Piaf song in the set list.
My personal favourite, which unfortunately I do not know the name of, began with four singers on stage. Following one passage, they left the stage and walked down our flank to stand immediately behind the audience. At this point, the remaining vocalists stepped forward on stage and began to sing. The song proceeded with vocals coming from in front of and behind us. I was quite transfixed by it. I was pleased to see that at the concert’s end, there was a spontaneous standing ovation from the audience. The performers seemed genuinely delighted. They deserved it. It was a really enjoyable concert experience and I’m so glad it was included in our trip.
We returned to the ship by a quicker bus route. On the hilltop across the river, the lights of the basilica illuminated the night sky.