Valence at Port l'Eperviere

  Saturday, May 16, 2015 / Stephanie / Exploration  

Our stop at Valence was tremendously boring and we let ourselves get lazy at Port l'Eperviere.  But looking back, there must have been a reason for our lag because we were able to meet some fabulous sailors and learn valuable information about our future route.  Here's the scoop. Port l'Eperviere is a fantastic marina; it was the first port on the Rhone River and it remains the largest on the river having slips for 420 boats and being equipped with a travel lift.  There is a chandlery on site; so we were able to purchase stainless screws and an ant-siphon, completing two projects.  There is a Geant Casino (comparable to Wal-Mart) within a very short walk; so we were able to provision easily.  The port has showers and laundry; so everything aboard Detour became clean and fresh once again.  Best of all, Port l'Eperviere had the most fantastic wifi connection that we have experienced in France.  Oh yes, we binged!  And that was ok, during the beginning of our stay.  The forecast was terrible, calling for rain followed by a mistral.  We were at a safe location for a mistral and knew we had to sit tight until the wind blew through. After the mistral, a visit into Valence.  We walked 3km along the bike path to enter the city through Jouvet Park.  This 7-acre park is in the heart of Valence.  Jouvet Park was blooming with spring flowers and many, many people were out and about in the park on a sunny afternoon.     The bandstand in the center of Valence is classified as a Historical Monument.  It rests magnificently atop Jouvet Park, seen here after having climbed a series of stairs from the park leading up into the city.  The bandstand received its fame from a painter by the name of Peynet.  Apparently, Peynet painted a scene that he observed one evening at the bandstand during 1942.  The painter depicted a violinist who played for one, single spectator.  And so a series of paintings became known as the "Peynet Lovers."            It was lunchtime when we strolled through Valence, so shops were closed and street-side cafes were bustling.  We stopped at the Tourism Office and picked-up a walking tour brochure.  We found The House of Heads; a 16th century house with many heads carved into the facade, corridor, and courtyard.  The house is described architecturally as being a transition from the Gothic style to the Renaissance.  We sampled one of Valence's culinary specialties, a Suisse.  A Suisse is a soldier shaped pastry flavored with candied orange peel; it is a dry white cake with strong citrus, and pairs well with a cup of tea.  The shape of the pastry, the Suisse, has a 200 year old history.  As the Tourism Office brochure informs us; a Valence pastry chef created the Suisse as a tribute to Pope Pius VI.  The shape of this little man was inspired by the costume that Michelangelo created for the Vatican's Swiss Guard.  And that was Valence; two days of bad weather and one day of touring.  We were ready to leave and anticipated only two-three days more of trekking upstream in the Rhone.  But we could not leave.  The port captain (who was extremely friendly and has an August vacation planned for San Francisco, CA) had informed us that the very next day there would be some sort of testing at the power plant upstream of the Bourg-les-Valence lock.  The lock would release water several times in addition to ship traffic.  Therefore, the river flow would increase upstream.  We didn't really want to battle additional current if we did not have to.  Ok, so we will wait one more day...but, the port captain then informed us that May 1st is a French workers' holiday; all of the locks would be closed.  In fact, he told us that everything would be closed; locks, shops, the port office, etc.  And so two more days were added to Valence at Port l'Eperviere.  And since two days were added and the weekly rate was slightly better than the daily rate, you guessed it!  We paid for one week and settled back into our wifi binge (during which lots, and lots, of blog posts were produced). Then, one evening, we returned to Detour after a walk and found two small sailboats at our dock.  SY Just 4 Fun and SY Kristiane had just arrived.  We met Harold, our adjacent neighbor aboard Kristiane, and quickly got ourselves acquainted over glasses of wine and fluvial-carts of the upcoming journey.  Harold had just completed the route we are planning to take.  The following afternoon, we invited Harold and our neighbors from Just 4 Fun aboard.  It was a dreary day, but Detour was dry, warm, and had been brought to life with stories from everyone's very different adventures.  We were all about the same age, appreciated simplicity, and loved the sailing life.  It was great to get to know new friends and share information.  Meeting new people made the lazy stay at Valence totally worthwhile!  We all set out on the same morning, they south bound and we north bound, and hope to keep in touch as I'm sure we'll meet again one day.