Off To Barge In The South Of France, Mon'Ami Lou & Alex, The Graduate

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Off To Barge In The South Of France, Mon'Ami Lou & Alex, The Graduate

On Monday, I’ll begin a journey from Asheville to Arles, where I'll play host to a small group as we explore the beautiful Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France — on a luxury barge. Wish you where there? Well, you had your chance didn't you?

Our trip begins in Arles, where we'll spend two nights in a luxury hotel in the village where Vincent Van Gogh lived during 1888 and 1889. The ill-fated artist was seeking refuge at a time when he was ill from drink and suffering from smoker's cough.

Of more interest to me is Jeanne Calment. She passed away in 1997 after living her entire life in Arles. Get this: Calment met Van Gogh when she was 13 years old.

For those of you who are astute at doing the numbers, you would have correctly deduced that Calment lived to be more than 100 years old. In fact, she lived much longer than that.

Born in 1875, Calment lived to be 122, the longest confirmed human lifespan on this planet. Her life is testament that there is hope for all of us — at any age. Calment took up fencing at the age of 85 and continued to ride her bicycle up to age 100. She consumed port wine, moderately, and less moderately, one kilogram of chocolate every week. She smoked, but only a few cigarettes a day, for 96 years of her life.

My favorite story about Calment, however, is when she signed a deal to sell her apartment to a lawyer on a contingency contract. In return for obtaining her apartment upon her death, the 47-year-old lawyer agreed to pay the 90-year-old Calment 2,500 francs each month until she died. As you might guess, she outlived the lawyer.

You can read more about Arles and our barge trip at this link. I'm planning on hosting at least two more luxury barge trips in 2016, so if you are curious at all as to what these trips are all about, check rivercruiseadvisor.com each day between now and June 26 for updates of how we are spending our days.

Mon'Ami Lou 

He's not 122 years old, but I'm beginning to think he may get there. His name is Lou Le Jacq, a youthful 85-year-old who I met on a cruise up the Loire river back in April. A former publisher and a writer himself, Lou has kept in touch with me since our time in the Loire Valley. When I mentioned I'd be in New York for a Seabourn announcement last week, Lou insisted on taking me to lunch at his "favorite restaurant," Le Rivage, on New York's Restaurant Row. I enjoy the company of this witty and kind man. "Heaven is going to be a let-down for you Ralph," he tells me when I recite my past travel experiences and future trips. Lou is proof that you can keep lasting friendships from your cruises — if you'll only make the effort to do so.

The Graduate 

A special congratulations to my son, Alex, 6'7" and a recent graduate of Asheville High School. At the tender age of 18, he is now ready to tackle life head on. His graduation tethered on a shoestring, however. A brilliant kid, Alex's learning style, and the demand that he get his big body out of bed each morning for 8:30 a.m. classes, didn't mesh well with today's modern education system. It wasn't until the day before graduation, this past Friday, that his mother and I learned for sure that he would walk across the stage with a diploma tucked under his arm. Look for Alex to do great things in life. My advice to him: Enjoy a little port wine and eat plenty of chocolate. Living in Arles is optional.

Give Alex a "like" on my Facebook page.

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From its perch on Columbus Circle, Thomas Keller's famed restaurant Per Se offers an outstanding view of New York's Central Park. I was admiring that view last night along with the big brass from Carnival Corporation, parent company of luxury line Seabourn. There with the likes of Micky Arison, Arnold Donald, Stein Kruse and Rick Meadows, was star chef Thomas Keller, the only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings in the prestigious Michelin Guide. Also in the celebrity spotlight, Adam D. Tihany, designer of the new Seabourn Encore as well as the restaurant in which we stood.

We were all there to hear details of a big announcement. Seabourn is bringing Keller's creativity to its fleet, beginning this fall with selections of Keller-inspired appetizers, entrees and desserts to be served in various venues on Seabourn Quest. By mid-November, all three ships will feature a number of menus by chef Keller.

The bigger news, however, was that read more.

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Cruising Alaska available at Amazon Kindle

When cruising the Alaska Panhandle, you will find that the major ports of call are becoming quite commercial with a plethora of gift shops and jewelry stores. The main streets of Ketchikan, Juneau and Skagway are starting to resemble St. Martin or Barbados with the same familiar retail establishments selling diamonds, gemstones and gold watches at so called "bargain" prices. …

Read more.

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Six Tips To Extract More Joy From Your Cruise

In this free special report, I’ve put together a half dozen actionable items that can make the difference between cruise vacations that are memorable and others that fail to measure up to all you had hoped they would be. I’ve cruised on hundreds of ships, as a solo traveler and with family and friends.  — Ralph Grizzle, The Avid Cruiser

Click to download the report.

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Complete this thought: My best packing tip for cruises is ... click here to answer.

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