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

Sunset On Chateauneuf du Pape. © 2014 Avid Travel Media
Sunset On Chateauneuf du Pape. © 2014 Avid Travel Media

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.

[Moment allowed for the preceding sentence to sink in.]

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 each day between now and June 26 for updates of how we are spending our days.


At New York’s Le Rivage, Louis Le Jacq (left) and Marcel Denamiel, owner of Le Rivage.

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


Off and running: My son Alex graduated from high school and is ready for real life. My advice: Eat chocolate – and lots of it. It worked for Jeanne Calment.

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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