Michelle Baran was on the Amadeus Provence for a preview a river cruise itinerary designed to appeal to young travelers.
Sometimes the best surprises in travel come wrapped in the least assuming packages. That is absolutely the case with Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, an indoor food market in the southern French city of Lyon that is a must for any foodie.
What looks like an uninspired box-style building from the outside is a buzzing marketplace inside that houses countless stalls selling top-quality produce, meat and cheeses as well as gourmet prepared foods and gorgeous baked breads and desserts. To say that I had market envy is an understatement. (Seriously, even though Northern California is known for its excellent cuisine, why do we not have anything that even comes close to this?)
Rows upon rows of delicious-looking French cheeses were among the many gourmet delights on display at Lyon's indoor marketplace. © TW photo by Michelle Baran
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to spend a morning at this epicurean heaven as part of an Amadeus preview itinerary designed to attract millennials. I was ogling and tasting the French provisions alongside three fitness, health and wellness-focused social media influencers who were broadcasting the experience to their followers. Those followers have the opportunity to book an Amadeus river cruise that the influencers themselves will host. Those upcoming cruises will incorporate many of the activities we experienced over the course of this one-week sailing on the Rhone River in the south of France.
Through the lens of these influencers, who are in their 20s and 30s, it's easy to get a quick snapshot of the types of experiences that are resonating with the next generation of travelers.
While our younger group of travelers was eating our way through Les Halles (hey, I was just following the lead of the fitness gurus, okay?), the rest of the passengers -- representing the more typical river cruise demographic of people in their 50s, 60s and 70s -- were offered a more traditional city tour of Lyon. I'm sure it was an absolutely lovely excursion. I'm also sure I was having more fun on mine.
Health and wellness social media persona Mike Bledsoe snaps a photo of chickens on display with their heads and feet still intact, indicating the freshness and quality of the birds. © TW photo by Michelle Baran
As part of our market tour, the chefs from the Amadeus Provence had us follow along as they picked out ingredients for a cooking lesson they would host later that afternoon. They showed us how to know whether a fish is fresh (the eyes, gills and texture of the fish tell a lot), and which veggies are currently in season in France (asparagus!).
Back on the vessel, they hosted a private tasting and cooking demonstration that highlighted regional specialties such as escargot, French cheeses, grilled tiger prawns, oysters and something that was new to me, baba au rhum. I won't ruin the surprise for you. Maybe you can just blindly buy some baba next time you are in Lyon.
Ence (with the camera), fitness guru Christmas Abbott (to Ence's right) and Bledsoe (to the right of Abbott) watch as the Amadeus Provence chef shucks local oysters. © TW photo by Michelle Baran
Having been on many a river cruise, it's been a treat to tag along with a group of people to whom this is a new experience and who are planning to introduce river cruising to a new demographic. Added bonus for this younger river cruiser: The more active elements to the itinerary are holding me accountable to my own fitness goals. So stay tuned for my next dispatch about how I got my butt kicked at a CrossFit gym in Avignon.