Truffle Hunting in Pernod

Today, we set out on an exciting tour to go truffle hunting in the Pernod countryside, and to tour the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint-Emilion. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Today, we set out on an exciting tour to go truffle hunting in the Pernod countryside, and to tour the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint-Emilion. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”

– Paul Coelho

November 25, 2014

This morning, I was up and strolling the decks of Viking River Cruises’ Viking Forseti at 5:30 a.m. as we entered our third full day of explorations on Viking’s new Chateaux, Rivers & Wine itinerary. Somewhere in the distance was Libourne, France, which was completely obscured by thick, London-esque fog that surrounded Viking Forseti as she anchored mid-channel to avoid “bottoming out” on the mud at low tide.

Foggy Libourne Town: looking out over the Aquavit Terrace from the 'Sun Deck' earlier this morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Foggy Libourne Town: looking out over the Aquavit Terrace from the ‘Sun Deck’ earlier this morning. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

What was impressive about this fog was that, illuminated by the ship’s spotlights, visibility over the rails of the Viking Forseti was reduced to less than a foot. Personally, I love the fog, and more importantly, I love walking through it. Fog has a lonely, beautiful quality to it and not enough people take the time to enjoy it, so I walked (very quietly) for 13 laps – or one mile – around Viking Forseti’s jogging track on the Sun Deck. Just me and the fog. Even at this early hour, the temperature was just shy of a balmy 16°C. The weather continues to impress.

It might be pea-soup-fog outside, but it's still unusually warm. No jacket required! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

It might be pea-soup-fog outside, but it’s still unusually warm. No jacket required! Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The fog also had the added bonus of illuminating Libourne’s magnificent medieval bridge, which just happens to be futuristically lit in shades of blue. With the thick, pea-soup fog rolling in and out, the lit blue accent circles cast stunning volumetric shadows that shone like beams of light from a lighthouse across the aft decks of the Viking Forseti.

Libourne's futuristic-yet-medieval bridge, lit with volumetric lighting in the fog. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Libourne’s futuristic-yet-medieval bridge, lit with volumetric lighting in the fog. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

After my foggy morning stroll, I made my way to the Aquavit Lounge for Early Riser’s Breakfast, which took on new meaning as once again I traded a deserted Sun Deck for an equally-deserted lounge. After one of Viking’s homemade fruit-topped yogurts and an espresso, I was feeling more human again, and set out to photograph some of Viking Forseti’s interior spaces before most of my fellow guests awoke:

Looking aft down Viking Forseti's main staircase. Note the slatted wall on the right that is unique to this ship. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Looking aft down Viking Forseti’s main staircase. Note the slatted wall on the right that is unique to this ship. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Entering the Viking Lounge, starboard side. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Entering the Viking Lounge, starboard side. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Lounge offers plenty of different seating arrangements. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Lounge offers plenty of different seating arrangements. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Aquavit Terrace in the early morning hours. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

The Aquavit Terrace in the early morning hours. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

A light Continental Breakfast is served each morning in the Aquavit Lounge, and is a great alternative to The Restaurant one deck below. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

A light Continental Breakfast is served each morning in the Aquavit Lounge, and is a great alternative to The Restaurant one deck below. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Before the sun was up and the fog had evaporated, I was walking along the pier in Libourne to board my coach for the optional all-day Truffle Farm Excursion. At a cost of €99 per person, this excursion travels deep inland, to the rolling hills of France’s Pernod region.

Getting to the truffle farm takes about three hours start-to-finish, including a 15-minute stop for coffee and bathrooms at a truck stop along the way. The last 45 minutes is a real test of endurance, as the coach has to negotiate The Land of the Endless Switchbacks and Roundabouts. I don’t know if you’ve caught the through-line of these reports here yet, but drinking is a recurring theme – one can exacerbate motion-sickness. Pop a couple of ginger tablets before setting out on this one.

Viking Forseti docked in the Libourne fog. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking Forseti docked in the Libourne fog. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Boarding our Viking coach in the early morning hours in Libourne. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Boarding our Viking coach in the early morning hours in Libourne. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking's Mercedes coaches are new and modern, and quite comfortable to travel long distances in. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Viking’s Mercedes coaches are new and modern, and quite comfortable to travel long distances in. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Once there, you’ll find yourself strolling around Truffle Heaven. First, guests are shown exactly how the truffles are found in the first place. Not only can the dogs “sniff them out”, but our host discovered that the presence of a certain type of fly can also indicate that truffles are underfoot, particularly if one or more flies suddenly seem to take off from the ground. They’re tastier than gold, but just as expensive: truffle prices can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

Once we’d gone on the hunt for truffles for about an hour, we were invited back into the house for a spectacular feast. Consisting of five courses, every single dish was made with black truffles native to the Pernod region.

Our truffle hunting grounds in France's Pernod Region. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our truffle hunting grounds in France’s Pernod Region. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our host explains just why truffles - a delicacy - are so valuable. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

Our host explains just why truffles – a delicacy – are so valuable. Photo © 2014 Aaron Saunders

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Our Live Voyage Report aboard Viking River Cruises’ Viking Forseti continues tomorrow as we return to Bordeaux, France for another day of exploration in this splendid city! Be sure to follow along on twitter by following @deckchairblog or the hashtag #LiveVoyageReport.

 

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