Join Audrey and her husband Terry for their annual friends’ cruise. Enjoy delicious food, excellent wine, amazing scenery, inspiring art and good company as you sail through France along the Rhône River on this 8-day cruise with an optional pre-tour in Paris and post-tour in Barcelona. Marvel at the layers of European history as you see Roman ruins, medieval walls and villages, as well as historic cathedrals. With choices of active or relaxed excursions each day, there is something for everyone.
France River Cruise: Colours of Provence
August 22 Lyon
Arrive in Lyon from home or from the optional pre-cruise extension in Paris. Embark your ship to meet fellow travellers.
August 23 Lyon
Discover dynamic Lyon, starting in Fourvière Hill, part of the city’s historic region that is now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to the 19th-century basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Continue on to the old town of Lyon, followed by a guided walk through the St. Jean district, where you will be introduced to the city’s unique covered walkways, known as “traboules.” During the afternoon, enjoy leisure time or join a guided bike tour through the city.
August 24 Collonges / Vienne
Travel to the Beaujolais wine region—known as the Pays d’Or or “land of the golden stones.” Sample wine at a traditional winery and learn about the history and techniques of their vineyard. Later, set sail for Vienne, an ancient city full of Roman history, where you’ll enjoy free time to explore.
August 25 Vienne
Vienne is situated between the wine regions of Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône. Once an important urban centre in the Roman empire, numerous well-preserved Roman ruins are still visible in modern Vienne. Follow the footsteps of the ancient Romans on a walking tour to see the Augustus and Livia Temple; the Saint Maurice Cathedral, a Gothic church that took more than 500 years to build; and St. Pierre Abbey, one of the oldest surviving churches in France, which is now an archaeological museum. For those wishing to be more active, you can either take a guided bike tour along a portion of the ViaRhôna bike route or a guided hike from the ship to the Monastery at Mount Pipet.
August 26 Tournon
Today you have a choice of three excursions. Take a train ride past the magnificent landscape carved along the Gorges du Doux and stop at the charming little station of Colombier le Vieux-Saint Barthélemy le Plain. Lovers of wine and chocolate may want to visit Le Château de Tournon for a presentation and tasting on the pairing of red wine with chocolate. For a more active adventure, cycle through the French countryside or hike through the vineyards of Tain-l’Hermitage, followed by a visit to a local winery for a wine tasting.
August 27 Avignon
Avignon, aptly named the “City of Popes,” was the centre of the Catholic Church in the 14th century when its “Palais des Papes” was the equivalent of today’s Vatican. Again today, you may choose from three excursions. Discover the history of Avignon on a guided walking tour that includes the Papal Palace and the well-preserved medieval walls surrounding the historic town centre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Alternatively, you can go to another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the impressive Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct that is a masterpiece of ancient engineering. Or if you prefer, visit three venues around Avignon to taste regional specialties including macarons, cheese and wine, and tapenades. During the afternoon, enjoy free time in Avignon, go on a bike tour, or visit the magnificent hilltop village, Grignan. After seeing this enchanting Provençal town, search for highly prized “Black Diamond” truffles with a farmer and his trustworthy canine companion.
August 28 Arles
Arles is considered one of the most beautiful cities in France. Art lovers won’t want to miss the Saint Paul de Mausole Asylum, where Vincent van Gogh once lived and painted. Afterwards, go to the Carrières de Lumières, where you’ll be treated to a spectacular presentation of art, sound and history projected on the walls of caves. Alternatively, venture to the medieval hilltop village of Les Baux de Provence, followed by a visit to an olive farm where you’ll learn about age-old Provençal traditions from a master olive miller as well as sample the olive oil. Or for a different adventure, journey to Aigues-Mortes, known for its well preserved medieval walls and guard towers, followed by a visit to the beautiful Camargue National Park, a protected natural area with more than 400 different species of birds. During the afternoon, join a walking tour of Arles highlighting top sights, including the Romanesque cathedral and Roman amphitheater, or take a guided bike tour to the Roman ruins. For those who wish to see Arles through the eyes of Van Gogh, join a special walking tour and visit the Vincent van Gogh Foundation, which showcases his legacy.
Disembark your ship in Arles to return home or participate in an optional tour extension to Barcelona.
Pre-Cruise Extension to Paris
August 19 Paris
Arrive in Paris and meet your tour group.
August 20 Paris
Enjoy a morning tour of Paris, taking in all of its iconic sites, including the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde. You’ll pass the magnificent Opéra Garnier, the legendary Louvre and, on the Left Bank, the Sorbonne University and the Panthéon.
August 21 Paris
Visit Montmartre, long known as the city’s premier artist’s enclave. During the mid to late 1800s, artists began calling Montmartre home. Pissarro and Jongkind were two of the first to live there, followed by other notable artists. For easy access to Montmartre, you’ll hop aboard the funicular railroad that ascends the hill. Montmartre’s most recognizable landmark is the Basilica du Sacré-Coeur, constructed from 1876 to 1912. The white dome of this Roman Catholic basilica sits at the highest point in the city. After your visit to Montmartre, you’ll be taken on an illumination tour, discovering one of the reasons why Paris is known as the “City of Light.”
August 22 Lyon
Take a high-speed train through the French countryside to Lyon, France’s culinary capital. Upon arrival, enjoy free time before being treated to an exclusive hands-on cooking lesson. Later, transfer to your ship to begin the cruise.
Post-Cruise Extension to Barcelona
August 29 Arles / Barcelona
Disembark your ship in Arles and travel a short distance to Nîmes. See the highlights of this delightful town with one of the finest collections of Roman buildings in France. Afterwards, board a high-speed train to Barcelona.
August 30 Barcelona
Whether you love art, architecture, food, history, culture or all of the above, the bustling capital of Catalonia has something for you. Visit Montjuïc Hill and see some of Antoni Gaudí’s imaginative architectural creations, including Casa Milà, Casa Batlló and La Sagrada Família. Afterwards, tour the Gothic Quarter in the medieval city centre and walk along the city’s famous Las Ramblas. You’ll see several landmarks, including the Christopher Columbus monument; Barcelona’s grand opera theater, the Gran Teatre del Liceu; and the spectacular La Boqueria Market, also known as the Mercat de Sant Josep. You’ll want to visit the market, considered one of the best in Europe, which boasts over 200 stalls filled with colourfully displayed food, including a wide variety of local products and exotic specialties.
August 31 Montserrat
Join an excursion to Montserrat, which is home to the Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat, located about 30 miles from Barcelona. From the mountain top, enjoy spectacular views of the Catalonian landscape. Founded in 1025, the monastery began to receive pilgrims and visitors as stories were spread of miracles and wonders performed by the Virgin Mary. The whole of Montserrat is built around facilitating the worship of the Black Madonna in the Basilica. While here, you’ll see the famous Black Madonna sculpture, which sits at the back of the church, above the altar.
Bid farewell to Barcelona as you depart for home.
For further information, please contact us. We would be happy to be of assistance.