Opportunities abound on this grand vacation to learn about France and to taste its sumptuous wines and cuisine. Your adventure begins with an overnight on the French Riviera, also known as the Cote d’Azur. Then travel to Arles in the Provence region to board your ship. Upon leaving this town, sail through the peaceful Camargue area before returning north to Avignon, charming Viviers, medieval Tournon, Vienne, France’s gastronomic capital of Lyon, as well as Mâcon, Tournus, Chalon-sur-Saône, and fascinating Beaune. Your vacation ends in Paris with two overnights, guided sightseeing, and free time to explore the remarkable “City of Light” on your own! You’re sure to return home from this vacation with lots of memories and photos to share.
Day #1 Arrive in Côte d’Azur, France. Welcome to France! Time at leisure to get acquainted with your new surroundings.
Day #2 Côte d’Azur–Arles (Embarkation). This morning, enjoy free time before transferring by motorcoach to Arles in Provence region, where you’ll board your river cruise vessel. Before dinner, meet your crew at a welcome reception. (B,D)
Day #3 Arles–Camargue. On the northern tip of the Camargue, Arles is the capital of Provence and was once known as the “Little Rome of Gaul.” See the church of St. Trophime; “Les Alyscamps,” the remains of the Gallo-Roman burial road; and visit the ROMAN AMPHITHEATER. Vincent Van Gogh was inspired by the special light of Provence and spent a very productive year in Arles. The “Foundation Vincent Van Gogh” is a tribute to the artist. In the early evening, depart Arles and sail toward Port St. Louis on the mouth of the Rhône, a unique opportunity to experience the tranquil vistas of Camargue National Park. (B,L,D)
Day #4 Camargue–Avignon. In the early morning hours, the Avalon Scenery sails to Avignon, where you arrive during breakfast time. A guided tour of Avignon, the capital of the Vaucluse region, includes an inside visit of the grandiose PALACE OF THE POPES. The afternoon is free to either explore Avignon on your own, relax on board your ship, or to join an optional outing to Pont du Gard or to the famed wine cellars of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. (B,L,D)
Day #5 Cruising–Viviers. A leisurely morning on board to relax and enjoy the passing scenery as you glide gently by. The charming town of Viviers was developed around its ROMANESQUE CATHEDRAL, and the OLD TOWN has an appealing mix of Christian, Roman, and medieval influences. (B,L,D)
Day #6 Tournon/Tain l’Hermitage–Vienne. The twin cities of Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage lie nestled among vineyards between the Rhône River and the granite slopes of the Hermitage. Tournon, with its imposing 16th-century castle and Roman ruins, is one of France’s oldest medieval cities. This afternoon, enjoy Vienne, another charming little town surrounded by steep hills. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Lyon. Lyon is France’s second-largest city and its gastronomic capital. Founded by the Romans in 43 BC, the city’s prosperity dates back to the 16th century and is due to commercial, industrial, and banking activities. Roman remains, many excellent museums, and much renaissance architecture delight the visitor. Survey the city from Fourvière Hill and explore the Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its maze of medieval alleyways, Place des Terreaux, and the beautiful Place Bellecour. Beaujolais is the wine of the region and wine connoisseurs will know that the grapes must be hand picked. Tradition dictates that the “Beaujolais Nouveau” is tasted for the first time on the third Thursday of November each year. (B,L,D)
Day #8 Mâcon–Tournus–Chalon-sur-Saône. Wake up this morning in Mâcon on the Saône River, a city that plays an important role in the wine trade. There’s free time for exploring after breakfast, then enjoy a short cruise to Tournus. Here, the cloister of St. Philibert or the Burgundy Museum’s folklore collection, located in an old family mansion, are worth a visit. A choice of optional excursions, including a visit to a wine cellar, is available. Before dinner, arrive in Chalon-sur-Saône. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Chalon-sur-Saône (Disembarkation)–Beaune–Paris. After breakfast, head for Beaune, the unofficial capital of the Côte d’Or area and which produces the Burgundy region’s finest vintages. Its most famous historical site, the Hôtel-Dieu charity hospital, houses Van der Weyden’s painting of the Last Judgement and is one of France’s architectural highlights. After lunch, continue north past the forest of Fontainebleau to Paris, the “City of Light.” (B)
Day #10 Paris. Paris’ famous sights are living history: your included city sightseeing shows you magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral, the unique Louvre Museum with its glass pyramid as a contrast to its ancient architecture, the commemorative Arc de Triomphe, Opéra, Madeleine, Champs Elysées, and the Eiffel Tower, a structural miracle of its age. The city is well known for its colorful nightlife that includes some of the world’s most famous cabaret shows. (B)
Day #11 Paris. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)