Opportunities abound on this grand vacation to learn about France and to taste its sumptuous wines and cuisine. Your journey begins with two overnights and guided sightseeing in Paris, the “City of Light.” Travel south to fascinating Beaune for a Burgundy wine tasting, then board your ship in quaint Chalon-sur-Saône and set sail for lovely Tournus, Mâcon, France’s gastronomic capital of Lyon, as well as Tournon, charming Viviers, and beautiful Avignon. Before disembarking your ship in Arles, sail through the peaceful Camargue area. Then travel into the heart of the Provence region for two nights. Visit the medieval walled city of Aigues-Mortes, enjoy a guided tour of Nîmes, and spend time exploring elegant Aix-en-Provence before heading to the beautiful Côte d'Azur for the conclusion of your adventure.
Day #1 Arrive in Paris, France. Welcome to Paris, France’s capital on the River Seine and the “City of Light,” where romance fills the air!
Day #2 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 #3 Paris–Beaune–Chalon-sur-Saône (Embarkation)–Tournus. After breakfast, drive south past the forest of Fontainebleau, favorite hunting grounds of a long line of French kings, and into Burgundy. Beaune, the unofficial capital of the Côte d’Or area—which produces the region’s finest vintages—owes its wealth to the production, aging, and selling of fine wines. 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. Enjoy a TASTING of Burgundy wines before continuing south to Chalon-sur-Saône, where you’ll board your river cruise vessel. Before dinner, meet your crew at a welcome reception as your ship departs for Tournus. (B,D)
Day #4 Tournus–Mâcon. After breakfast, a local expert will show you the highlights of this delightful town, tucked away in the southeast corner of Burgundy. Tournus is one of the oldest and most important monastic centers in the region, with a superb ABBEY, St. Philibert, part of which dates back to the 10th century. There’s free time to stroll through the quaint streets or to explore the arts and crafts shops near the abbey. After lunch, your ship departs for Mâcon, a city with a rich history and which plays an important role in the wine trade. A choice of optional excursions, including a visit to a wine cellar, is available. (B,L,D)
Day #5 Beaujolais Region–Lyon. Enjoy a leisurely morning cruising on the Rhône. 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 #6 Lyon. A free day in this fascinating city to explore at leisure. Early risers might like to visit the local produce market. Your Cruise Director will have plenty of suggestions for things to do. (B,L,D)
Day #7 Tournon/Tain l’Hermitage–Viviers. 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. Another charming town, 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 #8 Avignon. The fortified city of Avignon is the capital of the Vaucluse region, the most picturesque part of Provence. Also referred to as the “City of Popes,” it was the center of the Catholic Church in the 14th century, and the city landscape is dominated by the grandiose PALACE OF THE POPES. A photo of the bridge of the popular song is a must, and optional outings to Pont du Gard or to the famed wine cellars of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are available this afternoon. (B,L,D)
Day #9 Camargue–Arles. During the night your ship will have sailed to Port St. Louis on the mouth of the Rhône. If you are an early riser, you might like to watch the sun come up over the Camargue, and then take in the tranquil scenes as you sail through this nature park toward Arles during breakfast. On arrival in Arles, located on the northern tip of the Camargue and the capital of the Provence region, a local expert will show you the city. Take in sights such as the church of St. Trophime; “Les Alyscamps,” the remains of the Gallo-Roman burial road; and visit the ROMAN AMPHITHEATER. This afternoon, there is free time to relax or join an optional excursion. (B,L,D)
Day #10 Arles (Disembarkation)–Provence Region. After breakfast, disembark and drive through the “Petite Camargue” to AIGUES-MORTES with its impressive towers and defensive walls, embedded in a melancholy landscape of pools, marshes, and salt pans. Later, drive to Saint Rémy de Provence. (B)
Day #11 Saint Rémy, Provence. Excursion to Nîmes. Today, explore the small, dynamic city of Saint Rémy de Provence, rich in history and tradition. Visit the ST. PAUL DE MAUSOLE MONASTERY, the asylum where Van Gogh spent his final days. In the afternoon, drive to Nîmes and visit the NÎMES ARENA, the best preserved amphitheater of the Roman era, and the ROMAN FOUNTAIN GARDENS. (B)
Day #12 Saint Rémy–Côte d’Azur. This morning is dedicated to AIX-EN-PROVENCE, one of France’s most elegant cities. Shaded Cours Mirabeau, colorful squares, and famous cafés and fountains can be discovered on a stroll around the city. After lunch, head east past Cézanne’s Mount St. Victoire to the Côte d’Azur. (B)
Day #13 Côte d’Azur. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)