Burgundy, the River Rhine & Provence River Cruise for Solo Travellers
|Resort:||Burgundy, the River Rhine & Provence River Cruise for Solo Travellers|
DAY 1ARRIVAL IN AVIGNON
ARRIVAL IN AVIGNON
Arrive for your flight to Lyon, Marseille or Montpellier, or take the Eurostar from London St Pancras International to Paris Gare du Nord, where you will be met by a guide and escorted on a coach transfer to Gare de Lyon to board a high-speed TGV to Avignon. On arrival we transfer by coach to our ship moored in Avignons historic centre. The dedicated English-speaking crew will welcome you on board and help you to your cabin. After settling in to your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation, theres time to familiarise yourself with this five-star floating hotel.
Burgundy, River Rhone and Provence route map Burgundy, River Rhone and Provence route map
The light catching the red roofs of Avignons majestic skyline is a sight to behold over breakfast, after which we embark on a guided tour of one of the most extraordinary and intriguing cities in France. Avignons destiny changed during the 14th century, when the Popes court moved here to avoid strife in Rome. Igniting a century of prosperity, the pontiff commissioned a host of ambitious building projects, and today the city is immaculately preserved, nestling behind its almost-intact 14th-century walls and boasting more remarkable monuments, superbly decorated buildings, churches, chapels and convents than you can possibly count. Most important is the stunning Popes Palace, made up of two buildings that together form the largest Gothic palace in the world. With turrets, towers, parapets and other fortifications, its exterior resembles a mighty fortress, while the interior is a tour de force of medieval architecture and ornamentation, adorned with priceless frescoes, Gobelin tapestries and graceful sculptures. The ceremonial hall, chapels, cloisters and private apartments are all unmissable. But to truly embrace the feel of papal Avignon, imagine yourself here during the Middle Ages amid the Palaces rich furnishings and extravagant decoration, with cardinals, princes and ambassadors milling about its candlelit halls and corridors, while in the streets below countless pilgrims eagerly anticipate benediction. This was Avignons brief golden age, when it was truly the centre of Christendom.
After lunch youre free to explore as you wish, perhaps visiting the nearby Petit Palais, the former home of the archbishops of Avignon, to cast a critical eye over the remarkable collection of over 300 paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, including works by Botticelli and Carpaccio. Or take a stroll on the iconic Pont dAvignon, which, dramatically, ends halfway across the river, made famous by the melody we all recall from our first French lessons. Its our final afternoon so you may wish to do some shopping, or just find a quiet caf in a shady Provenal square to watch the world go by. Perhaps though, return to the luxurious surroundings of our ship, finding a quiet spot to contemplate the many wondrous places youve seen and experienced over a quiet cup of tea.
Returning on board for dinner, the ship sets sail towards our next destination, Arles arriving later that evening.
Pope’s Palace, Avignon Pope’s Palace, Avignon
DAY 3ARLES & PONT DU GARD
ARLES & PONT DU GARD
You awake under the azure skies of deepest Provence, amid the warm stone colours of Arles, many of whose historic monuments are UNESCO World Heritage sites. Although small in size, it was the key stronghold on the Roman road to Spain, one of the empires richest possessions. Seagoing ships could reach here and the city became a regional capital, briefly ruling over Gaul, Spain and Britain. Our guided tour will help you appreciate the finer points of Arles magnificent Roman remains, including the splendid amphitheatre, one of the best preserved in the world, the earlier theatre built during the reign of Augustus and the Alyscamps, the ancient necropolis with its extraordinary atmosphere. The disturbed but great genius of an artist, Van Gogh, lived in Arles for just over a year, from February 1888. It was his most prolific period and, inspired by Arles and the light and beauty of the Provenal countryside, he produced around 300 works, including The Night Caf, The Sower and, of course, Sunflowers.
After lunch we visit the amazing Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, one of the wonders of the ancient world. No amount of fame can diminish the first sight of this 2,000-year-old structure, which was the highest bridge built in the Empire the Romans themselves considered it the most important testimony to their greatness. Its statistics are staggering: over 900 feet long and almost 160 feet high, with its stones each weighing up to six tons. To put this in perspective, the span of the Pont du Gard is greater than the width of the River Thames at London Bridge and no mortar was used in its construction! The situation is lovely too, with pine- and cypress-covered hills adding to the harmonious setting. Re-joining the ship in Avignon, we cruise towards Viviers during dinner.
Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct
DAY 4ARDCHE GORGES & TOURNON
ARDCHE GORGES & TOURNON
This morning we disembark after breakfast and whilst our ship effortlessly cruises upstream towards Le Pouzin, we will explore one of Frances most outstanding landscapes the Ardche Gorges, whose scale is a fitting reminder of Mother Natures awesome power. Sheer limestone cliffs plunge almost 1,000 feet to the rivers blue waters, which elegantly snake their way through stupendous rock formations, culminating in a huge natural arch, the Pont dArc. We enjoy marvellous views at every turn of caves, grottoes and natural sculptures before returning to the ship moored in Le Pouzin. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon on board perhaps catching up on some reading or just lazing in the sun as the temperature rises, before we arrive in the pretty provincial town of Tournon with its lovely tree-lined avenues. Across the river, youll see the vine-covered hillsides producing Hermitage, yet another of the worlds most revered wines a fitting view as we enjoy another exquisite dinner in the ships excellent restaurant.
Pont dArc, Ardche Gorges Pont dArc, Ardche Gorges
During breakfast this morning, well slip our moorings and cruise north through one of the most spectacular sections of the Rhne Valley, as the river squeezes and twists pasts Condrieu, Saint-Rambert-dAlbon and Saint-Vallier, with wooded cliffs rising high on both sides. Traditionally these stretches were the most dangerous due to fierce currents and varying water levels but, with the waters now tamed by a series of locks whose complex mechanisms never cease to fascinate, you can relax on the Sun Deck taking in the exceptional views. After lunch we arrive in the ancient Roman stronghold of Vienne, first a Celtic settlement, then a Roman stronghold under Julius Caesar. Strikingly located in a narrow section of the Rhne, where the river meanders dramatically around a steep bluff, Vienne is a treasure trove of historic remains, including the stunning Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia, and a walk around its streets really brings its heritage to life.
You will also have some free time to explore at your leisure before returning to the ship for dinner, during which we commence our cruise towards Chalon-sur-Sane.
DAY 6BEAUNE & BURGUNDY
BEAUNE & BURGUNDY
Overnight we have made steady progress north and mid-morning we arrive in and berth in Chalon, gateway to Burgundy and the home of Nicphore Nipce, the inventor of photography. On todays tour we see some of the pretty yet surprisingly small villages that produce some of the worlds most sublime wines Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin and many more. Nearby is medieval Beaune, Burgundys wine capital, which is wonderful to wander around. At its centre is the Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Htel-Dieu. Originally built in the 15th century as a hospital for the disadvantaged, its a jewel of High Gothic architecture, instantly recognisable for its colourful glazed roof tiles arranged in dazzling geometric patterns. A prestigious annual wine auction takes place here each November, with proceeds going to benefit the Hospices and its charity work. Of course, you cant visit Burgundy without sampling its amazing wines, so we visit the cellars of a leading traditional winemaker for a tour and tasting.
Later we return to ship and as we slip our moorings once again, enjoy an aperitif with newly made friends in the convivial bar before tonights dinner.
Htel-Dieu, Beaune Htel-Dieu, Beaune
One of river cruisings great pleasures is the fascination of waking in a completely different location and on waking this morning, the ship arrives in Lyon. After our last splendid breakfast, weve a leisurely start enjoying a guided tour of Lyon, one of Frances most fascinating cities. The Rhne Valley had been the route of choice for marauding armies and peaceful traders for centuries, and Lyons current site, at the confluence of the Rhne and Sane Rivers, cried out to be fortified. In 43 BC the Romans founded the city, which subsequently grew in importance; Emperor Claudius, conqueror of Britain, was born here. There are many Roman remains to see, but it was the production of silk that brought Lyon to prominence during the Middle Ages, and throughout the city you can see signs of the wealth that poured in Renaissance buildings, imposing churches and Europes largest pedestrian square, Place Bellecour, with a statue of Louis XIV as its focus. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is crammed with antique shops and intriguing traboules narrow covered passageways enabling silk merchants to transport their wares to the river without getting wet that today are a joy to amble through. As well as its glorious architecture, Lyon is generally acknowledged as Frances (and to locals, the worlds) gastronomic capital. In fairness it has much to commend it: nouvelle cuisine was invented near here and the city boasts a huge array of speciality food shops and eateries, including 20 restaurants with one or more Michelin stars and countless little places to eat.
Its our final afternoon in which you are free to explore Lyon further or perhaps though, return to the sumptuous surroundings of your ship, head up on to the Sun Deck and just contemplate the wondrous places you have seen and experienced over a quiet cup of tea. This evening the Captains dinner takes place, serving specialities of the regions you have visited during your voyage of discovery through this fascinating country.
DAY 8RETURN HOME
After breakfast you bid farewell to the ship and her dedicated crew, before transferring to the airport or to the train station for your return journey.