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Home » Destinations » Europe » France » Riviera Travel History and Art of the Rhône
Embark on a journey through the picturesque landscapes that inspired renowned artists like Van Gogh, and explore the medieval towns along the Rhône. This cruise from Avignon to Lyon unveils the artistic heart of the region, inviting you to discover centuries of history and the natural beauty of France. Wander through winding streets, explore historic riverbank cities, and delve into the 15th-century architecture amid the lush vineyards and sun-kissed hills of Southern France, accompanied by knowledgeable experts.
Day 1 – Arrive in Avignon
On arrival in Avignon, transfer by coach to the ship, moored in the city’s historic centre
Day 2 – Avignon
Enjoy breakfast with the captivating view of Avignon’s red roofs before embarking on a guided tour of this historically rich city. Enclosed by almost-intact 14th-century walls, the city boasts numerous remarkable monuments, churches, and the imposing Pope’s Palace—the world’s largest Gothic palace. The interior is a marvel of medieval architecture adorned with priceless art, frescoes, tapestries, and sculptures. Experience the ambiance of papal Avignon during its brief golden age, imagining candlelit halls bustling with cardinals, princes, and pilgrims.
After lunch, explore at your leisure or return to the ship’s luxurious surroundings. Optionally, visit Le Petit Palais, the former home of the archbishops, housing a remarkable collection of over 300 Middle Ages and Renaissance paintings and sculptures. Dinner on board precedes a musical performance by a local pianist as the ship sails toward the next destination, Arles, arriving later that evening.
Day 3 – Arles & Ponts Du Gard
Wake up in Arles, nestled in Provence’s warm stone hues beneath azure skies. Follow Van Gogh’s artistic journey during your guided tour, exploring the Vincent Van Gogh Arles Foundation and iconic sites like The Yellow House and Place du Forum, where he created masterpieces like The Night Café and Starry Night during his prolific 14-month stay.
After lunch, visit the awe-inspiring Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, a 2,000-year-old wonder, with staggering statistics—over 900 feet long and almost 160 feet high, constructed without mortar. The picturesque setting amidst pine- and cypress-covered hills enhances the experience. Upon rejoining the ship, cruise along the Rhône, passing the imposing 15th-century castle at Tarascon during dinner.
Day 4 – Ardèche Gorges & Chauvet Caves
This morning, disembark in Viviers, and as the ship cruises toward Le Pouzin, explore the magnificent Ardèche Gorges, showcasing Mother Nature’s awe-inspiring power with limestone cliffs plunging nearly 1,000 feet to the blue waters below. Witnessing stupendous rock formations, including the Pont d’Arc, a massive natural arch, offers marvelous views of caves, grottoes, and natural sculptures. Afterward, we return to the ship in Le Pouzin.
At the UNESCO-listed Chauvet Caves, ncounter a spectacular replica of these prehistoric caves, home to France’s best-preserved and oldest-known paintings, dating back 36,000 years. Discovered in 1994, these paintings predate even the decorated walls of the Lascaux cave in Dordogne by 18,000 years.
Cap off the day with a ballroom dancing performance in the lounge after dinner,
Day 5 – Vienne
During breakfast, you’ll depart and cruise north through the scenic Rhône Valley. After lunch, you’ll reach the Roman stronghold of Vienne, once a Celtic settlement and later fortified under Julius Caesar. A captivating mini-train tour, guided by a local expert, explores the historic treasures of Vienne, including the Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia. Next, visit the Cybèle archaeological gardens, where a local expert shares insights into the Gallo-Roman city’s administrative center. Discover remnants of the forum portico, municipal assembly hall wall, and 1st-century houses amidst grass and toppled columns. Returning to the ship for dinner, set sail towards Chalon-sur-Saône.
Day 6 – Beaune
After an overnight journey, reach Chalon, the gateway to Burgundy and the birthplace of Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography. En route to today’s destination, Beaune, you pass through charming yet modest villages renowned for producing world-class wines. In Beaune, the historic wine capital of Burgundy, explore the iconic Hospices de Beaune, a 15th-century hospital known for its High Gothic architecture and vibrant glazed roof tiles. As you savour dinner on board, the ship sets sail toward Lyon, marking the continuation of our journey.
Day 7 – Lyon
Following breakfast, embark on a guided tour of Lyon, a city rooted in Roman history at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Explore Roman remains, Renaissance buildings, imposing churches, and the expansive pedestrian square, Place Bellecour.
Explore spectacular Roman ruins, including the oldest amphitheatre in France, an Odeon, and a museum, guided by a local expert. Conclude the day with the indulgent Captain’s Dinner, featuring specialties from the regions explored during your voyage of discovery.
Day 8 – Return home
After breakfast, transfer to the airport or the train station for your journey home
MS Lord Byron
MS Thomas Hardy
*All transfer times listed here are approximate and dependent on traffic.
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