Ultimate France 2017

Ultimate France

The perfect journey for travelers seeking the crème de la crème of France.

Note: The itineraries presented are subject to modification due to water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors. Every effort will be made to operate programs as planned, but changes may still be necessary throughout the cruise. This day-to-day schedule is subject to change. Your final day-to-day schedule will be provided onboard on the first day of your cruise.

Day 1: Bordeaux (Embark)

Arrive at Bordeaux-Mérignac International Airport. If your cruise package includes a group arrival transfer or if you have purchased a private arrival transfer, you will be greeted by a Uniworld representative and transferred to the ship.

Day 2: Blaye, Bourg sur Gironde

Bourg sur Gironde walking tour

Scenic drive along the Route de la Corniche Fleurie with Blaye Fortress

This little road between Blaye and Bourg-sur-Gironde winds through picturesque hamlets with equally picturesque names—Pain de Sucre, Marmisson and Roque de Thau among them—limestone cliffs on one side, the Gironde on the other. Fishing huts on stilts stand above the waters of the estuary; charming 19th-century stone houses built by sea captains sit tidily along the road. Many of these captains traveled to far-off places and returned with exotic plants, which they planted in their gardens and along the road (hence the route’s name). But the history of these cliffs extends far beyond the 19th century—people have inhabited the area for thousands of years.

Upon returning to Blaye, your guide will take you through the 17th-century demilune-shaped citadel built by famed military engineer Vauban. This fortress design was the one Vauban, Louis XIV’s favorite military engineer, found most satisfactory, and he built some 300 of them in the Sun King’s realm. The citadel contains the ruins of a medieval castle, houses, squares, streets, even a convent, all enclosed within stark walls. If you stand on top of those walls, you will have a terrific view of the estuary— this view was the field of fire, giving the citadel command of the river.

“Let’s Go” yoga in the historic heart of Blaye Fortress

Join your wellbeing coach for a unique yoga session in the Blaye Citadel, designed in the 17th century by a renowned military architect to protect Bordeaux from attacks by sea. Calm your mind as you take in panoramic views of the Gironde Estuary and the remnants of the medieval castle. Become aware of your surroundings as you steady your breathing. You’ll then practice postures, or asanas, before enjoying a period of relaxation to end your session.

Connoisseur Collection: Rémy Martin experience

Not all wine remains wine: Some of it is distilled into cognac. At one time, wine from the Charente region was notoriously poor and did not keep or ship well—but double-distillation worked magic on it, transforming it into marvelous liquor. Rémy Martin has been making cognac for almost three centuries, refining the process over the years; late in the 19th century Paul Emile Rémy Martin, a fifth-generation cognac maker, began aging his brandy in oak barrels for years—or decades—much longer than was customary at the time. Today Rémy Martin uses fine Champagne to produce its fine cognac, blending a variety of eaux de vie and aging them in oak barrels that might be 200 years old. (Remy Martin’s legendary—and legendarily expensive— Louis XIII cognac has been called “One Century in a Bottle” precisely because of that extraordinary aging process.) Tour the facility and learn how this elixir is created, then taste three different cognacs with complementary nibbles.

Rendez-vous chez Rémy Martin

  • Duration: 4.5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $74

Not all wine remains wine: some of it is distilled into cognac. Remy Martin has been making cognac for almost three centuries, refining the process over the years. Tour the facility and learn how this elixir is created, then taste three different cognacs with complementary nibbles.

Day 3: Cussac Fort Médoc, Pauillac la Fayette

Médoc Châteaux route with private wine tasting

In 1855, when Napoleon III asked for a classification of the best wines in France to give visitors, some 60 Médoc wines were awarded Grand Cru status—out of 61 total. A panoramic tour of this legendary landscape takes you from Pauillac to the tip of the Médoc peninsula, past storied vineyards of the region, including Château Latour, Mouton Rothschild and Pichon Longueville Baron, and through the villages of Margaux, Saint-Julien and Saint-Estèphe. You might be surprised to discover that the peninsula is only three miles wide, though it is 50 miles long, and the road carries you past a dizzying array of architectural styles— Renaissance, Greek Revival and medieval—as well as miles of grapevines. You’ll turn off the road and enter one of these estates for a private tour and a tasting of premier Grand Cru wines—but you won’t know which one of these exceptional châteaux is your destination until you open your invitation.

Bunker archaeology tour

“Let’s Go” bike in the Médoc vineyards

Combine fresh air, gorgeous scenery and fine wine with a bicycle ride among the prestigious Médoc vineyards. Meet your guide and mount your bicycle in Pauillac and wheel out of town, pedaling through the lush landscapes of historic estates that have seemingly remained unchanged for centuries. Truly experience the atmosphere—the earth, the sunshine—of this famous wine-growing region.

Day 4: Bordeaux, Cadillac, Libourne

Sauternes Vineyard with private artisanal wine tasting at Château de Cazeneuve

It’s called the noble rot. Botrytis cinerea, a fungus that affects wine grapes, results in a concentrated and distinctive sweet wine that takes its name from the region, Sauternes. Today’s tour is devoted to an exploration of this region and its delectable wine.

You’ll visit one of the area’s finest estates for an intimate wine tasting as special as the wine itself, sampling the unique perfume and flavor of Sauternes. After your tasting, you’ll journey to Château de Cazeneuve, a polygonal 14th-century fortress with a royal pedigree. A favored residence of Henry IV, who inherited it from his mother, Jeanne d’Albret, the beautifully restored château still belongs to descendants of the Albret family. 

The colorful life of Toulouse Lautrec at Château de Malromé

Uncover the history of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec with a visit to Château Malromé. Originally the home of his mother, Adèle, Malromé would soon inspire much of his artwork. As one of the best painters of the post-impressionist period, Toulouse-Lautrec is known for his distinctive and colorful take on Paris in the late 1800s as well as his fascination with Moulin Rouge dancers and famous singers, who were prominent in much of his work. Venture to the nearby town of Verdelais, where you’ll notice two beautiful central walkways lined with trees and 19th-century façades. It is in Verdelais’ cemetery that Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec is buried. After, you’ll be treated to an absinthe tasting at Café les Pèlerins.

Day 5: Libourne

A full day in Libourne means you’ll have plenty of time to explore the majestic landscape of villages and vineyards. Nestled along the confluence of the Isle and Dordogne rivers, the quaint town is as pretty as a postcard. On the outskirts of Libourne, you’ll find neighboring Saint-Émilion. Discover the wine-making town by foot on a tour of its most picturesque sights, such as the magnificent Monolithic Church, all capped by a wine tasting at a beautiful château.

Saint-Émilion walking tour with wine tasting

Hilltop Saint-Émilion offers both exceptional architecture and historic vineyards. The Romans were the first to plant grapes here, and this was the first vineyard region to be protected by UNESCO because of its history. Shops brimming with wine and wine tools line the steep cobblestone streets; medieval ramparts that bore witness to battles for control between French and English monarchs still stand; and vineyards encroach upon the village. Of all the sights, however, perhaps the most extraordinary is the 12th-century church carved into a cliff. Only the tower is above ground; the rest of the church is subterranean. Its numerous underground galleries provided refuge during periods of strife, and include the grotto where St. Émilion, for whom the town is named, lived out his life in the ninth century. You have to see it for yourself—you’ll be amazed by its almost unfathomable construction. After touring Saint-Émilion, you’ll visit the cellars of a premier Grand Cru estate where you’ll taste some of the world’s most highly rated wines.

Cooking class at Château Ambe Tour Pourret

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Easy:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $144

Château Ambe Tour Pourret, with five hectares planted with merlot and cabernet franc vines, is a comparatively young wine house, dating to 1925 in its current form (though parts of the château are much older). Tour the winery before you meet your chef/teacher, then walk to the well-equipped, modern professional kitchen. Tie on your apron and delve into the tasks the chef assigns you. You might zest kaffir limes to season a first course of seared duck foie gras or make the cherry sauce in kirsch that accompanies it, or help to prepare wild trout or a decadent strawberry tart. You’ll learn something about the art of French sauces in the process, and then you’ll take a seat in the elegant dining room and enjoy the lunch you’ve helped prepare—naturally, each course will be accompanied by the appropriate wine from Château Ambe Tour Pourret’s cellars.

Day 6: Libourne, Bordeaux

The French insist that the key to their superb wines is the soil in which they’re grown, the terroir. That same terroir also makes for extraordinary produce—the foundation for the country’s acclaimed cuisine—as you’ll discover today at a local farmers’ market.

Libourne “Village Day” with farmer's market

How could you visit this rich agricultural land without delving into a farmer's market? Libourne’s market is the heart and soul of the town; everyone comes here to choose the freshest vegetables, the ripest cheeses, the most luscious fruits, the loveliest flowers, and to chat with the producers and growers. Check out the stalls brimming with produce in the market square, then duck into the covered market and savor the enticing aromas of bread and cheese, fish and meat. After exploring the market, you and a small group of other travelers will be invited to push open the doors of ateliers, homes and shops, meeting the artisans who make some of the goods arrayed so enticingly in the market.

Bordeaux open deck bus

It’s sometimes called the Port of the Moon, so what could be more appropriate—or magical—than to see Bordeaux under the moon and stars? Step aboard an open-top bus for a view of this extraordinarily beautiful city at night. Bordeaux has more protected buildings than any other French city but Paris, and your tour will show you just how lovely they are at night, each one masterfully lighted. The reflection of the Bourse glimmers on the wide, shallow pool before it; each lighted arch of the Pont de Pierre is mirrored on the water. The only thing that could make it better is champagne—and you’ll get that too! This is a wonderful, unexpected way to experience Bordeaux’s beauties after dark.

Note: On summer sailings, this tour takes place at twilight rather than full dark because sunset is so late.

Bordeaux night stroll

Retro sidecar romantic tour

  • Duration: 1.75 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Price: $142

Watch the city come alive at night with a sidecar tour of brilliant Bordeaux. Wind through backstreets, lit-up avenues and, of course, the most iconic sites of Bordeaux, like the Grosse Cloche, Place de la Bourse and Saint Michael Basilica. Feel the city’s festive energy as you zip through town on this vintage masterpiece before stopping for a photo, a sip of champagne and even a romantic moment with your sweetheart. Truly a night to remember!

Day 7: Bordeaux

There’s so much to discover with a full day in Bordeaux’ port of Quai des Chatrons. The architecture is impressive, the wine is exquisite and the shopping is to die for. Explore La Cité du Vin, a one-of-a-kind cultural center and museum that brings the heritage of wine to life through interactive exhibits, shows, academic seminars and more. Do as the locals do and uncover Bordeaux’ unique heritage on a walking tour or choose to traverse the city by bike. Celebrate the end to a spectacular trip with a farewell dinner onboard.

Cité du Vin Museum visit

“Do as the Locals Do” Bordeaux walking tour

Catch a tram at the Quai des Chartrons to the Place de la Comédie, the heart of Bordeaux’ Golden Triangle. Though Bordeaux was the capital of Aquitaine in the Middle Ages and has its share of Gothic churches, it reached its apex in the 18th century. The splendid honey-colored stone buildings from this era make up a city core that UNESCO has designated a World Heritage Site (this is the district that inspired Baron Haussmann when he redesigned Paris at the behest of Napoleon III). Trade with the French colonies built this handsome district, furnishing vanilla, sugar, spices and cocoa to inventive chocolatiers and bakers, who used these goods to create iconic desserts. Chocolate, once a Spanish monopoly, became part of Bordeaux’ culinary heritage when banished Spanish Jews brought the art of chocolate-making to France. What are Bordeaux’ present-day residents enjoying when they step inside the luxurious food halls and elegant shops in this neighborhood? Find out as you sample the delicious handiwork of Bordeaux’ bakers, as well as cheeses and chocolates—learn a few recipes, too! You’ll also visit one of the city’s wine bars and see first-hand how the wines of the many local châteaux are enjoyed by today’s sophisticated clients.

”Let’s Go” bike Bordeaux backstreets

Hop on a bike and wheel with your expert guide along the Quai des Chartrons, a riverfront neighborhood that was the purview of British wine merchants back when they dominated the wine trade. It fell on hard times in the 20th century, but the tall merchant houses have since been reclaimed; now they house welcoming shops and cafés. Pedal past the antiques shops of Rue Notre Dame and the Church of St. Louis on your way to major city squares such as the Bourse and Parliament before heading back to the ship along the banks of the Garonne. Of course your outing will include a stop for refreshments at one of the delightful cafés you pass.

Bordeaux walking tour with caviar tasting

Dune du Pyla sunrise hike

  • Duration: 7 hours
  • Intermediate:
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  • Price: $63

You’ll rise early this morning as you prepare for a sunrise hike up the Dune du Pilat, the highest sand dune in Europe, where you’ll enjoy mesmerizing vistas. Watch as the sun illuminates the Banc d’Arguin and Arcachon Bay. The beautiful Banc d’Arguin was classified as a national nature reserve in 1972 and protects the entrance to the Arcachon Bay. Later, enjoy breakfast at the charming Hotel Haïtza, a landmark of the region where famous people have stayed since it was built in 1930.

Retro sidecar Bordeaux tour

  • Duration: 1 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Price: $105

Get ready to explore a medley of what’s best in Bordeaux! Your driver will take you on a journey to the unmissable places of the city: Grosse Cloche, Place de la Bourse, the Darwin district, Basilique Saint-Michel, and any requested stops you’d like to make as well. This truly unique and exciting experience will take you well into the night with a local who knows all the histories, folklore, and of course, best spots for a photo-op. Quel charme!

Day 8: Bordeaux (Disembark), Transfer to Paris via High-Speed TGV Train (Embark)

Disembark the breathtaking S.S. Bon Voyage and transfer to Paris via high-speed, first-class TGV train. Your next ship, the magical S.S. Joie de Vivre, waits to carry you along the Seine on the next leg of your adventure.

Day 9: La Roche-Guyon, Vernon Giverny

Today is a celebration of Northern France’s natural beauty, with an excursion to a splendid chateau and gardens situated in an equally grand setting, plus a chance to immerse yourself in the very landscapes that inspired Impressionist master Claude Monet. Visit the hilltop Chateau La Roche-Guyon, surrounded by beautiful gardens and offering sweeping views over the Seine. Later, you can visit the home and gardens of Impressionist master Claude Monet—the inspiration for many of his most beloved works. Or, take in the beautiful French countryside in a more invigorating way, with a guided bike ride from Vernon to Giverny.

Château La Roche-Guyon

From cave dwelling to fortress to castle to palace: This is the history of Château La Roche- Guyon (the Rock of Guy), which takes its name from its medieval lords (traditionally named Guy) and its location, a limestone outcropping—a rock—above the Seine. Medieval knights kept watch for marauding Vikings from the tower high atop the hill and later defended the double wall around a 13th-century manor house; successive lords added to the buildings over the centuries, so you can see not just troglodyte chapels but Renaissance rooms where kings Francis I and Henry II were entertained (and, legend says, Henry IV pursued a lovely chatelaine without success) and handsome 18th-century state apartments. Enlightenment thinkers met with the Duchess d’Enville, who owned the château before the revolution and who had the huge kitchen garden laid out according to Enlightenment principles. You might think, as you walk through the elegantly designed garden and beautifully paneled rooms (mostly without furniture these days, so you can appreciate the Gobelins tapestries without distraction) that the residence’s military function was in the far distant past, but Rommel made his headquarters here during WWII, precisely because the ancient fortifications and caves were so secure.

"Let's Go" hike on the Crests trail

Monet’s gardens at Giverny

Monet often painted the little riverside town of Vernon, so you are likely to recognize scenes the master rendered in oils on your way to his home in the village of Giverny, where he lived and worked for more than 40 years. When Monet bought the property, most of it was an orchard; he transformed it over the years into the enchanting visions immortalized in his paintings, essentially creating each work of art twice: once as a living garden and again as a painting. As you stroll through the grounds, you’ll see the famed Japanese bridge and water garden shaded by weeping willows. Monet’s house, which you will also visit, remains furnished as it was when the leader of the impressionist school lived here, complete with his precious collection of Japanese engravings.

Note: Giverny will be closed during the March and November cruise departure dates.

“Let's Go” bike ride to Giverny

The country roads between Vernon and Giverny offer easy—and pretty—biking. Hop aboard your bike and pedal about three miles to the village where the artist lived for decades. You’ll pass the church and cemetery where Monet is buried and the Hotel Baudy, where his painter friends often stayed, and arrive at the artist’s home and garden for a tour.

Note: Giverny will be closed during the March and November cruise departure dates.

This evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.

Day 10: Rouen (Normandy Beaches)

The Normandy coast will forever be associated with the Allies’ D-Day invasion, a day that comes vividly to life today on an excursion to the beaches of 1944. Immerse yourself in the tactics, desperate courage and horrendous human cost of the 1944 Allied invasion of France, the first step in the ultimately victorious land campaign against the Third Reich. It began here, on these Norman beaches.

Full-day Normandy beaches with Utah Beach, Sainte-Mère-Église, Airborne museum, Pointe du Hoc, American Cemetery and private ceremony at Omaha Beach

Join your fellow passengers in a journey to Omaha Beach and the American cemetery, where almost 10,000 US soldiers are buried, most of whom lost their lives during the D-Day invasion. Today's journey also includes visits to Utah Beach, Sainte-Mère-Église, the Airborne museum, and Pointe du Hoc.

Note: Lunch on own if participating in this excursion.

Full-day Normandy beaches with Arromanches and Bayeux, Tapestry Museum, American Cemetery and private ceremony at Omaha Beach

Join your fellow passengers in a journey to Omaha Beach and the American cemetery, where almost 10,000 US soldiers are buried, most of whom lost their lives during the D-Day invasion. Today's journey also includes visits to Arromanches, Bayeux and the Tapestry Museum.

Note: Lunch on own if participating in this excursion.

Full-day Normandy beaches with Juno Beach, Centre Juno Beach, American Cemetery and private ceremony at Omaha Beach

Join your fellow passengers in a journey to Omaha Beach and the American cemetery, where almost 10,000 US soldiers are buried, most of whom lost their lives during the D-Day invasion. Today's journey also includes visits to Juno Beach and the Centre Juno Beach museum..

Note: Lunch on own if participating in this excursion.

Day 11: Caudebec-en-Caux (Honfleur or Étretat)

Golfing? On a river cruise? This delightfully unexpected excursion—a Uniworld exclusive—features a dramatic links course set atop Normandy’s Alabaster Coast at the windy cliffs of Étretat .In a word, magnifique. Not into golf? Stroll through the beautiful Calvados countryside to seaside Honfleur, captured on canvas by generations of artists.

Honfleur walking tour

A walking tour of the fishing village begins at the former smugglers’ harbor of Vieux Bassin—the most frequently painted scene in Honfleur—which looks much as it did a century ago, though now the boats in the harbor are more likely to be pleasure craft than fishing vessels. Your local guide will take you down tiny lanes, where houses stand shoulder to shoulder in a jumble of styles: narrow 19th-century slate-roofed townhouses, 15th-century fishermen’s cottages, and tall and elegant mansions— many adorned with figures of chimeras or saints. You’ll also see St. Catherine’s Church, built in the 15th century by shipwrights who gave it an oak ceiling that looks like the hull of a boat.

“Let’s Go” bike ride to Villequiers Village

“Let's Go” golfing in Étretat

It would be hard to find a more spectacular location than Étretat’s clifftop course, which is ranked as one of the best in France. Originally laid out in 1908 and substantially redesigned in the 1990s, it offers a multitude of challenges: Two nine-hole loops take players right to the cliff’s edge, the wind can be a serious challenge in and of itself, and the 10th through 14th holes offer formidable tests of a golfer’s skill. Spend the morning on the course, lunch on your own in charming Étretat and explore the seaside village that so many artists, including Monet, rendered in paint, or return to the ship for lunch and a leisurely afternoon onboard.

Note: Golf excursion is open to a limited number of golfers. Club entrance and use of golf clubs are provided for usage during your excursion. Please call for more information.

Oyster tasting in Honfleur

If you think Honfleur’s historic port looks familiar, it’s because you’ve seen it in a hundred Impressionist paintings. Boudin lived here and painted the port and coast in all weather, luring likeminded students—Monet among them—and artists like Sisley, Corot and Courbet to join him. The route to the historic seaport town at the mouth of the Seine is almost as scenic as the town itself. You’ll roll through the Norman countryside. passing enchanting villages, thatch-roofed cottages, gothic churches and ruined castles, on your way into the city. Once you arrive, a stop at the Marine Museum (housed within the walls the 14th-century church of St. Etienne) introduces you to the history of seafaring life and society in the area—and to seafarers who still harvest the bounty of these waters. Shellfish from the Norman coast is truly delectable, and none more delectable than the fresh oysters you’ll taste with a glass of pear cider at the museum.

St. Wandrille - Silent monks & monastic beer

  • Duration: 2 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $53

Travel to Saint-Wandrille where you will meet with Frere Julien. He will take you through the Abbey where he and other silent monks reside and work. The Abbey perpetuates the Benedictine tradition of silence in prayer and work, solitary prayer and communion. Frere Julien will discuss the destruction and revival endured by the monks, who continued to brew their unique style of beer, which originated as a way to pay for resources and building maintenance. Taste the smooth and refreshing pale ale brewed by the monks of Saint-Wandrille before visiting the Abbey shop where you can browse through products such as religious books, music, records, and other goods made by the Saint-Wandrille community.

Day 12: Rouen

Walk in the footsteps of greatness in Normandy’s medieval capital, a city with a historic quarter that remains amazingly intact. From the cathedral Monet painted dozens of times to the cross marking to spot where Joan of Arc was martyred, Rouen is a treasure trove for the culturally curious. The medieval capital of Normandy, Rouen has managed to preserve much of its historic core, despite being turned into a battlefield numerous times. The roll call of famous people who lived or died in Rouen is long and varied— Richard the Lionheart, Joan of Arc, Gustave Flaubert and Claude Monet are among them.

Rouen walking tour, the Dukes of Normandy’s capital

La Couronne restaurant where Julia Child first experienced French cuisine

Mont St. Michel

  • Duration: 10 hours
  • Strenuous:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $281

One of France’s most iconic sights, the abbey of Mont St. Michel seems to float above the shallow bay, impossibly beautiful. It’s been a pilgrimage destination for a thousand years, as well as a fortress, a beacon of independence and even, at one point, a prison. Travel to this marvel of medieval architecture today, crossing the causeway bridge (the new one, which permits the tides to scour the bay and keep it free of silt) and climbing the cobblestone lane that twines around the island to the top, where the Gothic church reaches heavenward. Explore the historic crypts, chapels and vaults that support the church and cloisters above, stand on the walls that withstood a 30-year assault by the English in the 15th century and marvel at the legendary view. Only 50 people live on this tiny rock islet, but they and their families have fed visitors for centuries; choose a restaurant for lunch on your own—diners have enjoyed omelets here in particular for at least 100 years.

Day 13: Mantes-la-Jolie (Versailles)

How did France’s rulers live over the centuries? Step into the private rooms of either the Palace of Versailles, the lavish palace built by the Sun King, or Marie Antoinette’s hamlet to find out.

Versailles Palace secret apartments

It was the official residence of the country’s kings and queens from 1682 until the revolution, and though the monarchy possessed other palaces, Versailles stood alone in magnificence. Tour the royal apartments, which still look much as they did when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fled in 1789. In these rooms, you’ll find lush silk draperies, exquisite marquetry tables, gilded beds, Aubusson carpets and porcelain ornaments that reveal the elegance of the 18th-century royalty’s lifestyle, as well as the extravagance that helped fuel the rage leading to the revolution. Climb the great staircase and enter the jaw-dropping Hall of Mirrors, where the absolute ruler of France held court for the ambassadors of Siam, Persia and the Ottoman Empire, along with all the great seigneurs of France. Ladies intrigued behind their fans, plots were hatched, and careers were made and destroyed beneath the sparkling chandeliers here.

“Versailles Gardens and Queens Hamlet”

“Let’s Go” scenic bike ride along the Seine River to La Butte Verte Parc

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 14: Paris

Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the “City of Light” or you’ve been here many times before, there’s something for everyone today in Paris. Enjoy a panoramic overview of the city, or join a local expert for a walk through two much-loved neighborhoods.

Paris city tour

Hemingway called Paris a moveable feast: Once you’ve experienced it, you will take it with you wherever you go. If you are experiencing Paris for the first time, this tour will introduce you to the City of Light’s most cherished landmarks. You’ll head via motorcoach from the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his Grand Army’s 128 victories, down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde. These broad 19th-century avenues and stately buildings were created by Baron Haussmann in a great urban development that eliminated the cramped, crazy-quilt medieval city and gave Paris its modern form. You’ll pass the magnificent Opéra Garnier, the Place Vendôme (home to designer salons), the legendary Louvre and, on the Left Bank, the Sorbonne University and the Panthéon. Stretch your legs at the Luxembourg Gardens, then take in the École Militaire before arriving at the manicured grounds of the Champs de Mars, the perfect vantage point from which to see Paris’s most iconic structure—the Eiffel Tower. Cross the Seine via the most stunning single-arch bridge in Paris, Pont Alexandre III; it displays elegantly sculpted nymphs, winged horses and graceful art nouveau lamps. Once on the other side of the river, you’ll be sure to spot the largest glass ceilings in France, which shelter the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. As you continue along the Seine’s banks you’ll see many striking contemporary bridges too. Your city tour will finish at your ship’s dock.

“Do as the Locals Do” Île de la Cité and Latin Quarter walking tour

As a true Parisian would, take the Métro to the Île de la Cité and the great cathedral of Notre Dame. Henry IV said that Paris was worth a Mass when he converted to Catholicism—and he made that conversion official here, in the center of Paris. In fact, Notre Dame is officially the center of France; facing its main entrance is Kilometer Zero, the location from which distances in France (including those of the French national highways) are traditionally measured. An expert in the history and architecture of this magnificent cathedral is your guide as you explore both inside and out. Begun in the 12th century and finished about 200 years later, Notre Dame is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in Europe.

After you’ve admired Notre Dame’s stained glass, flying buttresses and idiosyncratic gargoyles, cross the Archbishop’s Bridge to the Left Bank and the Latin Quarter. Wander through the narrow streets where for centuries artists, writers, philosophers and the Sorbonne’s students have lived and worked, argued politics, painted, sipped absinthe and lived the bohemian lifestyle for which the district is famous. Matisse, Picasso, Rimbaud and Sartre, as well as American expatriate writers Hemingway and Fitzgerald, are just a few of the notables who made this district home. Take some time to meander through the area’s little squares, perusing the shop windows and perhaps relaxing with a drink at a classic café.

“Heart of Paris” Seine River cruise

“Let's Go” Seine riverbanks bike ride

The Seine’s quays may be protected by UNESCO for their cultural importance and significance in the development of Paris, but they are also the scene of a host of fun outdoor activities: games for kids and grown-ups, a climbing wall, a running track, yoga classes, even a beach in August—and an inviting bike path. Join a guide to pedal along the Left Bank, crossing the bridges that link historic Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis and getting a close look at the heart of the city’s origins. Bike to the Esplanade des Invalides (Napoleon’s tomb is one of the monuments here) and along the Quay d’Orsay to the Champs de Mars, one of Paris’s largest green spaces . . . which just happens to have one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in the city. It’s a fun way to take part in the life of the city while also getting some exercise.

Moulin Rouge

  • Duration: 5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $234

How can you resist? Montmartre’s Moulin Rouge is the most famous cancan cabaret in the world, the place where the rowdy and athletic dance was perfected. Lavish, lively and festive, the show constantly changes—but it always features the cancan. Over its 120-year history the nightclub has attracted princes, painters, bankers, musicians and many ordinary patrons. Sit back and enjoy your dinner and Champagne while the glamorous girls and larger-than-life spectacle delight you.

Retro sidecar Montmartre discovery

  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Price: $110

Buckle up, don’t forget your safety gear and get ready to explore Paris’ architecture and history by way of sidecar. Join your guide on a retro motorcycle as you drive past the Eiffel Tower on your way to Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Continue cruising through the high-end shopping district on Boulevard Saint Germain. Enjoy some free time and make sure to stop by the famous Café de Flore or Ralph Lauren's restaurant featuring his take on classic American cuisine. On your way back to the ship you will pass by the Church of Saint-Sulpice. Built in the 17th century and elaborately enhanced in later centuries, Saint-Sulpice is the one of the largest churches in the city - second only, of course, to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, which happens to be your next destination. Make your way to Notre-Dame, and witness the destruction and revival this cathedral has endured over the decades. Before this Masterpiece experience ends, you will descend onto the glamorous Avenue Montaigne, home to some of the world's most renowned and revered fashion houses, including Valentino, Chanel, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Dior.

Parisian gourmet tour

  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $86

Travel underground Paris from the Seine River to Montmartre, where you will tour the old historic route of Rue des Martyrs. This street is home to more than 200 artisan and gourmet shops and restaurants. Take your time walking from storefront to storefront tasting authentic French foods; from bakeries serving delicious baguettes, to cheese shops, creperies, and butcheries. Your guide will then take you to Hôtel Sacha where your culinary journey will continue. Sample some of the foods purchased on your walking tour paired with the perfect wine. After the tour, guests who choose to stay in the city and explore further will be given Metro tickets for their commute back to the ship.

In Coco Chanel's footsteps

  • Duration: 3.5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $86

Meet your guide and fashion expert, Gizzy! This tour will begin by bus to Place de la Concorde, the largest public square in Paris decorated with grand statues and fountains. Gizzy will introduce you to the work and history of the eminent Coco Chanel, the beautiful French fashion designer and businesswoman known for revolutionizing the feminine standard of style by liberating women from the traditional corsets post-WWI. She is, of course, the founder of the iconic and luxury Chanel brand recognized and celebrated worldwide today. Continuing on to Rue de Rivoli, you will reach the Angelina Tearoom, home to what many consider to be the best hot chocolate in Paris. Indulge in one yourself and enjoy other delicious sweets, cakes, and pastries in this elegant boutique. Learn about the history of this luxurious tea lounge and why it was one of Coco’s favorite places. Gizzy will then walk you to 31 Rue Cambon, Coco’s exquisite Paris flat where the Chanel brand blossomed. Go window shopping along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, home to many of Paris' most reputable fashion houses. Wander around the grandiose Place Vendôme, built on the orders of Louis XIV, and explore the opulent Hôtel Ritz Paris, Coco’s declared home.

Rolls Royce - Paris Illuminations tour

  • Duration: 1.5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $525

The Paris Illuminations tour is the best private way to go sightseeing and discover the city’s elaborate architectural highlights. Pierre-André, a native Parisian, chauffeur, storyteller, and Toulouse-Lautrec's great grandnephew, has over the years been involved in the city's rich artistic and cultural life, serving as designer Pierre Cardin's chief assistant and acting as curator of the Art Nouveau Collection at Maxim’s. Join him in a vintage Rolls Royce as he takes you on a magnificent tour that winds through the city of light. He will make a stop at the historic and prestigious Place Vendôme, where you can enjoy and sip on a glass of champagne in front of the luxurious Hôtel Ritz Paris.

Day 15: Paris (Disembark), Transfer to Lyon via High-Speed TGV Train (Embark)

Disembark the S.S. Joie de Vivre and transfer via high-speed, first-class TGV train to Lyon for the fantastic final leg of your French adventure, where you’ll find the striking S.S. Catherine waiting to carry you through Burgundy and Provence.

Day 16: Mâcon (Beaune)

The pace of life is decidedly more relaxed in Burgundy, where endless rows of grapes hang heavy on the vine. The capital of the region’s wine trade, Beaune, is renowned for its history, beauty and highly prized wine, as well as its medieval-era hospital—the Hospices de Beaune. Located in the southernmost part of Burgundy, Mâcon, a Saône River port, is your gateway to Beaune.

Wine tasting at a Burgundy Estate

Kick off your wine country adventure by delving into the luscious wine culture surrounding Beaune. The motorcoach carries you past legendary vineyards to your destination, a fine wine estate where the winemaker will introduce you to the estate and the vintages crafted here. Will the chardonnays you sample with delectable gougéres be crisp or rich or both? And why? Draw on the winemaker’s expertise to learn about the white wines of the area—and discover why Burgundy’s wines are the most terroir-oriented in France. It’s a delicious way to begin your epicurean exploration of Burgundy and Provence.

Château de Rully wine tasting & lunch

  • Duration: 7.5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $103

Drive through picturesque hamlets and pristine vineyards to a Burgundy wine estate, where you’ll meet the owners and indulge in a lunch showcasing regional specialties. You’ll also enjoy a tasting that will bring to life the delicate flavors of southern Burgundy wine and illuminate the passion behind local winemaking traditions.

Burgundy landscapes, Beaune and the hospices

Beaune may not be a large town, but it brims with history, a wealth of splendid regional architecture and incredible food. Nestled inside medieval ramparts, Beaune was the seat of the warlike dukes of Burgundy until the 16th century.

You’ll recognize the Hospices de Beaune (also known as Hôtel-Dieu) immediately by its fabulous multicolored-tile roof—it’s a symbol of Burgundy. Founded as a charitable institution by the duke’s chancellor in 1443, the hospital became a model for charitable giving in southern France, one with a unique fundraising tradition that continues to this day. Over the centuries, the hospice monks were given wine and vineyards, and they began selling the wine at auction in order to support their charitable work. The wine auction is now world-famous, and the institution remains a working hospital for the poor, with modern facilities standing alongside the historic Hôtel-Dieu.

Mâcon walking tour

The man whose impassioned defense of France’s famous tricolor flag guaranteed its continuance as the national flag was born in Mâcon, your destination today. Alphonse de Lamartine, born a year after the French revolution began, became the country’s first Romantic poet and a celebrated man of letters—and, in 1848, a founder of the Second Republic. You’ll spot his statue opposite Mâcon’s city hall as you stroll from the ship with your guide through this historic riverport city, which has been an important trading center since the Celts founded it 2,200 years ago. The Romans built a bridge across the Saone here, and you’ll have a great view of its 16th-century successor, the graceful multi-arched St. Laurent bridge, from the square. Ramble down Rue Monrevel for a look at the twin towers of St. Peter’s, the church that replaced Mâcon’s medieval—and irreparable—cathedral and then along bustling Rue Carnot, lined with shops and cafes, to a curious wooden house that predates the bridge: Maison de Bois’ facade is decorated with carved figures of men and monkeys—standing, sitting, holding onto mythical beasts. It’s the oldest house in Mâcon, built around the year 1500, and one of just a few remaining examples of this rustic medieval style of architecture.

A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 17: Lyon

As the epicenter of French gastronomy, Lyon is a city of tantalizing contrasts. There’s much to explore here, from the work of culinary visionaries to silk weavers’ secret passageways. After your choice of excursions, embrace the locals’ favorite mode of transportation with a patisserie-fueled bike ride—a great way to see the sights. Two rivers: one tranquil, one torrential. Two hills: one for labor, where the sound of the silk weavers’ looms used to echo; the other for prayers, crowned by a spectacular basilica. Two cities, as different as night and day: one boasting colorful Old World façades, medieval mansions and hidden passageways; one with a sophisticated urbanity reminiscent of Paris. Situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, and with roots stretching back over 2,000 years to the days of Julius Caesar, Lyon is a place of fascinating dualities. Today you have your choice of ways to explore this city of contrasts: Sample its culinary riches with a visit to its peerless market hall or follow the footsteps of the silk weavers in the old quarter. For a more active option, see the city from its extensive—and lovely—bike paths.

Lyon Capital of Gastronomy tour

No one eats better than the citizens of Lyon, a tradition that harks back more than a century, when women opened unpretentious restaurants, called bouchons, to feed hungry workers. The traditional bouchon serves hearty meat-based dishes, but quenelles—luscious dumplings—and a seasoned cream cheese called cervelle de canut are longtime local favorites too.

While explaining Lyon’s important gastronomic history, your guide will show you the city’s bouchons and specialty food shops and take you into the legendary local gourmet scene—and you’ll have a chance to taste some delectable offerings. Don’t miss the macarons! On the way to these fabulous culinary destinations, you’ll see some of Lyon’s historic old quarter, with its many spectacular examples of medieval and Renaissance architecture, and les traboules, the city’s old passageways.

Silk weavers walking tour

Lyon’s history is entwined with silk, which dominated the city’s economy for centuries—at one time, almost a third of the city’s population were silk weavers. Jump on a tram and head for Lyon-Perrache station with your guide, who will take you into the historic Saint-Jean Quarter, part of the UNESCO-honored Old Town. The Gothic cathedral is probably the most striking heirloom of the Middle Ages, but the tall rose and ocher buildings dating to the Renaissance pay tribute to the importance of the silk trade with Italy in that era. Enter the courtyard of the Gadagne Museum, which is housed in an early16th- century building, and stroll along Rue Juiverie, which has been occupied since Roman times and was once home to Nostradamus. You’ll see some of the traboules, the old passageways that snake between and through buildings, secret shortcuts that silk weavers took to keep their delicate fabrics out of the rain. You’ll pass cozy bouchons, which serve traditional local dishes, and you’ll have a chance to see a Jacquard loom in use.

“Let's Go” Lyon peninsula bike tour

Get out and about with a bike ride along the river. Lyon boasts a thriving bike-rental scene, which tells you just how popular this mode of transportation is—you will definitely have two-wheeled company as you pedal along the banks of the Rhône on a sunny day. Your route takes you over the new Raymond Barre Bridge, past the spectacular new Museum of Confluences (so named because it sits at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône) and along the peninsula, a strip of land with the Saône on one side and the Rhône on the other. Here, houseboats tie up along the banks, swans float on the water and locals take advantage of the lovely park like setting. You’ll also have a great view of the Old Town on the other side of the river. This outing gives you a little taste of what it is like to live in Lyon, as well as a little exercise.

Chef's table lunch at Institut Paul Bocuse

  • Duration: 2.5 hours
  • Easy:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $133

Paul Bocuse, the father of nouvelle cuisine, revolutionized French cooking and now teaches students from around the world eager to learn his techniques. Observe a cooking demonstration and enjoy lunch at this legendary center of gastronomic learning.

Day 18: Tournon (Tain-l’Hermitage)

If you love fine wine, you’ll love the twin villages of Tournon and Tain-l’Hermitage. Whether you opt for a guided walk or a more vigorous vineyard hike, you’ll also have a chance to taste the local specialty—wonderful wines made primarily from Syrah grapes.

Tournon and Tain-l’Hermitage twin villages stroll with wine tasting

Nestled on opposite sides of the river in the heart of the Côtes du Rhône, the twin cities of Tournon and Tain-l’Hermitage are an ideal destination for connoisseurs of fine wine. Tournon may be a small town, but stirring events took place here: A castle was raised on the hilltop in the 10th century to protect the region, and new fortifications were added over the centuries, including two “new” towers built to defend against Protestant attacks in the 16th century. You’ll see the handsome houses constructed by wealthy merchants and garrison officers when you walk through the Rue de Doux area, and you’ll pass the 14th-century church—unusual for the number of houses incorporated in its walls—and the oldest secondary school in France.

Cross the pretty flower-decked Marc Seguin suspension bridge to Tain-l’Hermitage to visit local wine cellars, where you’ll taste the region’s famous Côtes du Rhône, Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage wines. These wines are produced from the Syrah grapes that grow on the steep slopes lining the river. After your wine tasting, you’ll have time to browse through the shops; the Valrhona chocolate factory is always a popular stop.

“Let's Go” Hermitage Terrace vineyards hike with wine tasting

Are you ready to explore the steepest vineyards on the Rhône? The vines producing the world-famous Hermitage wines grow on precipitous slopes above the river, so steep that terracing is essential. Hike along the paths that parallel the rough courses of stone through the vineyards, each one situated to catch the afternoon sun. After you’ve seen how the grapes—primarily Syrah—are grown, taste the fruit that has been transformed by the vintners’ craft into legendary wine.

Wine Brotherhood Ceremony at Château de Seigneurs de Tournon

Tournon’s castle, commanding a key spot above the Rhône, was home to the counts of Tournon for centuries; these great feudal lords used it to reinforce their control of the river below. In these more peaceful days, it houses a small museum devoted to the history of the region (as well as paintings by local modern-day artists). Climb the stairs of the rugged stone towers to take in the wonderful views, then cross the bridge to participate in a very special wine event. Join the velvet-cloaked members of the St. Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage winemaker brotherhoods for an induction ceremony—you or a fellow passenger will be the lucky honoree chosen to become a member of the brotherhood. It shouldn’t be too hard to vow to advocate the marvelous wines grown in this region, and that, after all, is the chief duty of the membership. It will probably be even easier after you sample some of the great wines produced in these two appellations.

Day 19: Viviers

Meet some new friends today in the village of Viviers; encounters that really get at the heart and soul of the French people and their culture and traditions. No matter whom you get to know—a pottery maker, a dance teacher or a local homeowner—you’ll have an enjoyable and truly authentic experience, something you’ll remember for years to come. An enchanting village where time seems to have stopped centuries ago, Viviers has a long and storied past that goes back more than 1,600 years—and a splendid architectural heritage to match. At one time, Viviers was divided along religious lines—the clergy lived in the upper part of the town, the laity in the lower part. Your exploration of the town will take you through both parts, as you begin at the crest and make your way to the riverbank.

Valrhona Chocolate and Wine pairing

Truffle farm & Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tasting

  • Duration: 4.75 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $101

Beautiful Renaissance châteaux dot the hillsides as you travel to a family-owned truffle farm for a tasting of these “black diamonds,” accompanied by a local wine. Your next stop is a wine cellar in the renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine appellation, where you will sample various vintages.

Truffle farm and lavender fields

  • Duration: 4.5 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $84

Combine two seasonal—and archetypically Provencal—delights in a single excursion. Leave the river behind as you roll through the Drôme, where fields of blooming lavender stretch toward the hills, perfuming the sun-drenched air and seducing the eye. You might think it’s the most heavenly fragrance in all of Provence, but your second stop introduces you to another extraordinary scent: truffles. Meet the owner of a truffle farm—though grove might be a better word for it, since truffles grow among the roots of oak trees—and watch his well-trained dog sniff out a “black diamond” or two before sampling some of the delicious terrines and pates made on the premises with this most prized fungus. You’ll have some free time to explore Grignan too; the medieval walled village is dominated by the Chateau de Grignan, a beautiful Renaissance palace where Mme de Sevigne’s daughter lived in the 17th century. The letters the countess received from her mother still provide us with lively insights into the daily life of nobility in the time of Louis XIV. Note: This excursion is only available during the lavenders season from mid-June to mid-July.

Intimate Viviers “Village Day”

Sycamores line some of Viviers’ stone-paved streets (planted, so they say, to provide shade for Napoleon’s soldiers), and houses here bear the watermarks of floods over the years. A local expert will show you the fountain squares in the Old Town, which combines Roman and medieval influences, and cobblestone lanes so narrow you can stand in the middle and touch the medieval houses on either side. Viviers climbs a hill crowned by 12th-century St. Vincent’s Cathedral. It happens to be the smallest cathedral in France, but it contains a marvelous organ. Take a seat under the soaring vaults and listen while a local organist demonstrates just how fine an instrument it is before you meet some of the local residents. You might choose to learn how a local potter makes the attractive wares sold at Poterie; step into one of two homes—one a mansion, the other more modest; take a dance class; or sample the wares at a popular bar. Don’t feel that you must opt for the bar if you’d like a little refreshment; all visits include an aperitif. On your way back to the ship, stop to try your hand at a game of petanque, which is akin to horseshoes, only it’s played with steel balls.

Truffle Hunting & Village of Grignan

Beautiful Renaissance châteaux dot the hillsides in the distance (including the splendid Château de Grignan, where Madame de Sévigné’s daughter lived and received the letters her famous mother wrote to her) as you travel today through the lush rolling hills of the Drôme Provençale to a truffle farm. The owner will welcome you and explain how just the right conditions are required for the truffles to flourish under the oak trees; you’ll see his well-trained dog sniff out these “black diamonds,” and then you can taste the delectable fungus in a variety of housemade patés and canapés, along with local wine.

Note: The June 23, 2019 Connoisseur Collection sailing of Burgundy & Provence will also include a visit to the Lavender Fields.

Day 20: Avignon

The walled city of Avignon is one of the most fascinating towns in southern France, with a host of historic gems to explore—including the fortress residence of rebellious popes who broke from Rome and once lived and ruled here. You’ll see the Palace of the Popes and much more today, and also have a chance to kayak under a 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct.

Avignon walking tour with Palace of the Popes

It’s hard to believe, looking at the charming cafés and entertaining street performers in the Clock Tower Square, that this lively scene owes its existence to a 15th-century siege. This area was the heart of medieval Avignon (and the site of the original Roman town), crowded with cottages and narrow streets—until a pope had it all demolished in order to give his troops a clearer field of fire. That is Avignon in a nutshell: It was the city of the popes. The Avignon popes built the ramparts that still surround the Old Town and the huge, nearly impregnable fortress that dominates the UNESCO-designated district; in fact, the city did not officially become part of France until 1791. Stand below the high, thick walls to get a sense of just how daunting these fortifications were, then prepare to climb many steps as you tour the Palace of the Popes itself—it’s worth it!

Pont du Gard Roman Aqueduct visit

In the middle of the first century, Roman engineers responded to Nîmes’s need for water to fill its baths, fountains and pools by building a 30-mile-long aqueduct from Uzès to Nîmes—which required transporting Uzès springwater over the River Gardon. A thousand workers quarried 50,000 tons of soft golden limestone and used it to construct—without mortar—the magnificent tri-level bridge that still spans the river. An expert guide will explain the techniques used to build this engineering marvel, which has withstood 2,000 years of floods and storms that swept away much newer bridges. You can see notations those ancient Romans made in the stones as they cut and fitted them into place when you view the bridge itself, and you can learn about the entire project at the museum. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is as beautiful as it is fascinating.

"Let’s Go" kayak ride on the Gardon River

Note: Kayak ride on the Gardon River is only available for May through September departure dates.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tasting

  • Duration: 2.75 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $80

Celebrated Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. As you arrive at one of the wonderful vineyards in this district, the owner will greet you and introduce you to the wines produced here, which you will have a chance to sample after a tour of the cellar. Note: On the Lyon to Avignon direction, this excursion is only available during the lavenders season from mid-June to mid-July.

Cooking class at La Mirande

  • Duration: 5.25 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $196

Don’t miss the chance to stroll through Avignon’s famous covered market, which always displays the best of local produce as well as seafood and such Provencal specialties as lavender and textiles, and learn how to put that produce to use at a famous cooking school. La Mirande, a grand 17th-century house that stands in the shadow of the Palace of the Popes, has been repurposed as an elegant hotel with a fine restaurant and a noted cooking school. In the atmospheric 19th-century kitchen where your class convenes—it resembles a museum devoted to traditional Provencal cuisine, complete with wood-burning stove—the chef will happily show you how to create a delectable lunch using the freshest ingredients and traditional techniques. Before you sit down to enjoy the meal you’ve contributed to, you have a chance to taste some wines in the cellar with the sommelier, then sip an aperitif and take your place at the family table for your meal, which will be accompanied by well-chosen Côtes du Rhône wines.

Day 21: Tarascon

Explore one of two sun-drenched Provençal towns today, each with an allure all its own. Known for its remarkable Roman ruins, Arles so inspired Van Gogh that he painted some 200 paintings there; Tarascon boasts an ancient castle, as well as a local legend about a ferocious dragon. Arles has existed since the sixth century BC, when the ancient Greeks founded it and named it Theline. It was here that the Romans built their first bridge across the Rhône River, creating a vital overland route between Italy and Spain and facilitating the expansion of their empire. Long renowned as one of the region’s most attractive cities, it lured artist Vincent van Gogh, who painted hundreds of works here (including Sunflowers and The Yellow House) in just 15 months. A short distance from Arles is the ancient and charming town of Tarascon. Its many medieval sites include a 12th-century church and a 15th-century castle that is rich with tales of a beloved ruler. Bask in the warmth of the Provençal sunlight in either of these friendly Mediterranean towns.

Olive Farm & Les Baux-de-Provence

  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Intermediate:
  • Transportation:
  • Price: $64

Provence has been one of the world’s finest olive-growing regions for more than 2,500 years. Learn about traditional olive horticulture and sample the fruits of the groves at an olive farm, then explore the entrancing cobblestone streets, winding alleyways and artists’ shops of the medieval hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence.

Arles walking tour

Van Gogh paid tribute to Arles’ atmospheric beauty in some 200 paintings, including Starry Night Over the Rhône. It’s an ancient city boasting a remarkable collection of Roman ruins; among them are a theater where the famous Venus of Arles—on display in the Louvre—was discovered in 1651 and an amphitheater that is still used for sporting events. Join a local expert for a stroll through this district, where medieval houses crowd in among the ancient structures and the city gates date to the 13th century. Pause before the town hall, built with stone quarried from the Roman theater, and the Romanesque St. Trophime Church, which was erected in the 12th century. It replaced the church where St. Augustine, the man who converted the inhabitants of England to Christianity, was consecrated by the first archbishop of Canterbury. Walk in Van Gogh’s footsteps past the cheery yellow Café de Nuit—still open and still the same shade of yellow it was when he painted it—and across Forum Square before visiting the town’s bountiful farmers’ market, which displays seasonal fruits and vegetables, medicinal herbs and many more specialties of Southern France.

During your free time after the tour, you can peruse the local shops, go olive tasting or delve further into Arles’ stunning collection of architectural treasures.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Day 22: Avignon (Disembark)

Disembark the ship. If your cruise package includes a group departure transfer or if you have purchased a private departure transfer, you will be transferred to Marseille International Airport for your flight home.

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