Your holiday summary

Holiday type River cruises
Country France
Travel type Train
Price range From £799
Travel partner Riviera Travel
Duration 7 nights
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Burgundy, the river Rhone and Provence - MS Swiss Corona

From the vineyards of Burgundy to the hills of Provence and the wild ruggedness of the Ardeche gorges to medieval Avignon.

We start in France’s gastronomic capital and explore the Saone and Rhone rivers, a route of traders and invaders alike since the dawn of recorded history. Everywhere there are reminders of the Romans and the greatest empire of the ancient world. You will see the amphitheatre at Arles and the huge aqueduct at the Pont du Gard. Avignon was the seat of the Papacy during medieval times, heralding a century of greatness crowned by the absorbing Papal palace and its renaissance art collection. Van Gogh created arguably his greatest works in Provence and all this is set in France’s natural beauty.


Included


  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of single cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement
  • The price includes full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day
  • If you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided
  • Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant;
  • Morning/afternoon tea and coffee
  • All visits and excursions as mentioned in the brochure
  • Airport/station transfers
  • Coach travel as mentioned
  • Travel to and from port of embarkation
  • The services of a Riviera Travel Tour Manager
Day one

You can either fly to Lyon, Marseille or Montpellier where you will be met and taken to the ship moored in Lyon’s historic centre, or you can travel by Eurostar from London St Pancras International, changing trains at the purpose-built Lille station, onto the TGV to Lyon. The dedicated crew will welcome you on board, ensuring you settle into your cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship – your first-class floating hotel.

Day two

After our first breakfast, we have a leisurely start taking a guided tour of Lyon, one of France’s most interesting cities. The Rhône valley has been a route of choice for invading armies and traders since ancient times and nestling at the head of the valley at the confluence of two great rivers, the area cried out to be fortified. Founded by the Gauls, Julius Caesar made it his capital and the Emperor Claudius, conqueror of Britain was born here. There are a host of their remains to see but the city came to prominence from the Middle Ages onwards, making a fortune from silk manufacture. Wealth poured in, funding the multitude of renaissance buildings, rich churches and one of Europe’s most splendid town squares, the Place Bellecour, which today adds greatly to the city’s character. Old Lyon is crammed with antique shops and ‘traboules’ – narrow passages passing through actual houses which enabled silk merchants to reach the river more easily.

Lyon is also generally acknowledged as France’s (and if you ask a local, that inevitably means the world’s), gastronomic capital. In fairness it has much to commend it: nouvelle cuisine was invented near here and there are ubiquitous food shops and restaurants, of which there are more per capita, than anywhere else in the world. As you enjoy your first lunch, the ship quietly slips its moorings, cruising upstream, catching our first glimpses of the vine-clad slopes of the green Beaujolais hills, as we approach one of the world’s most famous wine producing regions. On our left we see the villages – Morgon, Fleury, Juliénas, Chénas and many more, whilst on the right, you may be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Mont Blanc – western Europe’s highest mountain. As the afternoon drifts into evening, the white wines of Mâcon now hold sway as we cruise past the town that gives them its name and you can sip a cool crisp glass on the sundeck before retiring to the restaurant for this evening’s dinner.

Day three

Rising this morning, we are berthed in Chalon, the home of Niépce, the inventor of photography, and gateway to Burgundy. On this morning’s tour we see the picturesque yet surprisingly tiny villages that read like a top restaurant’s wine list - Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin and many more, the source of some of world’s finest wines. Nearby is medieval Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital, which is wonderful to just wander around and in its centre is the Hotel Dieu with its multi-coloured tiled roof. Built as a hospital in the 15th century, a prestigious annual wine auction takes place here, the considerable proceeds of which support the hospital to this day. Of course you cannot visit Burgundy without sampling its wine, so next we visit one of the most traditional of winemakers at nearby Nuits-Saint-Georges for a tour and tasting, before returning to the ship for lunch.

Day four

Overnight, the ship has cruised south with breakfast in the ancient Roman stronghold of Vienne, established under Julius Caesar. Located in a narrow section of the Rhône valley where it turns sharply around a steep bluff, Vienne is a treasure trove of historic remains and a walk around will bring its story to life.

During lunch, we enter perhaps the most picturesque section of the Rhône Valley as the river squeezes and twists through narrow defiles like Condrieu, St Rambert d’Albon and St Vallier, lined with wooded river cliffs, rising high to both sides. Traditionally these stretches were the most dangerous due to fierce currents and varying water levels and this afternoon is ideally spent on the sun-deck taking in the views as we navigate a series of locks. Later we moor in the provincial town of Tournon with its tree-lined avenues and across the river, the vine-covered hillsides produce Hermitage, yet another of the world’s most revered wines.

Day five

This morning we cruise downstream. Over to the left you catch glimpses of the Alps and as we approach Valence, the landscape gradually becomes less green with more ochres and magentas, whilst the houses have the sloping terracotta roofs resplendent of the Mediterranean. You are in the midi, or as we call it - the south of France. Catch up on some reading or just laze in the sun whilst the temperature rises.

After lunch we explore one of France’s most outstanding natural wonders, the Ardèche gorges, the scale of which is a fitting reminder of mother nature’s power. As the road twists and turns, steep cliffs make a thousand feet sheer drop to the torrential river below, eloquently snaking its way through natural formations cumulating in a natural rock arch carved by the wild waters. With caves, grottoes and natural sculptures, there are views at every turn before returning to the gentler sides of the Rhône valley and the ship in Viviers, a medieval town clustered around its Romanesque cathedral. The ship casts off through the famous giant lock at Bollène, as you relax over dinner.

Day six

This morning you wake under the azure-blue skies of deepest Provence, amidst the rich warm stone of historic Arles. Although small in size, it was the key stronghold on the Roman road to Spain, one of the empire’s richest possessions. Sea-going ships could reach here and the city became the capital of Gaul, Spain and Britain. Our guided tour will help you to appreciate the finer points of Arles’ Roman remains, including the great amphitheatre, the best preserved such building in the world and the source of most of our knowledge of Roman entertainment; the decorum of the theatre built by Augustus; the extraordinary atmosphere of the ancient necropolis - and the Forum, once the city’s heart, where Constantine was installed as Emperor. Van Gogh lived here for two years during his most prolific period and, inspired by the light and beauty of the Provençal countryside produced 300 works including the Sower, Café de Nuit, the Red Vines and of course, Sunflowers

After lunch we visit the Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, 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 the Romans considered to be the most important testimony to their greatness and indeed it was the highest bridge they ever built. The statistics are staggering: 900 feet long and 160 feet high. Some of the stones are 6 feet thick and no mortar was used in construction. Just to put this in perspective this is a greater span than the river Thames in London, with pine and cypress covered hills adding to the harmonious setting. Rejoining the ship, we cruise along the Rhône during dinner passing the 13th century castle at Tarascon seemingly standing guard on the river banks.

Day seven

As the morning light catches the red roofs of Avignon’s medieval skyline. After breakfast we embark on a guided tour. Avignon’s destiny changed during the 14th century, with the exile of the Pope’s court here from Rome, bringing with it a century of prosperity. But to truly embrace the feel of historic Avignon you must imagine the rich furnishings, the décor, the alleys and corridors teeming with Cardinals, Princes and Ambassadors plus pilgrims in the streets below eagerly anticipating benediction. The Pontiff commissioned a host of grandiose building projects and today, the city is preserved, nestling behind its almost intact 15th century walls and has many monuments, decorated buildings, churches, chapels and convents. Most important is the Pope’s palace whose interior is a masterpiece of medieval architecture decorated with frescoes and tapestries, whilst the private apartments are a must too.

After lunch, you are free to explore as you wish, perhaps the Petit Palais, casting an eye over the 1,000 renaissance paintings including works by Botticelli and Carpaccio, or taking a stroll on the Pont d’Avignon. It’s our final afternoon so you may wish to do some shopping, or just find a quiet shady street café in a Provençal square.

This evening the Captain’s dinner takes place, serving specialities of the regions you have visited.

Day eight

After breakfast this morning transfer to the airport for your flight home or to Avignon train station for your high speed rail journey home.

Please note: on dates marked with an asterisk on the separate departure details, this tour operates in reverse order. You will experience the same tours and visits
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Departure date Departing point Departure UK Arrive at Destination Nights Price  
03-Nov-2014 St Pancras 12:58 15:30 7 799.00 please call
03-Nov-2014 Heathrow Airport 13:50 16:30 7 849.00 please call
03-Nov-2014 Gatwick Airport 08:15 10:50 7 799.00 please call
3 results
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