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: Cadillac
The French phrase “la douceur de vivre” is an accurate description for your time in Cadillac, known for its deliciously flavored dessert wines. Visit Château Royal de Cazeneuve, site of Henry IV’s and Queen Margot’s tempestuous love. Meet the owner around a glass of Sauternes in the reception hall.
In the evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
Note: Sailing this stretch of the Garonne depends on the tides. If it is not possible to sail to Cadillac, you will be transferred to your destination via motorcoach.
Private Owner's Tour of Royal Château with Sauternes Toast
You’ll journey through the vineyards to Château Royal 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 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.
Day 3: Cussac Fort Medoc
The legendary Médoc region abounds with prestigious wine châteaux in a dizzying array of architectural styles, as well as miles of grapevines stretching to infinity. Take a scenic drive through the storied Médoc wine route, followed by a wine tasting at a beautiful wine estate.
Fresh Médoc Oysters Tasting
Oysters have long been a beloved product of the Médoc—and for good reason. Discover why today as you join an oyster farmer at the Guards’ House terrace for a tasting of this delicacy, accompanied by a glass of local white wine.
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.
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 to pedal through the lush landscapes of historic estates that have seemingly remained unchanged for centuries.
Day 4: Blaye, Bourg Sur Gironde
The Route de la Corniche Fleurie…could this be the most beautiful road you’ve ever traveled? Find out today on the drive to Blaye Fortress, passing through one impossibly picturesque hamlet after another. Once you arrive, you’ll discover the wonders of this historic fortress, a UNESCO-designated citadel that once protected Bordeaux from attacks by sea.
Panoramas of 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.
Intimate Experience with Local Wine & Art Connoisseurs
Today you are invited to join an informal wine tasting hosted by the owner of La Petite Cave, a charming wine bar in Blaye. The owner here will give you a personal look into the life of a local wine lover, take you into his art studio, and show you his collections of wine and antique cars.
Day 5: Libourne (Saint-Emilion
With Libourne as your base, travel to nearby breathtaking Saint-Émilion and immerse yourself more deeply in the region’s history and wine culture. The medieval town of Saint-Émilion is an ideal place to linger. Wander its cobblestone lanes lined with wine shops and bakeries, and stop to admire the amazing rock-hewn church that extends beneath the city’s streets.
Note: Today's lunch will be on your own; ask your Cruise Manager for recommendations on the best nearby restaurants.
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 fantastic estate where you’ll taste some of the world’s most highly rated wines.
Day 6: Libourne, Bordeaux
France’s rich agricultural tradition is the heart and soul of the region’s exquisite cuisine—and what better way to get a taste for the freshest vegetables, cheeses, breads and fruits than with a visit to Libourne’s lively farmers’ market?
In the evening, a special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
Village Day: Libourne 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.
Nights Out: After Hours at the Bassins des Lumières
Bordeaux’s Port de la Lune is home to a submarine base with a checkered past. Originally built during the German occupation of France in WWII, and later the target of allied bombings, this building has since attracted artists who wish to reclaim the site for beauty and culture.
Day 7: Bordeaux
Discover Bordeaux’s many charms today, either on foot with a local expert or on two wheels—the locals’ preferred way to navigate the city’s charming backstreets. You have a wonderful selection of active opportunities to see this magnificent UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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.
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.
Day 8: Bordeaux, disembark, transfer to paris via speed TGV trains (embark)
Disembark the breathtaking S.S. Bon Voyage and transfer to Paris via high-speed 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.
Note: Ship schedule and order of sightseeing may change throughout the itinerary. Tour to port of destination by motorcoach and substitute visits to other sites may occur during your trip due to the impact of water levels, closures because of public holidays or other uncontrollable factors.
Day 9: La Roche-Guyon, Vernon, Giverny
Today is a celebration of northern France’s natural beauty, with an excursion to a splendid château and gardens situated in an equally grand setting, plus a chance to immerse yourself in the very landscapes that inspired Impressionist master Claude Monet. In the morning, choose between a scenic hike or a visit to the hilltop Château de La Roche-Guyon, which is surrounded by beautiful gardens and offers sweeping views over the Seine. Later, explore the beautiful gardens of Monet. You'll have the opportunity to take in the French countryside on your way there with an invigorating bike ride, or opt to arrive by coach instead.
This evening, a special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you.
Let's Go: Hike on the Crests Trail
The village of Château de La Roche-Guyon, which sprawls out across the hillsides of the estate that shares its name, is popularly considered one of the most beautiful in all of France. Begin your hike here today, passing along a restored 17th century garden, the Saint-Samson church, the old dungeon and more. Please note that this hike may need to be cancelled in the event of rain.
Château de La Roche-Guyon
The limestone outcropping that eventually became known as Château de La Roche-Guyon began its history as a cave dwelling. It later transformed into a fortress, where medieval knights stood guard against marauding Vikings. Over the centuries it grew into a proper palace, housing a string of lords who gave the château its name—"La Roche-Guyon" translates to "the Rock of Guy," Guy being a typical name for these noblemen.
Let's Go: Bike Ride from Vernon 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.
Monet’s Gardens at Giverny
Note: Giverny is not open year-round; this excursion will be available for April through October cruise departure dates only.
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.
Day 10: 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 the spot where Joan of Arc was martyred, Rouen is a treasure trove for the culturally curious. 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.
Nights Out: Private Concert at the Rouen Cathedral
Tonight, walk through the streets of Rouen with your Cruise Manager to see this charming medieval city in a different light. You’ll arrive at the famous cathedral to enjoy a private concert. This is a wonderful way to appreciate the long musical heritage of the cathedral, whose choir and grand organ date back several hundred years. As you take in the sounds of traditional European music, look around to appreciate the mix of Gothic, Renaissance and other architectural styles that comprise this building.
Please note: we advise that you layer, as there is no heating in this historic cathedral.
Rouen Walking Tour, the Dukes of Normandy’s Capital
Victor Hugo called Rouen the city with a hundred bell towers. Easily the most famous of those towers is the one rising above Notre Dame Cathedral, which briefly made it the tallest building in the world. Begun some 800 years ago, the cathedral acquired a multitude of spires and styles as it was expanded and renovated in different eras. Stand on the opposite side of the square, under the apartment Monet used as a studio, for a view of the cathedral as the impressionist master saw it.
Camembert Cheese Farm
Cheese is a product integral to French heritage and culture, with hundreds of beloved varieties distinct to the regions and towns they hail from. Amongst the most famous is Camembert, an AOC-designated product from an eponymous town in the Normandy region. Visit a sustainably-minded, family farm today to see how it's made and taste a variety of their delicious Camemberts. To wash it down, sip on another classic product from Normandy, apple cider.
Day 11: Caudebec-en-Caux (Honfleur or Étretat)
Caudebec-en-Caux, a lovely little town on the right bank of the Seine Estuary, is your base for one of two very different excursions. You could drive through the beautiful Calvados countryside to Honfleur, a delightful seaside harbor and city of painters, or head to the windy cliffs of Étretat for a game of golf.
Honfleur Walking Tour
Transfer to Honfleur, where our 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.
Note: shuttles to and from the ship will be offered in the afternoon for guests who would like additional time in town after their tour.
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.
Day 12: Rouen (Normandy Beaches)
There are moments when we travel that move us on an otherworldly level—experiences that stir a profound emotional connection. The Normandy beaches certainly have that effect. On your full-day outing, you’ll visit Normandy’s beaches, including Utah Beach and Ste-Mère-Église, with a choice to venture to either the American, British and Commonwealth, or Canadian beaches. After, you’ll partake in a private ceremony at the Omaha Beach Memorial—a sentimental remembrance of Operation Overlord.
Normandy Beaches: Highlights of Canadian Sites
When the Allies prepared to invade Normandy, they assigned a six-mile stretch of beach to the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division under the command of Major-General Rodney Keller. The Canadians trained for their assault in Scotland and were generally regarded as the best-prepared of any of the invading forces. Unfortunately, preliminary bombing had failed to eliminate German battlements, so Canadian troops encountered stiff resistance, and several companies suffered heavy casualties. Walk the shoreline where so many died, and visit Juno Beach Center, dedicated to the Canadian war effort.
Normandy Beaches: Highlights of American Sites
Travel back in time to June 6, 1944, when the Allied forces launched their D-Day invasion of Normandy. You'll visit historic beaches and get an up-close view of the Airborne museum. Later stop at the American Cemetery followed by a special memorial ceremony at the Omaha beach.
Note: Lunch on own if participating in this excursion.
Normandy Beaches: Highlights of British & Commonwealth Sites
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 Nazis. It began here, on these Norman beaches, each of which was assigned a code name by the Allies as they planned their attack. At Arromanches—code-named Gold Beach—you can view the remnants of one of the two Mulberry harbors deployed in the D-Day invasion. These were artificial harbors constructed to ease and speed the process of unloading Allied troops, vehicles, and equipment onto the Normandy beaches. You'll have time to enjoy lunch on your own in Bayeux before heading off to Omaha Beach.
Note: Lunch on own if participating in this excursion.
Day 13: Mantes-La-Jolie (Versailles)
How did France’s rulers live over the centuries? Step into the private rooms of the Palace of Versailles, the lavish palace built by the Sun King, to find out.
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
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.
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, join a local expert for a walk through two much-loved neighborhoods, or pedal your way along the Left Bank, a fresh and fun way to take in the sights.
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 Quai 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.
Paris City Tour
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 drive along the Seine, passing the most stunning single-arch bridge in Paris. Pont Alexandre III displays elegantly sculpted nymphs, winged horses and graceful art nouveau lamps. As you continue along riverbanks, you’ll be sure to spot the largest glass ceilings in France, which shelter the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. From the Arc de Triomphe, commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his Grand Army’s 128 victories, you'll drive down the Champs-Élysées to the Place de la Concorde.
Paris Walking Tour of the Latin Quarter
As a true Parisian would, take the Métro to 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. End with a view of the famous Notre Dame cathedral. Fun 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.
Day 15: Paris (Disembark), transfer to Lyon vis high-speed TGV train (Embark)
You’ll transfer from the magical S.S. Joie de Vivre in Paris to the striking S.S. Catherine in Lyon via high-speed TGV train for the final leg of this fabulous grand tour. Once you’ve settled into your new home, you’ll have some time to explore delightful Lyon, which is nestled alongside the Saône River.
Day 16: 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 bike ride—a great way to see the sights.
A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
Lyon Panoramic Tour with Traboules Visit
You'll fall in love with Lyon today as you take in the view from the top of Fourvière Hill, where a magnificent cathedral rises above the city. Take in the view below, noting the splendid façades of Renaissance houses. You'll get a sense of how the city developed, growing from Roman roots to encompass the peninsula and the eastern bank of the Rhône, before you ride through the streets to the riverbanks and discover les traboules, the city's old passageways in Lyon's historic quarter.
You may want to stroll along the quays back to the ship or opt for lunch in one of the traditional bouchons. They serve hearty meat-based dishes, but quenelles—luscious dumplings—and a seasoned cream cheese called cervelle de canut are longtime local favorites too.
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.
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.
Day 17: Macon (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.
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.
Note: Today’s lunch will be on your own.
Day 18: Tain-l’Hermitage (Tournon)
If you love fine wine, you’ll love the twin villages of Tournon and Tain-l’Hermitage. 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 and the oldest secondary school in France.
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.
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.
Day 19: Viviers
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.
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. View the smallest cathedral in France 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 a villager’s home; 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 pétanque, which is akin to horseshoes, only it’s played with steel balls.
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.
A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.
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.
Day 21: Arles
Explore a sun-drenched Provençal town today with an allure all its own. Known for its remarkable Roman ruins, Arles so inspired Van Gogh that he painted some 200 paintings there. 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.
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.
Day 22: Arles
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 the Marseille Airport for your flight home.