By: Richard Doll, Senior Travel Consultant CTA
River cruising is my favorite way to travel! After sailing the Danube, Rhine, and Main, this year we decided to sail from Arles in the south of France, to St Jean de Losne, over the Saone and Rhone, where we disembarked and traveled to Paris for a couple nights before saying “au revoir” to France.
My companion and I decided on the Burgundy and Provence with Avalon Waterways, on the Avalon Waterways Poetry II. An added bonus – this was a theme cruise – Jazz, with a focus on Gypsy Jazz in particular. The entertainment was truly first rate.
We flew from Houston to Nice, where we were picked up and taken to our hotel in Monte Carlo for a pre-night stay before the cruise. We stayed at the truly magnificent Fairmont Monte Carlo, a resort literally built over the Mediterranean Sea.
The Monte Carlo Grand Pre runs right past the entrance, and I’m ready to race!
We had a great dinner in Monte Carlo with another guest who was with us on the transfer from the airport, and turned in early to rest up after a long flight.
Breakfast at the Fairmont over the Mediterranean was not a disappointment, the sea was incredibly blue and the food was delicious!
As this was not our first time in Monte Carlo, we chose to have a quiet morning and left for Arles in the very early afternoon, where we would board the Poetry II. The scenery was very interesting, especially for fans of architecture.
When we arrived, we were really excited to board the ship; we’ve been on Avalon before and our expectations were fulfilled completely on our Burgundy and Provence with Avalon Waterways river cruise. We had welcome cocktails with the captain before a quick safety drill, and the ship departed for a scenic cruise through the French National Park of Camargue, a scenic cruise before and during dinner, only to return to Arles to overnight. This was a nice touch, Camargue is very scenic, and it was really nice to sail a bit instead of just staying overnight on the ship before departing the following evening for Avignon.
The following day, in Arles, we had a walking tour in the morning that included a visit inside an early Roman Amphitheater. It was really interesting to walk the interior corridors and imagine the history.
As interesting as the history of the town was, the local art community was quite cheeky too!
We happened to be in Arles on a festival day when the women, and some men, dressed in traditional costumes.
After the morning walking tour of the town, we had a wonderful lunch on the ship, then went to our afternoon optional excursion which was amazing. A former limestone quarry, abandoned and then turned into the most amazing art installation, the Carrieres de Lumieres. Here we saw images of art from the classics to modern art projected and moving on the walls and floors, with music.
Next on our Burgundy and Provence with Avalon Waterways river cruise. we sailed from Arles to Avignon. In Avignon we had a walking tour of the town, where we visited the Palace of the Popes, one of the most important gothic structures in Europe. We chose to explore the town on our own in the afternoon, instead of an optional wine tasting, and had a lovely day in Avignon.
This evening we had an amazing band on the ship, with one of the former member of the Gipsy Kings, an internationally known very successful band. The entertainment was first rate, and many of the guests on the ship wound up on the dance floor!
From Avignon we sailed on to Viviers, we passed through one of the larger locks on the Rhone, the Bollene Lock.
In Viviers we participated in a walking tour of the city, then returned to the ship for a great lunch before taking an optional excursion to view the lavender fields and the town of Grignan. The timing was perfect, the lavender was mature and they had just started harvesting.
From Viviers, we made are way to Tournon and then Vienne. Here is a picture of my dinner that night, the food on an Avalon River Cruise is just incredible, and the chef and staff hit it out of the park every night!
Tournon is a charming little town in the South of France, we had an included walking tour of the town. We boarded the ship for lunch as the ship sailed on the Vienne, where the Vienne Jazz Festival was in full force. There was a walking tour of Vienne, and then free time to enjoy the performances all over the town, almost all of them free.
The next day, en route to Lyon, the captain gave a tour of the wheelhouse, and provided a fascinating lesson on navigating a river cruise vessel. It’s really amazing, they navigate through the lochs manually, without computerized auto-pilot assistance. The lochs are inches from either side of the ship, it’s a great experience to go through one of these lochs on a river cruise vessel.
Here are some pictures of interesting architecture along the river:
In Lyon we had a panoramic tour of the city partially by coach, and then a walking tour of the old town. There were two optional activities offered, a wine tasting in the picturesque hills of Beaujolais, or a tour of the town of Perouges, a town that takes you back to the Medieval ages, where many movies have been filmed. We chose to explore Lyon on our own and have another relaxing afternoon.
This evening, we set sail for Tournus, and we had a wonderful Farewell Gala Dinner. The next morning we disembarked and explored Tournus on our own, it was a morning visit and we sailed on to St Jean Losne in the early afternoon. The scenery was beautiful.
We got to St Jean de Losne in the early evening, we had a lovely dinner before exploring the town on our own. An example of the local graffiti:
Sadly, we disembarked the Poetry II the next morning, heading to Paris with a visit to Beaune on the way. Beaune was a lovely town, we visited Hotel Dieu, a charity hospital dating back to the 15th century, now a museum. It was fascinating and educational, and I even saw someone I know from Houston, TX there!
When we got to Paris, that evening we visited the Paris version of the Arles Carrieres de Lumieres. It was in a warehouse instead of a former limestone quarry, but still amazing!
The next day, we went back to the Marche Dauphine Antique market, we visit every time we visit Paris. Here we bought some antique prints of iconic French/Paris sketches that we really like.
This weekend there was a free concert at the Parc Floral de Paris, we took an Uber to the park, paid two and a half Euros for admission, and had a really great afternoon of beautiful pop/jazz music in a beautiful park. I love Paris!
We flew back to Houston the next day, Avalon took us to the airport with our included transfers and it was very easy. I can’t wait to go back to France, what a great country. Burgundy and Provence with Avalon Waterways was a great experience!
Senior Travel Consultant CTA
Toll Free: 1-800-935-2620 Ext: 151