You can either fly to Lyon, Marseille or Montpellier where you will be met and taken to the ship moored in Lyon’s picturesque historic centre, or you can travel by Eurostar from London St Pancras International, changing trains at the purpose-built Lille station, onto the TGV (France’s famous high speed train) to Lyon. The dedicated crew will welcome you on board, ensuring you settle into your comfortable and well-equipped cabin and familiarise yourself with the ship – your first-class floating hotel.
After our first splendid breakfast, we have a leisurely start enjoying a guided tour of Lyon, one of France’s most interesting cities. Old Lyon is crammed with atmospheric antique shops and intriguing ‘traboules’ – narrow passages passing through actual houses which are just delightful to amble through. Lyon is also generally acknowledged as France’s gastronomic capital!
As you enjoy your first lunch, the ship continues cruising upstream, catching our first glimpses of the hazy green Beaujolais hills, as we approach one of the world’s most famous wine producing regions. We see the picturesque villages – Morgon, Fleury, Juliénas, Chénas and many more.
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. Nearby is medieval Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital, which is wonderful to just wander around. Of course you cannot visit Burgundy without sampling its amazing produce, so we visit the cellars of one of the most traditional of winemakers for a tour and tasting, before returning to the ship for lunch.
Overnight, the ship has cruised almost imperceptibly south with breakfast in the ancient Roman stronghold of Vienne, established under Julius Caesar. Superbly located in a narrow section of the Rhône Valley, Vienne is a treasure trove of historic remains and a walk around will bring its story to life.
During another superb 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. Later we moor in the pretty provincial town of Tournon with its tree-lined avenues.
This morning we cruise effortlessly downstream and catch glimpses of the Alps. We approach Valence and the landscape gradually becomes less green with more ochres and magentas. The heady aroma of the sweet air has the unmistakable scent of pine and cypress. You can only be in the midi.
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 awesome power. We return to the gentler sides of the Rhône Valley in charming Viviers, a medieval town clustered around its Romanesque cathedral.
This morning you wake under the azure-blue skies of deepest Provence, amidst the rich warm stone of historic Arles. Our guided tour will help you to appreciate the finer points of Arles’ magnificent Roman remains. That disturbed but great genius of an artist Van Gogh lived here for two years during his most prolific period.
After lunch we visit the amazing Roman aqueduct, the Pont du Gard, one of the wonders of the ancient world. Rejoining the ship, we cruise along the Rhône during dinner passing the 13th century castle at Tarascon seemingly standing guard on the river banks.
As the morning light catches the red roofs of Avignon’s majestic medieval skyline, it’s a sight to behold over breakfast, after which we embark on a guided tour.
After lunch, you are free to explore as you wish, perhaps the Petit Palais, or taking a stroll on the iconic ‘Pont d’Avignon’ the melody about which makes us all recall our first French lessons.
This evening the Captain’s dinner takes place, serving specialities of the regions you have visited during your voyage of discovery through this fascinating country.
After breakfast this morning you transfer to the airport for your flight home or to Avignon train station for your high speed rail journey home.