Interested in a Burgundy & Provence River Cruise? Do you want to walk through the very land that inspired Van Gogh to paint?
Then below is the cruise to do!
Here’s a day to day summary of our itinerary while we sailed & enjoyed the landscape of the Rhone & Saone Rivers in the South of France. We explored beautiful places like Arles, Avignon, Viviers, Tain L’Hermitage, Lyon & Beaune while onboard Uniworld’s stunning “SS Catherine” ship on their “Burgundy and Provence” River Cruise.
(FYI, this review is specifically about the itinerary and not our experience on Uniworld… Click HERE if you want to see our pics of the ship & live videos of the rooms, etc.)
As for this itinerary, we were able to immerse ourselves and take part in activities that only this part of France could offer!
After a delicious breakfast we headed out to partake in our chosen tour… Yes, we had options throughout the week including a gentle walkers group, go active tours and more.
As we drove a short 15 minutes to the town of Arles we got to see lots of sunflower fields like below.
When we arrived in Arles we knew it was going to be a treat because Flamboyant Gothic architecture was everywhere including the charming Ste. Trophime Church that holds interesting artifacts including popes bones & popes clothing…. A must see!
Another part of the attraction to Arles was walking through these quaint & tiny side streets. We got to see beautiful squares, the Arena of d’ Arles, the antique theater…
AND we got to see Vincent Van Gogh’s residence and paintings of his that were taken in the exact location we were standing.
Below is a look at the actual Garden where Van Gogh created his “Garden of the Hospital” painting…
France truly is a special place, it is unlike many locations we have been in the world. It’s no wonder Van Gogh produced over 300 paintings in this region including his “Starry Night”.
For lunch today we stopped in the town of St. Remy where we had a delicious lunch on our own and then did some shopping for local specialties like lavender and sea salt.
This afternoon we chose an optional tour where we drove on a scenic country road a short distance to Les Baux-de-Provence where we got to walk about this medieval hilltop village carved out of the side of the mountain. It was spectacular!
Then we went to an Olive farm to learn all about the growth, milling and production of olive oil. We got to taste what REAL olives and quality olive oil tastes like along with a glass of rose wine and tapenade. It was delicious & very interesting tour.
This morning we docked in Avignon and walked into the town through a walled fortress that opened up into a lively & busy shopping and sight seeing town. We walked through the “Palais des Papes” or Palace of the Popes where the popes once resided. Check out these pictures:
Later we went kayaking (it was a complimentary “Go Active” tour) on the clear & tranquil Gardon River. We saw tons of birds, fish jumping, and got to be in nature in France! And, we passed under the UNESCO designated “Pont du Gard”/Roman Aqueduct.
Warning: It is 2 hours of kayaking, which is quite long if you don’t have the arm strength, but certainly doable even if you are a beginner. Look at the great time we had:
Today we docked in the quaint 1200’s built town of Viviers. Since we were docked right in town we did a walking tour and could not stop snapping pictures. It is preserved as it stood so many years ago.
Incredibly, it appears to be a ghost town, but behind the closed shutters of these ancient stone homes and buildings lives warm homes and private gardens for families to share together.
We walked streets that you could, with stretched arms, touch either side of buildings.
One stop we made was to a church called St. Vincent Cathedral where we were invited for a private organ concert. The pianist played the pipes and they impressively followed with thunderous tunes that made the hair on our arms stand up.
…By luck of the draw our guide took us to her home to show us what it looked like inside those heavy uninviting walls. Her house was stunning, old, but illuminated ancient times. So many rooms all separated with high ceilings and sunken quarters. Her garden was a gardeners dream with the perfume of herbs of Provence, lemon & lime trees, etc. What a treat!
This afternoon there was a crepe demonstration and wine tasting onboard! You’ll never go hungry on a river cruise. 🙂
Another great part of these exclusive cruises is the “total immersion” you get in the local culture… It was no surprise this morning that there was an interesting port talk all about Vincent Van Gogh after breakfast.
Then, while docked on the Rhone River in between two towns (Tain-L’Hermitage & Tournon) that face each other on either side of the river, we got to explore them…
…both towns date back to the Middle Ages and a place all the cruise lines would surely rush to take pictures for their brochures…
…it’s one of the most picturesque places we have ever visited!
They have been growing grapes and producing “Syrah” wines here for 2,000 years so we took the “go active” tour and hiked up into the vineyard hills in both towns and did some wine tasting up there as well…
…they do recommend you stay hydrated while being active… we were just following the rules. LOL
There’s our guide popping the cork..
For gentle walkers or those who wanted to take it easy today, there was a super nice Train excursion option that guests seemed to enjoy!
TIP: In town they have a chocolate shop (Valrhona) with LOADS of samples for tasting…. definitely check that out too, but for sure on an empty stomach! 🙂
Today we visited beautiful Lyon and we took a biking tour for 2.5 hours around the fascinating “maze-like” city. Old Buildings, homes, intertwining rivers with historic crossing bridges- we saw all this and more. See these pictures below:
Lyon has a long history of producing silk and weaving so it was only fitting that we had a silk weaving demonstration onboard for us today.
Tonight was the exciting open air bus ride about the city at dark. Everyone enjoyed this treat after a great dinner. It was a highlight for sure…
Another great Tip: Stay up late tonight and catch the sailing as the ship moves through Lyon to the “Saone River”. It is one of the most breathtaking cities at night and VERY romantic!! Don’t forget. 🙂
Our last day during our Southern France River Cruise we made the very best of it when we visited the town of Beaune where we went to an open-air market and tasted REAL foie gras that was out of this world yummy. The market also featured wines, cheeses, truffles… a food lovers paradise!
For lunch in Beaune we had local entrees including escargot, see the pic below for the proof. Yummy!!
After a look-see around this quaint town we took a fantastic tour of the famous Beaune Hospital known as “Hôtel-Dieu” which was a former Hospital for the poor where we got to see the inner workings of a hospital that is kept as it was back when it was in full swing. So very interesting and a must see…
Tonight we enjoyed a lovely sunset onboard, a fantastic dinner and then it was time to pack to go home after a lovely cruise.
It’s that time to shift from “ship relaxation mode” to getting on a plane soon. But we will never forget the time we had onboard, all we saw and did and the fabulous memories & friendships we created.
Any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. That’s what we are here for.
Happy Learning & Cruising!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!