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10 Days | French Escapade


Day 1 | Lyon, France. Embark. Board your riverboat and begin one of the most enjoyable France river cruises along the Rhône and the Saône. The Captain welcomes you aboard with a reception and special dinner this evening. (D)

Day 2 | Burgundy Region. Chalon-sur-Saone. Chalon-sur-Sâone on the River Saône lies in the heart of southern Burgundy. Although its history dates back to the time of Charlemagne, it has another significant claim to fame – this is considered the birthplace of photography. You have local inventor Nicéphore Niépce, who produced several photographic firsts right here in the 1820s, to thank for the great photos of the town’s Romanesque churches and other monuments you’ll take during a walking tour. Then get your taste buds ready for a workout – first, to savor local culinary offerings on a guided tasting tour of some of Chalon-Sur-Saône’s noted food shops; then to sip some wonderful wines as we head off to Mercurey, the largest wine-growing area in the Côte Chalonnaise, to sample some of the notable reds produced here in a tasting at one of the 30 local premier cru vineyards. (B,L,D)

Day 3 | Macon. Lyon. While docked in Mâcon, see what lies along the town's Heritage Trail on a walking tour plus some time to explore on your own, and tour the great Benedictine Abbey of Cluny; founded in 910, it was once at the center of a major monastic reform movement and also the largest Christian building in the world until the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Its neighbor, the Haras Nationale – France's national equestrian center – is all about horses and has an interesting history of its own, which you'll discover on your visit to its age-old stables and other buildings. Later, ms Swiss Emerald continues your France river cruise to Lyon. (B,L,D)

Day 4 | Lyon. If you’re a serious foodie, Lyon is the place for you! Regarded as the culinary capital of France, there are more restaurants here per capita than anywhere else in the country. Savor a bit of this gastronomic largess for lunch today on a tasting tour at the historic Les Halles de Lyon indoor food market, where you'll sample the freshest breads, cheeses, meats, produce and more paired with local wines – they say the best chefs in Lyon shop here! Your day also includes the stunning Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière, built in the 1870s and featuring exquisite marble work, stained glass windows, colorful mosaics and gilt galore; and a tour of medieval Vieux Lyon. Continue cruising to Vienne this evening. (B,L,D)

Day 5 | Vienne. Cruise the Rhône. Tournon. It seems that the Romans were everywhere along the Rhône, and Vienne (which they called "Vienna" in their day) was no exception. During your time here this morning, look for the theatre and temple they left behind, as well as other sights straight out of history. Then it’s a languid, lazy and perfectly wonderful afternoon spent cruising on the river as ms Swiss Emerald charts a course for Tournon-sur-Rhône. Take advantage of all that your riverboat offers, or perhaps just settle into a deck chair on the Sun Deck and watch the picturesque wine-growing world along the river go by. (B,L,D)

Day 6 | Tournon. Tain-l’Hermitage. Once upon a time, feudal rulers looked down on the town of Tournon-sur-Rhône from the castle you’ll see perched on a rock high above the city; its pre-Renaissance roots are evident during a walking tour and time at leisure to poke around as you please. Following lunch aboard the riverboat, we’ll be off to Tain-l’Hermitage, known for its excellent Côtes du Rhône wines; you'll understand why after you sample some of what the town produces at a wine tasting. ms Swiss Emerald sails to Viviers this evening. (B,L,D)

Day 7 | Viviers. The walled city of Viviers, which retains much of its medieval character, is a delightful stop on this France river cruise. A walking tour reveals ancient homes and its unusual cathedral, which looks more like a castle than a church in the opinion of some, high up on the riverbank. After some free time to soak up the character of this lovely town on your own, reboard ms Swiss Emerald for lunch, followed by an afternoon and evening cruising along the Rhône to Avignon. As you glide past the scenic shoreline, enjoy a demonstration of the French game of pétanque on deck (weather permitting). (B,L,D)

Day 8 | Avignon. The fortified medieval city of Avignon was probably a much more peaceful place before Rome became "inconvenient" for the popes who moved the papacy here about 700 years ago. Although they stayed for less than a century, they kept busy during those years... as you’ll see at the impressive Palais des Papes that they built for themselves during this morning’s sightseeing. As well versed in Latin as they all were, they surely understood what "in vino veritas" means, and they all shared a fondness for wine – and the "truth" it brings – which was very convenient, because wine has been grown in the area for over 2,600 years. Taste locally produced wine named for the "new castle of the popes," the world-renowned Châteauneuf-du-Pape, on a wine-tasting excursion this afternoon. (B,L,D)

Day 9 | Arles. Camargue Region. It may seem strange to encounter Roman ruins in Provence but Arles was, after all, once a Roman city; while the gladiators are gone, the arena they left behind – just one of the town's many Roman remnants – still hosts performances and bullfights today. Explore Arles' medieval streets and city walls and be sure to look out across the surrounding countryside to what van Gogh found so enchanting. After lunch, it’s off to La Camargue, France’s "wild west," where cowboys tend to herds of bulls destined for bullfighting rings in Spain. Visit a working farm to see what these cowhands and their charges do during a demonstration – not something usually experienced on a France river cruise – followed by lunch and traditional Provençal entertainment. Join us this evening for the Captain’s farewell dinner. (B,L,D)

Day 10 | Arles. Your France river cruise adventure ends in Arles. A transfer to the airport is included. Fly home anytime, but be sure to allow 3 hours for flight check-in at the airport. (B)

NOTE: Itinerary is subject to change without notice. For the most up-to-date information, please refer to the itinerary schedule you receive with your final documents.

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