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Glide along the Saône and Rhône Rivers, through the heart of the sun-baked, lavender-scented countryside of southern France. Discover medieval hilltop towns, follow in the footsteps of the ancient Romans in Arles and Avignon, and marvel at prehistoric cave art. Explore the enchanting landscapes that inspired Vincent van Gogh on hiking, biking, and canoeing excursions. Along your journey, sample the region’s culinary splendors, tasting your way through Lyon—the gastronomic heart of France—and sampling wines from acclaimed vineyards, including the world-renowned wine estates of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. As we sail these storied waterways, enjoy the freedom and flexibility to tailor the itinerary to your interests, choosing from a variety of available excursions at each port of call—from guided tours of iconic sites to culinary experiences and active adventures.
Arrive in Lyon, situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers. Board the Scenic Sapphire and settle into your spacious suite.
This morning, cruise north on the Saône River towards Tournus, a charming town known for its Romanesque abbey. As we sail, enjoy a relaxing massage in the onboard spa, or hone your French cookery skills with a lesson in our ship’s Culinaire station. Visit Château de Cormatin, a 17th-century castle featuring exquisite gardens and sumptuous gilded rooms; or join a group of hounds and their owners on a truffle-hunting expedition in a nearby village.
As we navigate further upriver today, choose to visit the renowned Nicéphore Niépce photography museum in Chalon with our National Geographic photographer. The museum is housed in the home of Joseph-Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography who captured the world’s first photograph here in 1826 or 1827. Alternatively, explore Beaune, the wine capital of the Burgundy region. Admire the delightful Flemish architecture and colorful tiled roofs of the Hospices de Beaune, a museum and wine estate that was once a public hospital, and stroll through its 15th-century wine cellars. Or, visit the 800-year-old Château de Meursault, set among 25 acres of rolling vineyards, and taste some of the region’s acclaimed Pinot Noir.
Sail the Rhône River to the enchanting medieval town of Tournon. Or, if you’re feeling more active, disembark in the village of Andance and travel to Tournon by bike. Upon arrival, choose to partake in a wine tasting at a local winery, or venture out on a guided walking tour of Tournon’s “twin city,” Tain-l’Hermitage, set on the opposite side of the river. The French gourmet chocolate manufacturer Valrhona is based here, and we’ll have the opportunity to visit their interactive museum and chocolate shop—an experience capped off with a sampling of their mouthwatering confections. You may also opt to hike to a winery on the legendary Hermitage hill, climbing scenic terraced slopes overlooking the Rhône.
Continuing south to the Provence region, try your hand at making classic French dishes and regional delicacies with our ship’s chef as we sail. Disembark in Avignon and tour the city’s architectural landmarks on foot, including the Popes’ Palace—the seat of the Catholic church in the early 14th century, and the largest medieval Gothic palace in the world. Alternatively, taste the celebrated wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape at a Côtes du Rhône vineyard. This evening, return to the Popes’ Palace for an unforgettable experience: after the doors of the palace close to the public, enjoy an exclusive classical concert.
Enjoy an opportunity to shop with our ship's chef at an Avignon market, then cook up a delectable French feast in our ship’s kitchen. Or, choose to explore the picturesque hilltop villages of the Luberon region. You may also venture to the quiet, romantic town of Uzès, nestled among olive groves and cypress trees, and visit the Pont du Gard, an impressive ancient Roman bridge-aqueduct. Take in this striking monument from the ship at sunset as you sip a cocktail, and step ashore later this evening to enjoy Avignon’s night life.
This morning, we anchor at Tarascon, a red-roofed Provençal town that exudes medieval charm. Opt to explore nearby Arles, a thriving trading center in Roman times, and see the city’s magnificent Roman amphitheater. Alternatively, visit the enchanting hilltop village of Les Baux-de-Provence before touring a family-run olive farm. You also have the option of visiting the Saint Paul de Mausole Monastery, the mental health institution where Vincent van Gogh committed himself and created many of his celebrated works. Or, take a stroll through the stunning Camargue, a protected coastal wetland where wild horses roam. Spend the afternoon wandering Tarascon at your leisure, pausing at the majestic 15th-century castle that commands the port. Or, stay on board for a Provençal soap-making workshop, learning to fashion fragrant soaps from regional ingredients.
Cruise up the Rhône to the dreamy village of Viviers, where we’ll hear an organ recital at the Cathedral of St. Vincent. You have several options for the rest of the day: explore the beautiful valleys and lava cliffs of Monts d’Ardèche Regional Natural Park, and, if you’re feeling adventurous, navigate the Ardèche canyon—one of Europe’s largest canyons—by kayak. Or visit the fascinating Pont-d’Arc Cavern, a replica of the renowned Chauvet Cave, where the some of the world’s best preserved prehistoric drawings are found. Or stop by the aromatic Lavender Museum in St.-Remèze to observe the process by which lavender oil is extracted from the flower. Or take a walk through the hilltop village of Grignan, surrounded by fields of lavender.
Spend the day relaxing on board as our ship heads back to Lyon, the gastronomic heart of France. Take in the Rhône’s idyllic scenery from the sundeck, or drop by our kitchen to add another trick or two to your culinary repertoire.
You’ll have a wealth of activities to choose from today: explore historic Lyon at your leisure, traversing its hidden traboules—centuries-old passageways that were used by silk workers to transport their goods—and climbing up to the neo-Byzantine Notre Dame Basilica for a panoramic view. Or visit the exclusive culinary school of a Michelin-star chef, the late Paul Bocuse, for a master class in French cuisine. You may also choose to discover the timeless cobblestoned streets of Pérouges, one of the best preserved medieval towns in France.
After breakfast, disembark our ship and transfer to the Lyon airport for your fight home.
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