Burgundy excursion Beaune & Hôtel-Dieu

The colourful region of Burgundy is situated in central France between Paris and Lyon, and is famous not only for its wines, but also for the many religious houses, which played a major role in medieval Christianity. Nestled at the centre of this famous wine-growing area is the picturesque city of Beaune, which has a history that dates right back to prehistoric times. In the Middle Ages the old quarter of Beaune was the residence of the powerful Dukes of Burgundy and many of its monuments stem from this period – the 12th-century Church of Notre-Dame, the medieval defensive walls and the Ducal Palace, all of which are included in our tour, as is the Hôtel-Dieu – a 15th-century charitable almshouse and hospice with a strikingly colourful roof that is one of the prettiest in France.

Cluny Monastery

In the early Middle Ages Cluny was Europe’s most influential monastery and played an important role in the cultural development of many other countries, administering to hundreds of monasteries all over the continent, from Scotland to Poland. Prior to the completion of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, Cluny was also the largest Christian church in the world and although the French Revolution destroyed much of its original abbey, there are still some impressive remains to be seen.

Château Cormatin

Built by the Marquises of Huxelles in the early 17th-century, the wide moat, turrets, high rusticated basement, gunports and drawbridge of Château Cormatin were designed to impress and there can be no doubt they still more than succeed to this day. Located between Tournus and Cluny, in the heart of Southern Burgundy, the ornate fortress of Cormatin is a quintessentially French Renaissance Château with a well-kept water garden and a hedgerow maze surrounded by its own private moat, with a tower at the centre that can be climbed by spiral staircase, so you can give directions to others in your party should they become lost.

Beaujolais & Wine Tasting

Considered by many to be the loveliest part of Burgundy, the province of Beaujolais encompasses seventy-two communities, across two deportments in southern France. Approximately ninety-eight percent of the wine produced in this region is red – and of the two percent that are white, virtually all of those are made using the Chardonnay grape. During a scenic ride through this picturesque province, your expert guide will talk more about the excellent wines grown under the appellation Beaujolais, before we disembark at a local vineyard for the highlight of the day, an informal tasting in an authentic Beaujolais atmosphere.

Ardèche Canyon

The Ardèche Gorge in the north of Provence has a gentle Mediterranean climate and an incomparable beauty – steep cliffs, layers of basalt and, far below, the blue of the river. The landscape here is dominated by terraced chestnut woods and orchards, bare hillsides, small rivers and streams, fortified villages and farmsteads. During a scenic tour of the canyon you will have plenty of time to relax and appreciate its rich variety and beauty, before paying a visit to the Maison de la Lavende Ardèche, a museum and active lavender farm with a true highlight of the day – a charming miniature train ride through the unmistakable blue fields of this fragrant little flower.

Arles

The Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh was fascinated by the special light in southern Provence, which inspired him to paint numerous masterpieces in Arles on the banks of the Rhône. During the Roman era, Gallula Roma, as it was then known, had 100,000 inhabitants and was the provincial capital of the Roman Empire. Today, many of its historic buildings and architectural sites bear witness to this fascinating past, including the huge amphitheatre, the cemetery of Les Alyscamps and the old city wall, all of which you will see during your guided tour of the city.

Camargue Bull Farm

Located between the two arms of the River Rhone, Camargue is the largest river delta in western Europe. Over three hundred and fifty square miles in size, roughly a third of its terrain is made up of marsh and lakeland, with much of the remaining pasture used to grow vegetables, fruit and rice, or for rearing cattle.

The largest town in Camargue is Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, which takes its name from the three Marys who are said to have witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, Mary Salome and Mary of Clopas. After the resurrection of Christ, it is believed these three women crossed the Mediterranean together to live in Camargue and since 1448 the town’s 9th-century fortified Romanesque church is said to contain the relics of both Mary Salome and Mary of Clopas. For this reason, the town has remained a site of great spiritual importance and a place of pilgrimage to this day.

During our guided tour of this fascinating region we will visit the town to see the church and also learn more about why the black bull is the emblem of the Camargue people, on a visit to a local farm where these magnificent animals are raised to compete with local athletes as part of a centuries old tradition, in which they are not killed for sport.

Avignon

Avignon along the Rhône has had a lasting impact on European history. For a few decades in the 14th-century, it was the city of the Catholic popes and wherever you go, you’ll come across the relics of this past, from palaces, castles, squares and streets to the papal palace itself and, of course, the famous ruins of the Pont Saint-Bénézet, which still straddles half of the mighty river Rhône. Avignon is also one of the few major cities in France with a medieval wall that has remained almost entirely intact, as we will see during this guided tour of the city.

Pont du Gard

A true masterpiece of classical engineering and architectural beauty, the Pont du Gard aqueduct is one of the most magnificent Roman constructions in all of Europe and in 1985 was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site of exceptional historic importance.

Built in the 1st-century AD to carry freshwater across the River Gardon, the bridge has somehow managed to survive the intervening centuries in a remarkable state of preservation, possibly thanks to its ingenious three tiered construction which allowed footfall to cross the river as well as water. As such, the Pont du Gard remained useful to the local population for generations after the fall of the Roman Empire and today remains one of the most iconic ancient sights in France.

Walking tour of Lyon

The third largest city in France, Lyon is strategically located at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saôn, a position that has maintained its status as a prosperous trading hub ever since the time of the Roman Empire, when it was originally the capital of the Gauls.

In 1998 the city’s old quarter was granted UNESCO World Heritage status and there are plenty of historic buildings and elegant squares to discover amidst these charming streets. During a guided walking tour through the district we will see the medieval Place des Terreaux, where the baroque Lyon Museum of Fine Art and City Hall dominate the surroundings. Also in the square is the allegorical Bartholdi Fountain which was constructed in the late 19th-century to represent France as a chariot-riding woman being pulled by the nation’s four mighty rivers.

During our time in Lyon we will also visit the 19th-century Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, atop Fourvière Hill, for some breathtaking views across the city. The church has a wonderfully ornate interior lined with mosaics, should you wish to explore inside.

Honfleur

The history of Honfleur, long sung by poets and painted by famous artists, has always been tightly bound to the sea. Today, Honfleur offers visitors a unique heritage which can best be glimpsed by a leisurely stroll along its picturesque narrow streets lined by timber framed houses.

One of Honfleur’s major sites is St. Catherine’s Church, which dates from the 15th-century and also has the distinction of being France’s largest timber-built church. The separate bell tower, located opposite above the bell-ringer’s house, is likewise made of oak. Other sites of interest you will see on this tour are the Salt Warehouses, originally run by the Gabelle (tax on salt) collectors, the Lieutenancy, once the residence of the city governor, and the Old Port, which has some beautifully picturesque quaysides.

You may also like to book this excursion in combination with a visit to Étretat, for a full-day experience.

Étretat

Situated between two high chalk cliffs and three large natural chalk arches on Normandy’s Alabaster Coast, Étretat is a charming resort town that has long been popular with artists, who have flocking here for generations, inspired by its unique coastal landscape. In the 19th-century Claude Monet, Gustave Courbet and Jean-Baptiste Isabey were among the famous painters who came here to work, but weather permitting you may simply like to relax on its attractive sandy beach, or take a stroll around the town, where there are plenty of boutique shops, cafés and eateries and enjoy.

Rouen

Rouen is a city which has stirred the souls of many great writers and inspired numerous painters in the past. Situated on the north bank of the River Seine, it is considered the historic capital of Normandy and has a heritage of fine buildings and museums, housing a wealth of artistic treasures.

From St. Catherine’s Hill, enjoy a fine view over the city’s towers and spires, including its two main streets, Rue du Gros-Horloge and Rue des Carmes, both of which reflect Rouen’s centuries-old layout. Heading into the old quarter, our scenic walking tour also includes the Gothic-style Cathedral, built between the 12th and 16th-centuries, as well as another Gothic masterpiece – the Palais de Justice.

Jumièges Monastery & St. Martin de Boscherville

The French writer Victor Hugo once called the abbey of Jumièges “the most beautiful ruin in France” and it’s easy to see why. In the 9th-century the first abbey to be located on the site was

razed to the ground by Viking marauders, prompting the Duke of Normandy to commission a much grander church in its wake. Consecrated in 1067, under the approving eye of William the Conqueror, the immense Gothic abbey you will see today flourished as a famed centre of both charity and learning for over seven hundred years, until it was desanctified during the French Revolution and its stone pillaged, leading to its eventual ruin. Thankfully enough of the twin towers and main cloister remain to ensure Jumièges remains a magnificently atmospheric site to visit today.

Complimenting the abbey as part of this tour, we will also make an outside stop at the church of St. Georges in Saint-Martin de Boscherville, which dates from the 12th-century and is one of the finest Romanesque abbeys in Haute-Normandie.

Giverny excursion with Monet’s house

In 1883 Monet was travelling by train through the French countryside when he spotted the idyllic village of Giverny through the window and instantly fell in love with it. Mourning the recent death of his wife, on impulse Claude packed his belongings and moved to the magical pink brick house that would become the Monet family home for the next eighty years. By the 1890s Monet had achieved enough financial success to create an Arcadian paradise of sculpted flowerbeds, lily ponds and bridges that became the inspiration for many of his most famous works.

Today the house is a museum filled with reproductions of the “Giverny paintings”, as well as Monet’s personal collection of 200 Japanese ukiyo-e prints, which date from the 18th and 19th-centuries. Most of the colourful interior is open to the public, including the “blue salon” or reading room, the dining room filled with yellow-painted furniture, the delightfully blue-tiled kitchen, the huge “Waterlily Studio” and the private apartments upstairs. Free time will be available to enjoy a peaceful stroll through the adjacent flower garden and the Japanese water garden. Both of these beautiful spaces have been replanted according to Monet’s original designs and depending on the season can be filled with a spectacular array of colour

Paris

The most romantic capital in the world, a place of breathtaking architecture, atmospheric cafés and historic boulevards, Paris is a city that needs no introduction. Your guide will ensure you get to see the Champs-Elysées and the fabulous Arc de Triomphe, which was commissioned in 1806 to celebrate Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz.

When the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889 it was a source of great controversy, but today this magnificent structure is arguably France’s most recognisable landmark. During this guided tour you will also visit Notre-Dame on the banks of the Seine, for the Gothic cathedral which inspired Victor Hugo’s celebrated novel.

During a stroll through the Parc du Luxembourg, enjoy some peaceful time to reflect in the centre of this hectic city, before returning to your ship, filled with impressions of an unforgettable visit to the City of Love.

 

Montmartre excursion

The Basilique du Sacré Coeur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, is an unmissable landmark rising up from the top of the hill at the centre of Montmartre, marking the highest natural point in Paris. This uniquely rustic yet lively and artistic district somehow manages to exist in the heart of the French capital and is a delightful place to take a tram ride into, before

disembarking to enjoy a guided walking tour. Afterwards, time will be available for you to enter the cathedral at your own leisure, should you desire, or you may simply like to relax outside a typical Parisian café and watch the world go by.

Cabaret show

Nightlife in Paris is often associated with the famous Cabarets. Well-known names such as “Moulin Rouge”, “Lido” or “Crazy Horse” have been attracting tourists and locals alike since the Golden Age of the Belle Époque. Watching one of those fascinating shows will surely be a highlight of your stay in Paris

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