History and Art of the Rhône - MS Thomas Hardy

History and Art of the Rhône - MS Thomas Hardy

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tourhub | Riviera Travel | History and Art of the Rhône - MS Thomas Hardy | RCRHHT
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8 Days
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$2363

History and Art of the Rhône - MS Thomas Hardy

8 Days

Visiting: Avignon, Arles, Gorges de l'Ardèche, Vienne, Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône, Lyon

Tour operator:

Riviera Travel

Tour code:

RCRHHT

Trip Styles:

River Cruise

From:
$2363 (USD) including Flights from the UK

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Tour Overview

Magnificent Roman remains, the remarkable architecture of the Middle Ages and the light and beauty of the Provencal countryside - which inspired the genius of Van Gogh - await you on our cruise along the Rhône. From Avignon to Lyon this fascinating journey will take you to the artistic heart of this region where you can delve into centuries of history and discover the outstanding natural beauty of France.  We'll wander through the winding streets of medieval towns and villages and explore the cities that line these historic riverbanks in the company of our knowledgeable experts.  Discover 15th century architecture and some of the most remarkable collections of sculptures and paintings in Europe - all amid the lush vineyards and sunbaked hills of Southern France.

Our popular Burgundy, the River Rhône and Provence river cruise has been reimagined to include even more 

Highlights

  • Sample delicious local wines with a wine-tasting in Burgundy's wine capital, Beaune.

  • Visit the Palace of the Popes in the 14th-century City of Avignon, adorned with priceless frescoes, Gobelin tapestries and graceful sculptures. 

  • Explore the magnificent Ardèche Gorges, one of France's most outstanding natural landscapes.

  • Take a guided tour around the highlights of Lyon, including renaissance buildings, imposing churches and Europe's largest pedestrian square, Place Bellecour, featuring a statue of Louis XIV. 

  • Enjoy seven nights on board in your choice of luxury cabin or suite, with river views. 

  • Click here to see our departures exclusively for solo travellers

  • Discover medieval and renaissance treasures with visits to the Palace of the Popes and the Petite Palais Museum in Avignon. 

  • See remarkable Roman ruins in the company of local experts with guided tours of Vienne, including the Cybèle archaeological gardens, and Lyon’s Gallo-Roman Theatre.  

  • Delve into Beaune's fascinating medieval past at the Hotel Dieu Museum and explore the city's historic ramparts. 

  • Visit Caverne du Pont d'Arc - a truly remarkable replica of the Chauvet Cave, one of the world's most important sites of prehistoric art - and follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh with a walking tour of Arles. 

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Itinerary

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Day 1
Location: Avignon

On arrival in Avignon, we’ll transfer by coach to our ship moored in the city’s historic centre. The dedicated English-speaking crew will welcome you on board and help you to your cabin. After settling in to your spacious and tastefully furnished accommodation, there’s time to familiarise yourself with this five-star floating hotel before dinner.

Day 2
Location: Avignon

The light catching the red roofs of Avignon’s majestic skyline is a sight to behold over breakfast. This morning, we'll embark on a guided tour of one of the most extraordinary and intriguing cities in France. Avignon’s destiny changed during the 14th century when the Pope’s court moved here to avoid strife in Rome.  



Igniting a century of prosperity, the pontiff commissioned a host of ambitious building projects, and today the city is immaculately preserved, nestling behind its almost-intact 14th-century walls and boasting more remarkable monuments, superbly decorated buildings, churches, chapels and convents than you can possibly count.  



Most important is the stunning Pope’s Palace, made up of two buildings that together form the largest Gothic palace in the world. With turrets, towers, parapets and other fortifications, its exterior resembles a mighty fortress. But the interior is even more impressive - it's a tour de force of medieval architecture and ornamentation, adorned with priceless art, frescoes, Gobelin tapestries and graceful sculptures.  



The ceremonial hall, chapels, cloisters and private apartments are all unmissable. But to truly embrace the feel of papal Avignon, imagine yourself here during the Middle Ages amid the Palace’s rich furnishings and extravagant decoration, with cardinals, princes and ambassadors milling about its candlelit halls and corridors while in the streets below countless pilgrims eagerly anticipate benediction. This was Avignon’s brief golden age when it was truly the centre of Christendom.  



After lunch, you’ll be free to explore as you wish.



You could do some shopping or enjoy an idle afternoon in a quiet café in a shady Provencal square to watch the world go by - there's no judgment here. Take a stroll on the iconic Pont d’Avignon, which, dramatically, ends halfway across the river, made famous by the melody we all recall from our first French lessons. Or return to the luxurious surroundings of our ship, finding a quiet spot to contemplate the many wondrous places you’ve seen and experienced over a quiet cup of tea. Alternatively, join us on an optional included visit to the former home of the archbishops of Avignon, Le Petit Palais, to cast a critical eye over the remarkable collection of over 300 paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages and Renaissance, including works by Botticelli and Carpaccio.



Dinner on board is followed by musical performance by a local pianist in the ship’s lounge as the ship sets sail towards our next destination, Arles, arriving later that evening.

 



+ Included Experiences – Guided tour of Avignon, visit to Petit Palais & on-board performance by a local pianist 

Day 3
Location: Arles

Arles 



You'll awake under the azure skies of deepest Provence amid the warm stone colours of Arles, many of whose historic monuments are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Although small in size, it was the key stronghold on the Roman road to Spain, one of the empire’s richest possessions. Seagoing ships could reach here, and the city became a regional capital, briefly ruling over Gaul, Spain and Britain. 



Our guided tour will follow in the footsteps of the great genius and artist, Van Gogh, who spent over 14 months in Arles, from February 1888. It was his most prolific period and, inspired by Arles and the light and beauty of the Provençal countryside, he produced around 300 works, including The Night Café, The Yellow House and, of course, Starry Night.  As we explore, you’ll get to admire some of his masterpieces at the Vincent Van Gogh Arles Foundation - as well as works by other artists – and visit the sights that inspired his work – The Yellow House, Escape Van Gogh and Place du Forum, to name a just a few.  



 



Pont du Gard 



After lunch we visit the amazing Pont du Gard Roman aqueduct, one of the wonders of the ancient world. No amount of fame can diminish the first sight of this 2,000-year-old structure, which was the highest bridge built in the Empire –the Romans themselves considered it the most important testimony to their greatness. Its statistics are staggering - over 900 feet long and almost 160 feet high, with its stones each weighing up to six tons. 



To put this in perspective, the span of the Pont du Gard is greater than the width of the River Thames at London Bridge – and no mortar was used in its construction! The situation is lovely too, with pine- and cypress-covered hills adding to the harmonious setting. 



After re-joining the ship, we’ll cruise along the Rhône and, during dinner, pass the imposing 15th-century castle at Tarascon which stands guard on the riverbank. 





+ Included Experiences – Guided tour of Arles & visit to Pont du Gard

Day 4
Location: Gorges de l'Ardèche

Ardèche Gorges 



This morning we’ll disembark the ship, now moored in Viviers, after breakfast. Whilst our ship effortlessly cruises upstream towards Le Pouzin, we will explore one of France’s most outstanding landscapes – the Ardèche Gorges, whose scale is a fitting reminder of Mother Nature’s awesome power. 



Sheer limestone cliffs plunge almost 1,000 feet to the river’s blue waters, which elegantly snake their way through stupendous rock formations, culminating in a huge natural arch, the Pont d’Arc. We enjoy marvellous views at every turn of caves, grottoes and natural sculptures before returning to the ship moored in Le Pouzin. 

 



Chauvet caves 



We'll stop at the UNESCO-listed Chauvet Caves to explore a spectacular replica of the pre-historic caves – home to the best-preserved and oldest-known paintings in France. Discovered in 1994, by three cave explorers, the walls are covered in well-preserved paintings – said to be the oldest painting ever found. They're 36,000 years old - that's 18,000 years older than the decorated walls of the Lascaux cave in Dordogne – so you really are looking at the oldest art ever seen. 



After dinner this evening, you can delight in a ballroom dancing performance in the lounge with the opportunity to learn some basic steps of a French madison line dance – a lively way to end an exciting day onshore!



 



+ Included Experiences – Visits to the Ardèche Gorges & Chauvet Caves & on-board ballroom dancing performance

Day 5
Location: Vienne

During breakfast this morning, we’ll slip our moorings and cruise north through one of the most spectacular sections of the Rhône Valley, as the river squeezes and twists passed Condrieu, Saint-Rambert-d’Albon and Saint-Vallier, with wooded cliffs rising high on both sides. 



After lunch, we’ll arrive in the ancient Roman stronghold of Vienne, first a Celtic settlement, then a Roman stronghold under Julius Caesar. Here you'll be taken by mini-train for a captivating tour, hosted by a local expert. Strikingly located in a narrow section of the Rhône, where the river meanders dramatically around a steep bluff, Vienne is a treasure trove of historic remains, including the stunning Roman Temple of Augustus and Livia, and a walk around its streets really brings its heritage to life. 



We'll then continue on to the archaeological gardens of Cybèle. Here we'll wander around the remains of the administrative centre of the Gallo-Roman city with a local expert as they regale us with facts and stories that highlight the historic importance of the gardens. As we walk, you’ll spot the arcades of the forum portico, the wall of a municipal assembly hall, and the remains of houses and terraces. The gardens were named for the goddess Cybèle – goddess of motherhood, nature, fertility, and agriculture - after excavations in 1938 found a fragment of bas-relief dedicated to her. Grass and toppled columns are scattered around the traces of 1st-century houses and public buildings - it's a lovely park to wander around and relax. 



Returning to the ship for dinner, we'll commence our cruise towards Chalon-sur-Saône.



 



+ Included Experiences – Guided tour of Vienne with visit to Cybèle gardens.

Day 6
Location: Beaune, Chalon-sur-Saône

Burgundy 



Overnight we’ll have made steady progress north and mid-morning we’ll arrive in and berth in Chalon, gateway to Burgundy and the home of Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography. As we travel to Beaune, today’s destination, we’ll see some of the pretty yet surprisingly small villages that produce some of the world’s most sublime wines – Meursault, Volnay, Pommard, Gevrey-Chambertin and many more.

 



Beaune 



After lunch on board, we’ll travel to Beaune, via France’s famous Wine Road, passing an array of quintessential Alsatian villages and fortified towns. Beaune, Burgundy’s historic wine capital is wonderful to wander around.  Here we will visit, Hospices de Beaune, also known as the Hôtel-Dieu, which stands at its centre of this historic town. Originally built in the 15th century as a hospital for the disadvantaged, it’s a jewel of High Gothic architecture, instantly recognisable for its colourful glazed roof tiles arranged in dazzling geometric patterns. The highlight is a large work, painted by Flemish artist Rogier van der Weyden, consisting of fifteen paintings on nine panels. The inner panels contain scenes from the Last Judgement and a large central panel spans both registers showing Christ seated on a rainbow in judgement, with the Archangel Michael below holding scales to weigh souls.  



On our guided tour of the Museum Dieu, you’ll walk through the building’s unique history and day to day life of the Hôtel-Dieu - from the 15th century to the present day – with information on medical history and a collection of 5,000 pieces of furniture and other fascinating objects, ranging from tapestries and paintings to sculptures to pharmacy equipment. 



As we enjoy another delicious dinner on board this evening, the ship slips its mooring, and we begin our journey to Lyon.





+ Included Experience – Tour of Beaune with visit to Hôtel-Dieu 

Day 7
Location: Lyon

One of river cruising’s great pleasures is the fascination of waking in a completely different location and, on waking this morning, the ship will arrive in Lyon. After breakfast, we’ll enjoy a guided tour of Lyon, one of France’s most fascinating cities.  



The Rhône Valley had been the route of choice for marauding armies and peaceful traders for centuries, so Lyon’s current site, at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers, cried out to be fortified. In 43 BC the Romans founded the city, which subsequently grew in importance; Emperor Claudius, conqueror of Britain, was born here.  



There are many Roman remains to see, but it was the production of silk that brought Lyon to prominence during the Middle Ages, and throughout the city, you can see signs of the wealth that poured in – Renaissance buildings, imposing churches and Europe’s largest pedestrian square, Place Bellecour, with a statue of Louis XIV as its focus.  



The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is crammed with antique shops and intriguing traboules – narrow covered passageways enabling silk merchants to transport their wares to the river without getting wet – are a joy to amble through. As well as its glorious architecture, Lyon is generally acknowledged as France’s (and to locals, the world’s) gastronomic capital. 



In the afternoon, we'll travel back in time to when Lyon was known as Lugdunum and Romans ruled. Thanks to its location, it was an epicentre of ancient trade. While much of what existed 2000 years ago has now disappeared, the remaining Roman ruins in the heart of modern-day Lyon are quite spectacular. There's an ancient theatre (the oldest Roman amphitheatre in France), a smaller Odeon and a museum to explore with a local guide. 



This evening we’ll enjoy the sumptuous Captain’s Dinner, with the chef serving specialities of the regions you’ve visited during your voyage of discovery.



 



+ Included Experiences – Guided tour of Lyon, visit to Gallo-Roman theatre & Captain’s Dinner 

Day 8
Location: Lyon

After breakfast, you’ll bid farewell to the ship and her dedicated crew, before transferring to the airport or to the train station for your return journey. 

What's Included

  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of Sole Occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:; All meals on board - from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day - including welcome cocktails and the Captain's dinner. Complimentary on-board tea and coffee All visits and excursions as mentioned Airport transfers Coach travel as mentioned Travel to and from port of embarkation The services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and concierge

  • Prices are per person, based on two people sharing a twin cabin with a limited number of Sole Occupancy cabins available on all decks, at the relevant supplement. The price includes:;; Full board from dinner on your day of arrival until breakfast on your final day; if you choose to travel with us on any of the full day excursions by coach, a packed lunch will be provided. Anyone choosing to stay on the ship may of course have lunch in the restaurant; Complimentary tea and coffee on board; All visits and excursions as mentioned; Airport transfers; Coach travel as mentioned; Travel to and from port of embarkation; The services of a Riviera Travel cruise director and concierge

Check out our Q&As

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    For almost 40 years

  • I have reduced mobility; can I still travel?

    We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to contact us to discuss these concerns

  • Do I require travel insurance?

    It is a condition of booking that you carry suitable travel insurance.

  • What is my luggage allowance?

    You will receive details of your luggage allowance with your final travel documents, which are sent approximately 10 days prior to your date of departure.

Reviews of this Operator

David Clarke (Google Reviewer)  

This review is for the...

08-Aug-2023

This review is for the italian Lake Como trip Aug 1-8 Wow what a trip. Riviera from start to finish were excellent the booking and help line answering questions were very good and clear. The travel booklet you get is laid out that it is simple to read and follow with step by step info from booking in to flights to meeting the guides. Our guide Matt Purse was just the best guide and real credit to Riviera with his knowledge and straight forward approach to running the trips. Matt kept us informed and told us all the sort of info you want to know without going over the top....This chap should teach other reps ..thank you so much. The coaches they use are all clean and well equipped with usb chargers and have aircon. The places chosen to visit were well researched even down to where coaches park or drop you off. The Bernina Express was the highlight for our family and matts photo tip was welcomed. The only down point was the hotel,a little dated and evening meal in main restuarant was a bit of a let down. I think we were lucky with our room on level 7 and with balcony as the walls are very thin and noise travels. We would book again with riviera

Barbara Shillaker (Google Reviewer)  

I have been on three...

11-Jan-2024

I have been on three trips with Riviera Travel so far, with two more booked during 2024. Highly recommended. Excellent tour guides. Great program of visits. Great hotels used.

Valerie Pascoe  

We would go again in a heartbeat

22-Jan-2022

Oh my goodness, what a relief it was to actually get away! Full marks to all at Riviera for keeping us up to date before our trip and for the help so cheerfully and patiently given with the extra admin that Covid brought our way. We felt totally safe with the measures taken on board, thank you very much for this. Without exception, Staff were fantastic and our every need was attended to. The additional Covid testing ran smoothly, organised by our Riviera Reps. The guided tours were most interesting: the guides very knowledgeable and more importantly, interesting to listen to. We loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you again Riviera, you were FAB!

Chris Wilson (Google Reviewer)  

Second escorted tour with this...

25-Jul-2022

Second escorted tour with this company. Did 5 days in Iceland tour. Everything went smoothly, excellent tour guide, Per. Extremely knowledgeable and interesting guy. Very friendly too. Highly recommend. Just let down by the room given at the hotel, but I guess the travel company doesn't have control over this.

Kathryn Jurin, GB  

Riviera South Africa tour - awesome

21-May-2021

Riviera have amazing holidays and tours to choose from. The one we chose was South Africa and wow! It turned out to be our best trip ever - incredible memories we will never forget. We’ve been all over the world which was because of all our experiences, this one was awesome. The organisation of the holiday, the guide and the travel was e cells that. The choice of hotels, meals, restaurants, trips was absolutely fantastic - very good quality and character - nothing bland or boring! The Riviera guide was permanently with us along with a South Africa guide and they were both extremely friendly, professional, informative and you could ask any questions you want! I would massively recommend this holiday/trip and when you’ve experienced it, you realise how reasonable the price is. We reflect on this trip a lot and thank you Riviera for giving us such a wonderful experience.

Trustpilot
Barry, GB  

Rhine Christmas markets cruise

09-Dec-2019

Just completed a 5 day trip on the Rhine. Our first river cruise and a tester for future cruises. The boat was well appointed and the cabin and public areas were spotlessly clean. The staff were attentive and contributed to the very relaxed atmosphere on the boat. The quality of the food surpassed that which we have experiened on sea cruises in recent years. I have written little because it was a faultless experience. We have booked a further cruise (in France) on the basis of our experience.

Trustpilot
Joan Yarker (Google Reviewer)  

My first cruise and I...

23-Sep-2023

My first cruise and I couldn’t have done better than my recent Seine River cruise. Carmen the tour organiser was excellent and always willing to go the extra mile to sort out any problems. The crew were amazing , friendly and helpful, the captain was great when explaining the controls on the bridge. Everything was very clean, food truly delicious and the pianist a delight and I was able to indulge my passion for dancing. My fellow guests were a delight and I made many new friends. Thank you Riviera

Christine Hardy (Google Reviewer)  

Although most people seem to...

10-Mar-2024

Although most people seem to book and pay for their holidays online, because we live close by we prefer to make a personal visit. In my opinion if they are offering this as an option they should be better equipped to accommodate visits in person. We have not been on our river cruise yet, so can't comment on that yet.

Rob Steele (Google Reviewer)  

My 3rd Riviera trip within...

16-Feb-2024

My 3rd Riviera trip within a year and I wasn't disappointed 😁 This time it was https://www.rivieratravel.co.uk/escorted-tours/southern-india-coastal-route-solo-travellers This trip, although not cheap, it really offers exceptional value for money as you see a lot of Tamil Nadu and Kerela, stay in fantastic hotels, excellent breakfasts every day as well as some lunches and dinners also included. George Bareham, our "Tour Manager" was brilliant, very professional, but also friendly and diligent. Satheeshan, our local guide was helpful and picked me up antibiotics when I got ill, he was a nice chap, if (for my taste) went on a bit and used 20 words when 1 would suffice. Mr Sweeny, our coach driver was fantastic,really professional and an exceptionally good driver. His assistant, Murgon wad a delight, always smiling and attentive. This is a full on trip, early morning starts and quite a packed itinerary, but still leaving time to laze around some brilliant hotel swimming pools. Only a couple of suggestions to improve the holiday. More shopping time in Cochin and change carriers from Etihad who, unfortunately aren't the excellent airline they used to be. But, will I use Riviera Travel again - Yes 😁

Barbara Parkes (Google Reviewer)  

Presently in Croatia staying at...

22-Sep-2023

Presently in Croatia staying at Arauana Hotel, supposedly a 4 star property, but wouldn't give it any star rating. Rooms are small and dirty. Wallpaper blistering. Meals served in a shed like lean-to. Food like warm, greasy and always self service. Second holiday with Riviera this year and neither at standard advertised. Have travelled with them previously and everything was fine, but standards have really dropped. Have booked a holiday with them next year and now dreading it. Certainly don't provide the standard advertised. We have never stayed in such a hovel and have visited youngsters in back packers accommodation which was far better than this supposedly 4 star accommodation. There are no indoor bars or lounges only a shed as a so called restaurant. Absolutely disgusting. Won't be boking with them again

Dates & Availability

Instant Booking Available

Thursday - Thursday

Apr 17, 2025 - Apr 24, 2025
$2363 (USD)

Including UK Flights

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Instant Booking Available

Thursday - Thursday

Oct 09, 2025 - Oct 16, 2025
$2549 (USD)

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  • Low Deposit

    Riviera Travel requires a minimum deposit of 200 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 75 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of riviera travel charges.

    Up to 75 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 74 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 70% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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