A French holiday including a cruise along the Rhône
Discover Avignon, the Rhône, and Provence. Inspiration for artists including Vincent Van Gogh, this region of France oozes history, charm, and atmosphere. Staying in the delightful city of Avignon, we explore Roman Provence and enjoy a lunch cruise along the Rhône.
We meet early this morning at our Departure Office at London St Pancras. We travel by Eurostar across France to Avignon, enjoying breakfast on board, followed by a light meal and drinks later in the day. On arrival, we transfer to our base for the next 6 nights, the centrally located 4-Star Hotel de l'Horloge, 4-Star Novotel Avignon Centre or 4-Star Hotel Cloitre Saint Louis before dinner at a local restaurant.
*Some departures will travel via Lille
Please Note: For departures AVB2001 and AVB2002 you will travel via Paris.
Today we take a relaxing cruise on the River Rhône, enjoying lunch as we sail through picturesque scenery to Arles, once home to Vincent van Gogh. Boasting a beautifully preserved historic centre, the city of Arles boasts one of Europe's best collections of Roman ruins - which are UNESCO listed. Initially a Celtic city, Arles became Roman after Julius Caesar distributed the land among some of his most faithful soldiers in 46 BC. This was the city's first golden age, and came to be known as 'Little Rome in Gaul'.
As we arrive in this delightful city, it is easy to see how Arles inspired van Gogh to produce over 300 paintings and drawings during his time here. Among the many highlights of Arles' rich history is the mighty Roman Arena, which would have seated about 20,000 people. It was partly converted into a castle in the Middle Ages, but is still remarkably intact. We return to Avignon by rail.
This morning we enjoy a guided walking tour of charming Avignon. The city is well known for the Pont St Bénezet, its famous broken bridge. All but four of its arches were washed away in a devastating flood in 1668 - and today the surviving arches have become an iconic symbol of the city, and the feature of a famous song. The city is also famous for the Palais des Papes - Palace of the Popes - which was the seat of the Papacy for six successive Popes during the 14th century after Pope Clement V escaped the violent chaos and corruption of Rome and moved to Avignon.
We admire both of these striking landmarks - which now form the heart of a UNESCO World Heritage site - as we pass them during our guided sightseeing tour. The afternoon is free for you to explore Avignon at leisure. Stoll through the city's broad,tree-lined avenues and explore the intriguing network of alleyways and passages that connect beautiful open squares and pretty churches.
Today we enjoy a coach excursion into the Luberon, a picturesque region of Provence, known for its olive groves, vineyards and fascinating hilltop villages. We visit L'Isle sur-la-Sorgue, known as the 'Venice of Provence' for the canals which criss cross the town. Here you can relax in one of the delightful waterside cafés and see the attractive waterwheels located throughout the town, are all in working order. This afternoon, we visit Gordes, a beautiful old village built on and around an outcrop of rocky cliffs.
The buildings are packed tightly together, including the 12th century castle, with narrow alleyways and stone staircases acting as the village streets. The views of the surrounding fields and forests are spectacular from any vantage point in Gordes, which is listed as one of "Les Plus Beaux Villages de France" - "the Most Beautiful Villages in France". Another village in that prestigious list is Roussillon, located only a short distance away. Set on the ridge of a steep red cliff, the village is surrounded by a pine forest, its superb setting outdone only by the impeccable beauty of the village itself. The small centre is filled with colourful old buildings and a spiralling network of medieval streets. After enjoying time to explore both villages, we return to Avignon.
Today you are free to continue exploring Avignon at leisure. For wonderful views over the city's sights, including the Palais des Papes, the rooftops of Old Avignon and the Pont St-Bénézet, take a walk up to the Rock of Domes, where a beautiful hilltop garden is set on a bluff above the city. The gardens are also home to a collection of rocky grottoes which are referred to as 'the cradle of Avignon', where some of the first known inhabitants of the area settled and lived. You could travel further afield by rail, with exciting options available including the fascinating port city of Marseille, one of the jewels of France's Mediterranean coastline.
Today we travel by coach to the stunning Pont du Gard, the world famous threelevel stone aqueduct, which crosses the Gardon River Valley. Built by the Romans in 19BC, the incredible engineering feat was designed to bring water to the settlement at Nimes, for use in public baths, fountains and private residences. The gradient of the slope as it crosses the river is just 1 in 3,000 - a drop of just 2.5cm - which shows the incredible precision of the Roman engineers who designed and built the aqueduct with the simple technology available to them over 2,000 years ago.
The Pont du Gard enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status, as one of the greatest remaining iconic glories of the Roman Empire. Our excursion continues to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a medieval village built on a hillside and overlooked by the ruins of an ancient château. The village is perhaps the most famous red wine producing village in the world and is surrounded almost completely by vineyards, with the River Rhône winding across the landscape.
You have time to enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, explore the village and indulge yourself with an included wine tasting, giving us the chance to sample some of the region's most celebrated drinks before we return to Avignon. Here a farewell dinner is served at a local restaurant.
After a leisurely morning, we leave Avignon mid afternoon and join the direct Eurostar service to London*, with a light meal and drinks on board. We arrive late this evening, when your tour concludes.
*Some departures will travel via Lille
We offer a Standard Class and First Class rail options for departures on this tour. You can find out which class each departure is by clicking on the information button in the pricing grid.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
NEW FOR 2020: Inclusive Luggage Transfer
Enhancing your tour
Please note: This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 41 verified reviews
excellent organisation. No problems
A very satisfying holiday and a most enjoyable time was had with a good friendly bunch of fellow travelers.
An excellent holiday experience. Commenced with speaking to knowledgeable and friendly staff when booking holiday. Eurostar travel good once on train.( was very chaotic trying to check in, go through security etc but this not due to Great Rail Journeys). Well located hotel, pleasant included excursions and superb meals ( except one) at chosen restaurants and on the boat trip. Good balance of free and organised time. Ros the tour manager a real gem and asset to the company. Looking after a large group of 42 is not easy, but she kept and eye on everyone and frequently went above and beyond the call of duty to look after everyone and make sure all was well.
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The bad bit first. We had an early Eurostar train (7.20 a.m.) and have been used to arriving 2 hours early to get our tickets etc. However on this occasion the Great Rail meeting time was for 6.20 a.m. I had telephoned a few days earlier to query this but was told it would be 'fine'. Despite the office opening at 6 we could not access our tickets until 6.20. The queues were a nightmare at security and by the time I had passed through I had to go straight to the train, which I and other group members just made. The holiday itself was brilliant (other than being the hottest town in France during an unseasonal heatwave!); well and thoughtfully organised. The hotel was excellent as were the included meals. All in all really good value for money.
Just that our room at the hotel was rather cramped. The bathroom was very cramped. The breakfast room was very restricted by its size. Shame really as the hotel was in an ideal position in the main square. Overall it was a great holiday
Most enjoyable holiday, good itinerary and excellent tour manager
Excellent organisation Excellent Tour Manager Great mix of excursions, free time and the lovely weather helped a lot.
Everything ran smoothly, largely due to our excellent tour manager.
Lovely hotel in a great position but would have liked a bar there to meet up with fellow travellers at the end of the day
A French holiday including a cruise along the Rhône