France River Cruise – April 2012

Burgundy and Provence

A river cruise along the Rhone takes you back to a simpler time; the pace is slower in this heavenly place, making you lose track of time. France is renowned for it’s legendary cuisine and traditional winemaking. It’s like stepping into another world, the South of France was spared during the World Wars leaving many temples, arenas, aqueducts virtually unscathed.

Our first stop was Beaune, a well preserved gem of the Middle Ages. My favourite excursion was to the Hotel-Dieu, a Gothic hospice built in 1478 by Chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy Nicholas Rolin and his wife. Used to treat the famine and disease that was brought on by the Hundred Year’s War, is still in impeccable shape.

Next was Lyon which is midway between northern and southern Europe. The 2000 year old city prospered as a center of trade, textiles and cultural exchanges. The cobblestone streets of Vieux Lyon lead to some of the 300 remaining Renaissance traboules, which were used by silk weavers as passageways. These passages were incredible, they connected one side of the city to the other, it felt very surreal wandering the old streets.

Viviers was a fortified city with a wall surrounding the entire city that was built in the Roman era and still stands today. We really enjoyed walking the narrow, cobblestone streets looking in all the neat shops.

The coliseum and the amphitheatre in Arles is where bull fights are still being held today. Restoration is ongoing on both sites, the city works really hard to preserve their monuments. We also visited the Hospital where Van Gogh stayed in did his paintings. Standing in the very spot where Van Gogh painted “Garden of the Hospital in Arles” was surreal.

Avignon is home to many gypsies, with colourful markets and boutique style shops we spent the morning people and browsing through the stores. That afternoon we visited the Cathedral Notre Dame des Doms, adjacent to the Papal Palace. A large gold Madonna statue tops the cathedral. A three mile long wall/fortress surrounded this city to protect their worldly goods.

This was a very unique trip, one I would definitely recommend. It had the best of everything, food, wine, art, culture and history. If you are looking for a holiday that is relaxing but keeps you stimulated from beginning to end, this is a great option.