Sun-drenched towns and cities rich with history
Sublime, sun-drenched towns and cities rich with history and glittering waterways await on this fabulous cruise holiday, which brings you the very best of France's elegant Provence region. Then disembark for a chic city break in the delightful Papal city of Avignon. This tour is operated by our sister company Great Rail Journeys.
Early this morning we meet at our dedicated Departure Office at St Pancras International and depart on the Eurostar direct to Avignon. On arrival we transfer to Sete, in the afternoon we board our home for the next seven days, the delightful Anne-Marie, a stylish hotel barge. We are presented to the crew and enjoy a welcome drink on board before we enjoy dinner together this evening.
This morning takes us to Étang De Thau, world-famous for its shellfish. We visit the Étang De Thau Museum, where we learn about the history of the shell-fishing trade and discover how the farmers and fishermen made their living. We sample some of the freshly caught shellfish while savouring the beautiful scenery from a terrace along this unique seascape. This afternoon we enjoy an excursion by coach to Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert, a beautiful French village tucked away in the folds of a verdant valley and boasting a wealth of medieval treasures. Here we embark on an informative guided tour that helps soak up the atmosphere of this destination that feels frozen in time. Some of the town's most impressive sights include its Romanesque abbey and the Devil's Bride which spans a turquoise stretch of the Hérault River, and dates back to the 11th century when Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert was frequently visited by pilgrims following the St James' Way
Today we visit an authentic 'man-made' farm and discover the life of its herders, taking part in a bull sorting routine. We enjoy snacks made fresh on the farm and sample local produce before returning to the ship.
Today we take a tour of Aigues-Mortes, perhaps one of the most beautiful sites in Provence. Encased by square medieval walls, this ancient fortified city is symmetrically perfect, white-washed terracotta topped houses contrast charmingly with the surrounding green countryside, in fact Aigues-Mortes is also famous for its nearby salt marshes which we discover by tourist train. Roman Legionnaires stationed nearby were paid a portion of their wage in salt from these very marshes - an intriguing facet of local history. What makes this sight spectacular is the marshes glow a pink colour, due to the microscopic algae in its waters.
Today we visit the Camargue, home to 140,000 hectares of natural wetlands, showcasing an array of different wildlife. This is a paradise for nature lovers as we see wild white horses and even the odd flamingo. Additionally this region is also home to some unusual paddy fields which produce red rice - a fascinating sight. We continue on to Sainte-Marie-la-Mer.
You have free time to explore here; perhaps visit the fortified church which was built in the 9th century as an imposing bastion to deter pirate raiders along the coast, located in a strategic position near the mouth of the Petit-Rhone. The church holds a towering presence over the village and can be seen as far as 10km inland.
Today we enjoy a guided tour of historic Arles, the home of some of Europe's best Roman ruins. With a long history dating back to Celtic times, Arles' heritage of conquest over the years has left it with a rich variety of architecture, which we explore during our visit. We take in the stunning Roman Amphitheatre and enjoy the myriad of Romanesque architecture and sun-baked houses.
Arles was the inspiration for some of Van Gogh's artistry and its heritage harks back to the glory days of Julius Caesar. Once a major Roman port, Arles rose to prominence after Caesar plundered Marseille for backing his political opponent, and evidence of that prosperity is preserved wonderfully for us to see. Following our tour we travel inland to learn about olive oil production in Provence and we sample some of the local produce. Tonight we enjoy a farewell Gala dinner back on board the Anne-Marie, as a perfect way to round off our wonderful French adventure.
This morning we enjoy a buffet breakfast on board before walking to Arles' train station, here we will take the local rail service to Avignon. On arrival we transfer to our base for the next two nights, the centrally located 4-Star Hotel de l'Horloge, then tonight we enjoy dinner together in a local Avignon restaurant.
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 ahead of a farewell dinner tonight in another local restaurant. 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.
After breakfast on Day 9, you have some free time until our direct Eurostar journey from Avignon station straight to London St Pancras this afternoon.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour
This tour may be suitable for reduced mobility passengers, please call for further information.
Sun-drenched towns and cities rich with history