Burgundy and Provence River Cruise with Avalon Waterways
With excited anticipation and grand expectations, we set sail on the luxurious Avalon Passion bound for the Cote D’Azur along the Rhone River.
Rather than joining the cruise in Paris, we chose to head east first for an immersive road trip through Champagne regions of France and the Bavarian forests. An insider tip is to visit the UNESCO World Heritage when visiting Europe. The colourful half-timbered houses of Strasbourg evoke images of a fairy tale stories. Wondering through cobbled stone street gazing into shop windows it is hard not to resist the temptation to buy a one of a kind ceramic or curio that will start endless conversations back home.
The only down side of not joining the River Cruise in Paris is having to make our way to St Jean de Losne. After a little research we catch the train from the Gare de Dijon for a 40minute trip on the TVG our embarkation point. The Sofitel in Dijon is superb. It is an easy walk from the hotel to the Maille Dijon Mustard shop to stock up on old favourites and discover new taste sensations.
All the while anticipation is mounting; will the Avalon Passion be as good as the advertisements, will we find ourselves immersed in the cultural delights of Burgundy, will the food on board be as sumptuous as friends have told us, will we meet soul mates on the trip that will become life-long friends.
The sight of the Panoramic Suite leaves me heady as they invite us to join our fellow travellers for canapes and drinks in the lounge. We meet an American couple and after a short while find them so much like us we spend countless hours wondering the medieval streets of Burgundy with them as we discover hidden alleys that open-up to reveal unexpected photo opportunities.
In Lyon the camera takes a back seat to the gastronomic delights in front of us, with over 50 chocolatiers we choose Bernachon. Though the Bernachon is primarily a chocolatarie, the cakes and pastries in the window are so hypnotic they must be sampled with fine tea, uumm soo good!
The view from the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fouriere is so breathtaking it is difficult to fit into any single photo as much as I try to capture what my mind’s eye has already stored to reminisce about in the years to come.
On board, the food is so good I want to try everything on the menu but first, time to debrief over fine wine before our tour director fills our heads with details of the next days shore excursion. Oh no, I must choose one but which one. After a quick round table conference, we settle on one.
In their advertisement Avalon say:
‘We transform tourists into travellers and storytellers and help them truly experience each destination with guided sightseeing in every port (complete with headsets), daily port lectures, VIP access into key destinations, no waiting in lines and great cultural immersion and storytelling thanks to highly skilled Cruise and Tour …’
I have to agree. I like to explore each site at my own pace. With the headsets I can linger for a photo and not miss any of our knowledgeable guides insights and advice.
On to Avignon to see the Pont Saint-Bénézet and the Palace of the Popes but the first thing that fills you gaze are the Ramparts of Avignon. Handouts are available each day that include a map, a short history of the destination and a list of best things to see. A quick chat, the tour director convinces us to embark on our own to explore the shops after the initial orientation walk with the city guide. That is one of the good things about Avalon, they allow you to choose how you want to experience each destination. Two young Japanese girls choose to explore the city on the complimentary bicycles.
Each destination on the cruise includes an unforgettable place to visit. Arles is no exception. In the Arles Amphitheatre come bullring we watch school children re-enacting a gladiatorial battle of Roman times with costumes tutors. Our guide provides our own Van Gough Tour that includes a visit to the hospital where he spent time in during a period of mental illness that proved to be the most creative of his career. Van Gough trinket and prints are available from the Café at the Hospital,
The cruise officially ended for us in Arles. From there we boarded a coach for Monte Carlo, a journey of over three hours.
Monte Carlo is everything you imagine and more. At the time we visited Monaco the street scape was being transformed into a Grand Prix Circuit. The view from our room at The Fairmont Monte Carlo quickly found its way on to Facebook and Instagram. Tips: best way to see all of Monte Carlo at you own pace is to catch the hop-on hop-of bus. Make sure to visit the Old Town and watch the changing of the guard in front of the Palais du Prince at 11:55 am each day. Get there early as the area can get quite crowded then chose from any of the alfresco restaurants on the cobbled stoned alley near the palace. The old town is also one of the best spots to take panoramic photos in Monaco.
Put Avalon Waterways Burgundy and Provence Cruise on your bucket list. The cuisine onboard is exceptional and is fully complimented with a superb selection of fine wines. The service is beyond expectations without being intrusive. The Panorama Suites are well appointed, comfortable and make it a pleasure to return to after a great day exploring. The day trips were well thought out and the information provided by the city guides is excellent.
The Wifi on board can be little patchy at times given that you are river cruising. Take your own internet connected device as it really helps when you are exploring on your own and need to navigate to Café or pastry shop. Pack for the season you are travelling but also make sure you have a good wind/waterproof jacket just in case. In summer sunscreen is essential.
Tell family and friends to join you on a trip of a lifetime with an Avalon River Cruise and our tip is to combine it with a visit to the Champagne and Alsace Region.