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Duration: 16 days Visiting: France
Uncover the glamour and rich heritage of France, as you step aboard the timeless S.S. Joie de Vivre for a voyage into the past. Experience the world that inspired Monet’s masterpieces and see the D-Day beaches of Normandy. Journey on land from iconic Paris to the heart of romantic Provence and on to the dazzling French Riviera. Along the way, you’ll travel in VIP comfort, stay in luxurious hotels and be introduced to passionate foodies and historians. Taste local specialities on a gourmet culinary walk in Paris, follow in the footsteps of Van Gogh in Arles and visit the timeless Chȃteau de Vaux-Le-Vicomte and Villa Rothschild.
Welcome to Paris.
Your complimentary, private transfer takes you to your local departure airport. On arrival at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, you will be met and transferred to your luxurious Uniworld ship. Settle into your sumptuous cabin and acquaint yourself with your home for the next few days.
La Roche-Guyon, Vernon and Monet's Giverny.
Today is a celebration of Northern France’s natural beauty, with an excursion to a splendid chateau and gardens situated in an equally grand setting, plus a chance to immerse yourself in the very landscapes that inspired Impressionist master, Claude Monet. Visit and appreciate the grandeur of the hilltop Chȃteau La Roche-Guyon, surrounded by beautiful gardens and offering sweeping views over the Seine. This is where Medieval knights kept watch for marauding Vikings, where kings Francis I and Henry II once gathered and where enlightenment thinkers exchanged ideas. Later, explore Vernon and Giverny Your Way with the choice to visit the home and gardens of Impressionist master Claude Monet. When Monet bought the property, most of it was an orchard; he transformed it over the years into the enchanting visions immortalised in his paintings, essentially creating each work of art twice: once as a living garden and again as a painting. Alternatively, you may choose to explore the beautiful French countryside on a guided bike ride from Vernon to Giverny. You’ll ride along an easy course for about three miles to the village where the artist lived for decades. See the church and cemetery where Monet is buried and the Hotel Baudy, where his painter friends often stayed, and arrive at the artist’s home and garden for a tour. In the evening, meet your fellow passengers and enjoy a special Captain’s Welcome Dinner.
Explore the Norman Coast, a place forever associated with the Allies' 1944 D-Day invasion. The tour of Omaha Beach encompasses the major areas of the American assault. Pay your respects at the Normandy American Cemetery.
Caudebec-en-Caux: Honfleur or Étretat.
Explore riverside Caudebec Your Way. This lovely village, on a serene loop of the Seine, is your base today for one of two very different excursions. Your first option is to be driven through the beautiful Calvados countryside to seaside Honfleur for a delightful discovery walking tour with your Local Expert. Begin at the former smugglers’ harbor of Vieux Bassin, which looks much as it did a century ago, then continue down tiny lanes, where houses stand shoulder-to-shoulder in a jumble of historic styles. You’ll also see St. Catherine’s Church, built in the 15th century by shipwrights who gave it an oak ceiling that looks like the hull of a boat. Alternatively, head to the cliffs of Étretat for a round of golf on one of France’s top courses. This exclusive golfing excursion takes place on a dramatic links course set atop Normandy’s Alabaster Coast. After a morning of golfing, enjoy lunch in charming Étretat and explore the seaside village that so many artists, including Monet, rendered in paint, or return to the ship for lunch and a leisurely afternoon on board.
Walk in the footsteps of greatness in Normandy’s medieval capital, a city with a historic quarter that remains amazingly intact. From the cathedral Monet painted dozens of times to the cross marking the spot where Joan of Arc was martyred, Rouen is a treasure trove for the culturally curious. The roll call of famous people who lived or died in Rouen is long and varied- Richard the Lionhart, Joan of Arc, Gustave Flaubert and Claude Monet are among them.
Mantes-la-Jolie: Château de Versailles.
Experience Château de Versailles Your Way as you discover how French rulers lived over the centuries. Step into the secret rooms of the lavish palace with its regal history - the royal apartments still look much as they did when Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette fled in 1789. Alternatively, head for a guided tour of the Versailles Gardens and discover Marie Antoinette's Hamlet. Château de Versailles, was the official residence of the country’s kings and queens from 1682 until the revolution, and though the monarchy possessed other palaces, Château de Versailles stood alone in magnificence.
Introduction to Paris.
Explore Paris Your Way - whether you’re a first-time visitor to the City of Light or you’ve visited many times before, there’s something for everyone today. See the city’s most prized attractions on an orientation guided by a Local Expert. Enjoy a drive from the Arc de Triomphe down the Champs Élysées to the Place de la Concorde. Pass the magnificent Opéra Garnier, the Place Vendôme which is home to designer salons, the legendary Louvre, the Sorbonne University, and the Panthéon. Stretch your legs at the Luxembourg Gardens, then take in the École Militaire before arriving at the manicured grounds of the Champs de Mars, the perfect vantage point from which to see Paris’s most iconic structure, the Eiffel Tower. Your second option is to take the Métro to the Île de la Cité with your Local Guide to the great cathedral of Notre Dame. An expert in history and architecture will walk you through the cathedral and share insider knowledge. Next, cross the Archbishop’s Bridge to the Left Bank and the Latin Quarter. Wander through the narrow streets where for centuries artists, writers, philosophers and Sorbonne’s students have lived and worked, argued politics, painted, sipped absinthe and lived the bohemian lifestyle for which the district is famous. Your final option is a guided bicycle ride along the Seine River. Join your guide and pedal along the Left Bank, past the Esplanade des Invalides where Napoleon’s tomb is one of the monuments and along the Quay d’Orsay to the Champs de Mars, one of Paris’s largest green spaces, offering one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in the city.
Gourmet Foodie Walk and the Eiffel Tower.
Enjoy a relaxed start to the day, before embarking on the most quintessential of French experiences: a small-group gourmet foodie walk through the streets of Paris. Join your Local Expert and food connoisseur and visit a variety of boutique shops, including pâtisseries, boulangeries, chocolatiers, baguette cafes and tiny cheese shops. Discover why Paris is so famous for its cuisine and meet passionate foodies along the way. In the afternoon, join your Local Expert for a visit to the iconic Eiffel Tower. As a guest of Luxury Gold, enjoy special VIP entry, allowing you to skip the line. From the 115-metre-high second story, marvel at vistas of Paris in all its glory. The rest of the day is at your leisure. Your Travelling Concierge is on hand to assist you with booking tickets to museums and recommending the best local activities. Perhaps you’d like tickets arranged to see the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum?
VIP Visit to Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte.
Step into the 17th century during an exclusive VIP visit to the largest privately-owned château in France, Vaux-Le-Vicomte, with its magnificent formal gardens. Designed in 1653 by the King’s principle architect, Louis Le Vau, the chateau is the embodiment of revolutionary design and set the tone for the classical era of French architecture. The estate’s gardens are equally impressive, comprising of 40 hectares of treasures, including decorated fountains, patterned flower beds and timeless statues. Experience Château Vaux-Le-Vicomte Your Way as you’re invited to join the estate’s lead gardener for a guided walk through the gardens, or alternatively, learn about the subtleties of high society during a dining etiquette class hosted by a professional butler.
Return to Paris where you are invited to join Count Remy de Scitivaux for a dazzling dinner at Le Procope, the oldest Parisian restaurant in continuous operation.
The Heart of Provence - Avignon and Arles.
Travel first-class onboard the TGV train to Avignon, once the centre of Catholicism. On arrival, join your Travelling Concierge for an orientation of the city, seeing its medieval fortified walls and immense Gothic Papal Palace. Enjoy lunch at your leisure in one of the city’s lovely restaurants before joining your Local Expert and following in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh on a guided walk through Arles. Inspired by the wild beauty and sunbaked houses of Provence, Van Gogh painted over 200 masterpieces in and around the town. Stroll along the Rhône River, which cuts through the city, and visit the famous Arles Amphitheatre, dating back to A.D. 90. During Roman occupation, this prominent structure drew crowds of up to 20,000 spectators who came to revel in the excitement of chariot races and bloody battles. Today the amphitheatre hosts plays, concerts and bullfights. By night, Arles is a Van Gogh painting come to life. In the evening, gather for dinner served in your hotel’s acclaimed Lou Marqués gourmet restaurant for a feast of seasonal dishes and fine wines.
Pont du Gard and Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Start the day by visiting one of the city’s famed food markets before travelling to Pont du Gard, one of the world’s best-preserved ancient Roman aqueducts and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Journey to the medieval village of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, a renowned winegrowing region and the former summer residence of the Avignon popes. Take in 360-degree views of the Rhône Valley and enjoy a wine tasting at a renowned winery. Hosted by the estate’s vintner, sample a selection of delicious blends and learn why some of the world’s best-loved wines come from this region. Return to Arles to enjoy the rest of the day at leisure. So captivating is the beauty of this historic city that you’ll feel as if you’re walking through a Van Gogh painting. Perhaps admire modern art inspired by Van Gogh’s legacy at the Vincent Van Gogh Foundation or dine at one of many lovely restaurants and maybe seal the evening with a wander along the river? Your Travelling Concierge is there to assist you with restaurant reservations.
Olive Oil Tasting in Provence and Michelin-starred Lunch.
Set atop a rocky outcrop in the Alpilles Mountains and crowed with a ruined castle, Les-Baux-de-Provence has a reputation as one of the most picturesque villages in France. Start the day with an exploration of the village’s winding streets and take in panoramic views, before continuing to Maison de Bournissac, a small family-owned olive mill situated on the plains below. Meet the owner, see the fruit and mechanised press, and learn about the production process, a fine tradition passed down through the generations. Gather in the shade of a nearby fig tree for a sample of the award-winning olive oil. Then onto the beautiful old Mas, a traditional farmhouse of Provence, and prepare yourself for a spectacular feast at a Michelin-starred restaurant, Maison de Bournissac. Enjoy the finest flavours of Provence, as each Michelin-starred restaurant around the world is meticulously selected based on outstanding food quality. There is time in the afternoon to shop or explore in Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, the wonderful old home-town of Nostradamus, before returning to Arles to spend the evening at your leisure.
Provencal Highlights and on to Monaco.
Journey to Aix-en-Provence, known as 'the most beautiful town in France after Paris', and see the elegant mansions and bustling cafes of the Cours Mirabeau. Then continue to the hilltop village of St-Paul-de-Vence, where contemporary painters celebrate art as a living tradition. Walk through its winding streets and marvel at elegant fountains, vine-covered stone walls, and views of mountains and sea. Today’s travels end in the Principality of Monaco, ruled by the Grimaldi family since the 13th century and famous for being the seaside playground of the rich and famous. Settle into your centrally located hotel and enjoy dinner at your leisure.
The Glitz and Glamour of Monaco.
Join your Travelling Concierge for sightseeing of glamourous Monaco. See the Grand Prix circuit - famous for hosting the annual Formula One Monaco Grand Prix - explore the old town and admire the Royal Palace where the Grimaldi family lives. Wander along the yacht-filled harbour and visit the cathedral, which houses the tombs of the late Prince Rainier and Princess Grace. Spend the rest of the day at your leisure, exploring this fashionable resort town or perhaps venturing further afield to seaside Nice.
Corniche Roads and Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.
Embark on a dazzling drive along the Corniche roads of the Riviera and take in breathtaking views along Europe's most beautiful coast. Travel the Moyenne Corniche road, clinging to rocks between sea and sky, for spectacular views. Stop en route to appreciate sweeping panoramas of the sparkling Mediterranean and lavish villas. Join a Local Expert for a visit to the luxurious Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, one of the finest listed buildings on the French Riviera. The Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild collected art works from all over the world, transforming the Villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat into an art lover’s paradise. Explore its nine wonderful gardens, complete with musical fountains, and enjoy stunning views over the Riviera. In the evening, raise a glass to new adventures and friendships at your Celebration Dinner with champagne, hosted at a local restaurant.
After breakfast, bid farewell to your travel companions and enjoy a private transfer to Nice airport for your onward journey. On arrival at your home airport, your driver will greet and escort you to your waiting car for your private transfer home.
Uniworld's S.S. Joie de Vivre.
Paris (Contemporary) - France
Arles (Contemporary) - France
The recently-renovated five-star Jules Cesar Hotel has beautifully blended 18th century character with contemporary art. Curated by master of fashion, Christian Lacroix, the refurbished hotel places you in the heart of Arles and offers everything from a luxury spa to a gourmet restaurant.
Monte Carlo (Historic) - Principality of Monaco
Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, this prestigious hotel is a destination in its own right, boasting a stunning rooftop pool, an in-house casino and a luxury spa.