The Heart of Provence | Rhône River Cruise

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All blog posts are based on our personal travels around Europe, penned by J. Christina.

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Travel dates: July 26- August 8, 2022

  Avignon. Ver-Pont-du-Gard. Viviers. Tournon. Tain L’Hermitage 

Provence is one of the most beautiful regions of France, stretching from the lower Rhône River in the west, to the Italian border in the east, all bound by the Mediterranean Sea to the south. The Rhône River occupies some of France’s most picturesque scenery and it is the only major river in Europe that flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

Our European River ship, the S.S. Catherine is moored for the night in Avignon within steps of the timeless rampart walls, and near the ruins of Pont Saint Bénézet bridge, made famous by the children’s French song Sur le Pont d’Avignon, commemorating the bridge.  At the end of a perfect day of sightseeing, the river cruisers settle in for a beautiful sunset cocktail hour, overlooking the Rhône, accompanied by a gourmet meal, paired with local wines.

Pont Saint Bénézet bridge Rhône River |Palais des Papes

Join us today on our 8-day European river cruise with Uniworld and savor the historical towns and villages along the banks of the Rhône, where we begin day three in Avignon, the heart of Provence.

There are few journeys more endearing than slowly plying Europe’s rivers. We have used river cruising to bookend overland travel across Europe for many years. It is a bespoke, stress-free way of travel, where we are up-close and personal to iconic landmarks, flower-laden villages, and picturesque hamlets.

Avignon is easily explored on foot, where we step off our boutique river ship today with anticipation to discover this historic town. It is an easy stroll along the warren of winding, cobblestone streets through the ramparts that encircle the UNESCO World Heritage sites.  The river cruisers join an immersive tour to the largest gothic palace in the world, Palais des Papes, once a fortress, and now a museum.  We admire its many frescoed walls by Italian artist Matteo Giovannetti while discovering its turbulent history of rebellion, pilgrimage, and massacre.

Another of today’s must-see is Les Halles, known in French as Les Halles d’Avignon, a Provençal indoor market.   Where locals, tourists, and chefs shop for fruit and vegetables from Provence, inside this contemporary-style building with a vertical green wall designed by botanist Patrick Blanc.

After an onboard lunch, we travel 30km west by motorcoach to Pond du Gard aqueduct located near the present-day town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard, on the Gardon River.  This is in France’s southern region of the Occitanie near the Mediterranean Sea. This ancient aqueduct is considered the most impressive site of the Roman Empire.  At 50 km long, the three-tier aqueduct is constructed with 50,000 tons of golden limestone, built by 1000 workers to transport water from Uzes to Nîmes. This structure remains an engineering marvel today with its mortarless construction from 2000 years ago.

All aboard!  The S. S. Catherine is sailing 83 km north tonight to Viviers, France, the smallest city in southern France.  During the evening our ship navigates three lock and dam operations: Avignon, Caderousse, and Bollene, the deepest on the Rhône River at 23 meters. Captain Pascal uses his skill and 30-year career on the river, to safely slip through the 14 lock operations on our route.  All river ships are built to strict dimensions i.e., the S. S. Catherine is 443’ long, and 37'.5 wide to navigate the narrow locks, and the pilot house retracts for low bridges.  There is no major long-distance sailing on this route, but the mooring sites are scheduled for the arrival and departure of river cruise ships and river tourism on all of Europe’s rivers.

S. S. Catherine is 443’ long, and 37'.5 wide 

Before dawn, our ship docks in the lower town of Viviers (vivje), at a small marina (Allée du Rhône), in the south-central department of Ardéche. It is an enchanting village where time seems to stand still with a modest population of 4,000. It is an uphill climb to reach the upper town of Viviers crowned by the Cathedral of Saint Vincent from the 12th century, the smallest cathedral in France.

Marina at Viviers, France

The afternoon is spent sailing 80 km north and navigating four more lock and dam operations; Châteauneuf de Rhône, Logis-Neuf, Beauchastel, and Bourg-les-Valence. Our destination tonight will be the twin towns of Tournon and Tain L’Hermitage and our finale in Lyon, France.

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Avignon Tourisme

Pont d'Avignon Bridge Tickets

Discover Pont du Gard

Vivier Travel Guide

Uniworld European River Cruises

Transportation notes to Luberon, Alpilles etc.

Getting Around Provence

Getting Around the Alpilles

Travel Information - Know Before You Go via Uniworld (everything you need to know tips, ports, transfers etc.)

Masterpiece Collection Optional:
+Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine tasing 99€ (price 2022)
+Truffle hunting & Village of Grignan 75€ (price 2022)

J. Christina is the author and owner of Scribbles and Smiles. Through our blog, we share stories of the wonderful discoveries we have made on our European travels. Christina (Christie) is married to John, a.k.a. Mr. Christie. Where Mr. Christie is right on board with their travel jaunts around the world sharing in their blogging endeavor - hence, their bespoke pen name, J. Christina.  Christie is traveling solo on this adventure, 2022.

After many years of intrepid travel, we thoughtfully unwrapped our treasure-trove of European travelogues, artfully sharing with a worldwide audience. Intentionally sharing the joie de vivre through our words and images, so others can travel vicariously. 

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