This was our second Southern France River Cruise in the “Burgundy & Provence” region.
We decided to try this unique sailing with Avalon Waterways as it differed from our first in that this “Active and Discovery” themed sailing combines both “classic” excursions (seeing the main sites) with more Active Excursions (hikes, bike rides, etc.) & Discovery Excursions (painting classes, food tours, etc.) that were not offered on the first sailing we did…
…meaning, even though we were doing essentially the “exact” itinerary we did last time (except for one new port stop) we saw a different side of Southern France because all of the excursions (except for one) and the entertainment were all brand new to us… that’s the GREAT part about all the unique themed sailings (Active & Discovery Cruises, Wine Cruises, Jewish Heritage Cruises, Photography Cruises, Beer Cruises, Culinary Cruises, etc.) the River Lines are all offering these days… it means you can go do the same River 2 or more times and get a different experience each time!! 🙂
Before we get into things, we had to share a picture we took of the gorgeous ship we called home for 7 Nights, the “Avalon Poetry II”.
Nice looking ship, right? 🙂
We wanted to share our week on this ship with you today because it may match your interests and pace as well, even if you have done this River in the past too!
Not to mention that…
This Southern France River Cruise in the “Burgundy & Provence” region on the Rhone River is another one of our most favourite routes, so Avalon made it easy for us to say “we are going again” when they added these unique “Active & Discovery” excursions to the itinerary.
France is a wonderful and fascinating part of the world to visit and being able to be more active is something many people, along with us, are looking for these days.
That said, you can go at your own pace (with the more “classic” excursions) so an “Active & Discovery” sailing like this really works for ALL fitness types & for multi-generational Cruisers (think “Mother/Daughter” trips for example!) but the difference is that it does include more active activities which was not the case until recently when guests started requesting more active choices… maybe you’re a Couple where one partner LOVES doing Active excursions and the other more laid back ones… PERFECT for those situations too!!
Another example is first timers traveling with repeaters… what we mean is this was our 17th River Cruise and we had sailed this River before. Shawn’s sister Tanya & her friend Sherry joined us on this sailing and it was their first River Cruise. So, rather then us going on a more “Classic” itinerary and doing all the same tours we got to try pretty much ALL new things this time around whereas they did a lot of the “Classic” excursions we did last time, as they wanted to see the essentials, so again it was the perfect mix for first timers traveling with repeaters! 🙂
Below is going to give you an overview of the kinds of activities we did on this “Active & Discovery” River Cruise so you can see if this is for you or not and we sprinkle in pictures of the towns and cities we visited too, pictures of the food we enjoyed onboard and some great tips and suggestions to make your Cruise even better than ours! (And for even more detailed info, visit here and read all the captions under all of our pictures & videos that we took during this Fun trip!)
Here are some scenes we captured on this recent River Cruise…
There were Lots of Excursions to Choose From on this “Active & Discovery” River Cruise With Avalon Waterways:
On Avalon Waterway’s “Active & Discovery” themed River Cruises (which are also offered on the Rhine River & Danube River and not just the Rhone River) there were 3-5 included excursions daily to choose from.
On top of that, there were included Yoga, Pilates and/or Meditation classes daily PLUS…
…some paid excursions as well to match your interests… but don’t worry- there was lots of choice without having to spend extra $, we didn’t spend a dime ourselves as we loved the included choices!
Below is a sample of our included choices:
Our Day To Day Itinerary
You can board the ship whenever you arrive on embarkation day and can enjoy her amenities while your stateroom is being prepared and ready at 3pm but if you can PLEASE arrive a minimum of a day early (the earlier the better… we arrived in Europe 6 days before this sailing started so we had lots of times to get over the jet-lag, to explore more of Europe, etc.) so you don’t miss anything, it would be better for you— you know how unpredictable flights/bags, etc. can be, right? 🙂 And, as we talk about here, combining 2 or 3 different Vacations in 1 trip can be a smart move too!!
After we excitedly looked around the entire ship & enjoyed a light lunch we got straight into “Active & Discovery“ theme mode and took the included (good quality) bikes from the ship for a ride along the Rhine River in Lyon before we all gathered for welcome cocktails, appetizers and a tasty dinner while watching the incredible views along the River while we sailed.
This evening after dinner, we did something different (we hadn’t experienced many night-time tours like this in the past)- we had a 9 pm evening Panoramic bus tour of Lyon, France with our guide who told us all about the city and the architecture while we snapped loads of pictures… see below for a couple of those pics plus some from earlier in the day.
Overall, we had a GREAT first day!!! 🙂
Today we took a walking culinary foodie tour and walked 6.5 km/5 miles… which is unique to River Cruises as usually you get driven from place to place with little walking.
It was very enjoyable getting a little exercise, a history lesson from our local guide, and opportunities to take pictures and enjoy local life on foot.
The tour was broken into small groups of 10 people making it more intimate. We should mention that all the excursions this am were walking tours with at least 30 minutes of walking minimum.
Our foodie tour was very much centred around French culture so we tried some local French specialties like dessert, wine, sausage and of course aged meats and cheeses. Delicious!!
In the afternoon we were free to explore Lyon and what impressed us was that the Cruise Director was printing maps for people for the things they were interested in seeing.
On top of that, there was also paid tours you could attend too if you chose to… so lots of activities to take part in or you could do nothing at all which is nice too!!
Tip: In Lyon, if you are looking for something else to do in the city during your free time, be sure to take the funicular up top (or hike it) to the beautiful “Basilica Notre-Dame” and catch the views from above the city and be sure to visit the Roman ruins too!
Here are a few pictures of some of the courses for dinner we enjoyed Onboard that night… yummy!!
We stopped in the riverside town of Tournon and took a guided Vineyard Hike with wine tasting up both sides of the valley through the vineyards.
On one side of the river you have the town of Tain L’Hermitage and the other is Tournon.
This is our second time doing this tour as we did it on our First Classic Rhone River Cruise and we loved it just as much as the first time! Plus the wine tasting you do is really nice examples of the tasty wines produced in this region.
Note: This was the only tour that we repeated the entire cruise… we couldn’t pass up on the Beautiful scenery you experience during this Hike!!
Afterwards you’ll have time for a quick visit to the area’s famous “Valrhona” Chocolates factory if you fancy (we certainly did just like our last visit to this area!!) or you could simply opt to skip the hike and do a Valrhona Chocolate Factory and Museum Tour instead for a cultural experience.
Tip: At the time of writing, the excursion called “Roman Tournon” walking tour we heard from others was just ok, so you may want to skip it.
Check out our pictures from Beautiful Tournon/Tain L’Hermitage…
Back onboard the ship, in between a few hours of sailing and enjoying the views along the river— you could attend a Galley Tour of the kitchen and a Cooking Demonstration before a scrumptious dinner was served in the dining room. (see pics below)
Later, we stopped in Viviers, France and walked off the ship for a nighttime “Ghostly Viviers” walking tour that you should NOT miss… what a fascinating, well preserved little village and the actors were incredible!!
Tip: Get a little nap today before dinner if you can as the Ghostly Viviers tour is 1.5hrs and you’ll want to be refreshed for it as it starts at 9pm and ends at 10:30pm… But don’t miss it!!
This morning, still in Viviers as we docked over night, we chose a Hike through the natural reserve of “Cirque D’Estre” which was not strenuous but more like a nature walk. Our local guide stopped frequently to explain about the forest and took us to see a mysterious & ancient cave.
You could also choose to do Kayaking, Wine Tasting, Tour the Lock Bollene or visit a Crocodile Farm.
Tip: The hiking tour (if the pace is not fast enough for you) ask the guide to tell you when to meet back to the meeting point as the trail is straight and easy to navigate so you can easily go further on your own as we did. Just be sure to track the time and go back down to meet the departure bus.
Here are a few pictures:
This afternoon we relaxed and sailed the Rhone River which is scenic and perfect for relaxing but we also went through one of the deepest Locks in Europe (the “Bollene Lock”) and our Cruise Director did commentary as we passed through it. Fascinating!!!
After Breakfast this morning we took the included E-Bike excursion through the “Gard region” of Avignon, France. It was super scenic and we passed by Vineyards & through little towns, one of which was a part of the “Tour de France”, so that was neat to ride through!
…one of our guides, named Anne, rode in the “Tour de France” years ago, so we had a real pro with us. 🙂
We ended our bike ride at a winery where we did a wine tasting and we bought a couple bottles as it was so delicious and the prices were very cheap so it was hard to resist. 🙂
Tip: ***You don’t need to be a pro but be somewhat comfortable on a bike to do this tour. A couple people in our group hadn’t been on bikes in 20 years and they struggled slightly. (Take one or 2 bike rides before leaving home & it’ll then be Easy for you once in Europe!) The E-bike can do a lot of the work for you so you can enjoy the scenery or you can turn it off and peddle to get the exercise as we did. Essentially, this tour really is for everyone who is comfortable on a bike and for all fitness level!
After lunch we took a city walk of Avignon by ourselves and did a little shopping.
This evening after dinner a fabulous duo played music in the lounge and they had everyone on the dance floor… lots of fun. 🙂
This morning we chose a Guided scenic Hike in “Val d’Enfer Valley”.
The area is a hiker’s delight and the sandstone rock falls have been a source of inspiration for many writers, musicians, and film-makers over the centuries.
The hike was steep for the first 5 minutes then it flattened out and we had the most amazing views at each bend including overlooking the Medieval village called “Les Baux-de-Provence”.
We liked that they also split us into two more groups along the way- one a little more strenuous of a path and one less physical— so all fitness levels could enjoy.
After that, we visited the “Carrieres de Luminieres” Cave light show that displayed the works of “Vincent Van Gogh”.
The cave was once a query for mining limestone until steel and concrete became popular, but today it comes alive as an Art Works Light Show to music that reverberates a real acoustical surround sound off the walls of the cave.
It’s a really unique way to enjoy the art works of some of the most infamous artists in the world (when we were there they also featured some Beautiful works from Japan!) and a great way to cool down from hiking in the hot sun.
Later we strolled about Arles, France to check out the Roman architecture.
You could have chosen a Bullfighter encounter (no animals are involved), a Painting workshop or you could visit the town on your own to discover.
Tip: If you want to stroll around Arles on your own after the morning excursion, you can purchase a multi-pass ticket for the Amphitheater and several other monuments for 12 Euros per person to enjoy the town and all it has to offer.
On top of that, there was also two additional excursions in the afternoon (you pay a fee for): Olive Oil tasting or a Salt Marshes Discovery. Tons to do!!!
This evening onboard, we had live Entertainment by a 3 piece band & dancer from Arles… one of who played for the Gipsy Kings (from Arles) known for their World famous song “Bamboleo”. They knew how to get the crowd going because again, the dance floor was full and everyone had a great time! 🙂
Today we chose the Biking Adventure to the “Camargue Nature Reserve”.
You could have chosen to go to an Oyster Farm or take a scenic drive with a visit to the Camargue Nature Reserve and in the afternoon was the optional excursion to visit beautiful Marseilles…
…or you could lounge on the sun deck and read a book, take a nap… whatever your heart desired! 🙂
The biking excursion was fantastic! It was 1 hour of peddling in, a guided look about the Camargue Nature Reserve to see the various birds including flamingos, some really nice scenery and then we went back the same way for another 1 hour ride back to the ship.
Tip: We have to say, it was fun but it was a good pace so you need to be fairly fit for this one as it was the most strenuous of the bunch of activities we did all week… but we are not regular bikers keep in mind.
SUPER IMPORTANT TIP:
If you want to take part in the “Active” excursions on an “Active & Discovery” River Cruise, it would be a really good idea if you have not done some of these activities in a while or years, to get on a bike or do some hiking before you come on the trip to get yourself comfortable with those activities again. A simple refresher will do!
We think that you’ll enjoy the trip that much better as you’ll feel confident in your ability to join the groups for those activities you’ve done recently.
Then again, if you just want to take part in activities that are more relaxed, you certainly have those options too or mix a little of the two.
Here are a few pictures of Day 7…
Overall we have to say that Avalon did an excellant job on the excursions, the cuisine was delicious, the staff were attentive and going out of their way to make us happy… even the Captain was taking care of us whenever the opportunity arose.
Tip: We sat in the same section every night and our waiter got to know us and our preferences which was lovely, so if you like consistency, try sitting in the same section if you get a waiter you really like.
Our waiter Anton was so fantastic we couldn’t help but spread the love and give him a little extra tip at the end.
Nancy HAD to get a picture with Anton and hug him as a big THANK YOU for all he did for us! 🙂
If you want to be a little more Active, this is a GREAT River Cruise to try, EVEN if you have been to Southern France and have done this River in the past as we did.
Yes, you can repeat this River Cruise again and have incredible & brand new experiences. We were very impressed!!
If you just like to take it easy when on River Cruises, you can still take this “Active and Discovery” River Cruise with Avalon and enjoy many excursions that are not strenuous but cultural or…
…you can take more of a “Classic” River Cruise if that appeals to you more… either way, Contact Shawn and he’ll help you plan & book the PERFECT River Cruise for you!
If you want more information about the staterooms, the ship and more details about the cities we visited, check out our 2019 Southern France River Cruise Pictures & Videos.
We Appreciate you!
Nancy & Shawn
Your Trusted Cruise Experts!