An unhurried antidote to the pace of modern life, this ‘no fly’ tour takes the train to Avignon, and cruises from Roman ruins in Arles to revelations on the Canal du Rhône à Sète, in medieval Aigues-Mortes, the Camargue wilderness, and Étang de Thau sea-lake
Day 1 - Avignon / Arles
Day 2 - Gallician
Day 3 - Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer/Aigues-Mortes
Day 4 - Villeneuve les Maguelone
Day 5 - Sète
Day 6 - Etang de Thau
Day 7 - Avignon / Return Journey
Small vessels are a big advantage on the slow-motion waterways of southern France, and our barge for this tour is a beautiful blend of comfort and convenience. The exclusive MS Péniche Anne-Marie has just ten air-conditioned cabins, an elegant dining room, lounge bar, and sun terrace with jacuzzi, and carries bicycles for guests’ use when the vessel is moored. The 60-mile tour of tranquillity floats from herb-scented hills to medieval towns and Mediterranean beaches along the Canal du Rhône à Sète, a unique waterway which is mostly straight, almost totally at or near sea level and, in parts, parallel with the shore. Beginning on the banks of the Rhône, among the Roman relics of Van Gogh’s old home of Arles, the journey’s westward run leads to the wine cellars of Gallician; the imposing fortified town of Aigues-Mortes, in the heart of the marshlands; through the Camargue to the 7km of sandy beaches at seaside Villeneue les Maguelone; to journey’s end at captivating Sète, criss-crossed with canals; from where we visit the oyster farms of Étang de Thau, and the pilgrimage village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. With excursions enroute, to Pont du Gard, Nîmes, and Montpellier, we conclude with a sightseeing tour in Avignon on the last day.
Exclusive Small Ship
Free Cabin Selection
3 UNESCO Heritage Sites
Day 1 Travel by Eurostar and TGV from London via Lille to Avignon, and transfer to Arles to board the MS Péniche Anne-Marie for your six-night barge cruise; beginning with a Jules Verne welcome drinks party and an introduction to the crew. (D)
Day 2 Combining the ancient Roman arena and theatre, with 17th century townhouses, and the ultra-modern ‘twisted tower’ in the LUMA cultural complex, the UNESCO listed city of Arles provided the inspiration, and the locations, for hundreds of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh. A walking tour of the town today lets you view the well-preserved Roman sites and the 16th century Espace Van Gogh, the former hospital (now library and exhibition centre) where the artist was treated after severing his earlobe. Afternoon sailing on the Rhône and Rhône à Sète canals to Gallician. (B, L, D)
Day 3 A morning excursion takes you first to the Pont du Gard. The country’s most visited ancient monument, and a UNESCO World Heritage site, this multi-arched marvel of antiquity was built in the 1st century AD as an aqueduct to carry water to Nîmes, the second setting of the tour. Known as ‘the Rome of southern France’, its 2,000-year-old monuments include the Temple of Diana and the Arena, still used as an events venue. Afternoon sail to atmospheric Aigues-Mortes, mooring by the fortified city walls, with a walking tour of the beautiful medieval town. (B, L, D)
Day 4 Traverse the Camargue Natural Park, renowned for its wild wetlands, salt flats and lagoons, and visit the region’s capital, the fishing village of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a Mediterranean resort with a medieval church which looks more like a fortress. Continue cruising to Villeneuve les Maguelone, for time at leisure to enjoy the beaches, cafés and easy tempo of the seaside and spa town. (B, L, D)
Day 5 A morning tour visits Montpellier, just 14km from our Villeneuve les Maguelone mooring. The capital of the Languedoc Roussillon, it is a modern metropolis with a medieval heart, where sandstone buildings line shady streets and pretty squares in the pedestrianised Old Town. Sail for an early evening arrival at Sète, its many canals earning it the epithet of ‘the Venice of the Languedoc’, set between the sea and the salt-water lake, and boasting glorious views from its Mount Saint-Clair hilltop. (B, L, D)
Day 6 A morning tour takes us into the hills to the gorgeous village of Saint-Guilhem-le-Désert. Squeezed into a rocky gorge on the ‘Way of St. James’ pilgrimage route, the village surrounds a fountain square, and focuses on its UNESCO listed Gellone Abbey. In the afternoon discover Étang de Thau, France’s second largest lake at 21km long and 8km wide, and famous for its oyster farms and mussel beds; with a tasting of these local specialities during a visit to the lake’s museum, which provides an insight into the age-old skills and traditional techniques of shell-fish farming. Jules Verne farewell drinks party and Gala Dinner on board this evening. (B, L, D)
Day 7 Disembark in Sète and transfer to Avignon, the 14th century seat of Catholic popes. A sightseeing tour of the city shows you the Palais des Papes, the world’s largest gothic monument; and the arches of the St. Benezet Bridge (Pont d’Avignon); before boarding the TGV and later Eurostar for the return journey to London via Lille. (B)
Cabins are available from 5pm on arrival and until 9am on departure (before/after this, luggage storage on board and access to the public lounge).
The Avignon sightseeing may be organised on the arrival day (Day 1) instead of Day 7.
The programme may be altered due to navigational factors with locks, water levels or congestion at certain sites.
Launched in 2014, Péniche Anne Marie is registered in France with a mainly European crew. Owned by the French cruise company, CroisiEurope, established 40 years ago, now boasting the largest European river and barge fleet, yet still operated by the same family. Reception, lounge bar, sun terrace with Jacuzzi and sundeck, WiFi (free/limited). Bicycles are available for use when the vessel is moored. The vessel does not sail at night. 10 air-conditioned lower deck cabins (96 sq. ft.) with picture window, private facilities, hairdryer, safe and satellite TV. 1 air-conditioned double upper deck cabin (118 sq. ft.) with picture window, private facilities, hairdryer and safe.
All drinks, except premium brands are included throughout the cruise. Enjoy International and French cuisine with a choice of wines in an elegant one-sitting dining room. Breakfast is a buffet, lunch and dinner waiter service.
per person in a twin Lower Deck cabin
Eurostar from London St. Pancras
Supplements per person
Single supplement £1295
Upper Deck £145
Eurostar/TGV Standard Premier Class/First Class £275
Rail travel, all port charges, transfers, 6-night cruise, full board and drinks on cruise vessel, excursions, local expert guides and representatives. If our specially negotiated rail fares are unavailable at the time of booking, a supplement may apply.
Travel insurance, visa procurement, optional excursions, tipping, porterage, any government taxes or compulsory charges introduced after publication.
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