Tour begins: 7:00 PM, London, England. A transfer is included from London's Heathrow Airport to The Savoy, one of the world's most prestigious hotels, situated on the banks of the Thames in the heart of the city; check-in begins after 4:00. Settle in at The Savoy, a luxury landmark since 1889; as the hotels boasts, "you'll follow in the footsteps of Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Claude Monet and Katharine Hepburn at this iconic hotel reinvented for the 21st century where an unashamedly old fashioned glamour sparkles with a new lustre." Join us for a Tauck Exclusive at our special welcome reception and dinner this evening - a presentation by acclaimed author and television presenter Celia Sandys, granddaughter of Sir Winston Churchill.
A day in London... well spent
Morning sightseeing gives you a good introduction to the major landmarks, after which you're free to explore on your own. What to do? Your hotel's wonderful central location puts you in easy reach of most of famed sites such as the Tower of London, the British Museum, Westminster Abbey, and Trafalgar Square... but if you'd like to see it all in one go, consider a ride on the London Eye, the giant ferris wheel (or as they say in London, "cantilevered observation wheel") which will take you aloft for an aerial view where you can see everything as far as Windsor Castle if the weather is right. Dine on your own this evening in a city where virtually every world cuisine is well represented!
Under the Channel to France by high-speed train and embark ms Swiss Sapphire
Depart London this morning for passage to France, by way of high-speed train under the English Channel. Within a couple of hours you'll arrive at the Paris Nord station, and from there a transfer takes you to the Seine, where your riverboat awaits. Settle in, then join us for dinner aboard ship.
C'est Paris... and a choice of museum visit
Take a guided orientation tour of Paris this morning, then have your choice of museum visits (subject to opening times and days): Musée National de l'Orangerie, designed by Monet for display of his large water lily paintings; or the Musée d'Orsay, Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works housed in a former railway terminal. Enjoy some free time to explore Paris as you please, then join us tonight for dinner aboard the riverboat.
In Paris - a military museum and a visit to the Marais District
Visit the palatial War Museum, Musée de l'Armée, with its astonishing collection of military weapons from different time periods; aptly, Napoleon's tomb is here, at the Church of the Invalides. Or you can choose a tour of the exclusive Marais District, with its wealth of medieval and Renaissance architecture, fashionable shops and classic sidewalk cafés. Return to the ship for a chocolate tasting; this evening your riverboat sails to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine.
Auvers-sur-Oise, Vincent van Gogh - and absinthe
Dock in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, then drive to the town of Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent van Gogh spent his last days. The town has hardly changed since, so you'll be able to recognize scenes from his paintings, including the view of the town hall, seen from the upper window of his room at the inn. You can also visit his room, No. 5 at the Auberge Ravoux, which has never been rented since he died in 1890. While you're in town, you'll also visit the Absinthe Museum, dedicated to the legendary green drink which was said to be the muse (and downfall) of so many turn-of-the century poets, painters, and writers; your visit includes an exclusive tasting, of course. This evening, sail for Vernon; arrive after dinner, with time for a guided walk in the city.
Explore Giverny, where it's all about Claude Monet, and a special evening at a castle
Leave your riverboat for a visit to Giverny and Claude Monet's house and exquisite gardens. The gardens were personally designed by the artist as subjects for his paintings, where he could rearrange the composition at will, and they've been maintained as he originally intended - the Japanese bridge, the pond of water lilies, and exotic flora - so that you'll feel like you've entered a Monet landscape. Return to the ship for lunch, then the afternoon is free to explore Vernon as you please - it's a fabulous place for walks. Smaller towns and villages are home to a wealth of cultural treasures, and offer you the chance to immerse in daily life. Half-timbered houses, and wrought-iron shop signs line cobblestone streets that retain their Middle Ages character... the neo-classical architecture charming! This evening, you'll visit Château Bizy, "the Versailles of Normandy" that was once home to Louis XV, for a Tauck Exclusive reception and dinner with music in a setting of Baroque splendor.
This morning, sail to Rouen, which Victor Hugo called "the city of a hundred bell towers". Once the prosperous medieval capital of Normandy, Rouen still bristles with spires and entices with Gothic churches, impeccably restored half-timbered houses, and picturesque cobblestone lanes. Joan of Arc was tried and burned at the stake here in 1431 and her presence is immortalized everywhere in monuments, churches, and even in chocolate-almond confections called "Joan of Arc's tears." On a walking tour you'll see the Notre Dame Cathedral that inspired artists and writers, the Astronomical Clock, the Château Rouen, and the Saint Joan Tower. Enjoy free time to explore the city's historic center on your own before returning to the riverboat for dinner; tonight you sail for Le Havre.
Exploring Étretat and Honfleur with a visit to a chèverie
This morning, visit Étretat on Normandy's Alabaster Coast, where sheer white cliffs plunge to the blue sea, and the elements have carved astonishing giant arches from the cliffside rock; an orientation tour of the town, once a magnet for artists like Boudin and Monet, is followed by a visit to a chèvrerie, a farm that produces goat cheese and exquisite chocolate. Continue on to Honfleur, an old picturesque trading port where 17th-century houses line the harbor and cobblestone backstreets beckon... a favorite haunt of Impressionist painters. (In fact, the artists drawn to the town, like Boudin, Courbet, Monet and Jongkind, were the center of the école de Honfleur, which gave rise to the Impressionist movement.) Following lunch, enjoy free time to explore the town's streets, shops and harbor on your own, before returning to the riverboat.
World II history and the beaches of Normandy
Leave the ship in Le Havre for a tour of the beaches where the D-Day landings occurred on June 6, 1944. See Omaha Beach and Pointe-du-Hoc, where American troops scaled sheer cliffs with ropes and fire ladders to reach enemy artillery batteries, and visit the American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville-sur-Mer, on a bluff overlooking the beach; the tranquil setting and its history will not fail to move you. Lunch at the Omaha Beach Club; visit the museum at Arromanches, where the remains of an artificial harbor used in the invasion still lie offshore, or spend free time on your own. Then depart for the town of Caudebec-en Caux, where your riverboat awaits you.
In Paris - a military museum or the Marais District
Arrive in Les Andelys, two fishing villages at a scenic bend in the river where the imposing ruins of Château Gaillard rise on a cliff. The castle was built in 1198 by Richard the Lionhearted, Duke of Normandy, to defend against an invasion from the King of France; it fell after a siege in 1204. The ruins in their picturesque setting overlooking the Seine are still there to inspire - as they have generations of painters like Nicolas Poussin. Visit a ciderhouse (another Tauck Exclusive) to learn how the many variations of Norman apple cider - and calvados, an apple brandy renowned in this region - are made... and of course enjoy a tasting of both. Ramble in the classic French village, known for its medieval lanes, before returning to the riverboat to cruise to Paris. Tonight, join the Captain for a farewell reception and dinner.
A high-speed TGV train to Lyon... and your cruise along the Rhône begins!
Say au revoir to the River Seine as you arrive in Paris this morning and board the high-speed TGV train to Lyon, home to a bounty of wines produced by local vineyards, locally produced cheeses, spicy sausages, warm-from-the-oven baguettes... You'll return to Lyon in a few days - but today, embark ms Emerald late afternoon for the continuation of your France river cruise, this time along the Rhône. And to make you feel "at home," you'll be in the same cabin on ms Emerald as you were on ms Sapphire! Join us tonight for the captain's welcome reception followed by dinner.
Food and wine in Chalon-sur-Saône and Mercurey
Chalon-sur-Sâone on the River Saône lies in the heart of southern Burgundy. Although its history dates back to the time of Charlemagne, it has another significant claim to fame - this is considered the birthplace of photography. You have local inventor Nicéphore Niépce, who produced several photographic firsts right here in the 1820s, to thank for the great photos of the town's Romanesque churches and other monuments you'll take during a walking tour. Then get your taste buds ready for a workout - first, to savor local culinary offerings on a guided tasting tour of some of Chalon-Sur-Saône's noted food shops; then to sip some wonderful wines as you head off to Mercurey, the largest wine-producing area in the Côte Chalonnaise, to sample some of the notable reds and whites produced here in a tasting at one of the 30 local premier cru vineyards.
A day well spent in the south of Burgundy
This morning, head out to explore the beautiful wine producing region of southern Burgundy, where history lies around every corner (this was a major crossroads during Roman times), and vineyards are everywhere. Picture in your mind what a typical French vineyard looks like... and then picture the most amazing landscape that surrounds you for miles and miles. Vineyards, gently rolling hills, orchards, red-tiled farmhouses, medieval cathedrals... and historic country estates like the 17th-century Château de Cormatin, which you'll explore on a visit today. With its moat, drawbridge, turrets, gilded rooms and parklike grounds - including the mazes and fountains of its completely restored "pleasure garden" that's now among the finest in France - this classic Burgundy château takes you back through the centuries. Return to the riverboat for lunch, and continue your cruise to Mâcon.
A historic abbey, the equestrian life and a wine tasting
Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, France experienced hundreds of years of unstable government; the only constant was the church. And so during the reign of Charlemagne (742 - 814), monastic influences inspired a great revival in art, education and culture. Today you'll visit one of the great monasteries of the period when you tour the great Benedictine Abbey of Cluny; founded in 910, it was at the center of this major monastic reform movement and was also the largest Christian building in the world until the construction of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome. You'll also visit Haras National de Cluny (France's national equestrian center), which dates back to the 19th century, to learn about its high-quality thoroughbred stallions. The history of wine production in this area dates back to the 14th century; visit a local château today, which delights with locally produced wines and a countryside setting. Have lunch off the ship today; reboard ms Swiss Emerald, and Tauck's France river cruise heads to Lyon.
Spend the day in Lyon, culinary capital of France
Ahh, Lyon. If you're a serious foodie, Lyon is the place for you! Regarded as the culinary capital of France, there are more restaurants here per capita than anywhere else in the country. But of course there is more to this 2,000 year-old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, than food. Begin your exploration with a panoramic view of Lyon from the district of Fouvière, set high on a hill. Check out the town's winding passageways and the Cathedrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, with its 19th-century astronomical clock. Your day also includes the stunning Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière - built in the 1870s, it features exquisite marble work, stained glass windows, colorful mosaics and gilt galore; and a tour of medieval Vieux Lyon. Depart Lyon and enjoy dinner onboard while continuing your France river cruise to Vienne this evening.
Roman Vienne and cruising the Rhône
Impressive Roman ruins, like the virtually intact Temple of Augustus and Livia and the 13,000-seat Theater cut into the hillside, chronicle Vienne's importance as a springboard for Julius Caesar's conquest of Gaul during the 1st century; see them on a guided walking tour. Spend time at leisure as you wish; we set sail for Viviers this afternoon.
Vibrant Viviers and the pleasures of cruising
In the Middle Ages, the town of Viviers on the banks of the Rhône had two distinct parts which reflected the equally distinct social divide of the time. "Common folk," artisans and trades persons lived in the Lower City on the river plain, while the bishop and his circle lorded over them from the hilltop Upper City. Go back a thousand years as you explore this well-preserved medieval city, crowned by the Cathedral of St. Vincent. Largely built in the 14th century, the cathedral boasts flamboyant late-Gothic elements that were added in the 16th century and carved choir stalls and lovely tapestries from the 18th century. Weather permitting, join the locals for a friendly game of pétanque, played in village squares throughout France, before an afternoon cruising towards Avignon. If the weather is good, enjoy shipboard commentary on the Sun Deck during this afternoon's cruise and join us for a tasting of French chocolate hosted by our riverboat chef. After dinner, relax to the tunes of our guest accordionist.
Avignon and the Palais des Papes, then on to Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a wine tasting
Papal fervor put Avignon on the map some 700 years ago when safety-seeking pontiffs reigned here in the 14th century. Evidence of their rule comes to life during a guided tour of the impregnable Gothic-style Palais des Papes and at an afternoon wine tasting at one of the select vineyards permitted to produce Châteauneuf-du-Pape - literally meaning the "New Castle of the Pope" - the most famous of the Côtes du Rhône wines. Your host reveals secrets of the terroir as you sample red and white wines tended with time-honored care on the estate.
Arles and a trip to a working farm in the Camargue
Wake up in Arles and walk into town with our local guide. See firsthand what drew the Romans and artists like van Gogh to this riverfront town and visit sites they immortalized while they were here. Explore the Roman arena, built in the 1st century BC and still in use today. Pass by the café that van Gogh painted in The Café Terrace, the hospital where he recuperated from his ear injury and other iconic settings you may recognize. You will have time to wander through town before taking an excursion to la Camargue region, famous for fleur de sel (sea salt), prized black bulls and pretty white horses. A home-hosted Provençal lunch at a private ranch is made even more memorable when you see an exciting demonstration by fleet-footed gardians (local cowboys) who dodge the feisty Spanish black bulls they raise here. Return to the riverboat in Arles and join us for the Captain's farewell dinner this evening.
Disembark in Arles and travel to Nice and Monte-Carlo
Upon disembarking ms Emerald in Arles, travel to Nice. Explore this lovely city on a walking tour, followed by some free time.Continue to Monte-Carlo for two nights at the Fairmont Monte Carlo, where guests in Category 7 suites on the riverboat will enjoy Sea View rooms; have lunch and dinner on your own today.
A day in the magic of Monte-Carlo and a roof-top farewell dinner
Few places are as sophisticated as Monte-Carlo, a favorite playground for jet setters and celebrities from around the world. Here mega-yachts anchor in the harbor, an amazing fleet of cars... think Porsches, Lamborghinis and Ferraris à la James Bond... park in front of the opulent casino, and the fairy-tale legacy of Princess Grace, Prince Rainier and the Grimaldi family, who have ruled the Principality of Monaco for over 700 years, lives on today. Explore Monaco Vieux, viewing the cathedral, the Place de Palais and winding medieval streets on an orientation tour, followed by time on your own, or join us on an optional excursion along the Mediterranean coast. Enjoy a roof-top farewell dinner at your hotel tonight.
Tour ends: Monte-Carlo. Fly home anytime. A transfer from the Fairmont Monte Carlo to Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, the Nice Ville Train Station (TGV) or the Nice Riquier Train Station is included; allow a minimum of 3 hours for flight check-in.