Tour begins: 6:00 PM, InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel. A transfer is included from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, Gare de Lyon, Gare du Nord or Charles de Gaulle station to InterContinental Paris Le Grand Hotel. Culinary pleasures star tonight at our Parisian welcome reception and dinner at the chic brasserie, Fouquet's, since 1908 an icon for celebrity dining on the Champs-Élysées. After dinner, the evening continues with an Illuminations Tour, providing glittery views of the city's nighttime lights and a beguiling ending to your first day in Paris.
Pastry class & more Parisian gourmet pleasures
Enjoy a culinary odyssey in Paris today with a walk through the city that inspires with the fragrances and flavors of French food, and offers tastings of local bread and macarons; a lecture on chocolat with, of course, a delectable tasting; and a pastry class at Le Cordon Bleu Paris, where you'll learn firsthand the tips of the pâtisserie trade - including how to make an original pastry. You'll also have free time for lunch and the evening free to explore on your own and discover the dining possibilities in and around your Paris hotel.
Paris to Lyon by TGV & embark riverboat
Paris is yours to experience as you please this morning... perhaps visiting one of the city's lesser-known museums, or an agreeable sidewalk café for some Parisian-watching... before catching the TGV high-speed train and enjoying the views en route to Lyon, set at the confluence of the rivers Saône and Rhône. In Lyon, you'll board ms Emerald for your Rhône River cruise and settle into your cabin before joining us for a briefing and welcome reception followed by a welcome dinner in The Compass Rose and entertainment in the lounge.
Lyon, Les Halles, a Beaujolais tasting & more
You'll get acquainted with Lyon this morning during sightseeing that includes a visit to the narrow streets and traboules of Vieux Lyon as well as a local outdoor market. Then it's off to a special tasting of some of Lyon's culinary specialties at its famed indoor food market, Les Halles de Lyon. After a return to the ship for lunch, wine tasting at a private estate in the Beaujolais region awaits - along with picturesque towns and churches of honey-colored stone. This evening, your riverboat begins cruising the Rhône while you enjoy a relaxing dinner.
Medieval Viviers & wine tastings along the Rhône
ms Emerald cruises this morning to Viviers, a walled city with origins in the 5th century on the right bank of the Rhône. If medieval history and authentic period architecture are your thing, Viviers is your kind of place... because it's one of the best-preserved medieval towns that you're likely to see in all of France. Its narrow streets and lanes reveal what life might have been like here in the Middle Ages. Your choices today include a walking tour of Viviers with your local guide including views of the 12th-century Cathedral of Notre Dame de Rhône and the richly detailed façade of the Maison des Chevaliers, followed by a lively game of petanque with the locals; or a drive to Grignan for a walking tour of town and a truffle farm tour and tasting. Back aboard the riverboat, enjoy an onboard wine tasting presentation where you'll learn about (and sample) some of the region's excellent local wines; join us for a gala dinner in The Compass Rose this evening as we sail for Arles in Provence.
Historic Arles & Provençal pleasures in La Camargue
It may seem that the Romans were everywhere along the Rhône, and Arles is no exception, as is witnessed by the triumphal arch, circus and baths they left behind - and an arena in which gladiators fought and is still a venue for performances and bullfights today - as you explore the city on a walking tour and time on your own. Do take time to look beyond the city walls at the incredible quality of the light here that so enraptured Vincent van Gogh - and the landscapes of yellow rocks, red soil and lilac mountains that inspired in the Dutch artist a newfound creativity, and led to his creating hundreds of paintings while a patient at a nearby asylum, one of the most productive periods of his short life. Lunch today is a real treat, as you visit a private ranch in La Camargue for a private banquet of farm-grown Provençal specialties, a musical serenade, a chance to see the region's iconic white horses and a demonstration by fleet-footed gardians (cowboys) and the famous black bulls they raise here. As you continue your Rhône River cruise to Avignon this evening, try your hand at painting a chocolate art piece during an onboard demonstration before dinner aboard the riverboat.
A taste of southern France in Avignon & the Pont du Gard
Since the 1870s, French schoolchildren have sung about dancing on the "pont" over the Rhône in this walled city that served as a papal headquarters in the 1300s. On a walking tour, you'll explore the fortress-like home that the pontiffs built for themselves, the Palais des Papes. The popes who reigned here enjoyed not only their formidable lodgings but also the fruit of the vine; they are credited with cultivating the local wine industry widely recognized today by the appellation, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Along with the 14th-century bridge mentioned in the song, this evening you'll visit another - the Pont du Gard, a Roman aqueduct standing 160 feet high with three sets of arches that span the River Gardon. It once carried millions of gallons of water a day to the city of Nîmes. ms Swiss Emerald is docked in Avignon this evening.
Roussillon & Châteauneuf-du-Pape
Venture deeper into Provence today on a visit to the yellow-and-brown town of Roussillon, in the Luberon region. This place is all about color, from the ochre cliffs surrounding the town to the purple of the lavender during its blooming season and the lush, green pine forests, as you'll discover for yourself on a walking tour. Have lunch on the riverboat as you cruise to Châteauneuf-du-Pape; over 200 days of sunshine per year and rain-bearing mistral winds enable the soil to store water for the long summer, meaning that vineyards thrive here. Since medieval times, the life of this hillside village has centered around growing and producing wine of the same appellation; its residents have benefitted from the proceeds of flourishing vineyards as early as the 13th century, when the village was adjacent to a summer palace for the popes of Avignon. Visit one of the area's acclaimed châteaux for a wine tasting before returning to the riverboat for dinner and onboard relaxation as your cruise continues.
Savory secrets of the Rhône Valley in Tain l'Hermitage & Valence
The riverboat docks in Tain l'Hermitage for the final day of your Rhône River cruise. From here you'll head to Valence, a town known for its markets offering produce from the surrounding countryside - including delicacies like truffles and asparagus - and as home to the gourmet cooking school of award-winning chef Anne-Sophie Pic, where you'll be privy to a chef's demonstration and a wine and cheese pairing class and tasting that features the superb products crafted in the area. Your day also includes a visit to a chocolate shop in Tain l'Hermitage and a mini-train ride through the renowned Heritage vineyards before you reboard the ship for tonight's farewell reception followed by dinner as ms Emerald begins her return to Lyon.
Tour ends: Lyon. Disembark ms Emerald in Lyon no later than 9:00 AM; fly home anytime thereafter. A transfer from the riverboat to Lyon Airport or Perrache or Part Dieu train station is included; allow 3 hours for flight check-in at the airport.