Art, Music and Wine in the South of France
Journey through the charming South of France, and cruise up the mighty Rhone River from Arles through Avignon and Tournon-sur-Rhone to the gastronomic capital of Lyon.
Begin in Aix-en-Provence, and experience this refined cultural centre following in the footsteps of its acclaimed native son, Paul Cézanne. Continue to Arles, where Vincent van Gogh lived during the final years of his life, producing some of his most captivating masterpieces.
Then, cruise up the Rhone River aboard the luxurious MS Amadeus Provence, visiting the once-papal city of Avignon, and enjoying fine wines of the Rhone Valley. In Lyon, enjoy world-class art museums in one of the great centres of French culture.
Delight in a unique series of musical performances, specially curated by Renaissance Tours to secure a true French flavour in our music program.
Along the way, benefit from the insight of four specialist tour leaders: award-winning artists Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis, classical music broadcaster Christopher Lawrence and wine writer Peter Bourne.
Extend your exploration of French art and wine with an optional pre-tour Art of the Côte d’Azur with Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis, and a post-tour Paris Through an Artist’s Eyes with Wendy and Bernard.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Suggested departure from Australia or New Zealand on Qatar Airways flights to Aix-en-Provence via Doha and Paris. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive in Aix-en-Provence and make your way to the hotel for check-in.
For those tour members arriving from the pre-tour Art of the Côte d’Azur with Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis, arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon for check-in (transfer included in pre-tour price).
At 18:00, join Wendy, Bernard, Christopher, Peter and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by a special welcome dinner.
This morning, enjoy a guided tour in the footsteps of Cézanne, including his house on the Rue Boulegon and the Cathedral of Saint-Sauveur.
After lunch, visit the Atelier Paul Cézanne, the last house and studio of the artist, with spectacular views of the Montagne Sainte-Victoire, one of Cézanne’s favourite subjects.
This evening, enjoy an exclusive after-hours visit at the Granet Museum, featuring paintings by the likes of Rembrandt van Rijn, Anthony van Dyck, Paul Cézanne and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Then, enjoy a private music performance by the Quatuor Béla Quartet, playing the string quartets of Debussy and Ravel.
Today, journey into the countryside surrounding Aix-en-Provence for a day at the Château La Coste winery. This extraordinary estate combines fine wine, contemporary art and architecture, and verdant gardens in an enchanting Provençal landscape. Enjoy a view over the vineyards from the Tadao Ando Art Centre, and explore the cuverie designed by Jean Nouvel. Taste a range of fine wines and a sample Provençal cuisine overlooking the vines.
Depart Aix-en-Provence and travel to Arles, visiting Saint-Remy-de-Provence on the way. Discover the Carrières de Lumières (Quarries of Lights) and experience a unique art show, projected on the tall limestone walls. Then, enjoy some time at leisure in this lovely Provençal city.
Arrive in Arles and start your exploration of the city. Originally a Greek site but later developed by the Romans into a ‘little Rome’, Arles is located on the most southerly crossing of the Rhone River. Arles is also known for its association with Vincent van Gogh, who immortalised the town’s winding streets, citizens and surrounding countryside in many of his later paintings. Discover some of his masterpieces during a visit to the Fondation Vincent van Gogh and then continue to the Espace Van Gogh, the former Arles hospital where the artist stayed for months and painted his famous painting Garden of the Hospital.
Then, in the late afternoon, embark upon the luxury river cruise ship MS Amadeus Provence¸ our home for the next five nights.
Today, explore the historic centre of Arles, dominated by the remains of the 21,000-seat Roman amphitheatre and the Roman theatre, which housed 12,000 in a tiered hemisphere.
Depart Arles and in the afternoon arrive in Avignon, the capital of the Vaucluse region and the ‘gateway to Provence’.
This evening, attend a private concert aboard the ship performed by the BT Baldwin Swing Trio.
This morning, explore this lively university city surrounded by 4.5 km of Mediaeval walls punctuated by seven gates. Visit the grand fortress-like Palais des Papes, built by the Popes during their temporary exile from Rome in the 14th century and the Pont St-Bénezet, the Mediaeval stone bridge across the Rhone which inspired the famous rhyme Sur le Pont d’Avignon.
Travel through the magnificent countryside of Chateauneuf-du-Pape region. After lunch, visit the Maison Bouachon and enjoy a special wine tasting to appreciate the particular characteristics of the region’s fine wine.
In the evening, depart Avignon for Tournon-sur-Rhone. After dinner, enjoy a performance on board featuring Christopher Lawrence and pianist David Selig. Overnight onboard.
Arrive in Tournon-sur-Rhone in the morning, located in the heartland of the Northern Rhone wine region.
Explore the little town of Tournon-sur-Rhone, walking through its narrow streets to Saint Julien Church and Tournon Castle. Continue to Eden Park and enjoy the spectacular views over the vines of Tain L’Hermitage and Tournon-sur-Rhone Castle.
This afternoon, discover Tain L’Hermitage located on the other side of the Rhone River opposite Tournon-sur-Rhone, home to some of the greatest and most famous wines in the world. Tour the Hill of Hermitage, considered one of the wine world’s most famous appellations and the spiritual home of the Syrah grape variety.
Visit Paul Jaboulet Aîné vineyard. For nearly two centuries, Jaboulet has been producing wines that represent a multi-generational passion for excellence, adhering to an unswerving commitment to improving their vineyards through strategic acquisitions and hard cellar-work.
Then continue to the Maison M. Chapoutier, producing wines from a range of appellations in northern and southern Rhone. Chapoutier has a noted preference for single-variety wines.
This morning, journey to the city of Vienne, located on the banks of the Rhone River. Vienne is considered one of the richest French cities in terms of Roman and Mediaeval buildings. Explore some of its architectural monuments such as the Mediaeval Saint-Maurice Cathedral and the Temple of Augustus and Livia dating from the 1st century BC, built on the top of the hill and now standing in the heart of the city.
Return to Tain L’Hermitage and visit the Valrhona chocolate factory. In the company of an oenologist guide and chocolate expert, discover the subtle pairing between the Rhone Valley wine and Valrhona chocolate.
In the evening, depart Tournon-sur-Rhone for Lyon. Enjoy a private concert on board by Australian mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean and pianist David Selig. Overnight onboard.
Arrive in Lyon early in the morning and disembark the MS Amadeus Provence after breakfast.
Explore Lyon with a walking tour of the Mediæval and Renaissance district of Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), whose remarkable preservation has seen it inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Walk through the narrow cobbled alleyways and the famous traboules (passageways) that reveal superbly renovated architectural treasures.
This afternoon, you have the choice to either explore Lyon’s renowned art spaces or enjoy a visit and wine tasting to the Château de Bagnols in the Beaujolais region.
In the case of the first option, visit the impressive the Museum of Contemporary Art. Located on the banks of the Rhone, the building was designed by architect Renzo Piano, keeping the original 1930s façade. This avant-garde museum displays a vast collection of modern artworks by significant national and international artists and will be hosting the Lyon Biennial of Contemporary Art during our visit.
If you opt for the second choice, journey north of Lyon to the world-famous Beaujolais region, with more than 18,000 hectares of vines under cultivation. Visit the historic Château de Bagnols, a stout castle with origins dating back to the 13th century, and enjoy a wine tasting to appreciate the richness and diversity of their wines.
This evening is at leisure to enjoy Lyon’s night scene at your own pace.
This morning, visit the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts, one of the largest art museums in France. Housed in an imposing 17th century building, the museum displays 5,000 years of art history, from Egyptian antiquities to contemporary art, including works by Rodin, Picasso and Monet.
Then, celebrate the conclusion of our artistic, musical and vinous exploration of the South of France with a special farewell lunch with Wendy, Bernard, Christopher, Peter and fellow travellers.
The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to further explore Lyon at your own pace before tonight’s performance.
In the evening, attend a final performance at the Ambronay Festival by the choral-instrumental group, Les Cris de Paris.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
For those continuing with the post-tour Paris Through an Artist’s Eyes with Wendy Sharpe and Bernard Ollis, check out of the hotel and transfer to Paris.
For those tour members not continuing on either of the post tours and returning home today, make your way to Lyon Airport for suggested Qatar Airways flights to Australia or New Zealand via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
Note: Many wineries are reluctant to commit to visits more than 2-3 months prior due to the exigencies of harvest and production. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.
Final payment due
10 June 2019
Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit France.
Tour price includes
- Four nights’ accommodation in Aix-en-Provence and Lyon in comfortable, centrally-located 4- and 5-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Five-night luxury cruise from Arles to Lyon on the MS Amadeus Provence
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wines
- Five music performances, including Premium (Category 1) tickets to the Ambronay Festival
- Lectures, talks and panel discussions with your tour leaders, Wendy Sharpe, Bernard Ollis, Christopher Lawrence and Peter Bourne
- Comprehensive sightseeing, including entrance fees as per itinerary
- Land transportation on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour price does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel/airport transfers on arrival and departure
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, drinks, room service, etc.
- Airport porterage
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Aix-en-Provence – Grand Hôtel Roi René ****
Aix-en-Provence-Lyon Cruise – MS Amadeus Provence ****+
Lyon – Sofitel Lyon Bellecour *****
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted
Welcome aboard the MS Amadeus Provence
The MS Amadeus Provence is a newly built (2017) luxurious ship providing generously-sized rooms, panoramic bar and stylish restaurant, delightful sun deck and pool deck with onboard swimming pool.
There are no inside cabins aboard the Amadeus Provence, and all staterooms offer an outside view of the beautiful passing riverscape.
All staterooms have luxuriously comfortable beds with a daily turndown service, en-suite bathrooms with shower, spacious wardrobe,
individual climate control, flat-screen satellite TV, direct dial telephone, electronic safe, hair dryer and 220v outlets.