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Cruising Burgundy & Provence to the Cote D'Azur

Grand Circle Cruise Line

October 5 ~ 23, 2012

Our last trip of 2012, began with a drive up to Syracuse to fly on Jet Blue to JFK.   Due to Jet Blues quirky scheduling of flights from Syracuse to JFK, we had to sit around the Delta Terminal for 8 hours before flying to Paris.  As usual with international flights to Europe we flew overnight, arriving in Paris at 10:35 am.  We were we met by a Grand Circle Travel representative who loaded us on a van for the drive to our hotel. 

The large red building was our hotel.  The Novotel  Eiffel Tower was just down the street from Paris' famous Eiffel tower.  It was a good location for our pre-trip extension of four days.  This extension will allow us to explore Paris for a few extra days. 

Upon landing at our hotel, we were able to move into our room.  Naps were in order and later in the afternoon we joined our pre-trip group of 10 in the late afternoon for a walk around of the area hotel.  After the tour, we enjoyed an excellent diner in a nearby restaurant.  Then back to the hotel for more needed rest.

The sunrise in Paris was bright red on Sunday, the 7th of October.

We started our touring activities of the day by taking the Metro into downtown Paris.  We used the Metro several times during our 6 days stay.  The weather looked promising.

Our first stop on this walking tour that was lead by our Grand Circle Program Director Beatrice Baverman was at Notre Dame Cathedral. This is a view of the rear of the famous Cathedral. 

The bridge of pad locks.  It is a tradition in Paris for couples to purchase a padlock put their names on the lock and affix the lock on the bridge and then throw the key into the Seine River below.  There were thousands of padlocks on the bridge railing.

Street music was playing this Sunday morning.  This group had brought their own piano to the bridge where they were playing.

A beautiful Sunday morning view of the Seine River.  We toured all morning there were so may interesting places to photograph in Paris.  The whole trip was a great opportunity to picture taking.  I took over 1500 photos with my digital camera.

On the way back to our hotel from our morning tour I took, this picture of the Eiffel Tower from the bridge from of the hotel.

On Sunday evening we attended the famous French Cabaret Dinner & Show in Paris' Latin Quarter.  Pictured above is the theater stage.  We had seats down front near the stge.  The show was terrific with many musical numbers.

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October 8th, found our group with free time in the morning.  In the afternoon we traveled to the Montmartre district.  Above is the hotel where we had a nice lunch before going to the famed Sacre Coeur basilica located in the district.

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in Paris, France. A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city.

As part of our morning tour we visited the site of the famous Moulin Rouge music hall located at the foot of the butte Montmartre on Place Blanche. 

Day 4 in Paris was the arrival day for the main tour group and the last day of our extension.  It was a free day for us to explore Paris further.  Above view of the Eiffel Tower caused our original plan to change.  We did walk up to the tower from our hotel in hopes that the weather would clear.  It soon became clear that Paris was in for a gray rainy day.  We decided to hop on one of the tour busses that travel around the city so riders can view the various landmarks of Paris.  The following photos were taken as we toured around on the top deck of the bus.  It is a great way to sightsee!

The École Militaire, French for Military School is a massive complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. It houses several educational facilities purposefully dedicated to the military and also houses several military organizations and several institutes of higher learning, in military studies. 

Dome des Invalides.  Considered one of the masterpieces of the architect Hardouin-Mansart, it was erected between 1679 and 1706.  The Musée de L'Armée at Les Invalides was originally built by Louis XIV as a hospital and home for disabled soldiers. It now houses the Tomb of Napoleon and the museum of the Army of France.

The Musée d'Orsay a museum in Paris, France, on the left bank of the Seine. It is housed in the former Gare d'Orsay, an impressive Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It is probably best known for its extensive collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces (the largest in the world) by such painters such as Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume prior to the museum's opening in 1986.

The front of Notre Dame Cathedral.  This was my third visit to Paris and the first time I was able to enter the Cathedral due to no crowds present.

The Pantheon, an imposing 19th century building, was first designed as a church, but later turned into a civil temple.  the Pantheon looks over the Quarter Latin. 

A Seine River tour boat.  A great way to sightsee Paris from the river.

When our tour bus arrived at the Museum d'Orsay, we decide to hop off and visit the museum.  Above is the crowd waiting to enter the Museum.  It is late morning and the line took us over 30 minutes to be admitted. 

After an excellent lunch at the d'Orsay restaurant, we hopped back on the tour bus and finished our tour ending up back at the Eiffel Tower.  Our day ended with a walk back to the Novotel.  

The Luxor Obelisk is a 23 metres (75 ft) high Egyptian obelisk standing at the center of the Place de la Concorde in Paris, France. It was originally located at the entrance to Luxor Temple, in Egypt.

Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation (1840)

The Arch of Triumph in Paris.  Raised over command of Napoleon I, the Arch of Triumph dominates the Avenue of the Champs-Elysées. Its construction began in 1806 and ended in 1836, 15 years after the Napoleon's death.

By now the rest of our tour group has checked in to the Novotel and we are scheduled to have a welcome drink with everyone. 

It is Wednesday, October 10, and we are scheduled to have a panoramic city tour that introduces the group to the city's classic highlights.  As one can see the weather is not cooperating when it comes to taking photos of this beautiful city. 

The bridge is decorated with lanterns, angels and nymphs. At the bridge ends are gilded with gold statues perched on pillars 17 meters high. Each ornament of the bridge was created by various artists. Although construction of the bridge began in May 1897 the first stone was laid by Tsar Nicholas II in October 1896, it was inaugurated only in 1900 at Exhibition Universal. The bridge, which is the symbol of Russian-French friendship, was named after her father Nicholas II, Tsar Alexander III.

After lunch, we had a tour to he Palace of Versailles.  The Palace of Versailles, also known as The Château de Versailles, has been the scene for several historic events, not the least of which was the signing, on 28 June 1919 within the Hall of Mirrors, of the Peace Treaty between defeated Germany and the Allies that brought the First World War officially to an end. The signing of the treaty at Versailles, of course, mirrored the proclamation, in 1871 within the same long hall, of the establishment of the German Empire under the Prussian king, subsequently the Kaiser. Originally, the palace started out as simply a hunting lodge built by Louis XIII. However, after that Louis XIV decided he wanted to build the palace that we know today at that exact location. In 1789 the palace lost its seat in power, but today hosts the Museum of France's history.

A rear view of the Palace.

A Versailles Hall

The famous Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.

Versailles fountains and gardens.  Unfortunately, they were closed in preparation for the winter.

After our visit to Versailles we returned to our hotel.  That evening we had our welcoming dinner at a Parisian restaurant. 

Thursday was a day of opportunities to explore Paris on our own.  Unfortunately, the weather was still not cooperating!  The morning was not very good day for sightseeing. 

The afternoon activity was a half day optional tour to Giverny where we visited Monet's residence where he lived for 43 years.  It was interesting to tour his house pictured above. 

Monet's Lily Pond with its famous bridge.

Above is the famous setting for Monet's painting of the bridge over the lily pond.  Carol was happy o have her photo take at this famous spot.

On Saturday morning, we checked out of the Novotel in preparation to boarding the M/S Provence.  Our bus was headed for France's province of Burgundy, one of France's eleven major wine producing regions.

The first stop of our trip to board the M/S Provence was at Beaune major town in the Cote d'Or region.  Pictured above is one of Beaune's landmarks, the 15th century charity hospital Hotel Dieu. 

A life size depiction of medicinal care in the15th century.

The Hotel Dieu kitchen.

One of the many vineyards seen as we motor along.

Our home for the next seven days.

All aboard we sail soon!

The city of Macon

The captain of the M/S Provence steering us down River.

Due to high water in the Rhone River it was necessary to sail down river.  We did not visit Macon as the Captain wanted to sail down river while the boat could clear the low bridges.  Above is a photo of the Rhone River at Lyon.

The beauty of the Beaujolais region of France.

One of the Pierres Dorees of the beautiful Beaujolais region north of Lyon. 

The village water pump with a iron handle.

The village and this church were built of golden stone.  Above is the 14th century Chapel of Saint-Claude.

After our visit to the Chapel, we met a local vintner at the Domaine des Averlys and had a taste sampling of his wines accompanied by local cheeses and sausages for a truly French degustation.

Some grapes waiting to be harvested

The Domaine des Averhys vineyard.

After our afternoon of travel in the French countryside it was back to the M/S Provence.  This evening we had the Captain's welcome Dinner.

Sunday, October 14 was bright and sunny in Lyon.  We saw the Cathedral of Notre Dame in the distance.

Statue of King Louis XIV, Place Bellecour Square, Lyon France

Cathedral Saint Jean

This Sunday morning we walked to the local open air market along the river.  Fruits, vegetables and meats are on sale.

The fish stand was a busy place this Sunday morning.

After lunch we had a tour of Lyon including a stop at Basilica of Fourviere.  The Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière sits high atop the Fourvière Hill in Lyon, France. It was built between 1872 and 1876 in a neo-Byzantine style and offers a magnificent view over the city.

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A view Lyon from Fourvière Hill.

A French public toilet found in many French cities.  You insert a Euro coin and the door allows you to enter.  Use of this facility is timed and you have 15 minutes to do your business and exit or the door opens. 

Due to the high water we had to have our safety drill a couple of days after we sailed.  Everyone on deck!

A port scene along the Rhone River

The confluence of the Rhone and Saone Rivers south of Lyon.  Note the muddy brown water from the Saone River mixing with the Rhone waters.

Entering our first of seventeen locks we will pass through on our way to Arles.  There were so many locks it seemed like we were either entering or leaving one all the time.

Gate up!  Time to exit the lock.

A river town as we sail down river.

Another Lock in the late afternoon sun.

A night time scene as we dock at Tournon.  We have sailed all day since leaving Lyon.  There were many on board activities today, demonstrating of silk scarf painting, a lecture about the French Resistance during World War II by a survivor of the war and a Shipboard Cooking Demonstration by the ship's chef with a tour of the Provence's galley included.  This evening we had our Home-Hosted Dinner in a home in Tournon.  It was a very enjoyable event.

A large stone fortress greeted us as we sailed along toward Viviers.

Large quarries could be seen as we sailed to Viviers.

We sailed past four large atomic power plants as we sailed south.

More river traffic.

Heading out for our tour of Viviers. 

The downtown building that once held the Hospice.

The Cathedral of Saint Vincent in Viviers

This tower was on the grounds behind the cathedral.

The village of Viviers from the Cathedral grounds.  Can you find the fixer-upper?

October 16, A beautiful sunset to close out our day of cruising and visiting Viviers.

We arrive in Avignon and sail by the famous bridge before docking.  A city tour is scheduled for the morning.

Avignon from the Rhone River

Avignon Cathedral

Palace of the Popes.  Avignon is famous as it is the city to which the Popes fled when leaving the corruption of Rome in the 14th century. The palace they built the Palace of Popes, is the world's largest Gothic edifice.  Confronted fractional strife in Rome and encouraged by the scheming of King Philippe IV, Pope Clement moved the papal Court to Avignon 1n 1309. Seven Popes reign in Avignon until 1377.

Avignon City Hall

On the afternoon visit to Avignon, Carol and I joined other members of our tour to take a side trip to visit the famous Roman Aqueduct.  Construction of the Aqueduct began around the year 50 of our era, with the purpose of bringing large quantities of water to the Gallic-Roman city of Nimes, for its fountains , baths and gardens.

The site is breath taking when one first sees the aqueduct.  This monumental structure spanning the Gardon River is 275 metres long, 49 metres high, 6 metres wide at its base, 3 metres wide at the top and has a total of 53 arches.

This visit to the aqueduct should be included in the Learning and Discovery activities sponsored by Grand Circle. 

Sunset on the Rhone River.  Tonight we celebrate our journey with our traveling companions at the captain's farewell Dinner.

A river side castle as we sail along to Arles.  It is our last full day on the M/S Provence.

We began our walking tour of Arles with a stop at this colorful downtown building. 

The city of Arles was one of the most important settlements of Gaul, providing grain for most of the western empire, as well as being a crucial port and shipbuilding center.  In the 4th century it became the capital of Gaul, Britain, and Spain.

A view of the Arles Roman Amphitheatre entrance, it could seat 21,000 spectators.

The entrance to the Theatre Antique (Roman Theatre) just beyond the Arena.

A view of the inside of the Roman Theatre.  The seating capacity of the theatre was 7,000 persons.

Arles was also the home of Vincent van Gogh.  Above is the setting for one of his famous painting set in Arles.  Markers were present throughout the city to note various locations for van Gogh's paintings.

The marker for the above scene painted by van Gogh.  Arles is a very interesting site to visit.  One could spend a week there and still not have enjoyed all of Arles sights.

On the Afternoon of the 18th, we had an optional tour entitled, "An Afternoon in Provence".  Above is a typical view of the rugged terrain to this area of Provence.

A local church in the village of Les Baux.  This was a rugged hillside clinging village with many shops and eating places available.  All the building were built of local limestone.

A typical walk way in Les Baux.

In the heart of Alpilles, the monumental "Carrières de Lumières" host extraordinary multimedia shows using the art of Gauguin and van Gogh which are unique in the world.  Spectators are totally immersed in the image projected onto all the surfaces of the rock. We are now using twice the number of video projectors in order to cover twice the wall area.  The ground is completely covered, too, and becomes a vast carpet of images.  The setting for the performance is a no longer used quarry in the hillside of Provence.

Our last stop of the afternoon was at Cave Les Alpilles, in the village of Fontvielle.  

 The wine tasting room in the Cave. We had a very nice wine tasting of the wines sold by the Cave.

A beautiful Provence sunset!

After leaving the M/S Provence on our way to Nice, we made a late morning stop at the Rhone American Cemetery and Memorial is an American war cemetery in Southern France, memorializing American soldiers and mariners who died in Second World War operations in that area. The cemetery covers 12 acres (4.9 ha) within the city of Draguignan. The cemetery is named for the Rhone river and its watershed, where most of those interred fought and died.  It was started during WWII combat operations in 1944, with the memorials, landscaping, and improvements added after the war. The cemetery was built and is operated by the US government, with support from the host country of France.

Those interred died mostly in the summer of 1944 during Operation Dragoon, the Allied invasion of Southern France from the Mediterranean, which followed the Allied invasion of Normandy. This operation was designed to open a second beachhead and Allied combat zone in France, threatening the Axis units confronting the Normandy combat zone, and thus to accelerate the Allied drive into Western Europe. Those interred were mainly part of the U.S. Seventh Army, in particular the US 45th Infantry Division, the US 36th Infantry Division, and the US 3rd Infantry Division.  Today there are 861 American soldiers buried the Cemetery and Memorial site.

The cemetery is in the shape of an oval, with a perimeter wall of local limestone, a memorial with chapel, and some supporting buildings. The cemetery is administered by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

A peaceful fountain stands guard now over the soldiers buried here.

We have arrived in Nice,  the Mediterranean Sea welcomed us. Nice is located on the Mediterranean's Bay of Angel's. 

Hotel Massena in downtown Nice.  We checked in here late in the morning.  We had the traditional walk about led by Bea our Program Director one of the more interesting stops was at the Flower market. 

We had a farewell drink late in the afternoon with the group as several of the traveler's end their tour and fly home tomorrow.

Nice Flower Market

A Nice cafe's ready to serve dinner.

Place du Palais

Modern food delivery service.

October 20th is a free day for us to explore Nice.  Like all cities there many scenes to be photographed and Nice is no exception.  We took many photos of nice as we toured about.  Unfortunately space limits our including only a few interesting scenes that are included here.

National Theatre of Nice

The local transportation method.  Insert your credit card and off you go.  Bike racks like this one in all French Cities.

Nice Harbor

The memorial to all those "Sons of Nice" who had perished in defending France in World War 2.

Beautiful Nice shoreline.

Local laundry drying!

The ever present sightseeing train found in all large cities of France.  It is the best inexpensive way to see the local sights.

Nice Castle high above the city.

Nice in the early morning from Castle Hill

Cathedral Notre-Dame-Immaculate (Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception), also known as Saint Nicholas Cathedral, Monaco Cathedral is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Monaco in Monaco-Ville, Monaco, where many of the Grimaldis were buried, including Grace Kelly and more recently, Rainier III.  The cathedral was consecrated in 1875, and is on the site of the first parish church in Monaco built in 1252 and dedicated to St. Nicholas.

Oceanographic Museum

Monaco harbor

Changing of the guard at Monaco's Palace.

Monte Carlo Casino

Monte Carlo Hotel de Paris.

Our last stop on the way back to Nice was at Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.  There was a very nice museum in the home of the Rothschild's.  The gardens were extensive and unfortunately were being readied for winter.

Today is our last day in Nice, we fly home tomorrow.  The day was rainy at first but did clear later in the morning.  Our first stop was at Cannes in the rain.  Above is Cannes sandy beach  it is the opposite of Nice's tony beach.

Cannes best hotel, big time expensive, movie stars home for the Cannes Film Festival.

Boats by the hundreds in the Cannes harbor.

A sail maker has set up shop in the harbor.

After our stop at Cannes we traveled to Antibes.  Above is the village church. 

Picasso Museum

Antibes Fountain

Our last stop of the day was at this Olive factory where we were treated to a explanation of how they press olives.  We also had a tasting of different olive oils.

Olives waiting for pressing.

We made back to the hotel in time to prepare for our last dinner on the trip and to pack for our flight home.  Most of our group fly home tomorrow. 

Happy and Safe Travelers on the M/S Provence.

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This was a great trip with a first class Program Guide, Beatrice Braverman.  There were many sights to see and many stories to tell our traveling companions.  Everyone on the trip was a joy to sail with.   Make a Rhone River part of your travel plans, you will not regret it.

Happy Travels