French Riviera

The South of France

This data is based on information from several travel shows on Public TV. This itinerary could be followed as is for a nice holiday, beginning with the river cruise followed by a few days on the French Riviera.
(I have no connection to Avalon Waterways or any other cruise line or tour agency!)

River Cruise to Southern France

South of France avalon waterways Burgundy & Provence Cruise

This river cruise from Avalon Waterways could be a good way to begin a trip to southern France. You can fly into Paris and begin the tour there, and it will take you to Nice, in Provence, on the French Riviera. If you have never been to France before, and especially if you haven't done much traveling, an escorted tour like this can be a good introduction to France before you start going around on your own.

From the website:
From the world's youngest river cruise fleet to the sleek, contemporary ship design and state-of-the-art technology, Avalon leads the way in modern river cruising and small-ship cruising.

This is not the only option for a river cruise like this. Other companies provide similar cruises such as Viking River Cruises for example.

Optional Excursions

On tours like this, there are periods of time in the itinerary that are specified as "time to explore on your own" and similar phrases. For many of these time periods, the tour company will offer you optional excursions. These cost extra and very often are interesting additions to the tour. Also, quite often these optional excursions include a meal.

As of the time I am writing this, the following optional excursions are being offered:

  • Paris
    • Mona Lisa's Smile And The Louvre Museum
    • An Evening At The Moulin Rouge
    • The Artist's Quarter Of Montmartre
  • Mâcon
    • Cormatin - Palace Of A Fairy Tale Time
  • Lyon
    • The "Traboules" And The Silk Of Lyon
  • Avignon
    • An Afternoon In Provence
    • Wine Tasting In Chateauneuf Du Pape
  • Arles
    • Les Baux And The Olive Groves Of Les Alpilles
  • Nice
    • Grace, Glamour, Glitter - An Evening In Monaco

In addition there will probably be other optional excursions offered by the tour director during the tour.

Day 1, Friday Evening, Flight to Paris

Flight to Paris

Day one consists of getting to the airport, boarding a flight to Paris, and flying over the Atlantic Ocean.

Day 2, Saturday, Arrival in Paris

Arrival in Paris

On the morning of day two, the plane arrives at the Paris Airport. Make your way through immigration (passport check,) get your luggage and make your way through the customs area.

The Hotel

You will have to make a reservation for a hotel for Saturday night, since the tour starts on Sunday. You can talk to the people who run the tour and see if they can get you a reservation for Saturday night at the same hotel you will be staying at starting Sunday. Or you can just book something on your own to get a little variety.

Transferring from the Airport to the Hotel

The next thing to do is to make your way to the hotel. You will probably be arriving at either Charles de Gaulle Airport or Orly Airport. This google map shows the relative locations of these two airports. Here are some resources that can help you find the best way to get to your hotel from these airports:

Jet Lag

The first thing to keep in mind is NOT to take a nap. If you want to get used to the different time zone, you should get outside into the daylight so our brain will see that it is not nighttime and will speed up the process of adjusting to the time difference. So check in, get things settled in your room and then get outside. Walk around the neighborhood, find a cafe, ask the concierge or front desk at your hotel for ideas on where to eat, shop, sitesee nearby.

What to do on Saturday Afternoon

The riverboat tour includes a tour of Paris on Monday which includes many of the major Paris attractions, see below. So find something else to do today. Here is a google map that shows some chocolate shops in Paris, that goes along with the Chocolate Tour of Paris which could be a good way to pass the time and get some chocolates to eat during the riverboat tour.

Day 3, Sunday, Connect with the tour

Connect With the Tour

Make sure you find out, before leaving home, when and where to connect up with the tour, since they will not be picking you up at the airport. The riverboat tour itinerary does not give any information about what activities may occur on Sunday besides them picking people up from the airport and delivering them to the hotel. Once they have gathered everyone, there will probably be some kind of meeting with the tour director and maybe an optional excursion that they will offer.

Day 4, Monday, Paris siteseeing


The tour officially starts in Paris and includes tours of Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, Opéra, Madeleine, Champs Elysées, and the Eiffel Tower.

Day 5, Tuesday, Paris to Chalon-sur-Saône via Beaune

Paris to Beaune

After two days in Paris, you are driven southeast to Beaune, the unofficial capital of the Côte d'Or region of Burgundy, where you have a tasting of Burgundy wines.

As you travel through Burgundy, keep an eye out for the amazing glazed-tile roofs.

If you happen to be in Beaune on a Saturday, you can visit the weekly food and clothes market held in les halles, the covered market building.
Also, the annual wine auction is held in Beaune on the 3rd Sunday in November.

Hospices de Beaune

2 Rue de l'Hôtel Dieu, 21200 Beaune, France
Telephone: 03 80 24 47 00
The Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune is a former charitable almshouse in Beaune, France. It was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor and needy.

Beaune to Chalon-sur-Saône

Then you continue south to Chalon-sur-Saône where you board the boat, before dinner, and set sail for Tournus.

Day 6, Wednesday, Tournus to Mâcon


South of France Tournus There is "free time to explore" the town of Tournus.

L'Abbaye St.Philibert
Perrin de Puycousin Burgundian Museum

Tournus is one of the oldest and most important monastic centres in Burgundy with a superb abbey, St-Philibert, parts of which date back to the 10th century. In the little squares surrounding the abbey there are arts and crafts shops. Also visit Chocolatier Lathuilière in Rue du Docteur-Privey, famous for Délices de Tournus and Greuze Emotion. A few doors along the same street there is Crémerie de Tournus, offering the best of the region's cheeses.


South of France Macon Next you cruise downriver to Mâcon where you will have a guided walking tour. There are optional excursions available.

Mâcon Tourist Office

Near Mâcon's former oppidum, the two towers and the narthex from the Romanesque age are the only remains of the old Saint-Vincent Cathedral.

Abbaye de Cluny

Abbaye de Cluny
From the website:
Come and visit Cluny abbey lying 24km from Mâcon, and discover what remains of a spiritual centre and the seat of the greatest Medieval monastic order in the West. Stroll around beneath the tall Romanesque vaults and admire masterpieces of sculpture.

Day 7, Thursday, Mâcon to Lyon


From Mâcon you cruise down to Lyon. You will have a couple of days to explore here.
I'm sure they will have optional excursions to offer you while you are here.

South of France Lyon

Lyon Tourist Office
Place Bellecour
The Fourvière and Saint Just districts
Palais de la Bourse

Roman remains, many excellent museums, and much renaissance architecture delight the visitor. An optional dinner gives gourmets insight into the local haute cuisine of France's second-largest city and its gastronomic capital.

Day 8, Friday, Lyon


This is a day to "explore at leisure." There is an optional excursion to explore hidden passageways and the silk industry.

Day 9, Saturday, Tournon/Tain L'Hermitage, Viviers

Tournon/Tain L'Hermitage

On the eigth day of the cruise, you will visit Tournon and its twin city across the river, Tain L'Hermitage. And then cruise down to Viviers also.

You will be moving out of the Bourgogne region (Burgundy) and into the Rhône-Alpes region, specifically into the Ardèche department.

South of France Tournon

Ville de Tournon-sur-Rhône

Connecting the twin towns across the river is a pedestrian bridge which is the earliest suspension bridge in Europe, built in 1825.

Tournon's main attraction is a a feudal castle that is built into a rock overlooking the town and the river. The castle, whose foundations date back to the 10th Century, has a section built in the Renaissance that houses the town museum. (One room in the museum is devoted to Marc Seguin, a local engineer who built the first suspension bridge across the Rhône and invented the tubular boiler for steam locomotives.)
Other sights in Tournon-sur-Rhône include the Collegiate Church of Saint-Julien and the Lycée Gabriel-Fauré, a school that was founded in 1536 by the Cardinal of Tournon and which claims to be the oldest lycée in France.
If you are interested in shopping rather than history, cross the Passerrele Marc Seguin footbridge to Tain l'Hermitage, a modern town with a popular outlet store at the Valrhona chocolate factory and several wine merchants that offer tastings of Côtes de Rhône wines from the Hermitage vineyards.


South of France Viviers

Viviers consists of a lower town, where tradesmen and artisans once lived, and an upper or religious town that was the seat of a bishop during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The upper walled town is an attractive warren of narrow cobbled streets with stone houses, a cathedral, and a castle terrace that offers spectacular views of the rooftops and river below.

Day 10, Sunday, Avignon


South of France Agignon The next day you'll be in Avignon, known as the "City of Popes," because it was the center of the Catholic Church in the 14th century.

Avignon Office de Tourisme
The Palace of the Popes (Palais des Papes)
The Saint Bénezet bridge (Pont d'Avignon)

Most of its sights are located within the historic center. The city is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its well-preserved medieval walls and some 150 listed historical monuments.

South of France Avignon

The Pont du Gard
Not too far from Avignon is the Roman bridge and aqueduct called the Pont du Gard. It is not clear whether there will be an optional excursion to see it or not. Their itinerary mentions it but it is not listed with the list of excursions.

2000 years ago over 1000 people worked for 5 years on the construction of the Pont du Gard. The objective was to bring water to the city of Nimes via a 50km long aqueduct.

Park on the left bank of the river where you will find the museums, ticket booth, cafeteria, restrooms and shops in a modern plaza. The aqueduct is free but everything else has a cost. Buy the combo ticket which covers all sights and parking -- the museum is worth visiting and there is a 25 minute movie.

Day 11, Monday, Arles


South of France Arles Arles Office de Tourisme
Église St-Trophime the Church of St. Trophime

Arles is the capital of Provence and was once known as the "Little Rome of Gaul." Arles, was a Roman colony from 125 B.C. until the 6th Century A.D. Its Roman Arena, which is more than 2,000 years old, is still used for Spanish and Camargue-style bullfights.

Day 12, Tuesday, Arles to Nice


Today you will be transferred by motorcoach to the city of Nice.

The riverboat tour comes to an end here. It will include a night at a hotel in Nice for tonight, and normally you would be transferred to the airport in the morning for your flight home. However, if you are going to stay in the area for a few more days, you will need to arrange for a hotel.
If you are going to follow this itinerary, you will need another night in Nice for Wednesday night, two nights in Cannes for Thursday and Friday, and then one more night here in Nice for Saturday night.

Be sure to check out the market while you are in Nice.

Also be sure to take advantage of the optional trip to Monte Carlo.

Provence Map

Here is a google map that I created showing the locations below.

This map has three sets of lines on it.
The red lines indicate the route to be taken on day 13.
The green lines indicate the route to be taken on day 14, driving to Cannes.
The magenta (purple) lines indicate the route to be taken on day 15.

There are two other lines on the map. The dark blue line indicates a route you can use when you drive back to Nice from Cannes. This route will take about a half hour if there is no traffic.
The cyan (light blue) line indicates an optional route similar to what I would probably take to go back to Nice. This route would take about two and a half hours with no stops. However, the whole point would be to take my time and stop any place that looked interesting along the way.


If you prefer not to rent a car, you can still visit all of the places below (and many others) by taking day tours from various tour companies. Here are just a couple. These have some very interesting tours available, including at least one that visits markets in Italy.

If you are going to do this, you can stay in Nice the whole time, and therefore need to arrange for a hotel for this period. Or you could still spend a couple of days in Cannes, going from Nice to Cannes and back by train.

Monte Carlo, Monaco

Monaco Official Site

South of France Monte Carlo

Palais Princier de Monaco -- The Prince's Palace

B.P. 518, MC 98015 Monaco Cedex
Phone: +377 93 25 18 31

From ancient Greek times to the end of the Roman era, the rocky promontory and natural harbor of Monaco had been mentioned in the literature of the time because of their strategic location. However, Monaco itself mentioned in history when the Genoese established it in the 12th century and German Emperor Frederick I recognized the area from Porto Venere to the republic of Genoa along the Ligurian coast, which included Monaco, in 1162. The palace began as a fortress when in 1191 the German Emperor Henry IV ceded the harbor and the rocky promontory to the Republic of Genoa on the condition that they build fortifications to combat piracy. Additional property was acquired from the Council of Peille and the monks at the Abbaye de Saint Pons and construction actually only began in June 1215 when Fulco de Castello, one of Genoa's most enterprising consuls, anchored his fleet of ships loaded with building supplies in the harbor. By then they were ready to trace the outlines of a rampart of thirty-seven sections and four buttressed towers connected with 8-meter to form a triangular boundary. Later a higher wall was erected and a second fortress was added on the port side entrance, none of which remains today.

South of France Le Casino de Monte Carlo Le Casino de Monte Carlo

Place du Casino - 98000 Principality of Monaco
Telephone: + 377 98 06 21 21

There are five casinos in Monte Carlo: Casino de Monte-Carlo, Casino Café de Paris, Sun Casino, Monte-Carlo Bay Casino and Summer Casino.

To savor experiences that are always new, players choose from 21 gaming rooms: legendary at the Casino de Monte-Carlo or Summer Casino, festive at the Sun Casino, futuristic at the Casino Café de Paris and Monte-Carlo Bay Casino.

Casino de Monte-Carlo
In the gaming rooms, correct attire mandatory.
In the Salons Privés, jacket recommended, no sports shoes.

Casino Café de Paris, Sun Casino, Monte-Carlo Bay Casino
No particular dress code. No uniforms.

Summer Casino
Jacket recommended.

The French Riviera


Your FRENCH Riviera PASS is an electronic ticket (with a smart chip). It can be used within two years of its date of purchase. The period of validity (24h, 48h or 72h) begins only when it is first used with a "free access" partner. To make the best of all the advantages your FRENCH Riviera PASS offers, it is best to buy it in advance, since you can book guided tours, some of which can accommodate only a limited number of participants...

You can buy the pass online or in Nice from one of the four bureaux Convention and Visitors Bureau agencies. As of 1 June, 2009, the prices are: 24 hour pass: 24€ -- 48 hour pass: 36€ -- 72 hour pass: 54€

Côte d'Azure French Riviera Tourism
A guide to the French Riviera

Day 13, Wednesday, Nice, Cap Ferrat, Eze


To be able to follow this itinerary below, you will need to rent a car from Nice. Be sure to arrange this from home before you leave.
Today you will drive from Nice to Cap Ferrat to see la Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, then on to Eze for some great sights and dinner, and then back to Nice.

South of France Nice Musée Matisse de Nice
Here is one place you can visit while you are in Nice.

164, av. des Arènes de Cimiez 06000 Nice
Tél: +33 (0)4 93 81 08 08

The Matisse Museum is situated on the hill of Cimiez, not far from the Franciscan monastery with its Italianate gardens, the Hotel Regina where Matisse lived, and the Gallo-Roman ruins. Since the 5th of January 1963 the Museum has been welcoming vistors to its collection of works left by the artist (and his heirs) to the city of Nice where he lived from 1918 until 1954.

Nice to Cap Ferrat

South of France ephrussi la Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild

06230 Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Between Nice and Monaco via the Basse Corniche (N98) road.
Tél: +33.4.93 01 33 09

Discover the most beautiful French Riviera Palazzo and its nine wonderful gardens. Through the art dealers and experts she befriended, Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild sought out artworks all over the world, transforming the Villa at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat into a collector's paradise. Between sea and sky, overlooking the bay of Villefranche, the nine heavenly gardens are adorned with patios, fountains, ponds, flowered and shaded paths. The Villa is also a place for wedding and receptions organization.

Be sure to visit the tea room...

Situated at the very heart of the Villa, the tea room and restaurant terrace overlooks the Bay of Villefranche. Come and take advantage of the exceptional view and relax in this haven of peace and beauty. In high season, you can come and take a seat under the orange trees on the terrace and savour the delights of a day on the French Riviera! In high season, the tea room is open everyday from lunchtime until the Villa closes, and offers a dish of the day, quiches, salads, pastries and delicious ice creams.

Cap Ferrat to Eze

South of France Eze Official Site of the Tourist Office

Office deTourisme, Place du Gl de Gaulle, 06360 Eze France
Tél: +33 (0) 4 93 41 26 00

Magic place in the azure, Eze seduces. The atmosphere is authentic and Eze has kept the tradition even now that it has become an international touristic site.

Exe could be a good place to stop and find a restaurant for dinner.

Eze to Nice

After dinner, youu can drive back to your hotel in Nice.

Day 14, Thursday, Nice to Cannes, via Antibes


Whenever you are ready, check out of the hotel and drive to Antibes to the Picasso Museum, and then on to Cannes where you will stay for two nights.

Nice to Antibes

Antibes Juan-les-Pins Official Website

If a beach is a "private beach" it does not mean that you cannot use the beach. It just means the you will have to pay a fee to use it.

South of France picasso museum Musée Picasso

Musée Picasso, Château Grimaldi, 06600 Antibes
Tél: +33 (0)4 92 90 54 20

Chateau Grimaldi became the Picasso Museum on 27 December 1966. Picasso stayed there from mid-September to mid-November 1946 and produced a great deal of work.

Antibes to Cannes

South of France Cannes Site Officiel de la Ville de Cannes

le site officiel d'information de l'Office de Tourisme de Cannes

Palais des Festivals - La Croisette - 06400 Cannes -- Tourist Office
Tél.: +33 (0)4 92 99 84 22

It's in the old town and its famous Suquet that we advise you to begin your visit to Cannes. You can get here from various directions by following the gentley sloping lanes intersected by picturesque stairways where the pedestrian is king. Things to see: the ramparts, musée de la Castre, square tower and the religious buildings. An exceptional view point over the town, port, Croisette, Iles de Lérins and over a large part of the bay of Cannes. On foot from the old town, the soul of Cannes, the Forville market and its ring of food shops (butchers, delicatessens, fishmongers bakers, wine merchants, etc.) will allow you to discover one of the aspects of a town eternally famous for its shopping. You will also enjoy the exceptional geographical location of Cannes which is ideal for short excursions to Grasse, Mougins and Antibes.

One suggestion for lodging is the B&B called Hotel Alexandre III. They have free private parking, are 100 meters from the beach and are located in a nice, peaceful area of Cannes at the east end of the Boulevard de la Croisette which is the center of tourist activity.

Here are some things you can do while you have free time in Cannes:

  • Do some shopping on the Rue de Antibes where you will find everyday items, home furnishings and high-end fashions.
  • Eat at one of the many restaurants along la plage (the beach.)
  • Go to a public beach or rent a lounge chair (including food, beverages and changing room) from one of the restaurants.
  • Take an excursion to Ile Sainte-Marguerite in the bay and either eat at one of the small cafés on the island or pack a picnic lunch to bring with you.
  • Walk along the Boulevard de la Croisette, or go inland a block or two, and find a restaurant that suits your taste.

Day 15, Friday Gourdon, Grasse

Today you will drive from Cannes to the hilltown of Gourdon. Be sure to get directions to Gourdon in Provence because there is another Gourdon in France and if you do not specify Provence you will get directions to the wrong place and spend all day driving to the wrong place.
In Gourdon you will see the castle, along with a very interesting medieval hill town.
From Gourdon you will stop at two parfumeries on the way back to Cannes.

Cannes to Gourdon

South of France Gourdon Office de Tourisme

The castle is one of Gourdon's most important features. It has been open to visitors since 1950, and was classed as an historical monument in 1971. Of particular note are its magnificent gardens, designed by LENOTRE, and its architecture dating from the 9th century, three centuries before the first stone of the Louvre was laid in Paris. . With a guided visit you can learn about its long history.

Gourdon to Parfumerie Molinard

South of France molinard Parfums Molinard

60, boulevard Victor Hugo, 06130 Grasse

Molinard, was founded in 1849 in Grasse in Provence in the south of France, the birthplace of the worldwide perfume industry; remaining an entirely family-run business (oldest in France) right through to the present day. Molinard originally manufactured Eaux de Fleurs (flower-scented waters) and Eau de Colognes that were then sold in its small store in the heart of town. Come and visit us in Grasse, Nice or Lille, we can tell you more of Molinard's beautiful 160 years of history then.

Parfumerie Molinard to Galimard Parfumerie

South of France galimard Galimard Parfumeur

73 route de Cannes - 06131 GRASSE
Tél.: +33.(0)

Jean de GALIMARD, Lord of SERANON, related to the Count of Thorenc and great friend of GOETHE, lived in GRASSE where in 1747 he created the PARFUMERIE GALIMARD. Founder of the corporation of "Glovemakers and Perfumers", he supplied the court of Louis "the well-beloved", King of France, with olive oil, pomades, and perfumes of which he invented the first formulas.

We invite you to come and discover the secrets of perfume and the traditional processes of perfume making during a free guided visit of our factory in GRASSE and our branch in EZE-VILLAGE. Come and create your OWN perfume at our "STUDIO DES FRAGRANCES", in Grasse.

Galimard Parfumerie to Cannes

Once back in Cannes, find a place for dinner and take a walk around the city.

Day 16, Saturday, Cannes to Nice

Drive back to Nice to prepare to fly home tomorrow..

Day 17, Sunday, Return home

Today we leave France behind.

Fly Home

Make your way to the airport for your flight home.

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Contents © Copyright 2001 Author: Lee Briggs except where noted. All rights reserved.