Just returned from a very busy and enjoyable wine-themed cruise through the Burgundy, Beaujolais and Provence regions of Southeastern France. The trip included two days in Paris and one in Monte Carlo, which we extended on both ends. I ... Read More
Just returned from a very busy and enjoyable wine-themed cruise through the Burgundy, Beaujolais and Provence regions of Southeastern France. The trip included two days in Paris and one in Monte Carlo, which we extended on both ends. I highly recommend the additional day in Monte Carlo as the coach does not arrive until after noon on the day before checkout. You really need the extra day to experience Monte Carlo and, in our case, Eze. Overall great trip with top notch crew on the ship.
1. Bike excursion we took as a side trip in Versailles
2. Hotel-Dieu in Beaune
3. Guided walk of Vivier
3. Pont du Gard & Uzes tour.
4. Lyon silk museum and market tour
5. Les Baux and olive oil tasting tour
7. The cruise director Katy
8. Our bartender (Eddie) and waiter (Petro)
9. The Fairmont Hotel in Monte Carlo
10. The exceptional meals on board
1. The tiny size of the stateroom (smaller than on other Avalon boats)
2. The cold, wet weather on part of the sail (unusual for this time of year)
3. The Pullman hotel in Paris (poor service, location, amenities)
4. The Perouges tour (cold, wet and empty)
5. A virus/flu that hit about 20 passengers at the end of the trip (which Avalon handled very weil)
Everything else either met or slightly exceeded expectations.
I would recommend this trip, but book during warm weather months and pace yourself with the wine consumption. Read Less
We took the cruise from Arles to Chalon Sur Saone on the Scenery after having been met at the Nice Airport by an Avalon-contracted shuttle service, as Avalon also booked our flights and arranged all airport transfers. Basically the land ... Read More
We took the cruise from Arles to Chalon Sur Saone on the Scenery after having been met at the Nice Airport by an Avalon-contracted shuttle service, as Avalon also booked our flights and arranged all airport transfers. Basically the land transfer services were spot-on. Our driver from Nice to Monaco (where we stayed the first night) was originally from Brazil and he was great. Knew a great deal about the locale and people. Very enjoyable. I am not a big fan of Monaco, as it is ridiculously expensive, without great attractions. In fact Avalon had a tour the next AM from Monaco to Nice. Ironically Nice is about 45 minutes closer to the Arles embarkation point than Nice. So, Avalon why not make your first night stay in Nice instead of Monaco ?
Our bag transfers went very smoothly the whole trip. On arriving at the ship, our bags were waiting for us in our assigned cabins. They were also delivered to our assigned rooms in Paris and when we changed rooms, they sent the remaining bag to the new room promptly. They also picked up bags at the Paris hotel rooms for our airport transfers.
The cruise director, Danielle, was fantastic. She attended to everything, had a great sense of humor, and helped make the cruise very enjoyable. The rest of the staff was equally terrific, including the waiters, housekeeping, crew and the piano player who entertained every night after dinner. Can't say enough about them. Hard working, very friendly and really attentive.
Offshore excursions were very good for the most part. Avalon has selected some very good local guides who were entertaining and informative. They usually also allotted enough time for free roaming at most stops. My only disappointment was the excursion to Tournus which was all free time. Three hours in that small town with no local guide to explain things was a waste of time. It was accentuated by the fact that it was raining, the shops were closed on a Monday and the local restaurants were rather sparse. Wouldn't recommend that particular excursion. Paris excursions were good for the most part. On the optional tour of the Louvre, we had an exceptional guide, Samantha. She also was the guide for the walking tour in the AM. Don't know about Versailles or Moulin Rouge tours as we didn't take them.
I thought the cabins were well appointed, of adequate size and they were promptly cleaned up every AM. Can't ask for anything more. The lounge was adequate. Maybe a bit outdated, but it had comfortable seating.
Food and beverage was just OK. I thought the chef, while a very personable guy, was average at best in terms of his quality. Presentation of all dishes was great, but nearly all the fish selections were poor - either the fish wasn't fresh or it was overcooked and fishy tasting. There was one veal dish that was excellent but that was at lunch. Beef and lamb dishes were generally well prepared as were dinner soups and salads. Breakfasts and lunches were pretty much the same fare every day. Would have liked more variety and in particular more local type dishes prepared. Wasn't overly impressed with the wine selection either. They did have a nice French Chablis and the Bordeaux was decent. But there was little variety. They did not have a Burgundy red which was disappointing. It was also disappointing that the bar did not stock a greater variety and higher quality of wines. Sure, the happy hour prices for a glass of wine were great - 3 Euros. But I gladly would have paid 6-7 Euros for a better quality of wine with more to choose from.
Finally the "fitness center" was pathetic. It was so small as to be unusable with a treadmill, bicycle and two small free weights. Maybe the newer ships will have a bigger area that have several weight machines along with more free weights.
My summary though was that this cruise was very good, well done and the many hits drowned out the few misses. Read Less
So long as one doesn't need to correspond with Avalon's US headquarters in Colorado, their cruises are magnificent. My wife and I have cruised with Avalon 3 times, the latest being their Grand France cruise this past summer. ... Read More
So long as one doesn't need to correspond with Avalon's US headquarters in Colorado, their cruises are magnificent. My wife and I have cruised with Avalon 3 times, the latest being their Grand France cruise this past summer. We’ve found everything to always be first class: cruise directors, accommodations, crew, service, cuisine, routes, side excursions, ships—even the scenery. We and our friends on board couldn't think of even small things that we didn't like.
But at the end of our last two cruises we needed to email Avalon over some relatively minor matters unrelated to the cruises themselves. Even though we went through Avalon's website both times to submit our correspondence, both times we were ignored. When we then wrote a letter to their CEO, he ignored us as well. I've never dealt with an organization before that treated its customers this way. Only when our travel agent insisted on contacting them did they call us proposing a resolution for one of our issues. Now, we think, it's our turn to ignore Avalon. It's sad that such wonderful experiences ended on such sour notes over such small matters! Read Less
We have been on several big line cruises. This was totally different. The ship was in excellent condition. The room had plenty of storage space. The food was wonderful. The wine was always flowing at dinner. The crew was fantastic ... Read More
We have been on several big line cruises. This was totally different. The ship was in excellent condition. The room had plenty of storage space. The food was wonderful. The wine was always flowing at dinner. The crew was fantastic and attentive. Our cruise director , Danielle was wonderful. All of the walking tours, which were included were great and informative. It was my Mother's birthday and they made it so special. It was so intimate, but plenty to do. We were almost always in a town to visit. You will not be disappointed. Read Less
This was my first River cruise but it was such an excellent experience I will certainly do another one and go with Avalon. Firstly the location through the south of France was great with beautiful scenery and amazing history. Using the ... Read More
This was my first River cruise but it was such an excellent experience I will certainly do another one and go with Avalon. Firstly the location through the south of France was great with beautiful scenery and amazing history. Using the river cruise and with the aid of local guides we were able to explore the towns and villages on the river. The crew on the Avalon were wonderful. Very friendly, helpful and efficient. The perfect combination in my view. The cruise was quite informal. While there was some dressing up for dinner it was also ok to stay in the same clothes from the day, as long as they were not shorts.
We had an excellent tour director who was knowledgable and articulate. My cabin was comfortable and the food on board was outstanding. We also had a number of regionally based food tastings which were interesting and delicious. The included tours were very good and were well complemented by the additional tours which at €40 -50 each were reasonably priced.
To really get the advantage of the cruise you need to be prepared to do a fair amount of walking, which is a good thing light of the amount of excellent food we consumed. We had around 100 passengers on our cruise compared to the boats capacity of 130.
I did find the cruise stating in Monaco odd and was told it was because closer hotels did not cope well with the volume. I was not a big fan of Monaco and thought Nice was be a better starting point and give a shorter coach ride to connect with the boat. Read Less
We did the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Monaco tour package. The ship was sold out months before departure from Chalon-sur-Saone on 02SEP14. Unlike many cruises on the Rhone River which start and return to Lyon repeating most of the ... Read More
We did the cruise-only portion of the Paris to Monaco tour package. The ship was sold out months before departure from Chalon-sur-Saone on 02SEP14. Unlike many cruises on the Rhone River which start and return to Lyon repeating most of the river views, the Avalon Scenery begins in Chalon-sur-Saone and finishes at the mouth of the Rhone in Arles using both the lovely and picturesque Saone as well as the Rhone rivers. There were double day stops, a sense of easing through southern France. In short, the pace was efficiently lovely.
Local tours were provided as needed and were outstanding. Extra excursions offered more to those with additional interests like wine tasting.
The staterooms were more than adequate, well appointed and quiet. The housekeeping we got was cheery and efficient. The ship was well appointed and functioned very well without any sense of it all being simply routine. The meals, buffet breakfast and lunch and smoothly served dinner offered lots of choice and new items appeared daily. The dining room needs to be altered to absorb more of the conversational noise especially for those siting in the mid section of the dining room where conversations were almost impossible. Although seating was open, most sat at the same tables every evening. I would advise future cruisers on the Avalon Scenery to head for one of the tables at the far end of the dining room on the first night to stake out a place so that conversations are possible without shouting to each other.
Tony, our cruise director, was attentive and aware of the needs of the passengers. He was amusing and made sure we all got as much from our cruise experience as possible. Alternate arrangements that are common on River cruises were explained he usually showed us how to get extra benefit from the new situation.
Given the lower fare than competing cruises that use the Rhone, this was money well spent. Read Less
We sailed with Avalon "Scenery" for a river cruise through Burgundy and Provence, embarking on July 1, 2014-CANADA DAY. When booking the trip over a year ago, space was limited as river cruises are so popular. We chose the upper ... Read More
We sailed with Avalon "Scenery" for a river cruise through Burgundy and Provence, embarking on July 1, 2014-CANADA DAY. When booking the trip over a year ago, space was limited as river cruises are so popular. We chose the upper floor, cabin #305 and the premium was well worth the location for our own reasons. The cabin was more spacious than regular cruise lines we had sailed in the past. The use of space was so well thought over, utilizing every nook & cranny. We called it a "barge" before leaving for our trip not knowing what to expect...it truly did not disapoint ! The ship was spotless and had been refurbished in 2013. Although still a very new ship (built in 2008), it was a pleasant surprise from photo's shown in the brochure that appeared to be a little dated. Pictures do not do this ship justice.
The staff were very pleasant, helpful and funny....we had an awesome crew serving us at dinner. A huge thanks to a few chosen, "Oleg, Dimi and Daniel". The dining room was very noisy but you soon adjusted as everyone was simply having a great time. Food was exceptional and the free wine just kept coming- thanks to Dimi. On CANADA DAY we were surprised to arrive in the dining room to find red & white balloons, honoring our countries flag. They celebrated Canada's Birthday with a cake as they did again for our American friends on July 4th...such a nice touch :)
There was plenty of space indoor and outdoor to enjoy as you wished. With only 126 passengers, it was a refreshing change from the large cruise ships. We never felt crowded- always found great spots to curl up in and watch the scenery pass or read a book. It was peaceful-no barside reggae music, no loud poolside games, no constant announcements.
One final note. We had been told that the average age onboard river cruises would be in the 70-80's range. It varied and there was a good range of ages on our specific cruise. Everyone got along very well, everyone kept up the pace, and everyone enjoyed the others company regardless of age. We were there to have a good time - and we had a great time!
KUDO"S TO AVALON Read Less
The Grand France cruise is actually made up of 2 separate cruises, therefore 2 ships, 2 crews , just 25 of us did the whole cruise so we had almost a whole new ship of passengers , so you get to meet a lot of people on this cruise, but ... Read More
The Grand France cruise is actually made up of 2 separate cruises, therefore 2 ships, 2 crews , just 25 of us did the whole cruise so we had almost a whole new ship of passengers , so you get to meet a lot of people on this cruise, but only the 1 CD which is great, our CD was Jerome he was with us the whole time, he did a great job and we were very happy with him, he was approachable and very well organized. Avalon crew were all fantastic, we found the food and wines very good, the onboard demonstrations were very good too, we had cheese, local foods and wine tastings, a pastry demonstration with tastings, this was a Jazz cruise on the southern part and we had some very good entertainers come on board.
We were on the Scenery from Cote D’Azur to Paris, then the Creativity from Paris to Rouen then back to Paris, These are the 2 oldest ships in Avalon’s fleet, being built in 2008 and 2009, but both ships are very well maintained, layout is very functional and the crew on both were fantastic. In 2015 there will be 2 new ships on the French rivers, I believe they are on the Rhine this season in preparation.
We flew to Nice 8 days prior to our Avalon Grand France cruise, we had a night in Nice and a week further along the French Riviera close to Italy at Menton, absolutely beautiful, we’d go back there in a heart beat.
Our Avalon cruise started with a night in Monte Carlo at the Fairmont, a large hotel right beside the Monte Carlo Casino, while the hotel is nice I thought it was very impersonal, we were only there overnight and then breakfast as we went on the optional evening tour which included a sightseeing tour by coach of Monaco, a walk around the area of the Prince’s Palace, into St Nicholas Cathedral, the resting place of Princess Grace and Prince Ranier, then dinner at Vista Palace Hotel, perched on a hill high over Monaco, dinner was nice, 3 course with wines, but the views were sensational, ladies you need to check out the view from the toilets as well! The tour was around 100 euros each, but we hadn’t planned on doing anything else that night and eating out in Monaco is very expensive anyway, so we thought it was a nice way to start our Avalon experience. (We had already been to Monaco for a day during the previous week, so we’d seen many of the attractions, but it was nice seeing the Palace area of a night when its so much quieter than of a day)
There were quite a few optional tours available on the 1st cruise, but the only ones we took apart from the evening one in Monaco, was the trip to Pont Du Gard and Uzes, Pont du Gard was on my bucket list so this was one tour that we were definitely doing, it was absolutely breathtaking, its just amazing to think it was built over 2000 years ago and its still in such remarkable condition. We were there early so there weren’t a lot of tourists around at all, we stopped at Uzes on the way back, a charming city, after a short city walk we had plenty of free time to look around the many shops or have a coffee, the inside of the food shops around the fountain are well worth a look, I took loads of photos inside them, staff were great, we were given samples to try as well.
On the 2nd cruise we took the Lights of Paris tour and then the next night the one to the Moulin Rouge , although it get so crowded in the theatre, its amazing how many people the squeeze in there, it was still a very entertaining and fun night, the meal was set (with an optional for the main course if I remember correctly) although we didn’t think it was up to the quality we had been experiencing with Avalon on the ship, it was still quite good and we had about 4 bottles of wine included for 6 of us at our table, but we were mainly there for the show which was fantastic, it didn’t disappoint at all.
We didn’t do the included Normandy Beaches excursion, but opted for the Taste of Normandy option, we visited the magnificent Bayeux Tapestry, had a 4 course local meal with cider in a lovely little town, went to a Calvados tasting which included a slice each of the best apple pie I’d ever tasted and we travelled through some beautiful countryside as well, a very relaxing day.
We were onboard for both Canada Day and American Independence Day, we thought it was a great touch to have the dining room decorated of an evening honoring both these countries with celebrations including birthday cake. I know the passengers from both of these countries appreciated it too.
We actually got to celebrate another national day , as we arrived in back in Paris on the ship for Bastille Day, so got to see the flyovers during the day, plus the fireworks on the Eiffel Tower from the ship, we went to Moulin Rouge that night but were back in time for the last 15 minutes of the display, a lovely end to a lovely night and a lovely cruise as this was our last night onboard.
Overall we saw some amazing things, visited beautiful towns, saw some magnificent scenery, met some fantastic people, had wonderful food and wines and treated so well by a great crew and CD, it was a very memorable experience and we thank Avalon for their professionalism. Read Less
We spent 8 days cruising from near marseille up the Rhone river to the Saone river. Our trip started in Monte Carlo at the Fairmont hotel. I heartily recommend a couple of days cruising around Monte Carlo and shopping. We were coached to ... Read More
We spent 8 days cruising from near marseille up the Rhone river to the Saone river. Our trip started in Monte Carlo at the Fairmont hotel. I heartily recommend a couple of days cruising around Monte Carlo and shopping. We were coached to just west of marseille where we embarked upon the Scenery. The cruise was exceptionally well organized and the ship's crew were tremendous all the way to the last day. They have customer service down to a "T". It would be impossible to have a bad time aboard the ship. The bar tenders remember your name and drinks. The entertainment was a little corny but fun as well. The small village and large town sites were as interesting as they were unusual. With one exception, the dinners were gourmet quality and well presented by servers who made you feel like they enjoyed serving you. (Sea bass was not very good on one evening). Be careful dining in the evening because your wine glass is ALWAYS full. You don't even notice it until the next day!! We always ate lunch in the little villages we visited and the food was very good and relatively inexpensive except in Avignon, Lyon and ultimately Paris. The ship negotiated about 20 locks and each one was fascinating from the open air third deck. The cruise director provided by Orbridge travel was extremely good...perhaps the best we've seen. The optional excursions were OK but not something I'd spend 4-5 hours doing. Skip the medieval village tour. The roman aqueduct is interesting but the trip is too long by coach for the tour. At the end of the sail, we boarded the TGV train and sped back to Paris at about 150 mph! My only complaint was that the passenger complement was for the most part older persons and things were moving at a slow pace most days. Bring your friends along and make your own onshore fun. Also...Would be a better tour if air was included in the package to insure everyone is accounted for arriving at Nice and that the company helps with lost baggage. You will enjoy this trip. Read Less
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise from the moment we arrived in Paris to the time we got on our flight home in Nice. The staff were spectacular. We were greater at the airport by a wonderful driver and then when we arrived at the hotel ... Read More
We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise from the moment we arrived in Paris to the time we got on our flight home in Nice. The staff were spectacular. We were greater at the airport by a wonderful driver and then when we arrived at the hotel there was a host to help us with all our planning.
The rooms were fabulous, clean and well appointed. The ship was the nightlight of the whole trip. The staterooms were very nice, spotless clean and the entire crew could not have made us feel more welcome. And the food! I really didn't want to leave. The meals were so delicious and the wine flowed freely. The dining room was a bit noisy at times but we found that the tables at the front of the dining room ( the ones for four people) were the quietest.
The tours were great, very informative and the extra ones that we took were well worth the money. We did the olive groves, wine tasting at Chateauneuf du pape and the evening in Monte Carlo. They were all fantastic! We would go again in a minute and if you are lucky enough to have Jean Loup as your tour guide it will be even more spectacular. A wonderful way to see France. Read Less
My wife and I had a wonderful time on the Avalon Scenery cruise on the Soane and Rhone Rivers and would highly recommend it to anyone who would appreciate the lovely scenery, the medieval towns, the lush vineyards in the company of a ... Read More
My wife and I had a wonderful time on the Avalon Scenery cruise on the Soane and Rhone Rivers and would highly recommend it to anyone who would appreciate the lovely scenery, the medieval towns, the lush vineyards in the company of a terrific crew and staff. The only jarring note was the painfully loud dining room, which others have mentioned. It desperately needs more sound dampening. Part of the problem is likely caused by the average age of the voyagers, which I would peg at about 70. So there might be some hearing issues that contribute to the loud voices. In any event, a quiet, relaxing dinner on board the boat was impossible. If it was not for this, I would give the trip five stars.
Our trip started in Paris at the Pullman Montparnasse. It is not a typical Parisian hotel, but, for our purposes, it was more than adequate. The breakfasts buffets were staggering in their breadth and quality. The rooms were clean, and, best of all, the location is a couple of blocks from the Montparnasse Metro Station. We arrived a day early and found this a great location for exploring Paris.
After a couple of days in Paris, we left by bus to embark on our boat. The rooms on the boat are small but are very well designed. We were pleasantly surprised by the amount of storage. The bathroom is small but fine and very clean. We loved having the floor to ceiling windows in our cabin. We saw many other tour boats with much smaller windows. The beds were quite comfortable.
The food on the boat was wonderful. Not five star French food, but very well prepared and quite a good variety at all meals. Good quality wine was freely poured at dinner, which might also have contributed to the noise factor. You had your choice of a light lunch or a full lunch; we were never disappointed with either.
One common complaint that we heard was about the woeful wifi. It was spotty in our cabin but completely unavailable in others, and not ever available in the coffee lounge in the rear of the ship. There are only two computers for general use and even there the internet connection there was often questionable. This needs to be improved.
The staff on the Scenery was simply terrific. Everyone was always accommodating, always with a genuine smile. The tour guides were all well prepared and insightful. Their English was quite good and they were filled with entertaining information about all of the stops whether it was a vineyard, a castle, a cathedral or a medieval village.
We enjoyed all of the excursions. We had not realized how many Roman structures still exist, nor did we know that there are a number of towns that retain much of their medieval character. Fascinating! I recommend the wine tastings which were all enjoyable and educational although none of the wines was really special. And do not miss the paid excursions to Pont du Gard and the medieval village of Les Baux.
Don’t let the noisy dining room stop you from taking this trip on Avalon; you will never forget it. Read Less
We chose the Avalon "Grand France" cruise, which is a somewhat misleading term for a combination of two discrete cruises which are also sold separately. The first goes north on the Seine to Rouen on the Creativity, with bus ... Read More
We chose the Avalon "Grand France" cruise, which is a somewhat misleading term for a combination of two discrete cruises which are also sold separately. The first goes north on the Seine to Rouen on the Creativity, with bus excursions to the Normandy beaches, then back to Paris with stops at smaller cities along the way. The second heads south from Beaune on the Saone and Rhone Rivers to Arles on Creativity's sister ship, the Scenery. It end with a bus trip to Monte Carlo at the end for one night and an option to spend two nights Provence after that. Most of us went to Monte Carlo, then flew home from the nearby Nice airport.
The combination occupied two days of our trip on buses, one between ships on our return to Paris from Normandy, and the other from Arles to Monte Carlo for what amounted to only a few hours in that fabled but claustrophobic principality. Having already been to Paris and Normandy before this trip, we probably should have eliminated the northern cruise on the Seine and taken the southern cruise with the extension to Provence. Given Avalon's premium prices, this would have been a better use of our vacation time.
Unfortunately, while the itineraries were interesting and the side excursions were generally worthwhile, we can't recommend either of these ships.
The main problem was the dining rooms. Most likely because of their low ceilings, they were so noisy that it was virtually impossible to hold a conversation without shouting, which can be enervating on a long trip. It ruins what is normally one of the pleasures of river cruising, a leisurely dinner in the evening, when beautiful scenery is rolling by and there are none of the distractions of large, oceangoing ships. There was virtual unanimity about this problem among the passengers -- and the only help our tour director could offer was to ask us to talk more quietly! Unlike breakfast and lunch, which offer "light" versions in the lounge, there is no alternative for dinner, a single seating at 7 p.m. A couple of our companions actually stayed in their cabins rather than brave the noise. In addition, on the Scenery, as the weather grew warmer in the south, it became apparent that the air conditioning in the dining room was no match for the ambient temperature. So basically, dinner became an endurance trial of noise and heat, made worse by the fact that the kitchen and hard-working, friendly dining room crew seemed understaffed. It rarely took less than 2 hours to serve a meal.
This is a double shame because the food itself was well-prepared and beautifully presented, with a choice of beef or chicken, fish, vegetarian and "healthy" entrees every night. Unfortunately, most dishes were a bit bland for my taste. Avalon did try to mix things up by having a guest chef from a local cooking school come in one night on each half of the cruise (it was more successful on the Scenery). But one of the ironies of a river cruise in France is that you miss out on the opportunity to sample one of the world's great cuisines, prepared by local chefs from local ingredients.
Breakfasts and lunches were standard buffet fare -- although my wife complained jokingly that the only thing missing at breakfast was French toast -- and this on a French river cruise. We also learned that French fries are actually Belgian in origin, although the French don't give their neighbors credit and merely call them "pommes frites."
The ships themselves are virtually identical -- one is seven years old, the other a year older. The Scenery recently had a makeover in the lounge and dining areas -- a bit too retro for our tastes but still attractive. The lounges were generally comfortable -- the small rear lounge had one of the world's great coffee machines (it dispensed almost every kind of coffee drink, perfectly brewed). Cookies and fruit were also available at any hour. It was a popular spot.
The cabins are beautifully designed and attractive, but let's face it, this is a riverboat and they're cramped. Avalon picked up a little extra room by substituting sliding glass doors with railings for a balcony on the topmost two decks, but one person still has to lie down if the other is moving about. There's no opportunity to get a longer cabin no matter what vessel you're on because the ship has to be able to pass through the narrowest lock on its river -- and there are lots of them (It was great fun to watch our skilled captains maneuver the ships into locks with only a few inches to spare on either side). The only way to make cabins bigger is to make them wider, which means fewer cabins or a longer and more expensive ship. There are obviously some length limitations, too. So even with a suite, you'll likely feel cramped compared to an ocean liner. The bathrooms were likewise tiny but efficiently designed (as long as you don't try to bend over in the shower), and there was plenty of storage throughout. A flat-screen TV provided a variety of news and entertainment. Given the space constraints, I was pleasantly surprised by our accommodataions.
Although WiFi worked reasonably well on the Creativity in the north, it was very spotty on the Scenery in the south despite Avalon's boast that it had improved communications over the previous year. Most cabins had no WiFi signal -- to get connected passengers had to go to the lounge or upper deck. We did get great WiFi reception in our cabin twice -- when we were tied up in docks next to Viking ships and hopped onto their systems. So it is possible to get Wifi right -- Avalon just didn't do it here. It's something most travellers are comfortable with and have come to expect.
Speaking of double docking, one of the pitfalls of riverboat cruising is the relatively tight docking facilities available in most cities. This means riverboats tie up next to each other (we saw private boats stacked up five deep in one port). For us it meant passengers on the outside boat had to walk across a gangway through the main lounge of the inside boat and use its gangway to reach the shore. More importantly, if you have a cabin on the water side of an inside boat and another ship pulls up alongside overnight, it's possible to throw open your curtains in the morning, and instead of the river view you had when you turned in, you're staring at people in the stateroom directly across from you on the other ship. It can be embarrassing.
Aside from their ability to dock in small cities and towns with only a short walk to the major sites and shops, riverboats offer a spectacular view of the scenery as it passes by, particularly so for us at sundown along the banks of the Rhone in the south. On the sun deck, at the bow of the ship, the noise of the engines virtually disappears, and on a quiet evening you can hear the birds chirping and the wind whistling through the trees on the banks as you pass by. The may be no more relaxing or pleasant way to travel.
The major disadvantage here is a combination of high water and low bridges, which go together. We were lucky this year -- the rivers in France were passable, so the boats could get under all the bridges on our itineraries. Under the best of conditions, this can be a close thing. That's why all the structures on the Sun Deck are removable or collapsible; even the control house is on hydraulic lifts so it can be retracted. When we reached a particularly low bridge, the captain would clear the deck, or at least make us all sit at the very bow, which was a few inches lower than the rest of the deck. It's quite an experience to sit up there and clear the underside of a bridge by a foot or two. If the water is abnormally high, Avalon may have to bus its passengers from one city to another in some areas. In Eastern and Northern Europe this spring, the flooding has been so bad that no boats couldnavigate portions of many of the largest rivers. Our cruise director said only three boats out of Avalon's whole fleet (including the two we sailed on) could even operate while we were there. Fortunately, we had only one day of rain, a couple of overcast days, and the rest were sunny. Temperatures ranged from blustery 50s in Normandy to the high 80s in the south.
There were one or two excursions included at each stop, mostly walking tours, but there are more extra-cost excursions, usually by bus, which adds considerably to Avalon's premium price tag. Outside of a bus trip to the landing beaches in Normandy on the northern end and a tour of Money's lovely summer home in Gierny in the south, most of the included expeditions were walking tours. These varied in quality from a strenuous but rewarding 1,000-foot climb up to the Chateau Gaillard in Les Andelys on the Northern half to a long, hot walk through Arles that glossed over the town's main historical artifact -- the ruins of a Roman colisseum. Overall, the local guides were well-informed, understandable and usually opinionated. Our best experience, however, involved a guide in Viviers who was born and raised in England but had married a Frenchman and was fluent in both languages. A native speaker really makes a difference.
All things considered, the cruise was an enjoyable and informative experience marred by a hot, noisy dining room. You can find similar itineraries on other boats -- I'd suggest looking there first until Avalon can find some way to make dining less of an ordeal. Read Less
Travel at night and visit endless churches by day.
Colour card holders being herded onto buses to the next Church became tedious and demeaning.
Atrocious food.At times like seven flavours of toothpaste.Theme or foods of the region ... Read More
Travel at night and visit endless churches by day.
Colour card holders being herded onto buses to the next Church became tedious and demeaning.
Atrocious food.At times like seven flavours of toothpaste.Theme or foods of the region was a failed experiment and was no substitute for goog food well prepared.
The most gross and obvious way to extract tips was employed with envelopes issued and an obvious expectation for generous " extra "payments. Tipping is a spoiling and pathetic process to many people except hapless Americans who believe is reasonable to not pay a living wage to employees.And wish to be a de facto employer or demean people to force a fawning form of servility.
The lack of tables for couples only was very evident. This had the added burden of being trapped with loudest and most annoying fellow passengers.
No facility to host a private cocktail party for like minded and selected friends or more specifically non loud, annoying passengers I was trying to hide from. Read Less
We selected our cruise on Scenery because of the dates available suiting our timetable. We have previously travelled on Uniworld for a river cruise. The cruise was for 11 days 10 nights starting with a night in Monte carlo and the joining ... Read More
We selected our cruise on Scenery because of the dates available suiting our timetable. We have previously travelled on Uniworld for a river cruise. The cruise was for 11 days 10 nights starting with a night in Monte carlo and the joining the ship at Port St Louis to sail up the Rhone and Saone rivers, then finishing with two nights in Paris. There were daily ports of call some of them multiple calls in one day. We found calls to Vienne, Lyon and Avignon to be particularly enjoyable.
We were disappointed with some of the Avalon spin in their brochures. A prominent feature in the 2011 brochure was an on-line service called my Avalon where passengers could book tours and other packages. After paying for our trip we tried to make use of this feature to be told that it was not available in Australia but we could join up to globus and make bookings that way. We tried this to receive Emails back from Globus that this is not so.( Aussies beware).
Another prominent promoted feature was free Wi-Fi on board. This was true but hardly ever worked and often neither did the on board vessel terminals. We feel that in this day of modern communication this is not good enough. Travellers from Australia don't duck over to Europe for a week and maybe a little more. Travelling 12500 kms from home it is normal to go for on average at least 4 weeks and during that time there is a need and desire to remain in contact with family. we were hoping to have regular contact with ours and to be able to see our Grandson on Skype.
Generally the food was good but not much variety and did not match the gourmet level suggested.The cruise was pleasant but in no way matched our expectations from the promotion material. We were booked for a second Avalon Cruise in early September on The Avalon Luminary on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel in Switzerland which will be reported separately. We would say the scenery crew were superior and more customer friendly than the crew on the Luminary. Again a pleasant cruise but unlikely to do another. We would dearly like to port reports but the river cruise ports are not included on the list of ports. Trips to the old Roman aqueduct, 'Pont Neuf" out of Avignon and Vienne during 700 year celebrations of the Knights Templar were standout tours. Read Less
The idea of taking a French river cruise was SO appealing. I had images of us floating lazily down the rivers of France, stopping at lovely old towns to wander around and take in the atmosphere and history, without the hassle of unpacking ... Read More
The idea of taking a French river cruise was SO appealing. I had images of us floating lazily down the rivers of France, stopping at lovely old towns to wander around and take in the atmosphere and history, without the hassle of unpacking and lugging our things with us. How wrong we were. The cruise we took in May 2012 with Avalon Waterways on the Scenery was a living hell. If you choose to pay big bucks to be herded around like cattle, treated like school boarders who have to eat, drink, shower at certain times and wind up exhausted after being bussed EVERY day, don't say I didn't warn you.
The crew on the boat was superb and did their best to accommodate the needs of the passengers but too many things went wrong. For a start, the rooms (even the "good" ones) are very small, requiring one person to jump on the bed to allow the other to move around the cabin. The double beds have 2 separate single quilts so that you are always uncovered in the middle...hardly luxury! The food was not a reflection of the local cuisine. Every night we had to put up with long multiple course meals that blended into sameness after a couple of nights. Good food, but I would rather have been supporting local businesses.
The Saone River was in flood, (a fact known to the cruise company before we boarded) so we could not berth at the first little town and had to be bussed back to visit it. Then we were stuck for another couple of days in no-man's land outside Lyon as, again, we could not get under a bridge. Again, we spent days in buses. We were missing out on the very things we paid for on the cruise...time to relax on the boat and the ability to wander from the boat directly into the towns we were to visit.
Then, when we finally cleared the bridge and entered the Rhone, the electrics on the boat blew. We were forced to berth next to a camping ground and troupe off the boat, down a lane and into the communal washrooms to use their facilities. For the next 24 hours as we had no water, toilets, air con, refrigeration etc. The smell of the rotting garbage which had been piling up for days began to permeate the now aircon- free lounge! The poor crew tried their best, but that doesn't help when you only do this cruise once.
To make up for lost time after the boat was repaired, we were bussed for hours to Avignon for a tragically hurried view of this great city. Herding 120 around DOES take time and becomes very tedious for anyone who is used to being an independent traveler. We were more than disappointed at the 2 minute view of the famous bridge! Then, back on the busses to catch up with the boat.
Every evening, many hours are taken up with a "port talk", which you must attend if you have any hope of keeping up with the crowded, confusing schedule, and long, tedious dinners going over the same conversations while you wait for the next course. It can be fun for a short time, but gives no opportunity for down time. I would much rather a choice of a quick healthy meal and time to relax in my cabin reading or sitting on the upper deck. The time allocated for these pastimes was so little, I felt we were being rushed everywhere.
One more point, we didn't realize that you have to pay extra for almost all shore excursions. You would be wasting your money travelling through France and not seeing as much as possible, but it did add to the costs. In our case, because of the various disasters, several of the shore excursions were cancelled.
All up, I would NEVER recommend going on a cruise. When we left the boat we spent another month doing our own thing in Europe. The ability to decide when and where you did things, the massive savings compared with the cost of the cruise make independent travel the ONLY way to go for us in the future. Read Less
This cruise was the 2nd half of our Grand France trip. The 1st half was aboard the Creativity (Paris to Normandy). If you really want a complete taste of France we strongly recommend doing these back to back cruises. From Paris you are ... Read More
This cruise was the 2nd half of our Grand France trip. The 1st half was aboard the Creativity (Paris to Normandy). If you really want a complete taste of France we strongly recommend doing these back to back cruises. From Paris you are bussed south & stop at Beaune on the way .A lovely stop. Due to high water levels we missed the Saone portion ( only two ports) but Avalon did a splendid job of substitutions on the Rhone. Our cruise began in Lyon, France's second largest city..It was wonderful...a nice place to walk along the rivers... both the Saone & Rhone... The Creativity is a lovely ship...typical river boat layout..We chose cat B...with a full french balcony which greatly enhanced the views while we were in out cabin. Cabins were well appointed...small but adequate bath....Very comfortable beds with memory foam mattresses...plenty of storage. Buffet Breakfast & lunch had adequate choices although the area around the omelet station could be a bit crowded at times. Dinner included various French wines each evening and were excellent. Our tour guide ..Jean Lupe Domart was outstanding..Could fill a whole review about him !
Southern France is absolutely beautiful....I prefer countryside to big cities so this was a perfect itinerary. ... All the ports had an informative walking tour included .While in Vienne we were entertained in the evening by a lovely French Chanteuse..really felt a part of the culture....Tournon was also a lovely stop....and after we sailed we had a Chocolate tasting with Jean Loup..yum yum....In Avignon we visited the Popes Palace ( it was ok but not spectacular)& also chose an optional tour to the Chateauneuf du Pape for wine tasting....which was thoroughly enjoyable. Last stop was Arles with it's huge Roman amphitheater. We also chose an optional tour to an Olive Grove & pressing plant ..very informative and an absolute beautiful location. Another plus for Avalon they include a night in Monaco at the fabulous Fairmont Monte Carlo hotel as part of the package. A wonderful end to the trip was dinner at The Vista Palace Hotel on the Cote D'Azur..a little pricey but well worth it. They don't use the term Vista lightly..Unbelievable views of both France & Monaco at the same time! Jean Lupe was with us until the end and made sure everyone got in the right van for the rides to the airport. Avalon took good care of us ! Read Less
Avalon River Cruise on the Scenery, France: Burgundy & Provence, Paris & Chalon to Cote d'Azur, Port Charles & Monte Carlo, March 25-April 5, 2012.
We highly and contentedly recommend a River Cruise as a way to enjoy ... Read More
Avalon River Cruise on the Scenery, France: Burgundy & Provence, Paris & Chalon to Cote d'Azur, Port Charles & Monte Carlo, March 25-April 5, 2012.
We highly and contentedly recommend a River Cruise as a way to enjoy continental travel. Voyage by ship gives a duck-eye view from the river. Docking then affords the opportunity to waddle around the old town, which is usually just steps away onshore. If not, say in a bigger city, the trip includes the bus transport for the local tour. We always enjoyed the walking tour that highlights key sights and then affords free time to explore on your own. The tour guides included are always expert and personable and provide fascinating history and charm. The guides' cordless audio device is most convenient for a group.
A comment on the favourable quality of the passengers. I don't know where the cruise line gets these people, but everyone is worldly, smart, polite, educated, in a word, genteel. Of course, here, I include myself and my attractive partner. They must employ that dreaded technique called profiling. And this leads to a series of very pleasant and interesting conversations (in various accents) at meal conclaves and social functions. Another highlight of the journey is the people met.
A superb variety of gustatory delights are exciting for the palate. Not for me is the light breakfast for early and late risers; I'm the full breakfast buffet type, with made-to-order stations and complimentary champagne, sipped, not added to juice. Can't face fellow passengers early? Breakfast can be delivered to your stateroom. The lunch buffet features appetizers, soups, homemade breads, cheeses, cold cuts, salads, hot dishes and delightful desserts. Afternoon tea with cakes or cookies is served in the lounge or on the top deck. Dinners are casually elegant sit-downs with multiple courses and complimentary wine, beer and sodas. Cappuccinos, espressos and other specialty coffees are available throughout the day. Finally, those with urgent night cravings can snack after 10 pm. (Yeah, I copied this from the brochure!)
If this is insufficient (and for some it seems it is,) get off! At your cost, onshore, you can sample regional specialties while enjoying local culture. In Lyon, chow down at the Paul Bocuse restaurants, rated three stars (Michelin's coveted top rating).
The Avalon cruise includes afternoon and night variety presentations and entertainment, games, movie nights and ship tours of the galley and the bridge. The entertainment is likely to be local, ethnic, charming. My partner and I are dancers, who prance at the drop of a hat or the sound of music, and we love to show off. It's our mission to enlist unwary guests as our target dance partners, now we have 4 on the floor. The ship always has an amiable and multitalented east-European musician in the lounge who thrives on this and takes requests. Autretemps, don't forget the fitness centre, where you can atone for your rich eating habit and rethink your travel strategy.
Did I forget the reason for the trip? The itinerary places are delightful snatches of history, geography, archeology, art and culture. We were thrilled with a surprise short organ concert in a church; and the fresh markets; shopping as a palliative for those with available suitcase room and credit. Let me not go on, not.
Bon Voyage, en France!
See you around. The world. Read Less
This was our first river cruise - not sure quite what to expect, but the experience FAR exceeded our expectations! Sliding peacefully along the Rhone, watching fishermen, grazing cows, herons, swans, and more swans!, sitting up on the top ... Read More
This was our first river cruise - not sure quite what to expect, but the experience FAR exceeded our expectations! Sliding peacefully along the Rhone, watching fishermen, grazing cows, herons, swans, and more swans!, sitting up on the top deck without getting our heads blown off was truly magical. Avalon was attentive to every need, whether for local history, medical needs or special meal requirements. We chose not to take many of the optional shore trips because we like to explore on our own, but everyone we spoke to thought the optional trips were great. We did take one in Lyon - the Beaujolais wine-tasting and it was definitely the highlight of our whole vacation!
We passed through 15 locks on this trip, some in the middle of the night and some during the day - very interesting! Sit up top and watch how the captain manoeuvers into the lock, often with only 6 inches of clearance on each side!
There are detailed maps of each port in a folder in each stateroom on arrival which have sights of interest, history at a glance, shopping highlights, local specialties and other valuable information. The challenge is to make time to read it all!
We had a mix of Australians, Brits, Americans and Canadians; everyone on vacation and friendly.
We are both runners, so we really enjoying our runs along the river banks in each port. We got out of the towns and found some really cool country roads to explore; it was fabulous! Read Less
We opted to book the Burgundy & Provence river cruise (26 July - 3 Aug) on the Avalon Scenery through a travel agency since we were on a separate trip to Paris the week before with a corporate group.
We took the ... Read More
We opted to book the Burgundy & Provence river cruise (26 July - 3 Aug) on the Avalon Scenery through a travel agency since we were on a separate trip to Paris the week before with a corporate group.
We took the TVG (train) from Gare Lyon Paris on the morning of the 26th of July to Arles. The TVG was a smooth and quite ride with about four stops along the way. We arrived in Arle around 1:30 pm. The train station in Arles is about a 5 minute walk to where the Scenery was docked. Knowing that check-in wasn't until around 5:00 pm we headed for the ship anyway to see if we could unload our luggage. When we arrived at the ship, the receptionist told us we couldn't check-in, but was more than happy to hold our luggage. Two crew members went out to the dock and retrieved our luggage. From that moment on I knew the service on board the Scenery was going to be good. We headed to the old town in Arles for lunch for which there were numerous cafes to sit and relax. At about 4:30 we headed back to the ship and checked in. We had the ship to ourselves for about an hour before the buses bringing the remaining passengers in from Monaco. First thing we notice was how clean and well maintained the Scenery is. The second thing we notice and experienced throughout the cruise was the Staff. I can't say enough about the quality, friendliness, and professional service that we experienced during this cruise, from the receptionist, cruise director, to George the bartender (very important), to Indra, probably the best server we have ever experienced on any cruise. He knew that I enjoyed a beer with dinner, and from the first day on, I never had to ask. That evening during the welcome party we learned that the ship was only half full (bad for the crew, but good for us). We were all surprised at that announcement. I really expected a sold out cruise.
FOOD - All I can say is that I didn't have a bad meal while visiting France, and that includes the Scenery. The food was good, not the greatest, but good. Breakfast and lunch was buffet, while dinner was a 5 course sit down. Wine and Beer flowed freely. We found the soups to be really good.
LOUNGE - We normally closed the lounge up each evening with our new found Aussi friends. Avalon was smart in keeping the drink prices reasonable. You could get a beer and or wine for about 3.5 euro. Mix drinks would run around 7 euros. All could be charged to your room.
CABIN - Our cabin was 202, about mid-ship, first cabin on the second deck (perfect spot). The cabin was small with a french balcony, but had plenty of storage both in the cabin and bathroom. Luggage fit easily under the bed. It had a flat screen TV, small frig, and ample lighting. Bed was very comfortable.
ENTERTAINMENT - Each evening they had a piano player (Angel), but would have like to see them spin some records every now and then. Only so much piano music you can dance to. They also brought in the Gypsy Kings (what's left of them) - and they were good, to a French female cabaret singer who should retire. But she gave her best. The crew performed some funny skits one evening.
OTHER AREAS - The outdoor upper deck was very spacious, but because of the numerous low bridges and locks, it seems the canopies and railings were down more than they were up. They also have a hot tub, which was nice on one of the cooler evenings. We only had about three good nights of warm weather with no winds where we could sit outside and really enjoy the cruising portion.
PORTS OF CALL: We enjoyed all the complimentary walking tours Avalon provided. They lasted about 2 to 3 hours. They kept the groups small, great tour guides, and headsets. For those who had walking issues, they provided some transportation or a slower walking tour depending on the town, roads, slopes, etc.
ARLES - We did the walking tour and enjoyed seeing the Roman ruins and the Old Town of Arles. We chose to take the Vincent Van Gogh tour. I was a little skeptical at first, but I must say I really enjoyed it. They bused you around to all the sites and areas that Van Gogh had painted, and then on to the Hospital where he had stayed. Very interesting tour and beautiful country side.
AVIGNON - We took the walking tour of Avignon, with the majority of the tour dedicated to the Palace of the Popes. Beautiful Palace from the outside, but very bland inside. We opted for the Chateauneuf-du Pape wine tasting tour. Other than the country side being beautiful, most of us felt the tour was overpriced and a waste of time. They only visited one winery were we tasted a few wines, that really weren't that good. I didn't see anyone in our group buy any wine. Avalon should include a second winery for comparison sake. That evening was the tail end of a weeklong festival that highlighted street performers - Lots of Fun!!
VIVIERS - Really small town with a really a cool Cathedral where we got a short organ concert. The Cathedral is set high amongst the city with some wonderful views of the countryside.
TOURNON - Another small town with Roman ruins - really unique. We took the Chateau tour, which was the best. Not only was the Chateau beautiful, but the gardens within. We drove the country side stopping along the way to view numerous castles, chateaus, and little villages with historical churches. Great tour!
LYON - We opted to sleep in that morning (late night at lounge) and do Lyon on our own. Lyon was awesome - only bad side was that we stopped there on a Sunday - NO SHOPPING!! However, they had the greatest fresh outdoor markets and an outdoor art market. Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a must see. Set atop Fourviere Hill, you can take a tram to the cathedral for about 3 euros. Views are amazing. We got to the church during mass for which we stayed - nice treat. We found a great quite little cafe to have lunch.
MACON - Cute little town, but guess what - all the stores were closed on Monday as well. I need to work in France!!
CHALON-SUR-SAONE (Disembarkation) - Since we booked on our own, we had booked a train back to Paris for one night then our flight home. The receptionist ensured that we had a taxi waiting for us to take us to the Chalon train station. Again - service was outstanding.
PROS - Entire Scenery Staff - The Best!! - Room Comfort - The Ship (clean and neat) - The passengers we met, ranging from 20 to 70+ years old. Majority were from Australia.
CONS - Need more river cruising time - Schedule Lyon other than Sunday - Later dinner seating - Cruise Director long winded sometimes, which cut into our social time with other passengers at the lounge before dinner, which was too early.
OVERALL - A wonderful trip, on a wonderful Ship the Avalon Scenery. Read Less
THE SOUTH OF FRANCE AND PARIS ~ APRIL 12-24, 2010
I've just returned from two memorable weeks in France, one of my favorite countries, and Paris is definitely my favorite city in the world. I've been ... Read More
THE SOUTH OF FRANCE AND PARIS ~ APRIL 12-24, 2010
I've just returned from two memorable weeks in France, one of my favorite countries, and Paris is definitely my favorite city in the world. I've been visiting France for 35 (yikes) years, and after this 12th visit, I'd like to share with you some observations and suggestions from this recent experience.
PROVENCE (the South of France) The trip began in Nice, glittering capital of the Cote d'Azur, and a delightful and absolutely beautiful town on the French Riviera. Highlight here was the market, held daily, in vieux Nice (old Nice). Wonderful opportunity to shop for local specialties like Provencal soaps, herbs, pottery, textiles and watercolors by local artists at reasonable prices. Walk the town...she's a treasure.
Onward to Arles to board our ship for the 7 night river cruise, which proved to be one of my most treasured travel experiences ever. Arles is memorable for its connection to Van Gogh and Cezanne, and the ancient Roman Amphitheater, still in use today.
From Arles to my favorite town in Provence, Avignon. On three past occasions I'd sat in the town square, enjoying lunch and a good Provencal rose wine and soaked up the local color. I did it again this trip, and the experience did not disappoint. There is an excellent chain of wine stores all over France, called "Nicholas" and they offer a wide range of French wines (many local) at excellent prices, so stop in for your wine provisions. Also be aware that ATMs are available everywhere, even in the smallest villages, so just get cash with your debit card as needed and don't carry wads of Euros with you.
Onward to the tiny town of Viviers, whose Cathedral was magnificent, but quite a trek up a very steep hill, then to Tournon a great example of a medieval city, and Vienne, where we rode a little train to the top of the town with a lovely view of the Rhone River below.
Then, to Lyon, the 2nd city of France, and her gastronomic capital, and home of the renowned chef, Paul Bocuse. Thanks to an invitation by our shipmates Carl & Carolyn, we enjoyed a splendid lunch at Paul Bocuse's bistro "Le Sud"; highly recommended and it won't break the bank. This was my 1st visit to Lyon, and I loved this city. A great cathedral on Fourviere Hill with panoramic views of the city below, and then again down to explore "old Lyon" with the "traboules"...small little covered passage-ways from medieval times when the silk traders needed to cross the city and avoid bad weather. This part of Lyon was truly fascinating and well worth a serious visit.
The river cruise towns ended with Macon and Chalon sur Saone, nothing too notable here, but then we visited beautiful Beaune, and ooh la la, what a town, and well worth a visit. DO NOT miss the incredible Hotel-Dieu, one of France's architectural highlights, and a joy to explore. This was a charity hospital, founded in 1443. The main part of the hospital is now a fantastic museum, but a portion of the building is still in use today as a retirement home for the impoverished elderly.
Fantastic shopping and wonderful cafes and bistros in Beaune. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at the Brasserie le Carnot.
From here it was on to the incomparable city of light, Paris. Having done (several times) the mainstays of Paris....Arc d' Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Opera, and the Louvre, I wanted to explore some off the beaten path places. So, let me share those that struck a chord, and I think are noteworthy, and worth your time and effort, and in some cases, money!
1st off, for those of you who don't know, the "hot spot" in Paris these past few years is an area called "Le Marais". This is district in Paris that has been gentrified and fluffed of late, and retains an enormous amount of historical significance. Steeped in royal & Revolutionary history, this village in the heart of Paris offers medieval streets, museums-filled mansions, and the city's oldest and most beautiful square.
1) to get there get off at Metro St. Paul. Walk over to the enchanting Place des Vosges, that lovely square, and don't miss Victor Hugo's house and a museum on the southeeast corner of the square.
2) Sadly the Picasso Museum is closed for renovation until 2012.
3) Shopping in the Marais is a dream...to wit:
Fun, fun handmade toys at "Tumbleweed" 19 rue du Turenne, Paris 75004
DO NOT miss the olive oil experience of a lifetime at O & Co....this shop specializes in Mediterranean olive oils, soaps, herbs, and vinegars. If you're looking for reasonable gifts to take home to friends and family, here's your spot!
47 rue Vielle du Temple Paris 77005
My absolute favorite shop in Paris is called As' Art...an African import gallery with fantastic objects of every type...the only time I've spent money in Paris the past 3 visits is at this shop.
Also, it's in a wonderful little area called "Village St Paul" full of delightful shops of all sorts.
As' Art: 35 Rue St Paul, Marais, Paris 75004
Where to eat in the Marais? Some ideas:
Le Petit Fer a Cheval 30 Rue Vieille du Temple Paris 75004
Good food, cheap wine and adorable.
Cafe des Musees Bistro 49 Rue de Turenne, Paris
In the heart of Marais, a good Parisian bistro, reasonable
What else in Paris:
Do not miss a totally unknown shop opposite the Jardins Luxembourg, the Library/Book Shop of the Senat, located near the entrance to Luxembourg Gardens at 20 Rue de Vaugirard, Paris 75006. This shop has beautiful post cards and very fine gifts in leather (wallets, credit card holders, etc) are remarkably good prices. I always go here and am always rewarded.
You must do the Montmartre area and see Sacre Coeur, and do ride the funicular up beside the long, long steps. (You can use a metro ticket for this ride)
Speaking of metro tickets, the best value is to buy a "carnet des billets" a group of 10 metro tickets at a reduced price, you can buy with a credit card or Euro cash at the ticket machine in any metro station. I find this a better buy than the "Metro card"...
Montmartre is the highest point in Paris, and the view is beautiful from the Sacre Coeur cathedral. This is also the area that attracted many artists in the 19th century. The "Place du Tertre" is a bit touristy, but fun with shops and cafes. I've enjoyed 2 good meals here:
A sweet little restaurant at the top of the hill, is Chez Plumeau, the typical outdoor cafe setting, and it's charming inside too. Chez Plumeau 4 Place Du Calvaire 75018 Paris, France .
Check out a delightful little street in Montparnasse area, called Rue du Cherche Midi Paris 75006...shops, restaurants galore, and a joy to experience.
Another good restaurant bet is a small chain in Paris, called " Chez Clement" with locations all over Paris. I enjoyed 2 very excellent meals here at good prices. I was staying in St Germain area, and I ate at Chez Clement's St. Michel restaurant, not 100 yards from the St. Michel metro stop. Check their website for a location near you... www.chezclement.com.
Ok, let's do the Palais Royal, metro Louvre/Palais Royal. A BEAUTIFUL square with whimsical sculptures, fountains, and gorgeous shops along the arcades that line both sides of the square. This is at treat indeed. Keep your pocketbooks closed here, but it's a great place for the French experience of "window licking!"
One block away is another exceptional find, the Galerie Vero-Dodat Arcade, linking the Rue du Bouloi to Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau. These are 19th century, renovated shopping galleries, the oldest in Paris, with magnificent, covered glass ceilings and beautiful carved wooden fronts on the shops. In my book, this is a MUST SEE with shops, cafes, art galleries and magnificent architecture. Read Less
We have just returned from a River Cruise on the Avalon Scenery July 26 - Aug. 4th Paris to Nice. Let me start out by saying we were a bit apprehensive since this was our first river cruise, we have been on 7 big cruise ship voyages prior, ... Read More
We have just returned from a River Cruise on the Avalon Scenery July 26 - Aug. 4th Paris to Nice. Let me start out by saying we were a bit apprehensive since this was our first river cruise, we have been on 7 big cruise ship voyages prior, and we do love large ship cruises. We arrived in Paris two days earlier and stayed at the Marriott Rive Gauche, great hotel, and although not in the immediate center of Paris, the location was walking distance from the metro (very easy to navigate)and lots of shops and places to eat. We then joined our group on Sunday and transferred over to the hotel Le Meridien, Montparnasse, which was part of the Avalon tour accomodation. Too bad, the Le Meridien could not hold a candle to the Marriott. Avalon offered a bus tour of Paris on Monday, but since we have already been in Paris for 3 days already, we decided to do our own thing for the day,as I said the Metro is so easy to get around and very inexpensive. Breakfast was included with the Le Meridien and it was very nice. Tues. morning we boarded our bus for the trip to Chalon-sur-Saone, with a stop in Beaune, quaint little town where we had a choice to visit Hospice de Beaune or wine tasting tour, we decided on the Hospice. We then continued on to board our boat. I won't continue about all the stops we made on the way to Nice. I will say the places we visited were amazing, in some cases it was like stepping back in time the quaint towns and scenic beauty cannot be described adequately. About the boat, our state room was one with a french balcony, but we could not open our slider because of the flys etc. There was plenty of room for our things and the room very comfortable. They gave us complementry bottles of water every day. I will say the food was very good, morning was a buffet as was lunch with good choices. Dinner was from a menu with meat, fish or veg. choice. My problem was the fact one could not get anything to eat in between, we had to wait till the appointed hour when the dining room would be open for luch or dinner. True in the afternoon for one hour they had a coffee/tea and cake service but if you were not there you were out of luck. Most days the majority of the boat would be out on tours and when we returned the coffee and cake were no where to be seen. So from about 4 o'clock till 7:30 you were out of luck. True in the rear lounge cookies (from the tin) were always available but it would have been nice if they had an assosrtment of pasteries and home made cookies instead those cookies no one ever ate. Breakfast and lunch the food was plentiful but dinner entrees were a tease. One night at dinner I placed my order and asked for a side order of the pasta (which was veggie. choice) and that seemed to confuse them, hence, no pasta. I had also read that at the end of the meal they would come around with platters of seconds if anyone wanted, but that did not materialize. I think Avalon should rethink some of it's food availablity. I understand the galley is small and limited but food is a very big part of the enjoyment of the vacation. Wine was served at dinner and it flowed freely. The staff on the boat were top notch, very hard working young people and they deserve to be acknowledged.
When we arrived in Nice we had to wait a few hours before our rooms would be available. We stayed at the Hotel Boscolo Plaza. When we walked in the lobby we thought wow, nice hotel. Not so fast, Our first hint was in the elevator very small and inatiquate. The hallway on our floor kind of reminded us of the "Tower of Terror" in disney world, old, musty and in serious need of updating and let me tell you, our room was no better. The mirror was cracked as was the tub. We had one chair in the room, a kind of desk chair with plastic seat, the ac was ineffective. The included breakfast the next morning was the worst meal of or stay in France. Not a very nice hotel and I would not recommend anyone to stay there. There was an optional tour in Nice and I say GO FOR IT, "An Evening In Monaco" worth every penny 85 Euro. Our favorite tour of the week.
In summary - I would highly recommend the river cruise, you get all the benefits of a land tour without the hassel of on/off bus, different hotel every day, packing and unpacking. In fact I would call this a river/land tour with no hassel. We met some wonderful people from around the world and it is a vacation that will leave a fond imprint on my memory.
We are looking forward to booking another river cruise in the near future. And......we still love large ship cruising, I guess you might say, we're addicted Read Less
Just returned from a 13 day vacation on Avalon Scenery with 7 nite cruise, 2 nites in Paris, and 1 in Nice. Started in Paris with 2 nite stay at Le Meridian in Montparnese area.Nice rooms and close to Metro.Buffet breafast inc.Then ... Read More
Just returned from a 13 day vacation on Avalon Scenery with 7 nite cruise, 2 nites in Paris, and 1 in Nice. Started in Paris with 2 nite stay at Le Meridian in Montparnese area.Nice rooms and close to Metro.Buffet breafast inc.Then on day 3 took a 3 hr. bus ride to Chalon du Sur on Saone River to board ship.They did stop for lunch at roadside restuarant with remarkably good food and facilities. The ship was spacious in cabin size, 170 sq.ft and it had a french balcony.The problem was it had a bad odor and lighting in bathroom was inadequate.Other passengers also complained about this and it did seem to get a little better after sailing.The food was average for breakfast with buffet,but coffee lukewarm.The lunch buffet was below average, little choice, food not warm enough and little choice for desserts.But dinner was better with more choices and taste was above average for most riverboats I ve been on.Ports of call inc. Avignon, wonderful city with Popes Palace to explore ,plus many cafes and shops.A wonderful train goes around town for 45 min.trip to get feel for city.Boat parked within 1 block of city entrance.Easy to see on your own,not necessary to join tour.Viviers was another lovely town, very old and historic areas.Went to a church were a wonderful organ recitial was held.Would have liked to stay longer, but only 3 hr.before ship left.Arles a great city, easy to walk around.Took bus ride to Nice, about 3 hrs.Stayed at Hotel Bosculo, nice rooms and great location.As far as entertainment, had it a2 nites on boat.A French singer and band called Gypsy Kings, nice but sort of hokey.Did have nightly dancing with piano bar.The people on board were all well traveled, professionals,,mostly 50 plus range.No facilities for children and would not bring them .The crew was very nice and fun,helpful,etc.Have been on many riverboats,but would not go on another Avalon because of above problems. Read Less