Coming up next, we sail with Viking River Cruises from Avignon to Lyon, France on an 8-day river cruise. The itinerary will take us to one of the most beautiful parts of the world, at a time of the year celebrated by a number of world-class artists in their works. In preparation for the voyage, we have been going deep inside pre-cruise information and resources provided on the Viking River Cruises website. In addition, we went a step further, opting to receive a number of suggested reading materials from a third-party, approved by Viking. The idea is that being briefed with a rich background of information about the places we will see and experience along the way will make for a more meaningful experience.
Already sold on the idea of buying into the experiential element of cruise travel, we walk away from most sailings feeling a bit different.
Our world is a bit bigger.
We grow a bit as people.
We get that.
Hoping to take that feeling to a new level, we’re studying France before our Viking River Cruise takes us to that part of the world. Our first stop on the Rhône river goes a long way to defining the itinerary, themed “Portraits of Southern France“.
Going Beyond The Art Appreciation Class
On the second day of our Viking Portraits journey, we sail through the morning and arrive in Tarascon, France. Disembarking our Viking longship after breakfast we drive to Arles for a walking tour. It was here that impressionist Vincent Van Gogh produced some of his finest works and was joined by his friend Paul Gauguin for a short time. In 1888, Van Gogh wrote of Arles to his brother: “Nature here is extraordinarily beautiful…I can’t match its beauty in my painting, but I take so much in that I can let myself go without restraint.”
Our included morning walking tour will pass right by many sites made famous by Van Gogh and include a visit to Espace van Gogh, a cultural center dedicated to his honor and the subject of some of his paintings.
It was right about here that I thought “I need to brush up on my art history.” Many years ago, I took an art history class in college and enjoyed it so much that I took it again. I can’t recall many other classes that have come back to help me along the way more than that class.
A Full Day Of Cultural Immersion
After lunch on Viking Hermod, we may choose an optional tour to the little village of Les Baux, famous for its beautiful location set high on a rocky spur, a castle and numerous ruins and mining of the mineral bauxite. Of particular interest, along the way to Les Baux, we will stop at the Saint Paul de Mausole hospital near St. Remy. It was there that Van Gogh produced hundreds of paintings and drawings.
That evening, we will sail toward Avignon during dinner.
If you have been following along on our preparation for the Viking Portraits itinerary, that might sound a bit confusing. “Didn’t we start in Avignon?”, you might ask. Yes, we will start in Avignon then sail south to Tarascon to access Arles. From Arles we will turn around and sail back to Avignon, arriving later that night. In the morning of the next day we leave the ship for an included walking tour after breakfast.
Below are some of the Van Gogh works inspired by Arles along with photos of what those scenes look like today. Follow Along on this trip, officially In Progress. Just click here to see all Portraits of Southern France Trip-related content
Photo Gallery images courtesy – The Van Gogh Gallery – A great source for information about the celebrated artist
Flickr photo by Wolfgang Staudt