This new 16-day tour begins in Burgundy, a region renowned for its charming villages, vineyards and majestic medieval architecture. Travelling south through Lyon to Avignon, we admire fine Roman ruins, including the Pont du Gard, visit exceptional regional art galleries, and enjoy the exuberant atmosphere and inspirational colour of the French Riviera.
The extraordinary art and history of southern France with its landscapes that inspired Van Gogh and Picasso
Medieval France, from the birth of Romanesque art and architecture at Cluny and Vézelay, to the Dukes of Burgundy and the popes in Avignon
Its excellent regional galleries and museums, including Picasso at Antibes, the Fondation Maeght, and Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts
Provence, Burgundy and Nice: home to some of France’s most beautiful hamlets, countryside and fine gastronomy
Stunning art galleries in less-visited cities, from Dijon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts to Arles’ Fondation Vincent van Gogh and the Fondation Maeght in St-Paul-de-Vence
Atmospheric Romanesque architecture, from Cluny to Vézelay and Berzé-la-Ville
Roman ruins in Lyon, Nîmes and Arles
A cruise on the Rhone river from Lyon
Medieval Avignon, including the celebrated Palais des Papes
Van Gogh’s world in Arles; Picasso, Matisse, Chagall and Cocteau on the French Riviera
Days 1–4: Arrive Beaune to tour Dijon, Cluny, Vézelay and Autun. Visit Beaune’s Hôtel Dieu, home to Rogier van der Weyden’s Last Judgement, and Dijon’s Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.
Days 5–7: Tour the Roman ruins of Lyon, admire contemporary Lyonnais art and cuisine, and cruise the Rhone river. Excursions to the medieval towns and chateaux of Brancion and Cormatin.
Days 8–11: Explore the papal palace of Avignon, travel to Nîmes, its Roman ruins and the Pont du Gard, and walk in Van Gogh’s footsteps in Arles.
Days 12–16: From Antibes, explore Marseilles and the Côte d’Azur, with art galleries and museums dedicated to Bonnard, Picasso and Chagall.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
Emirates flies into Geneva and out of Nice at times that coincide with the tour. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D
Saturday June 2: Arrival
Your tour leader Dr Kathleen Olive will greet you in the arrivals hall at Geneva International Airport to commence the tour. Travel together to our hotel in Dijon, with time to check-in and freshen up before taking an orientation walk and dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight Dijon (D)
Sunday June 3: Dijon and the Dukes of Burgundy
The Dukes of Burgundy were among the most sophisticated, powerful and rich men in medieval Europe. At its greatest extent, their territory was larger than the Kingdom of France – indeed, they had appropriated large parts of France by playing the French and English off each other in the Hundred Years War. This morning, we visit their seats of power at the Palace of the Dukes, Dijon’s Museum of Fine Art since the 18th century, the Romanesque crypt of Saint-Benigne cathedral and the Gothic church of Notre-Dame. Overnight Dijon (B)
Monday June 4: Burgundian Beaune, Romanesque Autun
The medieval architecture of the Hôtel-Dieu in Beaune is beautifully preserved, and we travel to the town this morning to admire it and the staggering artworks it contains. Rogier van der Weyden’s Beaune altarpiece is here, the rich colours and intense emotions of its Last Judgement challenging European painters for many generations. At Notre-Dame, we admire fine 15th-century tapestries on the life of the Virgin, before transferring to Autun where we admire the fine workmanship of Romanesque sculpture of St-Lazare cathedral, among the world’s best. Overnight Dijon (B)
Tuesday June 5: Basilique St Andoche and Vezelay
The transferral of relics and the pilgrims who swarmed to see them were key parts of the medieval European economy. Vézelay Abbey preserved an important shrine to Mary Magdalene, thought to have ended her days in southern France. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the basilica is a masterpiece of Burgundian Romanesque. At nearby Saulieu and Avallon, perched above the Cousin river, we admire the range of Romanesque sculpture, a fruitful combination of piety and fantastical imagination. Overnight Dijon (B)
Wednesday June 6: Benedictines at Cluny and Berzé-la-Ville
We depart Dijon for Lyon today, travelling first to the Cluny Abbey, which was the headquarters of the Benedictine order, that dominated medieval pilgrim routes. It was also the world’s largest church until the expansion of St Peter’s in Rome and its architecture was enormously influential as it spread. We trace it from its magnificent remains here to the intimate dimensions of the 11th-century Chapelle des Moines at Berzé-la-Ville, perhaps the private retreat of the abbot. Overnight Dijon (B, L)
Thursday June 7: Roman Lyon and contemporary murals
Lyon (Lugdunum) was the thriving capital of Roman Gaul and the birthplace of the emperors Claudius and Caracalla. This morning we have a guided visit of Lyon’s Roman ruins – the oldest in France – and the Gallo-Roman Museum, which has a fine collection of archaeological finds from the area, including jewellery, mosaics and everyday objects. After lunch, we continue to the Roman theatre and explore the playful contemporary murals that dot the town. Overnight Lyon (B)
Friday June 8: Fine and gastronomic arts
We begin the day with a visit to Lyon’s Musée des Beaux-Arts, which has a diverse collection of antiquities, objets d’art, and an excellent collection of painting and sculpture, from Impressionism to Léger, Picasso and Bacon. It also has the world’s second largest collection of Rodin. We enjoy lunch today in one of Lyon’s celebrated restaurants, which continue to uphold the traditional cuisine of the region. The afternoon is at leisure. Overnight Lyon (B, L)
Saturday June 9: The mighty Rhône
In pre-modern Europe, rivers were key to the development of cities, allowing easy movement of people and goods. Lyon boasted an excellent location between two rivers, the Saône and the Rhône – the latter one of Europe’s most important waterways for trade. As we transfer to Avignon today, we admire the tranquil scenery of the river and the hills alongside it. We pause for a wine tasting in Tain l’Hermitage followed by lunch by the Rhône river. Overnight Avignon (B, L)
Sunday June 10: The popes in Avignon
By the early 14th century, Rome was unsafe: prone to malaria and ruled by scheming feudal families angling for the papal throne. After a deadlocked conclave in 1305, the newly-elected Frenchman Clement V refused to move to Rome, and a succession of seven popes ruled “in exile” from Avignon until 1377. As a result, the city preserves southern France’s most significant medieval monuments. This morning we visit the vast Palais des Papes and the Romanesque cathedral. In the afternoon we explore the city’s many other attractions such as the Pont d’Avignon (made famous by the song), the 14th-century ramparts and Musée du Petit Palais. Overnight Avignon (B)
Monday June 11: Roman Nîmes and the Pont du Gard
Like Lyon, Nîmes too boasts outstanding Roman remains and this morning we explore the sites for which the town is justifiably renowned. The magnificent Roman temple Maison Carrée is considered the purest and best preserved of all Roman temples. Other impressive sites we visit include the amphitheatre and the Jardins de la Fontaine, 18th-century public parklands containing the remains of a Roman tower and temple. In the afternoon we continue to the astonishing Pont du Gard, the highest of the elevated Roman acqueducts. It runs for 50 kilometres and here crosses the Gardon river. Overnight Avignon (B, L)
Tuesday June 12: Van Gogh in Arles
Today we head to Arles, famed for an exceptional Roman and medieval heritage. Arles is one of the most important centres of Provençal culture, proud of its past, yet vibrantly modern. We survey its ancient history at the amphitheatre, and encounter its great modern admirer: Van Gogh produced many of his greatest works here. What he loved was not the culture or history, but the brilliance of light. After our visit of the Fondation Vincent van Gogh, we return to Avignon via the Musée de la Camargue, which sets out the fascinating ecology and history of the Rhône river delta. Overnight Avignon (B)
Wednesday June 13: Marseille and the Mediterranean
We depart Avignon for Antibes today, travelling via Marseille. This vibrant port town has enjoyed a long prominence, from its early days as a Greek settlement to its inclusion in Roman Gaul and rise as a great medieval port under the Counts of Provence. We trace this history at MuCEM, the stunning new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations. Its modern aesthetic is part of the rejuvenation of the once-seedy harbour. At the Musée Cantini, we admire works by Signac, Kandinsky and Picasso before continuing to Antibes. Overnight Antibes (B, D)
Thursday June 14: The light of the Riviera
From the 19th century, artists flocked to the French Riviera for the qualities of its light and landscape, the economy of its lifestyle, and the relative permissiveness of its morals! Today we encounter Picasso’s exuberant southern period at Vallauris’ Musée de la Céramique and the Picasso Museum in Antibes, which has more than 200 works by the artist but also contains a fine collection of Giacometti’s sculpture. At Le Cannet, we explore the Musée Bonnard, on a hill above Cannes, where the post-Impressionist painter lived for 20 years. Overnight Antibes (B)
Friday June 15: Miró, Matisse and Braque
Today we make our way to the village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence. Here we visit the Fondation Maeght, an exceptional museum of modern art displaying works by Calder, Chagall, Braque, Giacometti and Miró. The museum is set in beautiful landscaped gardens, and after our visit we stroll through the village of Saint-Paul-de-Vence itself. A mecca for artists throughout the 20th century, Saint-Paul-de-Vence has suffered for its beauty, and in high season its cobbled streets can be thronged with those browsing its many galleries and boutiques. Despite this it retains much of its charm. After lunch we travel to the Chapelle du Rosaire for a guided tour of the simple chapel decorated by Henri Matisse for a convent of Dominican nuns, in gratitude for kindness shown to him when ill. Overnight Antibes (B)
Saturday June 16: Modernity on the Riviera
The tiny 16th-century Chapelle Saint-Pierre in the seafront village of Villefranche-sur-Mer was neglected and filled with fishing nets when artist Jean Cocteau offered to restore it in 1957. With the help and support of the local community he decorated the chapel with murals celebrating the life of St Peter and dedicated to the local fishermen. This morning we visit the chapel before continuing on to the Old Town of Nice for lunch and some time to explore the flower market. We continue to the Musée Marc Chagall, established in 1973. Its collection of paintings, mosaics and stained glass windows, and their installation in the surrounding garden, were supervised by Chagall himself. Their spiritual themes and calm surrounds are an oasis in this bustling tourist mecca. Returning to Antibes, we enjoy our farewell dinner in a fine local restaurant. Overnight Antibes (B, D)
Sunday June 17: Departure
Nice Airport is close to Antibes, and there will be a transfer for those departing from Nice. (B)
Dr Kathleen Olive
Has a PhD in Italian Studies, speaks fluent Italian and lectures on the art, history and culture of Europe. Kathleen has an outstanding knowledge of Italy.
Kathleen has a doctorate in Italian literature from the University of Sydney. She has a strong interest in medieval history and contemporary fiction writing, which she has taught at a number of universities in Australia. Kathleen leads travel groups to Italy, Spain, Turkey and the United States. She lived and studied in Italy and speaks fluent Italian.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
Unused Portions of the tour
We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.