PROVENCE TO LYON River Cruise on Uniworld

Linda Lewis in France on a Uniworld cruise
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This was my first river cruise and I wanted it to be on Uniworld, due to the amazing amount of glowing feedback I receive from my clients who have traveled with them.   
 
My first shocking surprise after settling in the stateroom was the amount of storage they offer, the very ample size of their bathrooms and the space under the beds for luggage storage.  Unuiworld features extremely comfortable Savoir beds with silky smooth bedding.  I could not feel more pampered.  And it’s true what they say about this line, it’s more like a floating boutique hotel, with impeccable design choices.    
 
I was on the SS Catherine on the Rhone River, in France.  March can bring any kind of weather to this part of France, but we were so fortunate to have sun, very little rain and warmer temps during the cruise.  The absence of large crowds, the ease with which to communicate with locals, the sales in the shops - - all make this a great time to go to Europe.   
 
The wait staff in the restaurant were remarkable; from easy smiles to being right there for you when you requested something.  The entire cruise staff seemed to be happy to be on board and to be of service to the guests.  I liked most of what I ate, and the breakfast buffet plus the a la carte choices were amazing.  Great soups, and the absolute BEST, BEST roast turkey I’ve ever had anywhere, and I’ve been eating turkey all my life!!   If my grandmother's spirit hears this, she will be hurt.  Fresh carving board selections throughout the cruise.  Uniworld locally sources food at stops along the way, and you can tell the organic freshness of their ingredients.   
 
Without going into too much port detail, my favorite places were Arles and Beaune.  We hit Beaune on an open market day, and the plethora of color almost assaulted ones eyes.  And as I’m a true Impressionist fan, especially Van Gogh, Arles just came alive for me as we heard our guide tell stories of his life in this area.  We visited the sanitarium from which he painted “Irises,” and stood inside the café of  “Café Terrace at Night” fame.  The café is still the same color as it was when it was the subject of his now world-famous painting.    
 
Lyon was amazing, and I loved the old town the best, with it’s crooked, cobble streets. But it is a large city, and I’m more a village, small town kind of gal, which is why I love Villeneuve-lez-Avignon better than the famous Avignon of second Popery fame.  Our hotel in Ville Avignon was a charming oasis of quiet and charm, the Magnaneraie, where I would definitely stay again.   
 
I'll mention just a few of the unique and fascinating excursions we enjoyed.  Pont du Gard, which is the longest and highest surviving Roman aqueduct in Europe. The relatively newly opened reproduction of the caves of Caverne du Pont d’Arc in the Ardeche region.   The original cave, Chauvet Cave, dates back between 32,000 to 30,000 years, with brilliantly colored cave art relaying the story of their lives at that time. This makes the discovery of these caves twice as old as Lascaux.   The people of this time period, the  Aurignacian people, marked history with great diversification and specialization of tools.  This place was one of the highlights for me.  We did this as a private tour, as. this was not offered as a trip from the ship.      
 
While you can fly home out of Lyon with connections, we opted to take a fast train to Paris and enjoyed Paris again, this time exploring the Marais in depth.    A must on any Parisienne itinerary.     
 
I, who was once a nay-sayer for myself and river ships, have become a believer in the adventure, gastronomy, local color, diversity of ports that a river cruise affords, along with the convenience of packing and unpacking.  If you have never river cruised or have had thoughts that they are too tame or they’re only for older people, you must have a re-think.   There were kids on our cruise, and guests varied in ages from 40’s on up.  River cruises are not just for the “twilight set” any longer.   Yes, I will go on another.