Southbound - Trip Review and Tips

We took this tour at the end of May 2023.

This review covers the Southbound version of the tour. While the Northbound tour covers the same itinerary, specifics about meals and logistics will vary.

Who should take this tour: I would not recommend this tour for first time visitors to France. It spends little time in Paris and outside Paris the itinerary is not loaded with bucket list sights. If you are a first time visitor to France and have your heart set on this tour, I would consider adding at least an extra 2-3 days on your own in Paris to make it worthwhile. This tour should be viewed as a pleasant trip with emphasis on French culture. Some people who were expecting more thrilling sights found the tour a bit boring.

TIme to go and weather: We went at the end of May and that worked very well for us. Temperatures were in the high 70s to 80s. Before we left the forecast was for rain showers most every day of the tour. Luckily, we had just one evening of thunder showers. When it comes to rain, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. The tour is generally offered in the shoulder months. That's a good thing as the south of France can get quite warm in the summer.

Itinerary Changes: If you book this tour, be sure to check the itinerary in your final documents. Changes may have been made without any notice from Tauck. On day 2, we were supposed to have a choice of museum tours in the afternoon. Instead, we had a free afternoon and a private after-hours visit to the Louvre. While this was a big improvement, it could have caught some people by surprise. If you're prebooking activities or restaurants in Paris, be sure to check your final documents before doing so. There were also changes to the order of our docking points on the Rhone. I'm not sure why, but the itinerary was merely reordered, with no additions or deletions.

Dress: Dressy is optional. There are maybe 4 nights where people dressed up (Fouquet's, Uzes, the Captain's dinner and the farewell dinner). Most men wore coats, but many did not. The only time it was encouraged was for Fouquet's. The daily schedule "recommended" a coat for men at Fouquet's (this was the only time that happened). That being said, all the dressy occasions are with the tour group only. So, you're not living up to any required dress code for the venue or dealing with local standards. The room used at Fouquet's is upstairs from the main restaurant and accessed from a side entrance. On the excursions dress is very casual. Outside Paris, even the French wear shorts on warm days. The one exception to this is the casino at Monte Carlo. If you want to gamble at a table (limited time to do this), men need to wear a long sleeve shirt and long pants.

Paris: You don't really get a chance to experience Paris if you arrive the first day of the tour. A bus tour is included, but the only stop is a photo op at the Eifel Tower. That plus a short museum visit are all that's included. If you add extra days on you own, be sure to book some attractions ahead of time. Paris is seeing record crowds this year. The Louvre and the Eifel Tower were booking up well in advance. The Musee d'Orsay was easier to get tickets for, but the impressionist and Van Gogh rooms were quite crowded. If you go the the Orsay, go early and head straight to those exhibits.

Fouquet's: There was much discussion of this meal in another thread. While this restaurant has an iconic location on the Champs Elysee, it is a bit overhyped by Tauck. The dinner is in a elegant room on the second floor of the restaurant, separate from the main dining area (you're only with Tauck people). The dinner is a set menu, typically featuring fish or veal or in our case, both. If you have a problem with fish or veal, be sure to let the TDs know ahead of time. They may be able to accommodate you. There is a form you fill out listing, among other things, any food allergies or aversions you may have. It is turned into the TDs at a desk in the lobby on the first day of the tour.

TGV to Lyon: The train trip is late morning to early afternoon. The tickets were in second class and on our trip, we were all in the same train car. You'll need to buy you lunch ahead of time to eat on the train. Consuming wine with your meal is fine on the train. You can shop at the Galleries Lafayette food halls or a nearby sandwich shop before catching the bus to the station, but shopping for lunch early may leave you with limited choices. You can also grab food at the Gare Lyon train station (in retrospect, I wish I'd done this). There are many food shops there including the sandwich shops "Paul" and "Brioche Doree."

Food: While Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France, the food on this tour is generally adequate, but not exciting. Feeding a large group, especially on the riverboat is a challenge. The single exception to this is the lunch at Chateau Pruzilly, which was exceptional. You will have plenty of great bread, cheese and desserts, but the entrees are often mediocre. There were a couple of special treats in the lounge before or after dinner.

The Riverboat: We were on the MS Emerald. One of Tauck's older ships, we first traveled on it in 2007. It was refitted in 2012 for larger cabins and fewer passengers. The ship was generally in good repair, although there were a few issues here and there. I'm not crazy about the blue and gold velvet upholstery in the lounge and dining rooms.

Hotels: The two hotels were fully up to Tauck standards with awesome locations. Both were well maintained. The Intercontinental Le Grand in Paris is a classic vintage grand hotel, a stone's throw from the Opera Garnier. The outstanding breakfast buffet is in the Cafe de la Paix, an elegant high-end cafe. It would be a good choice for a nice dinner, if you didn't want to leave the hotel. The Hotel Martinez in Cannes is a modern, Art Deco hotel. Lots of white in the lobby and the rooms. Though it faces the sea, I don't think any Tauck guest got a room with that view. Breakfast is an excellent buffet and you can eat on the veranda, all though drink service can be a little slow outside.

Pace: The pace varied, but in general it was on the leisurely side. Most days have activities in both the morning and afternoon. Those wishing a little downtime can always opt to skip an activity and relax on the riverboat. A fair amount of walking (often on cobblestones) and climbing steps is required, but our TDs arranged for a "slower paced" group for those with limitations.

Sights: This trip for me was more about enjoying French culture than seeing new sights. We did the "classic" excursion options, but none of the sights are so iconic that you'd miss out if you chose another option. One of our lagniappes, was a trip to the Pont du Gard, a spectacular Roman aqueduct (the highest in the world, almost intact). Be sure to see that if you are into Roman antiquities. Our TDs did a good job of keeping entertained with French culture stories. When we were there, it was just after the Monte Carlo Grand Prix. The track was still mostly set up and Grand Prix souvenirs were easy to come by.

All in all, an enjoyable trip. A good choice for those who are looking for more France and haven't been to the south.


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    edited June 2023

    I agree, this is a great review. We were on this trip in April, the first of the season, with friends we met on our first Tauck trip and have traveled with several times since. We felt this was the best trip ever. I can’t say enough good things about the Tauck team we had.

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