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From: Viking River Cruises: Southern France cruise review


ABOVE: One of the high points of the cruise was a guided night walk through the medieval (and largely abandoned) town of Viviers.

The MS Maribelle sailed from Tournon sur Rhône at 12:30 p.m. and arrived in Viviers around 6 p.m. The quay was about a 10-minute walk from the town along a tree-lined promenade.

Viviers consists of a lower town, where tradesmen and artisans once lived, and an upper or religious town that was the seat of a bishop during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance The upper walled town is an attractive warren of narrow cobbled streets with stone houses, a cathedral, and a castle terrace that offers spectacular views of the rooftops and river below.

After dinner, hotel manager Chris Hillebrand and cruise manager Marc Sullivan took passengers on a nighttime walking tour of the upper town (see photo above).

With fewer than 3,000 inhabitants in a city that once had more than 30,000, Viviers is eerily quiet at night. It's also in remarkably good condition for what is practically a ghost town, thanks to money that the French government has supplied for renovation and infrastructure. (The town looks ripe for gentrification; all it needs is a handful of rich Parisians or foreigners to generate buzz and start a real-estate boom.)

For more information on Viviers, which has been capital of the Vivarais region since the 5th Century, see:

Cruise Photos: Viviers

Viviers Tourist Office

Next page: Avignon

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