Arrive in Barcelona, Catalonia’s magnificent capital, and transfer to embark Corinthian.
The capital of Catalonia, Barcelona is rich in extraordinary works of art and architecture. Tour the narrow alleyways of the Barrio Gotico, the original site of the Carthaginian city, and the Templo de la Sagrada Familia, begun in the 19th century by architect Antonio Gaudi and still unfinished. Also visit the 14th-century cathedral, La Seu.
Built in an amphitheater formation facing the sea, Tarragona is a veritable museumtown, containing remains of practically all of the civilizations that crossed the Iberian peninsula. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Tarragona was taken over by the Romans in 218 b.c., making it the center of their power in Spain. The city was embellished with grand buildings, including palaces, temples, an amphitheater, and defensive walls. Explore Tarragona’s Roman remains, among the best preserved in the Mediterranean, and visit the Archaeological Museum. Also visit the city’s treasures, and have time to explore on your own. Alternatively, drive to the Catalonian countryside to visit the medieval town of Montblanc, and the Monastery of Poblet, one of the largest Cistercian monasteries. Founded in the 12th century, the monastery overlooks the Prades mountains.
From Palamos, on Catalonia’s Costa Brava, explore some of the most important places of this region, including Girona, an ancient city at the confluence of two rivers. Girona has prospered since the Roman period due to its location as a crossroads of commerce. Spend the day touring and enjoying Girona. Alternatively, drive along the coast to Empuries, founded by the Greeks around 600 b.c., and known then as Emporion. Explore the remains of the Greco-Roman cities, and on the return to the ship, stop at the quaint medieval village of Pals, with its narrow and winding alleyway lined with ancient homes.
The Pyrenees mountains come down to France’s Mediterranean southeast corner to form lovely bays, which shelter quaint fishing villages and small towns. This is Rousillon, a region not usually in the country’s main tourist routes. From Port-Vendres, drive to Collioure, perhaps the most attractive coastal town, famed for the beauty of its setting and architecture. After exploring Collioure, drive inland to Céret, whose charms attracted some of the most important artists of the 20th century, including Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris, and others. Visit the excellent Musée d’Art Modern, whose galleries exhibit works by the masters who took residence here, as well as other artists. Outside Céret, stop at Arles-sur-Tech to visit the beautiful 9th-century Romanesque abbey, including the outstanding cloister.
From Port-la-Nouvelle an excursion leads to Carcassonne, one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe. Visit the Musee des Beaux Arts; the Port Narbonnaise, with sections from the reigns of both St. Louis and Phillip the Bold; the Castle; and the pure Gothic gem of St. Nazaire, rebuilt from the original Romanesque to the Gothic style after the victory of the Crusaders. Alternatively, explore Narbonne, an ancient city built on the banks of the Robine River that boasts landmark buildings and museums filled with treasures. Notable are the Cathedral of St.-Just, begun in 1272, and the Archaeological Museum, with its outstanding collection of Roman paintings.
From the port of Sète, an important port on the coast of Languedoc for over 300 years, drive to the ancient city of Nîmes. An important Roman town and favored by Augustus, who embellished it with splendid buildings, Nîmes has beautifully preserved its Roman monuments. Among them is the Amphitheater, one of the best preserved anywhere, and the Maison Carrée, a temple dating from about 12 b.c., known for its harmonious proportions. The Fine Arts Museum houses, among other objects, a large Roman mosaic. Also explore the city’s medieval quarter, clustered around the cathedral, built in 1096.
From the port of Marseille, founded by the Greeks, travel to Aix-en-Provence, the first Roman settlement in Gaul. Tour the Old City, down the leafy Cours Mirabeau, noting the perfect classical proportions of the Hotel de Ville en route to the Cathedral of St-Sauveur, with its medieval art treasures. Also visit the studio of Paul Cézanne, which remains as it was at the time of the Impressionist’s death in 1906.
From Nice—renowned for its lovely gardens, splendid sea-views, and chic boulevards— visit delightful St.-Paul-de-Vence, a medieval village that became a favorite artists’ retreat in the 1920s. Largely rebuilt in 1537 by Francois I, the old fortified town reveals the ramparts that once defended it, while the heights still afford a spectacular view of the mountains and Mediterranean Sea. Visit the Maeght Foundation, whose modern building blends harmoniously with its surroundings and displays an acclaimed collection of 20th-century works by artists including Braque, Chagall, Miró, and Picasso. In the afternoon, enjoy a tour of Nice, including the celebrated Musée Matisse.
Disembark in Nice and transfer to the airport for return flights home.