Adriatic From Venice to Istanbul, in music

Three countries seen from the sea, an elegant cruise liner, evenings in the company of selected artists. We embark for a dream week aboard the Austral of the Ponant company.

Latest edition : 13 March 2015

The trip begins at the end of the afternoon in Venice.

At sunset, the boat glides gently past the enchanting backdrop of the lakeside city with its churches, its small bridges spanning the canals, Saint Mark's Square which is still teeming with people, the Doge's Palace. We could not ask for a better start for a week of cruising between visits, concerts, gastronomy and relaxation!
The time to briefly explore the boat, to attend the presentation of the program, it is already dinner time and the first night on board. Dinner at the gourmet restaurant Le Coromandel keeps its promises: the food is delicious, the service efficient and smiling.

Our cabin (there are only 132) is elegant and discreetly luxurious, like all the spaces on the boat: noble materials, tasteful decoration. We leave the curtains open in order to be awakened by the first rays of the sun.
When we wake up, from the bed, we see the coast passing by, islets that dot a postcard-blue sea.

The choice is vast to spend the morning sailing: conferences, library and piano lounge, yoga, gym, swimming, well-being treatments or even a beneficial relaxation while admiring the arid coast. In the evening, young singers and instrumentalists invite musical escapes. There is no longer any doubt: this week of cruising between navigation and sightseeing, with a little culture in the evening, is ideal for recharging our batteries!


During the first stopover, in Split, we are still full of zeal and opt for the great cultural visit.

Since we are here, we might as well learn ... So let's head to the Mestrovic art gallery where we duly admire the sculptures on display as well as the view of the sea.

The visit continues with the Roman archaeological site of Salona before returning to the seaside and the maze teeming with alleys of the palace of Diocletian, Roman emperor ... It is imperative to take a look at the map beforehand! After having visited again the smallest (and circular) cathedral in the world, the Cathedral of Saint Duje, listened to a small impromptu concert (and obviously bought the group's CD ...), we take advantage of the beautiful promenade by the sea before to get back on board. We missed the musical “tea time” but are on time for the aperitif concert with works by Rossini, Bellini, Donizetti and Verdi. We find our table at Coromandel for a new gourmet dinner.


After a night sailing, arrived in Dubrovnik, rightly nicknamed "Pearl of the Adriatic".

Just like Split, it is part of Unesco's world cultural heritage with its fortified walls, medieval palaces and monasteries, parks planted with orange trees, lemon trees and other agaves ... The capital of the Dalmatian region attracts everyone. day up to 15,000 visitors. As proof, the paving stones of the avenue de la Placa are so smoothed by the steps that we are reflected in them.

Better to go early in the morning, during the lunch break or at the end of the afternoon, when the sun paints the facades with a golden light (and the tourists are a little less numerous). To see: the Franciscan and Dominican monasteries, the Sponza Palace, the Assumption Cathedral with its fabulous treasure and a unique collection of gold and silver relics, the Onofrio fountain, the Church of Saint Blaise (the patron saint of the city) but also the oldest pharmacy in the world (1317) where creams made according to ancestral recipes are still sold.

From monastery to palace, we get lost in the alleys which climb to the assault of the mountain. After taking the cable car to be able to contemplate the city and the Adriatic Sea from above, we descend to visit this splendid city in another way: we go around the ramparts in a kayak with a swimming break in a cove.

8 km to paddle, but worth it. There is so much to see that a day's stopover is not enough. We will have to come back.

With all these splendours we forget that Dubrovnik, south of the Dalmatian coast, near Bosnia-Herzegovina and Montenegro, was also affected by the Croatian War of Independence. Two thirds of its buildings have been destroyed but rebuilt more or less identically.
After this long day of discovering the splendours of this city-museum, we have just enough time to prepare for the Commandant's cocktail and the gala dinner, followed by a concert on the theme "at the birth of romanticism".


During the night, the Austral heads for Greece. In the morning, a little rain brings a little freshness, but whatever, the air remains soft. We take advantage of our little balcony to read a book and doze off, lulled by the powerful music of the waves. Other passengers listen to the pianist in the library, attend a conference, participate in the quiz ....
The sun has come back and we enjoy the barbecue buffet at the restaurant Le Rodrigues until we leave for the coast.


The sea is a little rough and the transfer by zodiac a (very small) not very sporty.

Instead of enjoying the beach in the small bay overlooked by the colorful houses of the picturesque town of Parga, head to the village of Gliki and the Acheron river.
According to legend, it is here that the Styx flowed, the river of the underworld of Greek mythology, which led to the kingdom of Hades. The program included a walk along the banks and in the crystal clear river. But the overnight storm forces a small change.

We only go up part of the river walking in its bed (take shoes that can go in the water!). Due to the storm the day before, the water is cool, but we move forward without fear following the guide. It's impressive to sink into the rocky walls like this, the water rises to the knee, mid-thigh for the adults, and the hips for the little ones who then turn around. Anyway, impossible to go further, the water becomes too deep.
Coming out of the water, we embark on a raft to return to Gliki.

In a typical tavern, we taste local specialties before returning to the zodiac which brings us back, still in turbulent waves, aboard the Austral.


This morning, we get up early: Delphi is waiting for us. Through olive groves as far as the eye can see, we arrive at Omphalos, the navel of the world. It is the meeting point of two eagles released by Zeus to find the center of the world. Apollo moved there after killing Python, the serpent who guarded the first oracle. Since then, it is the Pythia, a young virgin, who delivers her enigmatic words.

Delphi then became the center of the Greek world with temples, treasures (kinds of chapels), a theater, a stadium on the terraces of Mount Paranassos.
After listening to the first explanations of our guide, we continue on our own in order to better immerse ourselves in this incredible site.

By following the Sacred Way of the Temple of Apollo, in a magnificent natural setting, we feel very small ....
After a quick visit of the site museum with all its treasures, the coach drops us off in the village of Delphi. The view over the bay of Iltea is magnificent but we decide that it is high time to buy some souvenirs and to start the local business which, obviously, suffers from the crisis. We make a happy craftsman by buying him a (beautiful) necklace with royal motifs.


But this day has a second strong point in store for us. The navigation continues towards the famous Corinth Canal.
It was with a golden shovel that Nero inaugurated in the year 67, the construction work of the canal carried out by 6,000 Jewish prisoners. When he died, the project was abandoned, too expensive.

It was not until 1882 and the creation of the International Society of the Corinthian Maritime Canal by, among others, the French banker Jacques de Reinach that they resumed. 30 million gold francs were invested to cut a channel through the narrow strip of land that separated the Gulf of Corinth in the Ionian Sea from the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea.

But the work, scheduled to last only 4 years, was much more complicated than expected and the company went bankrupt. The shipyard was not taken over by a Greek company until 1893, and it was in 1893 that the first ship was finally able to use the canal. Crossing this artificial waterway, more than 6 km long, 21 m wide and only 8 m deep, only allows small barges and small cruise ships to pass.

Guided by a pilot boat, they avoid a detour of 400 km around the peninsula. A reduced attendance therefore which makes the canal unprofitable. At each entrance to the canal, a submersible bridge makes it possible to cross it, as do “traditional” bridges (which also allow land tourists to have superb views of the canal). The crossing between the rock walls which rise up to 80 m, is spectacular.


We ignore the visit of Delos, a tiny island of 3.5 km and its remains. We have had our quota of cultural tours and are eagerly awaiting arrival in Mykonos. Small disappointment when arriving on the most touristic and trendy island of the Cyclades: by dint of seeing the same images of white houses, blue roofs and mills everywhere, we look for them in vain when arriving in the beautiful Venetian port of Chora (but which is called after the island, Mykonos).

Which nevertheless has a lot of charm and all the same still some pretty mills, phew!
Blue roofs, not a lot, but the village is really all white.

As we walk through the village, we meet a little old woman who is repainting ... the alley in front of her house! During the day, with revelers from all over the world still in bed, the small streets exert all their charm.


We leave Greece to arrive in Turkey where the Austral stops at Dikili near the archaeological site of Pergamon. That we also skip in favor of a stroll in Dikili and its market where you can really find everything.

But now the Austral is already embarking for Istanbul where our cruise ends. In the early morning light, we still admire the silhouette of the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia and modern buildings. All we have to do is take the shuttle to the airport ...


The cruise

“Offer legendary stopovers or reach the most secret ports, only accessible to small-capacity ships.

Offer, in complete privacy, the delights of a refined table, the thousand attentions of discreet service, unforgettable moments of relaxation aboard elegant yachts full of character. Combine refinement and conviviality, favor emotion and discovery, seek excellence. This is what the prospectus promised us. Well, what can we say other than: promise kept!




Musical cruise offered by the Compagnie du Ponant, French cruise ship owner. Five boats, all under the French flag, make up the fleet, symbolizing the Art of sea travel. They are luxury and small-capacity yachts, the Austral and the Boréal being the largest with 132 cabins. All cruises on

I loved :

Anne-Lise : “The service always smiling; the comfort of the cabins; the quality of the meals; cocktails; the excursions offered. "

Hervé : “Everything! The concerts, the choice of restaurants, a series of visits without having to change hotel every day. "