A Journey through France

This was one for the ages. A Scenic River Cruise on the Rhone River in France. I hadn’t been to France in a long time so I was looking forward to a re-immersion in French culture. The good life of French food, wine, cheese, and the sights and French people. Combined with a visual feast of the French countryside via the Rhone and it’s very hard to beat this journey.

River cruises are exploding in popularity and there are a multitude of reasons why. In Europe, you get it all – history, culture, food, wine, sights and convenience in one trip. There’s a wide variety of river cruise lines and destinations to choose from including Europe, Russia, Asia and Egypt. Without  question, Europe leads the way as a destination. And Scenic River Cruises do too.

Admittedly, the Rhone River is not the most beautiful river in Europe. The Rhône originates in the Swiss Alps, upstream from Lake Geneva and flows over 800 kilometers south all the way to the Mediterranean Sea. Before railroads and highways were developed, the Rhône was an important inland trade and transportation route, connecting the French cities of Arles, Avignon, Valence, Vienne and Lyon to Mediterranean ports. It could take 3 weeks to navigate. And it is still used today, as are many large rivers, for commercial barge traffic. Between ports, you don’t get the visual postcard that you do on the Rhine or the Danube. But you do get some of France’s best known wine regions – Burgundy, Beaujolais, the Cote du Rhone. And you also get Lyon with its history, amazing restaurants and silk works. In the south, you can’t beat the region of Provence with its sumptuous cuisine, medieval towns, fields of lavender and landscapes made famous by Van Gogh, Cezanne and others.

So, without further adieu, let me give you a visual sampling of a “must” trip:

The Scenic Emerald

Chateau de Tarascon

Vivers, France

The Grand Tinel in the Papal Palace

Overlooking Lyon

Beaujolais, FranceScenic Cruises does it right. Absolutely everything is included- in-room mini-bar, all drinks, Wi-Fi, all excursions, 5-star dining, butler service and nightly entertainment. Cabins are luxurious and the ship feels brand new. There are numerous special extras including Table la Rive (intimate fine dining), River Cafe (all day dining), Scenic Tailormade (personal tour GPS handheld devices), and hard to choose daily excursions. This is luxury, make no mistake about it. In the span of 7 days, our journey takes in Provence, Tarascon, Avignon, Viviers, Vienne, Lyon, Beaujolais  and Macon.

The upper deck on the Scenic Emerald

 

Dawn on the Rhone River, near Avignon

Scenic staff and guest

Navigating the Locks on the Rhone River, France

There’s only 2 reasons not to consider a river cruise. Money- a quality river cruise is not cheap but does represent great value – you get it all with no hassles. (By booking well in advance, you can take advantage of early booking discounts; travel in off-peak times and you’ll save too). Your age- you really need to be on the other side of 40 years old. (While you could keep to yourself, it’s a lot more fun to socialize with your fellow cruisers).

Now I’m off to ponder my next river cruise…

Cheese on board the Scenic EmeraldThe food on the Scenic EmeraldCruising on the Scenic Emerald

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Viviers, France – Medieval Icon

Like many medieval towns, it’s best years and peak population (30,000) are well behind it. This formerly walled city dates back to the 5th century.There are now about 4,000 inhabitants but Viviers remains remarkably well preserved. Cars are heavily restricted (largely due to the narrow streets) and its cobbled rues are welcoming. The town itself does a remarkable job protecting its heritage and history. The Cathedrale Saint-Vincent de Viviers is one of the oldest cathedrals in France. Most of Viviers looks like it probably did centuries ago. It’s like taking a step back in time…

Cathedrale Saint-Vincent de Viviers

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The streets of Viviers

The main square in Viviers

Overlooking Viviers

Vivers

Walking into Viviers