The mighty Rhône, one of the major rivers of Europe, begins in Switzerland and passes through France before it pours out into the Mediterranean Sea. Its waters flow past some of France’s most historical places, including Lyon and Provence.
Lyon is home to the appropriately named Rhône Valley, one of the most celebrated wine regions in the south of France, while Provence is home to some of the most beautiful and exotic villages and a place of gastronomic delights.
A boat ride down the Rhône river is a leisurely way to take in the beauty of the French landscapes. You also get to disembark and explore the places along the river. Discover charming villages, admire natural and man-made structures, and know more about the people and their culture.
Related article: From Berlin to Prague: Cruising the Elbe River
Be captivated and enchanted when you experience the following at Rhône Valley:
The must-see places to visit
- Les Baux de Provence village — Named as one of the most beautiful villages in France, this French commune is located atop a rocky outcrop and crowned by the ruins of a castle. Painstakingly restored, this ancient village is now home to historical monuments and antique houses, as well as galleries and museums featuring Renaissance art. Stepping into the village is like going back in time!
- Ardèche Gorge — This natural wonder, which many call “the European Grand Canyon,” draws millions of visitors a year because of its breathtaking views and rich historical and archeological sites. Most visitors begin their exploration of the Ardèche Gorge from the Rhône valley.
- Avignon and the Papal Palace — Located on the left bank of the Rhône river, the city of Avignon was the seat of Catholic power during the 14th century. From 1309 to 1377, seven successive popes resided in the Palais des Papes (Popes’ Palace), the world’s largest Gothic edifice that is both fortress and palace. In 1879, the city became part of France during the French Revolution. The city’s center, which encompasses several structures including the Palais des Papes, the cathedral, and the Pont d'Avignon, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995 because of its architectural beauty and historic importance.
- Orange — A city rich in art and history, Orange is known for its monuments built by the Romans. Two of them, the Roman amphitheatre and the Triumphal Arch, are remarkably well-preserved and were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1981.
Related article: A cruise down the Canal du Midi
The delightful flavors that will tantalize
Rhône Valley is France’s land of gastronomy and, thanks to its many vineyards, home of France’s greatest wines. Here are the places you can visit on your French food trip.
- Lyon — Considered the French capital of gastronomy, the city of Lyon boasts of specialities that evoke a mother’s traditional cooking. Dine on a platter of rosette de Lyon, a pure pork sausage, or cervelas Lyonnais, a sausage stuffed with finely minced pork, truffles, and pistachios. Enjoy them with the fresh, light, and fruity wines of the region.
- Valence — From poultry to truffles, handmade ravioli to cheese and chocolate for dessert, Valence cuisine is bursting with variety and flavor. So too are the wines produced in this region, from Cornas’ powerful tannic red wines with notes of truffle, to fresh white wines with citrus aromas from Marsanne and Roussanne. Meanwhile, St. Joseph’s elegant red wines have blackcurrant, raspberry, and liquorice aromas, while their delightful white wines have honey, acacia, and apricot aromas.
- Montelimar — It is famous for its local nougat, a hard and crunchy confection made with sugar, honey, and grilled almonds. (George Harrison actually name drops it in his song “Savoy Truffle” with The Beatles.) This sweet treat is best enjoyed with a glass of Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, a sweet and luscious golden wine with notes of exotic fruits, dried apricots, and honey.
- Avignon — Aside from being the seat of papal power during the 14th century, Avignon is also a gastronomic’s delight. The arrival of the popes signaled a rapid development of growing grapes. No wonder Avignon is home to a lot of excellent wines, like the elegant and tannic red wines with delicate red fruit aromas or the crisp rosé wines. You will also find a wide selection of olive oil, nougat, honey, and papelines, a delicacy made of chocolate, sugar, and oregano liqueur.
Related article: Queen Mary 2: A trip to the age of elegance
Revel in the sights and sound
- Every summer Vienne hosts an international Jazz Festival. Past festivals included big-named guests like Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton.
- The Grand Lyon Film Festival, dedicated to showcasing classic cinema, draws film lovers and professionals from all over the world.
Cruising by boat down the Rhône River is more fun and exciting if you are with like-minded adventurers who are also eager to experience the not-so-usual. Sign up for membership in Wheel & Anchor, and be part of a community of explorers who are passionate about travelling.