Rolling vineyards, captivating living history, mesmerising topography, gorgeous people and equally gorgeous food are just a handful of factors which have helped France retain its long-held title of the world’s most popular tourist destination. From the charismatic and endlessly romanticised capital of Paris to the snowy peaks of the French Alps to the beautiful summer days of the Riviera; France offers something for everyone within the country’s borders.
France’s network of rivers and waterways criss-crossing through the nation’s 250,000 square miles provide the perfect medium to explore every beautiful nook and cranny the country has to offer – propelling you to places less explored by foot.
And whilst the Seine may be France’s most famous waterway – captivating lovers between historic arrondisements for centuries, the country boasts other major rivers connecting historic cities and beautiful villages.
Few rivers pass through such a distinct selection of climates, cultures and backdrops as the Rhône during its 500-mile-long passage.
France’s second longest river, the Rhône has colonised the idyllic southern stretches of France, protectively anchoring the beautiful towns and villages awash with Mediterranean sun. Beginning life in the purest form, the Rhône is an effluent of a glacier in the Swiss Alps, approximately 2,208ft above sea level.
The river quickly heads south to the cultural city of Lyon, exploring renaissance-era architecture and Roman ruins. Continuing its passage, the Rhône dissects the south of the country paying tribute to ancient communes and historical cities before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.
Serving for centuries as an important highway and trade passage for the invading Greeks and Romans, the Rhône has had a lasting impact upon the aesthetic and culture of France – with many waterside villages, communes and cities exuding this ancient influence.
A cruise atop the Rhône provides a truly unique experience, visiting the villages and communes irrefutably touched by centuries of history. All whilst enjoying the locally produced, and globally adored, wine from the vineyards plonked without pattern on the banks of the river – truly capturing the laid back essence of the celebrated south of France.
Winding through eastern France, the Saône is a major tributary of the Rhône as the two rivers merge in the city of Lyon. The Saône starts life 1,286ft above sea level in the commune of Vioménil and flows for almost 300 miles.
Historically, the river was called the ‘Arar’, which was a doubling of the Indo-European word for Water, Ar – so its name was literally ‘Waterwater’. Luckily the name was changed by invading Celtic tribes, who named the river after the Gallic river goddess, Souconna. Over the following years, this name was progressively transformed to its current iteration by local monks.
Most of the Saône is categorised as navigable, and connects to many other major rivers (other than the aforementioned Rhône), including the Yonne, Marne, Meuse and Rhine. This inter-connectivity has long made the Saône an important part of mainland Europe’s network of waterways.
Splitting some of France’s ripest wine regions, cruising the Saône is a beautiful way to explore some of the most relaxed and quintessentially French stretches of this wonderful nation.
At Emerald Waterways, we offer a brilliant selection of beautiful cruise itineraries up and down the rivers and waterways of France. For the full selection, visit our homepage or call our dedicated team on 0808 301 4705.