France is one of my favorite countries in the world to visit. There are an infinite number of experiences for literally every area of interest. from its diverse nature to vibrant cities, rich cultural heritage, historical monuments and fabulous cuisine to name a few. I recently joined a France river cruise and I must say it was a great experience to explore a part of France from the comfort of a floating hotel. I sailed with Avalon Waterways on their Active & Discovery Rhône River Cruise from Lyon to Marseille. The variety of tours and the relaxed pace allowed me to really appreciate the great diversity of France.
I cruised the Danube with Avalon a few years ago and was very impressed with the variety of excursions. There was literally something for everyone. This time was no different. The cruise definitely lived up to its Active & Discover billing.
There were hiking, kayaking and biking tours, as well as food and cultural experiences. In addition, guests were free to use the ship’s bicycles at any stop. There was plenty of time to get out and explore on my own, one of the aspects of this France river cruise that I appreciated most. These were some of my favorite tours.
Food and hidden passages of Lyon
This great walking tour of Lyon highlights its amazing food as well troublessecret passages in the historic city center.
Our guide, a local lady, took us through a maze of covered passages dating back to the 4th century. Along the way he kept us entertained with a wonderful mix of historical facts, anecdotes and funny stories. Additionally, we visited several delis to sample the city’s famous cheeses, pâtés, and sausages.
The taste of Beaujolais
This excursion to the Beaujolais region north of Lyon was another highlight of the cruise. Along the way we were able to enjoy beautiful hilly landscapes and medieval villages. We stopped by a family winery where we were greeted by the (16th generation) owner.
He told us the history of Beaujolais wines before leading us through a step-by-step tasting of his delicious wines.
After the visit, we continued to Oingt, a gorgeous medieval hilltop town. During our walk around the city, I enjoyed the picturesque streets and stunning panoramic views.
Read more about my experiences on this Avalon Rhone River Cruise.
Our hike in the Ardeche Gorge was another highlight. Often referred to as the ‘European Grand Canyon’, this 30 kilometer long gorge is famous for its Pont d’Arc (natural arch) as well as the Chauvet Cave, home to some of the world’s best-preserved prehistoric cave paintings.
Guests could choose between easy or advanced level hiking or kayaking, all of which offered great views of the Pont d’Arc and the cliffs.
Walking through Avignon
I had been to Avignon before, but this walking tour provided new insights into the city and its rich history. The former seat of the Popes, Avignon is a beautiful city with imposing medieval walls, impressive palaces and charming streets. The highlight of the tour was our visit to the Palace of the Popes, the 14th century residence of the Popes. Read more about Things to see in Avignon.
The tour ended at the Les Halles food market in Avignon, which was an absolutely stunning experience.
I left the group and spent some free time people watching in the cafe. I then continued to explore the maze of lively, colorful streets and found a restaurant in a small square where I enjoyed a sumptuous meal.
This small town near Avignon is home to one of the most famous wines in the world. The tour included an informative and entertaining wine tasting at the Bouachon winery, followed by ample free time to explore the city with its picturesque streets, countless wine shops, and impressive castle ruins. I finished my walk with another glass of local wine at a cafe. Read more about things to do in Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
Hiking in the Alpilles and Carrières de Lumières
This excursion from Arles, a combination of nature and culture experiences, was absolutely unforgettable. As we ascended the rolling Alpine mountains, with their dense pine forests and high limestone outcrops, the magnificent views slowly unfolded. Along the way, I kept catching scents of rosemary, thyme, oregano, and lavender.
The highlight of the hike was the lookout, which offers a panoramic view of one of France’s most beautiful villages, Les Beaux-de-Provence. This medieval village sits on a precarious hillside and is home to the ruins of a castle.
The 1.5 hour hike ended at the entrance Carrières de Lumières, a multimedia show inside an old quarry. This spectacular show featured works by Kandinsky and Cézanne. Read more about my experience at Carrières de Lumières.
On my way back from Le Beau de Provence, I asked the bus driver to drop me off in Arles. I spent the afternoon wandering around Arles, stopping for lunch at a nice cafe and soaking up the atmosphere of the city’s picturesque streets. Famous for its Roman amphitheater, Van Gogh legacy and charming lanes, Arles was a delight to explore.
Oyster tasting in the Camargue
This was another highlight of my France river cruise. From our last port of call, Port St. Louis, we cruised the Camargue lagoons where we spotted lots of flamingos. We stopped at a family owned oyster farm where the son walked us through the process of growing oysters.
Their passion for oysters was contagious and I appreciated their focus on raising quality and sustainable oysters. At the end of the tour we were invited to taste their oysters along with a glass of local wine. It turned out to be an unforgettable experience as these were some of the best oysters I have ever had.
Why I liked the Avalon route
This Avalon Active & Discovery the river cruise in france was absolutely wonderful. Apart from the rooms with panoramic windows and the excellent in-flight service, what impresses me the most is the sheer number, variety and quality of the excursions.
When I got my itinerary, I had a hard time choosing. Excursions such as learning to paint like Van Gogh in Provence, chocolate making at the world famous Valrhona Chocolatier, bike and wine tours and a “ghost walk” in the medieval village of Vivier sounded so appealing. Alas, I had to choose, and I enjoyed every one of them.
On the tours, the groups were always small (±15 people), the guides were excellent, and there was plenty of time to get out and explore on your own.
I also appreciate the fact that Avalon Waterways often chooses to work with smaller, local operators or family-owned establishments that provide an authentic experience. I had a wonderful time and I can wholeheartedly recommend this Avalon Rhone River Cruise.
Note: this post is a result of the #AvalonAD project, a partnership between the Embassy and Avalon Waterways. However, all of the above views are mine and mine alone.