River Cruises in Southern France

A river cruise from Dijon to Marseilles serves up a healthy portion of quintessential France. Of course, many of the huge European themes covered in the cruisereader.com articles on Rhine and Danube cruising apply to southern France, as well. However, there are some topics that seem to be particularly suited to this land of “le bon vivant”, (good living).

Rhone River Cruise Van Gogh

Van Gogh’s “Starry night over the Rhone” was a warm-up for his more famous expressionistic “Starry Night”. Via Wikimedia Commons

Check out pages 154-155 in your National Geographic Visual Atlas of the World and you’ll see that Dijon is not that far south of Paris. You will be traversing over half the “height” of France. In fact, you are basically motoring down a crease in the Earth’s topography between the Alps, to the east, and the Massif Central highlands of central France, to the west. This crease has been a highway from the Mediterranean to Central Europe for 2,500 years, at least.

First, we’ll ramble through some political history. This area has made some interesting contributions to the chronicles of Europe. Greeks, Romans, and Germanic tribes, oh my! That’s just the beginning. We’ve got counts, dukes and kings galore.

Next, we’ll look at some specific aspects of Christian history that show up here. You’ll probably remember something about the Avignon Popes from 10th grade World history. I suspect the story is far more convoluted than any lesson fragments you have managed to retain. And then, there’s the really controversial stuff about, first, the Knights Templar, and second, Mary Magdalene. Trust cruisereader.com to plunge ahead where other journalists fear to tread!

river cruise southern France

Titian’s penitent Mary Magdalene in the woods of southern France. via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, we’ll raise a toast to the good life of this unique region. You will be floating past some of the most exclusive wineries and restaurants in the world. Leave all hope of gastronomical discipline at home. You can pretend to be rich and famous in Cannes, or the Riviera. Who knows who you might see? Save some time to check out the famous art exhibitions for some of your favorite artists. We’re talkin’ Chagall, Matisse, Van Gogh, and Picasso.

What a great trip. This is the France of A Year in Provence. You might also like A Traveller in Southern France. History buffs will like The Road from the Past: Traveling through History in France. For an amusing take on the differences between French and American sensibilities, pick up I’ll Never Be French (no matter what I do): Living in a Small Village in Brittany. This is the countryside living that beguiles travelers from all over.

“Vive la France”! And Bon Voyage.