For six nights and 7 days, the 22 berth MS Anne-Marie, an expensive lodge barge, departs from Arles into the rivers and canal that run by way of Europe’s largest delta.
That is France’s Wild West with its very personal cowboys. The gardian, leathered and sporting their very own tackle a Stetson, sit astride their white horses to spherical up the black bulls grazing within the Camargue. Exploring a hauntingly lovely land sliced by the Grand Rhone and Petit Rhone rivers, the purpose-built lodge barge sails from Arles to Sète.
Excursions cross reed-thatched cottages with Mistral weathered blue and inexperienced shutters. Flamboyances of flamingos feed on shrimps within the rose-tinted swimming pools. Drawn to Arles by the sunshine and vibrant color, artists Gauguin and Van Gogh quarrelled over how finest to symbolize the vivid colors of the Provençal palette. Small and intimate, the 11 cabin Anne-Marie, sedately cruises beneath egrets and ospreys to indicate friends the highlights of Provence.
Six crew meet us quayside to take our instances onboard and information us to our cabins. Talking impeccable English, the purser welcomes us aboard with a toast of Kir Royale.
Canapés of saucisson d’Arles, a sausage made with native pork and beef, sign that this will probably be a connoisseur voyage.
Massive home windows in a wise and compact cabin give panoramic views of the river and the passing Provençal panorama. Above the 2 single beds there’s a wall-mounted satellite tv for pc tv.
A small desk is good for writing postcards residence because the rivers meander towards the Mediterranean. Each cabin has a thermostat to control the temperature to non-public style.
A shiny white toilet gives a spacious bathe and white towels. Toiletries are by Croisi.
Primarily, the Anne-Marie is a floating French village. Beneath the solar parasols, on the bistro-style tables, are pots of pink geraniums.
Because the day lengthens, the café transitions right into a bar and a few friends take their prosecco into the jacuzzi. As French because the pain-au-chocolat for breakfast, the ship even carries a set of boules for onshore night video games.
A chic waiter-service restaurant is on the coronary heart of the ship. As soon as every week, a meal is served al fresco. Earlier than lunch and dinner, Jonathan Nicoise, the chef, proudly declares the menu in each English and French. His menu, adapting because the seasons develop, introduces Provence on a plate and thru its wines. Seafood comes recent from France’s largest fishing port at Sète. Beef for the gardianne de taureau – a pink wine, beef, onion and orange casserole – is sourced from the area’s well-known black bulls.
When moored at rampart-walled Aigues-Mortes, the one potential dessert is the city’s well-known fougasse speciality: a light-weight focaccia-like dough served with crème anglaise. At lunch and dinner, friends are launched to a choice of the area’s wines. Though there’s a alternative of pink, rosé and white, deep within the sunny south of France, the rosé is commonly the diners’ alternative. So long as he’s given discover, the chef can adapt to satisfy particular person tastes: catering for vegans, vegetarians, allergic reactions or just tastes.
Earlier than the ship sails from Arles, a morning tour heads to a farm the place each autumn over 10,000 olive timber are shaken to reap the crop. Tasting olive oils reveals the delicate variations the mix of olives makes, generally barely bitter, generally with spicy notes.
A guided tour explores the traditional limestone city of Arles, generally known as Little Rome for its amphitheatre and surviving Roman relics. Van Gogh blues and yellows have helped make the city a vacation spot for worldwide photographers.
The subsequent day the ship heads into the distant salty marshes of the Camargue. White horses gallop previous and hen music carries from financial institution to financial institution. Prawns feed on the pink algae within the water. When the flamingos devour these prawns their plumage turns pink, significantly because the mating season approaches.
An tour heads to Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, a coastal city that celebrates two Maries. One Marie, tragically died of heat-stroke in futile pursuit of her love. Under the fortified church’s altar, there’s an unofficial shrine to the Gypsy Queen with worshippers asking her to make their needs come true.
Crusing on into the Rhone – Sète Canal, the MS Anne-Marie heads for picturesque rampart-walled Aigues – Mortes. A central statue remembers Saint Louis, the pious French king, who made the city his departure port for the Crusades.
The “waters lifeless” have silted up and the city is 5 kilometres from the shoreline, although now there’s a canal to the Mediterranean. A tour of the city concludes with a practice by way of the otherworldly landscapes of the salt flats and the spectacular pictures displayed within the salt museum.
Because the voyage continues one other tour takes within the manades the place bulls are bred. A go to to a string of lagoons at Étang de Thau showcases oyster farming.
Different good touches
Each wardrobe hosts biking helmets. Bikes, parked on the highest deck, can be found to cycle alongside the towpath for a number of miles.
Pre-lunch and pre-dinner aperitifs carry friends collectively to speak over their adventures.
Departing fifteenth October 2022 or on numerous dates between March and August 2023, costs for the seven-day cruise between Arles and Sète begin from £2,380 per individual. That value consists of all meals and drinks, all excursions, use of onboard bicycles and port taxes however excludes flights. For a further cost, CroisiEurope can present transfers from airports, often Marseille or Montpelier, and railway stations.
The perfect bit
A CroisiEurope river cruise takes the stress and pressure out of journey. While friends eat, sunbathe or sleep the ship serenely sails on to the subsequent vacation spot.
Fastidiously deliberate excursions present cruisers the perfect of the area, with skilled English talking guides offering fascinating commentary.
The closing verdict
French by way of and thru, CroisiEurope brings Gallic model and panache to river cruising. Visitors calm down into the light slow-travel rhythms of a journey by way of a few of France’s most spectacular landscapes. It is a cruise that explores an attractive French area that’s usually ignored.
Disclosure: Our voyage was sponsored by CroisiEurope.