We’ll always have Paris. But north and south of the capital lies a bevy of fascinating destinations that reveal la belle France in all its rich sensual, historic, and cultural diversity. Which direction to go? That’s not a dilemma if you choose Vantage’s Treasures of France: a Grand River Journey from Normandy to Provence. We specifically created this comprehensive, deluxe French river cruise to satisfy your desire for beaucoup de France, in the most leisurely and pleasurable way possible. This itinerary combines our two popular cruises along the Seine and the Saone and Rhone rivers, sailing the length of France during spring, summer, and fall (new departures have recently been added due to high demand.)
Here are some seasonal delights to look forward to as you cruise from the top to the bottom of France.
Normandy: Visit the WWII landing beaches at Pointe du Hocaround June 6, and you’ll be there in time to commemorate the 71st anniversary of the D-Day Invasions. Nearby inHonfleur,the 154thSailors Festival begins on Whitsunday (May 24), with a regatta, blessing of the fleet, and fair. The patron saint of France is honored in Rouen May 30–31 during theJoan of Arc Festival, a time for pageants, medieval markets, and performances. In the stunning village of Les Andelys you can explore the ruined clifftop castle of Richard the Lionhearted, then amble down to town for a Spring Fair in April, painting and music festivals in June, Heritage Days in September, and a Fall Feast in October.
Ile de France: Paris and its environs boast innumerable year-round events, but let’s call out a few: The Paris Zoo de Vincennes reopened in April 2014 after a four-year renovation, and the celebrations will continue through 2020! This is not your father’s zoo, but a complex of five biozones representing Sahel- Sudan, Patagonia, Europe, Guyana and Madagascar. You think Paris is not a beach destination? Think again. In July and August the city shuts off automobile traffic at various locations along the Seine, and creates a beach setting (replete with sand) for what has come to be known as “Paris Plage.” Vantage’s French river cruise ships have complimentary bikes on board, but if you’re tooling around the Champs-Elysées in July, make way for the Tour de France riders who complete the famous race here. In October, the Vendanges de Montmartre celebrates the wine harvest with a fair and fireworks. June and July bring the Versailles Festival, when the opulent royal playground becomes even grander with ongoing concerts and shows.
Burgundy: Between June–July, Lyon celebrates the Nuits de Fourviere, a theater and music event hosted in a Roman theater. The first day of fall brings the Festival of Gastronomy, with food and cooking demonstrations by renowned chefs and caterers all around town. Discover Beaune in early to late July to enjoy the International Festival of Baroque Opera, in September for the Festival of Jazz and Wine. Dijon celebrates music, culture, and dance with its annual Fetes de la Vigne et Folkoriades in August, and in late October there’s the Dijon International Gastronomy Fair. And of course, just about every week in Burgundy and Beaujolais offers a wine fair, so come raise a glass.
Provence: From May-October (except in July) there are numerous dates for the Route des Artistes in Saint Rémy, when the town squarebecomes an outdoor market for more than 100 artists.Then, the performing arts find their most famous stage set at the Avignon Festival, the most prestigious theater event in Europe. The stars come out to perform at the Papal Palace and other venues. Get your feather boas out and join the biggest, craziest, most colorful Mardi Gras in France in Nice and Marseilles (March.Nice also boats a Jazz Festival in July; and Marseilles has its French Winegrowers and Farmers Spring Fair (late March to early April), and in October, la Semaine de Gout (Tasting Week.)
With such a bounty of seasonal delights, it’s safe to say that no matter when you take your Vantage French river cruise, the time will always be right.