The most charming regions in France for a river cruise

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There's no such thing as typical France. France is the misty, cow-chewedmeadows of Normandy, the sunflower explosion of sunny Provence, and the wild and windswept Brittany peninsula with its distinctive cultural traditions, language and music. Its cuisine is based on butter in the north, olive oil in the south and cheese in the mountains, which can be clad in snow while visitors are sunning themselves on the Riviera.

In short, France isn't so much a single nation as a proud unity of regions, each with their own particular histories, culture and cuisines. You'll realise just that in the destinations visited on Scenic Luxury Cruises and Tours, some of the country's best for regional diversity. Scenic Enrich and Scenic Freechoice signature experiences highlight provincial character and regional nuances through visits to chateaux, cellar doors, regional capitals and villages, and much more besides.

Inspired by Bastille Day – France's 14 July national day, which celebrates a turning point in the French Revolution – we take you on a tour that celebrates the country's regions visited by Scenic, and tackle the difficult task of nominating a top spot for each. There's plenty to choose from, and we hope you're encouraged to visit France and discover all it has to offer. Bon voyage!

THE REGION Dordogne

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Photo: Alamy

WHY HERE The Dordogne region of southwest France, inland from Bordeaux, takes its name from the river running through its rolling hills and prestigious vineyards. Scenic shore excursions take you on tastings of Grand Cru Class wines at Chateau Franc Mayne. The region is full of dainty chateaux, limestone villages and riverside market towns such as fortified Libourne, with its quaint 16th-century townhouses and Gothic church. Scenic also visits Bergerac, which has an impressive medieval centre.

TOP SPOT Saint-Emilion is a World Heritage town, dainty in pale limestone among green vines, and topped by a cloud-scraping church. Walk its gravelled terraces and ramparts above a tumble of cloisters, red roofs and craft shops. Its Monolithic Church was excavated from golden limestone in the 12th century. The soaring bell tower above provides lovely views over vineyards, but equally impressive are the catacombs, explored on a Scenic excursion.

SCENIC SAYS Enjoy a Scenic Sundowners at lovely Chateau de la Rivie`re, surrounded by vines, and watch as a local artist paints the stunning landscape using paint made from the estate's wine.

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MAKE IT HAPPEN Among numerous options, Scenic's 12-day Breathtaking Bordeaux journey begins in Paris and sails the Dordogne River (as well as the Garonne River and Gironde Estuary) in the Bordeaux region. While cruising, Scenic Culinaire provides an on-board masterclass in French cuisine, highlighting regional recipes.

THE REGION Normandy

WHY HERE This northern region, wedged between Paris and the English Channel, was at the centre of French history, and is crowded with fortified towns, cobbled villages and castles such as King Richard the Lionheart's Chateau Gaillard, visited on a Scenic Freechoice option. Rouen is a delight of lively, lived-in medieval streets, and is famously associated with Joan of Arc, whose story you learn on a Scenic walking tour. Other highlights are Monet's gardens at Giverny and WWII's D-Day beaches.

TOP SPOT The charming fishing town of Honfleur at the mouth of the Seine River on the North Sea has a thousand-year history. It has churches devoted to sailors and shipbuilders, half-timber houses galore and a colourful harbour often painted by the Impressionists. A wonderful variety of stylish boutiques adds contemporary flair and the chance to browse while visiting on a Scenic Freechoice excursion.

SCENIC SAYS 2019 marks the 75th anniversary of D-Day, so walk in the footsteps of our brave Aussies on Normandy's historic beaches, the site of D-Day landings, and visit the Landing Museum at Arromanches.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Scenic's river cruises on the Seine sail through Normandy from Paris. Among them is an 11-day Normandy & Gems of the Seine cruise. A Scenic Enrich experience takes you to opulent Chateau de La Roche Guyon, which dates back to medieval times, for a classical concert.

THE REGION Beaujolais and Burgundy

WHY HERE The historic Beaujolais region north of Lyon is nicknamed Golden Stones Country thanks to its golden-hued limestone villages, and is compared to Tuscany for its rolling hills, vineyards and hilltop towns. It gives its name to a wine region, as does larger region Burgundy. A Scenic visit to Chateau Meursault allows a tasting of premium wines. The surprisingly Mediterranean-looking town of Macon sits on the Saone River: you might cycle there from Tournus on a Scenic excursion through picturesque farmland. The great Benedictine abbey at Cluny is a remarkable historical remnant.

TOP SPOT Beaune is Burgundy's wine capital and former seat of powerful medieval dukes. A Scenic Freechoice exploration takes in Hospices de Beaune, a medieval-era hospice that provides fabulous architecture and a fascinating glimpse into medieval medical care. In the market square, inspect Burgundy ingredients such as escargots, creamy cheeses and Dijon mustards.

SCENIC SAYS You should certainly enjoy a wine tasting in the Beaujolais region, which almost exclusively produces red wines, especially from Gamay grapes. There are five wine appellations around Macon alone!

MAKE IT HAPPEN Scenic's river cruises on the Rhone and Saone explore the region. Among them is a 15-day South of France Indulgence itinerary roundtrip from Chalon-sur-Saone that includes a visit to quaint Golden Stones village Oingt and a guided tour of Chateau de Flechere

THE REGION Provence

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Photo: Shutterstock

WHY HERE Lying between the Mediterranean coast and the Alps, Provence combines riverside towns with lavender fields and spectacular Roman-era remains, especially the astonishing Pont du Gard aqueduct. A highlight is Arles, whose streetscapes were painted by van Gogh, but Viviers is also atmospheric, topped by a gargoyled cathedral where, at the end of a Scenic walking tour, you enjoy an organ recital. Delightful Provencal villages include fortified Mediterranean bastion Aigues-Mortes and Les Baux, where a Scenic Freechoice option visits a family olive farm.

TOP SPOT Avignon is a gorgeous limestone city on the Rhone River with a huge medieval papal palace, where a Scenic Enrich experience treats you to an after-hours gala dinner and concert. The cafe- and shop-filled town is enclosed in defensive walls and towers. Shop with a Chef at a local food market and cook regional Provencal dishes afterwards in the on-board Scenic Culinaire.

SCENIC SAYS Take in the wild beauty of Camargue Natural Park on an excursion. Its wetlands are a staging point for migrating birds, and particularly famous for flamingos.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Scenic cruises through Provence include the 14-day Spectacular South of France River Cruise. Scenic Freechoice activities in Provence include an opportunity to sample the celebrated wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

THE REGION Paris

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Photo: Shutterstock

WHY HERE Paris has been endlessly portrayed in paintings, movies and fashion magazines, and its icons are irresistible: the Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame cathedral and The Louvre, which is both the world's largest art museum and a historic monument. But this is also a city of neighbourhoods, rich with daily sights, sounds and – if you take Scenic's Shop with a Chef tour – tastes from local markets. The Ile-de-France region surrounding Paris is dense with royal culture, including magnificent 16th-century Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte, with its stunning architecture and French formal gardens, which is visited as a Scenic option.

TOP SPOT The Eiffel Tower is as magnificent as it is well known. It provides terrific views over Paris; level two is best for photography. The best views of the tower itself are from Palais de Chaillot across the Seine River.

SCENIC SAYS Extend your river cruise with a three-night Paris extension and let a Parisian resident show you another side of the city during a walking tour replete with tales only locals can tell.

MAKE IT HAPPEN Scenic's Seine River cruises, including the 11-day Highlights of Normandy & Gems of the Seine itinerary, sail roundtrip from Paris. Paris is also featured on many other French itineraries, such as the 14-day Spectacular South of France.

PARIS TIPS

● A Scenic tour takes in Paris highlights including the Champs-Elyse´es. Keep an eye out for the distinctive red awnings of Fouquet's, one of the city's most famous cafe´s, a favourite hangout of French movie stars.

● Notre-Dame might be world famous, but few visitors realise the best view of the glorious Gothic building is from Square Jean XXIII behind it, brilliantly showcasing its elaborate flying buttresses.

● Paris is famous for cabaret and burlesque shows. Scenic takes you to Le Lido for dinner and a show that includes singers, exotic dancers and other performers. The renowned venue has been going since 1946.

● A Scenic Freechoice experience lets you explore the Louvre. Mona Lisa is its most famous painting, but don't miss Liberty Leading the People by Euge`ne Delacroix, with its iconic French imagery.

This content has been produced in association with Scenic.

For more information, contact your local travel agent or call 1300 318 067 or see www.scenic.com.au 

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