Saloni Chamberlain immerses herself in France’s culinary havens with a touch of luxury… The cafes of Paris, the expansive vineyards in Bordeaux, the Champagne region and the delicate pastries found in patisseries all over the country are, for many, the epitome of France.
The country is truly a gastronomic delight wherever you go, and it seems there is so much choice that it’s impossible to decide on just one place to visit. It would be ideal to travel through the country, sampling each destination’s delicacies as you go. And with a vast network of rivers through France, river cruising proved to be the perfect way to do just that. River cruising is great as it enables you to travel to different regions of the country and take in a wide range of experiences in a single holiday.
When I used to think of cruising it would invariably conjure up an image of big impersonal ships, retirees and outdated traditions. I imagined it would probably be claustrophobic to be confined to a ship for a week or more, and that there wouldn’t be much to do. However, the reality is far from the truth. With companies like Avalon Cruises, it’s a lovely, relaxing way to travel; river cruising takes you to a variety of destinations, allowing time on shore to explore independently or take part in activities. Unlike ocean cruising, each day there is a new place to see – so there’s no worry that you’ll be on the water for days going stir crazy.
The ships are spacious and modern, with state of the art technology and outstanding accommodation, equipped to hotel standards. With the river ships taking just 150 or so guests, there’s an intimate atmosphere which doesn’t feel crowded – so it doesn’t feel like a one-size-fits-all mass catered holiday. What better way to discover France and all it’s gastronomic havens? A culinary river cruise took me through the centre of France, travelling some of the most well known rivers and regions between the Côte d’Azur and Paris. Another option I considered was from Paris to Normandy’s landing beaches.
Whichever you choose, there’s a wide variety of excursions which you can take part in, from sightseeing tours to guided walks around places of historic interest or visits to gastronomic attractions like a local cheese factory or distillery.
And when you are on board, I found there’s plenty to do. As a foodie, simply cruising through France offers opportunity to sample dishes when on shore, but there’s a much more indulgent way to do it. With a culinary themed river cruise, you get the chance to experience fine dining all holiday long against a stunning backdrop of French landscape, giving a whole new insight into luxury cuisine. Perfect for Francophiles and foodies alike.
There are recognized chefs and food critics onboard providing demonstrations which illustrate how to determine the best ingredients, dishes and accompaniments from the various regions you cruise through – with plenty of samples to taste!
I also found on offer classes in making your own savoury dishes or pastries, cider, beer and wine tastings, and inboard lectures by experts providing explanations of food and wine pairings during dinner. Combining all this with relaxing down-time whilst on board, this was a new and fabulous way to experience gastronomic France. Saloni Chamberlain
Visit Avalon Cruises for more info. Cruises are bookable by calling 0800 6681803. The Grand France Cruise from the Cote d’Azure to Paris was 16 days, with prices from £ 3,545. Images are courtesy of Avalon Cruises.