"So, what are you going to do on your Travelscope Flavors of Burgundy and Provence cruise aboard Emerald Waterways next July,” one of my viewers asked me.  While I could spend hours speaking about the joys of traveling in France, I restrained myself and answered the question as succinctly as possible --- “A lot.”

I guess some details are in order.  To begin with, river cruising offers the obvious pleasure of not having to pack and unpack your bags for every new town you want to visit.  In addition, Emerald Waterways’ passengers are offered a full itinerary of fascinating stops and plenty of choice when they get there. We cruise from Lyon to Avignon and then back to Lyon.  Basically, following in the footprints of our Emmy Award-wining Season 9 France – Following the Rhone Travelscope episode.  In addition to cruising aboard the 136-passenger Emerald Liberté, being a fabulous adventure in and of itself, all along the watery path France’s cornucopia of culinary delights will be presented to us.

We will enter the caves of some of the world’s best-known and beloved wineries.  From private tastings at world-renown Châteauneuf-du-Pape to samplings of little known, but equally intriguing wines, this exclusive river voyage presents our chance to augment our wine sense in an atmosphere overflowing with French joie de vivre.  And the wine country pleasures will extend beyond full glasses to exquisite vineyard-rich views and to marketplaces overflowing with the produce, cheeses, olives, meats and other delicacies of Provence and Burgundy.

After shoving off from Lyon to where we shall return, Tournus is our first port-of-call.  While there’s the 11th century Romanesque church of St. Philibert to take in, we’re on a culinary journey so we have truffles to hunt – and taste.  We might as well start at the top, right?  If you’re not into truffles and escargot, optionally, you can hop on one of Emerald Waterways’ electric bikes and ramble through quaint French villages and make your own Gallic discoveries.  Either way, back on board, there’s the opportunity to learn about and revel in the World of French cheeses.  Remember that Charles de Gaulle once complained, “How can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six different kinds of cheese?”  It been more than 60 years since he said it and there are probably more than a 1,000 different cheeses now.

Since the cruise promises to offer us expert presentations and exciting samplings of some of the regions’ premier wines, in Belleville-sur-Saône we will meet the fruity, floral wines of Beaujolais. That is if you didn’t already meet her during an onboard lunch or dinner.  Wine is included during meals on Emerald Waterways’ ships so when we’re “at river” you can expect to be introduced or have another try of many of the wines we’ll get to know on land.

Next stop, we’ll join the other passengers for a trek through the beautiful vine-laden village of Tain l‘Hermitage, famous for the mostly Syrah-based Hermitage AOC, Crozes-Hermitage AOC and Cornas AOC wines.  Here you’ll learn that what goes best with hearty red is fine chocolate.  We’ll learn that lesson first hand at the Valrhona Chocolate tour and tasting.  Optionally, those who are able to withstand the temptation of luscious dark chocolate, can enjoy a guided walk of the Tain l’Hermitage’s terraced vineyards.  The view from the top of the Rhone River and verdant French countryside is truly spectacular.  

During the 14th century, the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church saw fit to move the papacy from then-troubled Rome to the fortified Provençal city of Avignon on the Rhône River.  Avignon became the seat of the Roman Catholic papacy for much of the next 100 years.  Of course, one of the highlights of our visit to Avignon is the Palais des Papes.  While Architecturally and historically fascinating, I believe for us gastronomes the real highlight of the visit will be les Halles d'Avignon, the famous 19th-century covered market where we will sample foods and wines.  The pièce de résistance of the day will be the Provençal feast prepared by Chef Fabien Morreale for our onboard dinner, a selection of many of the delightful ingredients we have by now come to know and love.  

The ruined 14th-century medieval castle perched on a hill above a village of 2,000 people may be all that is left of the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape -- Chateau of the New Pope -- but it still has stories to tell.  Built for Pope John XXII, the second of the nine popes of Avignon, it was also inhabited by the antipope Clement VII, its bricks were used to build the village and it withstood total destruction by the Nazis in World War II.  Never mind, on our return journey to Lyon, it will serve as a signpost for one of Beaujolais’ most famous vintages.  We will learn all about the red and white wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape during an exclusive tour and tasting of wine and other local products.
At the end of our Rhone River tour we return to Lyon, the culinary capital of France, where we’ll hit the scenic highlights on foot or by bike.  Those highlights include Lyon’s UNESCO Old Town, the Place des Terreaux, the Fourviere Basilica, as well as Croix Rousse, the old weaver’s district, where many of Lyon’s local eateries or bouchons can be found.  Nearby is Les Halles de Lyon, its rendition of France’s bountiful covered markets.  It’s known as the best spot in town for sampling local specialties.

For more information on Joseph and Julie’s grand Burgundy and Provence cruise adventure visit www.Travelscope.net/FrenchCruise. Use the Travelscope Code TRVLSCOP and save $100 per person. I look forward to toasting you and having a bon voyage together next summer.