Embark on an elegant “Tour de France” following the roads from the past. On this 16-day itinerary, uncover the history of France from the Greek and Roman occupation in Southern France, through medieval times in the Pyrenees, up to the Renaissance in the Loire Valley, and concluding around Paris admiring the splendors of the Grand Siècle of King Louis XIV.
Suggested journey at a glance: 16 days/15 nights including six nights on a luxury barge traveling along the Canal du Midi and pre- and post-cruise extensions in Arles, Lacave, Loire Valley, Versailles, and Paris
This suggestion is just one of many ways to experience a Canal du Midi river cruise on your own customized Ker & Downey itinerary. Our designers are at their best when crafting a journey unique to you; contact us to get started planning, and read on to see one example of what’s possible.
Begin first in the port town of Marseilles where you will discover France’s Greek and Roman heritage, and the landscapes where Van Gogh and Cézanne found their inspiration. From your provincial farmhouse accommodations at Le Mas de Peint, you will have unparalleled access to the flamingoes and white horses of Camargue. Take time to explore the architectural marvels of the Carré de Nimes and the historical vestiges of Arles, founded by Julius Caesar.
Canal du Midi Cruise
Your journey through the ages culminates on the Canal du Midi—a UNESCO protected waterway linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic—aboard your elegant eight-passenger river barge, aptly named Enchanté. Meander through a vast diversity of scenic landscapes and 328 locks, aqueducts, bridges and tunnels, all of which were imagined by the Romans and constructed under the Sun King himself. Along the way, enjoy “slow travel” at its most luxurious, with delicious food, a friendly crew, and some light activities, from bicycle excursions to cocktails by the hot tub on the sundeck. You will also have the opportunity to discover picturesque historic villages, as well as the Pre-Roman Oppidum of Enserune and the Roman city of Narbonne. Visit an olive oil farm, a winery in a renowned Minervois domain (dating back to the Crusades), and Europe’s largest medieval fortress, Carcassonne, a UNESCO heritage site.
After exploring the medieval fortresses and prehistoric caves of the Dordogne Valley, travel next into the Renaissance era of France via the gilded chateaux and incomparable luxury of the Loire Valley. While here, the Count and Countess de Vanssay will open their prestigious 17th-century home, Chateau de la Barre, to you as their esteemed guests. A day trip to Le Mans reveals a time-tunnel experience through the medieval Plantagenet City. Follow the Gallo Roman walls along the Sarthe river, which Viking conquerors sailed along 1,200 years ago.
Conclude your journey in Paris, entering France’s Grand Siècle era. While in the City of Lights, visit some of France’s major historical sites in a 1940s vintage Citroen convertible; experience the Louvre with an expert art historian, retracing the artistic history of Paris; and explore the wonders of Versailles with a private tour of Marie Antoinette’s Trianon Palace and theater. You also have the option of renting the Versailles palace after hours, privatized for you to avoid the crowds.
Ready to say bonjour to a Canal du Midi river cruise? Contact a Ker & Downey designer to customize your own journey to France. Read more about the seasonality and pricing on the Ker & Downey Difference. Every journey you’ll read about on our website is completely customizable. We have hundreds of itineraries designed by Ker & Downey experts, ready to be tailored just for you – get in touch to get started on your own custom journey.