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Explore France from the Waters

There’s a reason that those who have visited the South of France enter a kind of reverie when you ask them to describe their journey.

THIS IS ONE of the world’s most indescribably beautiful regions—a place where the light is somehow more golden, the sounds softer, the breeze somehow sweeter. Here, and only here, will you discover what F. Scott Fitzgerald describes in Tender is the Night as “the diffused magic of the hot, sweet south.”

Without doubt, the most blissful and serene way to see this special area is by canal. The art of the pleasure cruise has been refined since the 19th century. Almost 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson was Ambassador of France, before he became president of the US. While drifting along the Canal du Midi, Jefferson wrote a letter to his friend, saying, “Of all the methods of travelling I have ever tried this is the pleasantest… You should not think of returning to America without taking this tour I have taken.”

Inspiration is all around you. Wake up early and savour a café au lait on the deck as dawn breaks; watch the mist rising from the water as the sun illuminates the countryside in gold. By night, enjoy the twinkling stars with the perfect accompaniment of excellent company and a warming digestif.

Our crew are passionate about the destinations we visit and it’s easy to see why. In romantic Alsace, you can visit the sandstone cathedral of Vosges and medieval ruins of Lutzelbourg Castle. Avignon, on the River Rhône, was once the seat of seven successive popes, and in its time was the heart of the Roman Catholic world; it’s a fascinating and beautiful area, and offers a wonderful annual arts festival in July, too. Béziers in Languedoc-Roussillon is known for its wines, its bullfighting history and astonishing views over the Orb River and Canal du Midi. Dating back to 3,500BC, Carcassonne has towers and ramparts to explore (as well as Michelin-starred restaurants to dine in). And of course, our barges can visit Champagne, which offers architectural gems galore, as well as the world’s most fêted wine.

We love postcard-perfect Dijon, with its eclectic mix of historic sights and of course, the original Grey Poupon mustard shop. Journey along Canal du Midi and you’ll pass through Languedoc-Roussillon, a region famed for its flavours of thyme, sorrel and tomatoes. Provence is the stuff of dreams; it’s here you’ll see the gauzy, golden light that inspired the likes of Van Gogh and Fitzgerald, and the sight of its lavender fields is breathtaking. The Rhône Valley, finally, offers mesmerising views of lush green vineyards, stretching out towards distant mountains.

Our guests sometimes tell us that after spending time aboard Belmond Afloat in France, they even dream of the tree-lined, peaceful canals in the afternoon’s filtered light. The key is to let the journey unfold, and relax into the magic of the South of France.

Explore France with Belmond

Best of the South

Best of the South

Explore the sandstone cathedral of Vosges and medieval ruins of Lutzelbourg Castle.

This wine region in Languedoc-Roussillon offers stunning views over the Orb River and Canal du Midi.

Explore the ancient towers and ramparts here, and be sure to visit Champagne.

Soak up the eclectic mix of historic sights and don’t miss the original Grey Poupon mustard shop.

Take in the sweeping lavender fields and the golden light that inspired the likes of Van Gogh.

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