Join AdventureWomen in 2021 for an adventure on a private barge in the south of France! Cruising the Rhone River canals aboard your luxurious, privately chartered hotel-barge is an ultimately dreamy way to discover a less-visited corner of southwestern Provence. Walk the ancient stone streets of sun-splashed villages, photograph the atmospheric beauty of the Petit Camargue, and feast on local specialties. Through highly personal encounters with fascinating local women – from a spirited horse and bull breeder to sister winemakers and a lady oyster farmer – witness the passionate dedication to preserving a unique way of life in this special corner of France.
Fly into Avignon and transfer to Arles to board your barge, the M.S. Anne Marie, privately chartered for your group. Settle into your cabin then raise a glass with your AdventureWomen traveling companions at the welcome dinner. By day, disembark for onshore adventures, returning for leisurely evenings onboard. The barge remains docked overnight. Enjoy the attentive services of the crew, gourmet dining and local vintages (with wine included at lunch and dinner!), and the lovely passing views. You will explore with expert French guides during the day, who will show you the best that southwestern Provence has to offer. You are also accompanied by an AdventureWomen Ambassador, committed to helping make your experience a fun and personally rewarding adventure, and cheering you on as you reach beyond your comfort zone to take on new challenges in your own unique way!
The historic riverside city of Arles sits at the edge of the marshes that border the Camargue. Join the daughter of internationally renowned French photographer Lucien Clergue for a unique, photo-focused tour that highlights Arles’ famous landmarks and its rich artistic heritage. Visit the superbly preserved and UNESCO protected Roman amphitheater that still hosts world-renowned performers. Pay homage to former resident Vincent Van Gogh as you step, almost literally, into his canvasses of Arles’ narrow streets and colorful cafes bathed in magical Provencal light. A special invitation to visit Lucien Clergue’s private photography studio offers a highly personal lens-eye view into his world.
Travel down the lovely Rhone a Sète Canal and dock in Gallician for the night. Rise refreshed and ready for an authentic cowboy (or cowgirl, in this case!) adventure in the Camargue, aptly nicknamed “the Wild West of France.” A hearty welcome by the owner, Manadière (a female rancher), of a traditional breeding ranch draws you into her colorful world of wild Camargue horses and bulls, and the arduous herding work of the local cowboys, the gardians. Witness the rituals of sorting the cattle; the ferrade, branding the bulls; and a whoop-and-holler (with a French accent!) cattle race. Those fabulous felt cowboy hats? There are stores for that!
Experience two local winemaking traditions at two distinctive area estates, with tastings at both. Meet sisters Brigitte and Nathalie, the owners of Petit Chaumont winery near Aigues-Mortes, whose 296 vineyard acres lie deeply rooted in the sands of the Camargue. Learn how their decision to convert to organic grapes in 2008 led to the production of highly awarded “sand” wines. In Palavas-les-flots, visit the historic Chateau de l’Engarran, run by three generations of women winemakers. Tour the estate’s elegant interior with the proprietress and learn the secrets of its excellent contemporary vintages.
Arrive in Sète, the first official port of the French Mediterranean, and your final port of the trip. A full day of food – as local as it gets – awaits, beginning with an introduction to enthusiastic Chef Magali. Follow her through the colorful Les Halles market to choose the freshest local produce and fish, then help prepare a lunch of authentic regional dishes. Bon Appetit!
Continue to the Étang de Thau (Thau Lagoon), where 20 percent of the country’s oysters are produced. Meet Annie Castaldo, a third-generation oyster and mussel farmer, and learn about the fragile environmental balance here and the lagoon’s natural flavor enhancers that give its bivalves a distinctively tasty essence. After witnessing the complex process of production, indulge your taste buds in typical local manner: oysters, bread, butter, and lemon, washed down with a glass of white wine. C’est si bon!
Return to the Anne-Marie and join the captain and crew for your final celebratory evening. Toast to one another, to the bounty of the land and sea, and to the hard-working women, the passionate keepers of local tradition, who introduced you to their very own enchanting corner of France.
- Cruise aboard a privately chartered hotel-barge, enjoying gourmet cuisine and the impeccable service of its crew
- Travel the Rhone a Sète Canal through pastoral landscapes and the stunning salt marsh waterways of the Camargue
- Sample local oysters, produce, and fish at their source, and taste regional wines on location, surrounded by beautiful vineyards
- Explore the Roman architecture and Van Gogh’s artistic legacy in Arles, and tour the walled medieval citadel of Aigues-Mortes
- Join a female horse and bull breeder for an authentic ranch experience, and meet a woman who produces oysters in the time-honored Camargue tradition
What You'll See and Do
- Cooking Class
- Cultural Exploration
- Local Delicacies
- River Cruising
- UNESCO Site
- Wine Tasting
- Women-To-Women Exchanges