Twin Towns and a Colorful City
On the fourth day of the cruise, we called on Tournon and Tain l’Hermitage. Nestled on either side of the Rhône River, these historic villages are encircled by rolling hills and terraced vineyards, creating a charming countryside scene. The two towns are connected by the Marc Seguin footbridge, a historic bridge designed by French engineer Marc Seguin, who invented the wire-cable suspension bridge.
Tournon is home to a striking 16th-century castle called the Château de Tournon, which is atop a granite rock. The castle now operates as a museum, featuring period furnishings and artifacts from the Renaissance Era to the present day.
Just behind Tain l’Hermitage on the hill of Hermitage, the Chapel of St. Christopher marks the birthplace of Syrah, also known as Shiraz, a grape variety responsible for producing some of the darkest full-bodied red wines in the world.
Overnight, we continued south to Mâcon, a vibrant city with buildings of burgundy, yellow, rose and cream lining the waterfront and multicolored umbrellas suspended over many of the streets. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the city became one of the most important cultural centers in the region, giving rise to notable figures such as Alphonse de Lamartine, one of France’s greatest poets.
On Rue Dombay, a trendy pedestrian street in downtown, visitors will discover a curious landmark called the Maison de Bois, or Wooden House, a 15th-century building with an ornate wooden facade and dramatic carvings of men, monkeys and other animals. Another notable site in town is the Church of St. Pierre, a three-story Romanesque church with beautiful twin steeples.
Sailing Through Wine Country
The next morning, we arrived in Chalon-Sur-Saône, a city of art and history in the heart of the Burgundy wine region. It is the birthplace of Nicéphore Niépce, the inventor of photography, and home to the Nicéphore Niépce Museum, where groups can view over 6,000 cameras and optical objects. The centerpiece of downtown is St. Vincent Square, a restaurant and shopping plaza surrounded by charming, timber-frame buildings and the Chalon Cathedral.
Just 30 minutes north, the picturesque, cobbled town of Beaune is known as the capital of Burgundy wines. Visitors can wander through quaint shops, bookstores and bars in its walkable city center. The town’s most recognized landmark is the Hospices de Beaune, a rare specimen of Gothic architecture with ornate yellow-, green- and red-tiled roofs. The lavish hospital was designed during the 15th century as a “Palace for the Poor,” catering to the poor and disadvantaged.
On the final day, our cruise ended in Lyon. Based at the confluence of the Rhône and Soâne rivers, Lyon is one of France’s most remarkable and historic cities. Because of its size, it is necessary to tour the city in part by bus, with stops at significant sites such as the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which offers a breathtaking overlook of the city.
In the old quarter of Lyon, travelers can trace the footsteps of the French Resistance through secret passageways known as “traboules” that connect various buildings throughout the district. Today, many of the hidden tunnels are marked by a bronze shield.
Bordering the Rhône River, the Parc de la Tête d’or, the largest urban park in France, which features 290 acres of towering trees, gardens and lake property.