CroisiEurope's Charming Provence cruise, France
For six nights and seven days, the 22 berth MS Anne-Marie, a luxurious hotel barge, departs from Arles into the rivers and canal that run through Europe’s largest delta.
This is France’s Wild West with its very own cowboys. The gardian, leathered and wearing their own take on a Stetson, sit astride their white horses to round up the black bulls grazing in the Camargue. Exploring a hauntingly beautiful land sliced by the Grand Rhone and Petit Rhone rivers, the purpose-built hotel barge sails from Arles to Sète.
Excursions pass reed-thatched cottages with Mistral weathered blue and green shutters. Flamboyances of flamingos feed on shrimps in the rose-tinted pools. Drawn to Arles by the light and vibrant colour, artists Gauguin and Van Gogh quarrelled over how best to represent the vivid colours of the Provençal palette. Small and intimate, the 11 cabin Anne-Marie, sedately cruises beneath egrets and ospreys to show guests the highlights of Provence.
Six crew meet us quayside to take our cases onboard and guide us to our cabins. Speaking impeccable English, the purser welcomes us aboard with a toast of Kir Royale.
Canapés of saucisson d’Arles, a sausage made with local pork and beef, signal that this will be a gourmet voyage.
Large windows in a smart and compact cabin give panoramic views of the river and the passing Provençal landscape. Above the two single beds there is a wall-mounted satellite television.
A small desk is ideal for writing postcards home as the rivers meander toward the Mediterranean. Every cabin has a thermostat to regulate the temperature to personal taste.