The pandemic inspired us to plan several boutique cruises in the coming months and years. They allow us to see the world from the comfort of our own bubble, with a friendly group of fellows. However, with only eleven cabins aboard, our French Gay River Cruise may be the most intimate cruise we’ve ever offered. The boat may be small, but the trip will be a huge heap of gluttony. This is France, after all. Including our stop in Paris, read on for a peek at the Top Ten Things we look forward to on this voyage.
10. The Louvre
It’s the world’s most-visited museum, and home to the world’s most famous painting – Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Up to 38,000 items are on display at a time…and that’s only ten percent of the full collection! It even has an outpost in Abu Dhabi that bridges the gap between Eastern and Western art. If you’re an art lover–and even if you’re not–the Louvre should be on your bucket list.
9. Palais Royal
This former royal palace is located in the 1st arrondissement. Right across from the Louvre, it will be easy to admire. Built for Cardinal Richelieu and completed about 1639 by architect Jacques Lemerciermany, it’s been home to the Opera, theatres, even a shopping and entertainment complex. It was popular with aristocracy and peasants. It was the perfect place for an inspired conversation, and picking up prostitutes. Over its life, massive alterations have been made by succeeding inhabitants that included Louis XIII, Louis XIV, and many Dukes.
Today, most of the original design is lost. It’s home to the Ministry of Culture, the Conseil d’État and the Constitutional Council (but no longer prostitutes). However, the central garden–a public park–remains perfect for a Parisian pause.
If it doesn’t hail from the Champagne region of France, it’s just…sparkling wine (*spits in disgust*). Good thing we’ll visit the village of Hautvillers, birthplace of Champagne. Tour the vineyards and cellar of a major producer, and sip on its romantic offerings. The next day we arrive in Épernay, the “Capital of Champagne”. Beneath the town streets are 110km of underground cellars housing over 200 million bottles of, you guessed it, Champagne. En route, you can also admire the region’s steep, undulating vineyards.
For those of us that hail from humble origins, the first croissants we ever knew came in cellophane-wrapped cardboard trays from Costco (*spits in disgust – again*). If you don’t understand the eyeball-rolling satisfaction of a proper croissant, nothing beats the buttery, fresh-baked joy of biting into this pastry, hopefully baked by a surly fellow with a propensity for flakiness. Merci, monsieur!
In 1980 Brie de Meaux cheese was designated an AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) product. Like Champagne only comes from the Champagne region, Brie only comes from Brie, and is named after the town of Meaux. While there we’ll enjoy a guided tour and sample the famous fromage. It has a mellow mushroom flavour, distinct from its cousin Camembert. One might say…wait for it…c’est fromage-idable.
5. Le Marais
This historic district–on the Right Bank of the Seine in Paris–began its Renaissance as a gay village in the 1980s. It compares to the gaybourhoods of America, with a focus on pride and coming out. Expect hip galleries, trendy restaurants, and fashion houses. Revelers from gay night spots spill into the streets, and it’s home to one of Europe’s largest gay cruising bars, Le Dépôt. It’s also where our hotel (see below) is located.
4. Our Accommodations
Both our hotel in Paris, and the barge aboard which we cruise, are impressive in their own right. You can read more about both properties here.
3. The Eiffel Tower
Locally known as La Dame de Fer, or The Iron Lady, you can’t go to Paris and skip the Eiffel Tower. Built as the centrepiece to the 1889 World’s Fair, it was a contentious erection at the time, and criticized by many. Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who made it happen, compared it to the pyramids, as it would be the tallest structure built until then. Today, it remains the tallest tower in France, and is synonymous with the city. It is also part of Paris’ Banks of The Seine UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Madeleine Church
Designed as a temple to the glory of Napoleon’s army, Madeleine Church is clearly inspired by the Pantheon in Rome. After a couple of failed attempts to build a church by the start of the French Revolution in 1789, only the foundations and the grand portico of the building were finished. Work paused while it was debated whether this should become a library, a public ballroom, or a marketplace (among other suggestions). Today it is a parish church with regular religious services…and a quintessential Parisian sight.
1. Joie de Vivre – AKA the Joy of Life
Whether it’s a conversation with a new friend, devouring one of the culture’s many famed foods, or simply breathing in the fresh air as you cruise along the canal, the entire essence of a visit to is to savour life. Having just survived a pandemic, you deserve to stop and smell the roses. Grab a table at a sidewalk café and watch the world go by. Crack open a novel while you sip a Chardonnay. Eat, drink, and be…Marie!? This is one of the most storied countries in the world and you deserve to make the most of it.
Our French River Cruise has room for you! Let us know if you’d like to come aboard.