A river cruise along one of the country’s rivers will allow visitors to experience the varied landscape, cities, and towns that make this area so special. A cruise along the Rhône River or the Saône River will bring cruise travelers through the heart of Burgundy and Provence, which features delicious food and wine, as well as beautiful scenery along the river. France’s Seine River will bring cruise visitors through Normandy, where grand monuments of established cities and medieval centers of bustling market towns and sleepy river villages await them.

French History and Geography

The land of France extends from the Rhine River on the east to the Atlantic Ocean on the west, and from the English Channel in the north to the Mediterranean Sea in the south. The country’s name is thought to have originated from the Franks, a Germanic tribe that occupied northern Europe after the Roman Empire lost control of the area. The borders of the modern country are approximately the same as those of ancient Gaul.

Gaul was part of the Roman Empire until the 4th century A.D., when its eastern frontier along the Rhine River was overrun by Germanic tribes, especially the Franks. In the 5th century the Franks converted to Catholicism, so France attained the title of “eldest daughter of the Church.” Existence as a separate entity began in 843 with the Treaty of Verdun, which divided Charlemagne’s Carolingian empire into East, Middle and Western Francia—the latter a precursor to the modern country. The Carolingians ruled until 987 with Hugh Capet was crowned, beginning the era of the Capetians, which continued until the French Revolution in 1789. The monarchy reached its height during the 17th-century reign of Louis XIV, known as the “Sun King.” During the Revolution King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette, a Habsburg from Austria, were executed along with thousands of other citizens. In 1799, Napoleon Bonaparte seized control and remained in charge until his final defeat in 1815 at the Battle of Waterloo.

From the 17th to the 20th centuries, France was very active in the colonial movement, and had the second largest empire after that of the British. In spite of its official victories, the country suffered enormous losses during both World Wars, and eventually lost possession of its colonies such as Indochina and Algeria. Now it is a leading member of the European Union. Home to 64 million people, France is the 23rd most populous country in the world. Like many modern countries, it is facing rural depopulation issues as people flock to the cities, and is also absorbing immigrants from other European countries and from Africa every year. According to the World Health Organization, France has the finest healthcare system in the world.

Fabulous Destinations in France

Visitors to Paris always enjoy seeing its famous landmarks, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the palace of Versailles, and spending time in the world-class museums like the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay. Cruising on the Rhône River and Saône River brings travelers through the regions of Burgundy and Provence, while a Seine River cruise goes through the heart of Normandy to its historic beaches. The French language and culture have had enormous influence on western culture and democratic ideas, and most cruise travelers agree that the French cuisine is simply sensational. Even if you have traveled to France before, a river cruise is a great way to see the country from a new perspective, allowing you to experience grand cities, vibrant market towns, and quaint river villages all in the same trip.