Falling for France

Falling for France

British actor, Robert Powell indulges in one of his great passions on board Scenic.
If I were to start my career all over again, it would surely be to work in the wine trade. I’m reflecting on this as I am being plied with copious quantities of Beaujolais Villages and bonhomie at a French farmhouse in the wine-growing district of Brouilly.

It's day four of Scenic's South of France river cruise: a meander through one of the world's most fruitful wine-growing regions. I have already racked up four different wine-tasting excursions, despite the wide variety of other choices offered by the ship every day. Why on earth did I ever pursue acting, when clearly wine was my first love?

Our Scenic Space-Ship was our home for a heavenly 12 days, setting sail from Chalon-sur-Saône on a gloriously sunny day, bound for Tarascon via the Saône and Rhône rivers. Its route encompass Beaune, Mâcon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape – names to conjure with if you are a wine aficionado. However, this was really only half the story.

First, there was the ship itself, accommodating 151 passengers, offering a luxurious and laidback way to travel. Cabins were cool, contemporary and capacious, with ensuite shower rooms, plenty of wardrobe space and deeply comfortable beds.

Every guest had the luxury of a complimentary butler service. Our butler, named Tamas, unpacked the luggage, served up drinks and even brought breakfast to the suite (although the daily buffet was a sumptuous alternative).

In fact, with all the great food, wines and cocktails included in the cost of the cruise, my wife Babs and I preferred to work our way around the ship's restaurants: the intimate French themed L’Amour; the informal River Café; the alfresco Sun Deck with barbeques; Crystal Dining with its daily changing menus – and even, one evening, an invitation to the Captain's Table.
Talking of the Sun Deck: this was effectively the entire roof of the ship, and the perfect vantage point for appreciating the moving view, which brings me to the other great joy of taking a journey like this: the trips ashore that allow you better to appreciate the country through which you travel.

So this is how I – and 15 others – found ourselves on our first sightseeing tour to the beautiful city of Beaune. Over subsequent days, we were able to enjoy some of the quintessential highlights of Burgundy and Provence.

I particularly recall the restored, 17th century Château de Cormatin in Tournus; a drive through beautiful Mâconnais countryside to a truffle farm; and a visit to Tournon Castle included an Hermitage wine tasting which didn't disappoint.

A tasty and educational morning was spent at a Châteauneuf-du-Pape winery, and in Avignon we were treated to a private guided tour of the Palais des Papes, dinner and a classical music concert – an evening's experience that was only available to Scenic guests.

Combine that with the ever-changing environment, the images of medieval France, the hugely informative trips to wineries, castles, towns and villages and some of the most beautiful scenery in Europe, and you have an unforgettable holiday.

And, if you love wine, there is no more to be said.