Slow tourism: Top 5 destinations for unlicensed river cruises

River cruising is a way of travelling that invites you to slow down and connect directly with the elements that surround you. This practice is known as slow tourism and consists in living holidays as a parenthesis where we take the time to live, to admire nature and all that makes the richness of the territories. During the stopovers, you can visit the surrounding towns to contemplate their heritage, visit cultural sites and enjoy the local gastronomy. This is also the time to enjoy happy moments with loved ones, far from the stress and bustle of the cities. France, with its many rivers on both sides of the country, offers several itineraries that can be taken on board a comfortable boat and that all adults, even the most novice in the field, can drive. This is one of the great advantages of this type of cruise: it is open to all, without the need for a boat licence! Here are 5 destinations for a memorable river cruise in France

1- River cruise on the Canal de Garonne and on the Baïse

Several itineraries are proposed in the south-west of France. It is up to you to choose according to your desires and affinities. From Agen, on board a comfortable boat that you can drive without a licence, you will immediately be immersed in the atmosphere as you discover the canal bridge and its 23 arches, the second largest in France after Briare. The Canal de Garonne and the Baïse reveal several interesting towns. Let's mention Le Mas d'Agenais and its Gallo-Roman heritage, Nérac and its superb castle of Henri IV, Castets-en-Dorthe and the Eiffel bridge or Moissac and its peaceful abbey church of Saint-Pierre classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Between two sailing sessions, enjoying the sun from the boat and the green surroundings, you can also stop off at Buzet to stroll through the vineyards and take part in a tasting of great wines. In Condom, a visit to the Armagnac museum is a must. And later in Castelsarrasin, at the gates of Toulouse, you can stroll through its fat market to stock up on good poultry, before admiring its remarkable religious heritage

2- Boat trip on the Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi is one of the most beautiful waterways in the world! The boat trip takes place in the shade of plane trees under which you can enjoy picnics with local flavours. Fruits and vegetables of the sun decorate the meals, while a multitude of restaurants propose local dishes like the cassoulet of Castelnaudary. The Canal du Midi also means crossing the Languedoc wine region, and the wine cellars of Trèbes, Homps, Capestang and Parazan have so many great wines to offer. The urban stops take place in cities with an ancestral heritage, such as Carcassonne, a true medieval jewel. Toulouse, Béziers and Narbonne also await cruise passengers with their lively atmosphere and museums. A cruise on the Canal du Midi can also end with a swim in the Mediterranean. Short stay, long stay, one way or round trip, there are many possible river cruises on the Canal du Midi, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3- Discover Brittany and its many treasures

A river cruise in Brittany is possible with several formulas. An initiation can last for a weekend, before embarking for a week or even 10 days to conquer the key sites of this region so appreciated by visitors from all over the world! The Canal de Nantes à Brest, the Erdre and the Vilaine are some of the waterways that reveal breathtaking landscapes and a beautiful heritage. On the way, you can stop at quiet places such as the Plaine de Mazerolles, a preserved natural area with remarkable fauna and flora. At the Ile au Pie, marked trails await hikers, rock climbers and those who wish to swim or enjoy canoeing. Nature is an invitation to exercise at any time in Brittany! As for heritage, you will enjoy spending time in towns such as Malestroit, superb with its half-timbered houses, but also in La Roche Bernard, where the lively streets are full of art craftsmen. Medieval and maritime escapades, at the foot of castles, Brittany is also a land of gastronomy. And there is no shortage of emblematic places to discover, such as the cider factory in Guenrouët, where you can learn the secrets of making the famous beverage

4- A quiet trip along the Saône

Pontailler-sur-Saône, a town of water par excellence, is the ideal starting point to embark on a comfortable and fully equipped boat with family or friends for a few days. You will of course take the time to explore the town centre, which was developed in the Middle Ages, before sailing to the other treasures of the area. Along the locks and the green landscapes of Burgundy, you will enjoy a charming stop in the town of Gray, so beautiful with its glazed tiles and its monuments of character such as the town hall of the 16th century or the old wash house. Other fascinating sites include the castle of Ray-sur-Saône, whose powerful silhouette dominates the village and the Saône valley. Not forgetting the Saint-Albin tunnel, listed as a historical monument, and the Besançon citadel, whose ramparts, animal park and various museums are definitely worth a visit. In the meantime, Dijon will have opened its doors to cruisers wishing to explore its old town and taste some regional specialities at good restaurants, always accompanied by the best Burgundy wines

5- Water, stone, Cognac: a river cruise from Angoulême to Saintes

A river cruise from Angoulême to Saintes is perfect to vary the pleasures. Nature, heritage and gastronomy are on the agenda. In the heart of the Cognac vineyards and the unspoilt nature of the banks of the Charente, nature trips are an opportunity to try and spot the heron and the kingfisher or to go rock climbing, as on the Font qui Pisse cliff, west of Châteauneuf-sur-Charente. A multitude of activities are also possible around: supervised beach in summer, water skiing, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking or even motocross. There is no shortage of historic villages in which to stroll and contemplate their treasures. Let's mention Sireuil, Saint-Simeux, a picturesque village labelled "villages de Pierres et de Vignes", Vibrac and its typical Charente architecture as well as Bassac, bathed by the Charente. Along the river, the magnificent 17th century royal mill of the Baine is also worth seeing, as is the house where François Mitterand was born. And don't forget to taste Cognac in the eponymous town with its beautiful heritage, which has earned it the label of "Town of Art and History". It is here that the great houses, Hennessy, Baron Otard, etc., are located. Finally, Angoulême, capital of the comic strip with its painted walls, and Saintes, with its exceptional heritage in the heart of Saintonge, will be the other ports of call that will make this cruise a moment of great pleasure. Don't forget to bring back Cognac and chocolate specialities from the Letuffe de Trois-Palis chocolate factory

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