A river cruise on the Rhone allows you to indulge in French cuisine, culture, scenery and lifestyle – and you’re going to want to take the best of the best of the region home! Our river cruise on the Emerald Liberte on the Rhone took us from Lyon, north on the Saone river, then down the Rhone to some of the most charming and storied towns in the south of France.
Naturally, I picked up treasures along the way to cherish and to share with loved ones. Here are my favorites mementos of our Emerald river cruise on the Rhone and Saone:
Silk from Lyon
Lyon is France’s third city, after Paris and Marseille. But in a country famous for luxury textiles, clothing and accessories, Lyon retains special status. Historically, it was the only city in the country permitted by the Kings of France to produce gold or silver thread as well as silk, and that heritage as France’s silk capital continues today.
The Emerald Liberte overnighted in Lyon before sailing, so we had a full day to explore the city and especially Old or Vieux Lyon. The mediaeval town still has a number of historic silk ateliers, where you can see silk being woven on traditional looms. You can also stock up on silk scarves and ties in different styles and modern or traditional patterns.
Considering how small and light-weight it is to pack, and a quality that will last more than one lifetime, silk from Lyon may be one of the very best souvenirs to remind you of your river cruise embarking from Lyon.
The Little Prince
I love books associated with my travel destinations. Whenever I’m in Lyon, I always pay a visit to the statue of The Little Prince, whose author and pioneering French aviator, Antoine de Saint Exupery, is a son of Lyon.
The Little Prince is said to be the most translated book in the world after the Bible. Its poignant story that captures the wonder of childhood has remained with me since I first read it as a student; and now, whenever I’m in Lyon on a Rhone river cruise, I buy a copy (in English or French) to give to the newest child in my life to cherish as I do.
We were also fortunate to visit Lyon on a day when there was a book market in Vieux Lyon. Book markets can yield real gems of local culture and paper materials like prints that are also easy to pack flat at the bottom of your suitcase and frame once at home.
But some of the very best souvenirs and gifts from your travels you can buy on your Emerald river cruise along the Rhone and Saone are French wine and delicacies.
The Rhone river cruise route, stretching from Burgundy north of Lyon along the Saone, down along the Rhone to where it drains into the Mediterranean, with 2000 years of viticulture, and a rich agricultural tradition, is an ideal itinerary for wine lovers.
North of Lyon, our Emerald River cruise takes us into the famous Burgundy wine region, and we took a very special shore excursion to Les Hospices de Beaune, a mediaeval religious charity hospital that was funded – and that remains funded today – by a trust of some of the most notable vineyards in the region. Every year, the stunning, historic halls of Les Hospices are the location one of the world’s most famous – and richest – wine auctions.
Bringing home a bottle or two of wine from Les Hospices connects you to that incredible heritage – and the quality of the wines will impress your dinner guests!
The Rhone is divided into two wine regions: North, with cooler climate, and South, closer to the warmth of the Mediterranean. Appellations like Hermitage in the North, and Chateauneuf du Pape wine in the South, are known world-wide to oenophiles and will strengthen your own personal collection – or impress anyone as a gift.
Emerald held a wine tasting on board the Liberte to give guests a chance to familiarize themselves with some of the great flavors of Rhone wines and learn from a local expert.
One of our Emerald river cruise shore excursions was a hike through the vineyards of the steep river banks along the Rhone… that ended on the riverbank in Tain l’Hermitage, which just happens to be the headquarters of another famous Rhone product: Valrhona chocolate. No one can visit its divine-smelling ‘Cite du Chocolat’ without leaving with a bag full of premium chocolate. Some of it might even make it home to give to your friends and family!
We also visited a number of markets along the route of our river cruise, which inspire your culinary imagination and souvenir purchasing!
The famous market in Avignon (which also has a very famous bridge, pictured above) is the ideal place to stock up on French delicacies for yourself or as gifts for foodie loved ones. Small containers of local whole truffles preserved in oil, or truffle oil, foie gras, flavored sea salt harvested in the South of France and sold in charming corked test tubes, make perfect stocking stuffers!And they’re pretty easy to get home, too.
It's very hard to walk past the counters of prepared foods like French pastries and terrines at the Avignon market, but unfortunately, you can’t take them with you (well, maybe you can get just a few items to nibble on your way back to the ship!)
French cheeses are also nearly impossible to ignore. Check your local importation laws; you may be able to bring some properly packaged cheeses home for your next charcuterie board.
Emerald also held a cheese tasting on board for guests to test their palates with the different textures, scents and flavors of some of the hundreds of French cheeses, even if you can’t take some home.
Which reminds me that the best souvenirs of our Emerald river cruise on the Rhone… are memories. That’s what ‘souvenir’ means, and no matter how many tangible items you bring home from your river cruise, you’ll have many more lifelong memories of cruising through one of the most beloved regions of France.
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