France along the water: 8 trips between rivers and canyons

With 5,281 miles (8,500 km) of navigable waterways, France has the largest river network in Europe. Enough to make you want to discover it by water. Admire the Pont du Gard from your canoe, go up the Dordogne river to see the castles, pass under the arches of the Chenonceau castle, or travel along the Ill river in Alsace in a flat-bottomed boat like the boatmen of the past. Here are 8 trip ideas to take in a canoe, an oar or a flat-bottomed boat..

Dreaming along the meanders of the Seine in Normandy

Its locks have inspired the Impressionists... and the kings! Go back in time on your travel along the Seine. At Les Andelys, the Norman flag still flies but the citadel has lost some of its splendour. At the foot of Château-Gaillard, the fortress of Richard the Lionheart, we can imagine the extraordinary destiny of this knightly king who reigned over the crown of England and the duchy of Normandy. Built in 1198 on a cliff at the bend of the river, his castle resisted the French king for only six years. Not so sturdy, but what allure when it reveals itself at the bend of the Seine.

Normandy Tourism (External link)

A different discovery of the Chenonceau castle by canoe

Right bank or left bank? Neither one nor the other! Aboard a canoe, we head for the arches of the Chenonceau castle, the most aquatic of the Loire Valley castles built overhanging the Cher. An unusual way to admire the 60 meters long gallery that spans the river with its five arches. A ballroom for Catherine de Medici's parties, it was also used as a crossing point for the Resistance during the Second World War. The right bank was in the occupied zone and the left bank in the free zone! The memory of these dark years seems far away under the sun that gilds the Renaissance facades of Catherine de Médicis' castle.
Château de Chenonceau (External link)

Rowing through the Gorges du Verdon

Are you ready for a Western-style trip? Just embark on a mini-cruise in a canoe in the Gorges du Verdon. As you paddle along, the landscape gradually takes shape, you advance gently between high cliffs crowned with greenery where vultures, harriers and even golden eagles swirl. In the walls, cavities open up from time to time into mysterious labyrinths, the caves of the Gorges de Baudinard have served as a refuge since prehistoric times. On arrival at the Sainte-Croix lake, the walls are covered with moss and ferns as if to better emphasise the brightness of the place: a turquoise ocean awaits us!

Gorges du Verdon (External link)

Canoeing under the Pont du Gard

Atop this bridge-aqueduct,go back 2,000 years in history! From a canoe, you can measure the gigantic size of the Pont du Gard. Standing tall at 161 feet (49 meters), it is the highest Roman aqueduct in the world. A stellar example of robustness, this ancient bridge is the only one with three floors still standing. In Roman times, water flowed from the top to supply fountains, baths and rich houses. Today it only flows down into the river, an ideal vantage point from which to admire the elegance of this structure that defies the years.
[Pont du Gard (External link) ]

Go down the Dordogne at your own pace

How about exploring the Dordogne castles through the river? Along the water, the exceptional heritage of the region is gently revealed, villages of golden stones topped with large slate roofs, castles straight out of picture books such as those of Beynac or Castelnaud which houses the museum from the war to the Middle Ages… In La Roque Gageac, the houses of the barges, the sailors of the boats of yesteryear, take on golden reflections, an incredible tropical garden planted with banana trees, palm trees and papyrus blossoms at the foot of the cliff. We dismount to climb the 140 steps that lead to the troglodyte fort. The Dordogne is also beautiful from above

Dordogne Perigord Tourisme (External link)

Try canoeing and bivouacking on the banks of the Loire

The Loire ? It is the longest river in France (634 miles of which 559 miles are navigable) and the last wild river in Europe. In other words, the ideal playground for trying out a canoe / bivouac trip ! In summer, we wait until the end of the day to sail along the water when the river mirrors the last light of day. On the bank, a strip of sand lays under the trees: this is where we are going to set up our tipi for the night! Dinner simmers on the stove as we gaze out into the starry sky. Tomorrow we promise to wake up at dawn to watch the birds.
[Loire Tourisme (External link) ]

Learn rowing near Fontainebleau

Swim (move forward), swim (move back), turn (turn) ... In Fontainebleau, between the visits to the castle and the forest, you can enrich your rowing vocabulary as well as its practice. Solo or in pairs, we first practice on a rower before embarking on a live session on the river. Stretching out your arms, pushing on your legs, you concentrate before letting yourself glide: between 1900 holiday homes and lush green banks, the river is more royal than ever at the gates of Paris!
[Fontainebleau Tourisme] (External link)

Playing the boatman in a flat-bottomed boat in Alsace

They were used for transporting goods in an era when rivers were safer than roads. Today, flat-bottomed boats are used for fishing or walking. Led by Patrick the boatman from the Ried, the banks of the Ill pass by, bordered by reeds where curlews, reed harriers and short-eared owls frolic. At Muttersholtz, near Sélestat, he revives the tradition of the cauldrons that once made these long boats.From fir and pine,or from Haguenau, reed joints and marsh moss for waterproofing, we dive into the mysteries of a unique craft.
Alsace Tourisme (External link)