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River Rhone in France

On French territory the Rhone is flowing in a winding trail from Geneva to Lyon. 

In this city the river is fed by the water of the Saone. Then the Rhone cuts the wine region of the Cote du Rhone in southern direction. 

Shortly before the city of Valence the tributary Isère joins the Rhone. In Avignon the river passes the famous Pont d'Avignon.  

Near the city of Arles, north of the nature reserve Camargue, the river divides into two arms - the Petit Rhone and Grand Rhone - and ends via a vast delta in the Mediterranean Sea..

From the bridge Pont Carnot between Bellegarde-sur-Valserine and Collonges the outlines of the Fort l’Ecluse are visible. This fortress is located on a steep slope along a narrowing of the Rhone Valley. Fort l’Ecluse was built during the reign of Louis the Fourteenth and rebuilt in 1814 after the destruction by Austrian troops. 

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The rebuild of Fort l’Ecluse not only meant a reinforcement, but also a higher located part. The internal stairs of almost 1200 steps, carved into the rocks, leads to a terrace with stunning views. 

View from the highest terrace of Fort l'Ecluse.

The Pont Layafette is one of the numerous bridges spanning the Rhone in Lyon.

Les Halles de Lyon’ are a phenomenon in the city since 1850. In this covered market, modernized in 2006, food of very high quality is offered. 

Many restaurant chefs are buying their ingredients here. The name of the legendary chef Paul Bocuse, founder of the nouvelle cuisine, is connected to the famous food market since the modernisation. The halls are also accessible for consumers.

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The wines of the Côtes du Rhone 

South of Lyon stretches the Côtes du Rhone. This wine area has a lenght of about 200 km untill the surroundings of Avignon.

The combination of the moderate continental climate, the mediterranean weather, the different types of soil and grape variaties and the presence of the river Rhone, have great impact on the quality of the wine. The vineyards cover an area of more than 77.000 hectares. On an annual basis there is a production of about 3 million hectoliters of wine. The soil of the northern wines consists mainly of granite, which delivers strong tasting wines. The grapes in the southern part are growing on chalk and gravel. This gives the wines a softer taste. 

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Tain l’Hermitage enjoys fame by its wines. The grapes are grown on steep slopes along the left banks of the Rhone. Less well known is the presence of the rare 'Terre Blanche'. Above the vineyards this pure white soil is mined as raw material for craft stone wood furnaces. The exclusive producer is Le Panyol, based in Tain l'Hermitage.

The construction of the Medieval bridge near Pont-Saint-Esprit was an immense job that took 44 years. Between 1265 and 1309 twenty-five arches were built over a distance of almost 200 meters. Out of gratitude to the Holy Spirit the city got the name Pont-Saint-Esprit.

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The secret of the Châteauneuf-du-Pape 

The wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape are world famous. 

One of the secrets of the special character of this widely acclaimed wine is hidden in the stones covering the vineyards. 

During the day they take advantage of the sun's heat and give the heat back to the grapes at night.

The famous bridge of Avignon is officially called Pont St-Bénezet. The bridge, well known by the children's song ‘Sur le pont d’Avignon’, is the biggest attraction in town.
Just as interesting is a visit to the Palais des Papes, the palace where nine popes ruled between 1309 en 1376. 

Avignon, seen from the right bank of the Rhone.

The Abbaye de St-Roman, close to the city of Beaucaire, is entirely hewed from a rock. The abbey was founded in the fifth century by hermits and then occupied by Benedictine monks.

View on the Rhone from the terrace above the Abbaye de St-Roman with ruins of a castle dating from the Sixteenth Century.

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The city of Arles.

Julius Ceasar

The discovery of a bust of Julius Caesar by divers on the bottom of the Rhone in Arles in 2007 caused a lot of exitement among archaeologists.

This showpiece and numerous other objects are shown in the Musée de Arles Antique.

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The drawbridge of Vincent van Gogh

Shortly after his departure from the Netherlands Vincent van Gogh painted this wooden drawbridge near his new residence Arles. 

On a sign at the bridge there is a quote from the letter he wrote to his brother Theo describing the painting ‘Le Pont de Langlois aux lavandières’. 

Van Gogh painted three versions of the bridge. The most simple variant is shown in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

The Camargue: salt, horses, wild bulls and flamingos

From Arles the Rhone divides in two arms flowing through the Camargue to the Mediterranean Sea. The Grand-Rhône ends in the eastern part near Port St. Louis, the Petit-Rhône flows into the sea in Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer. 

The area is known for the presence of  horses, wild bulls and pink flamingos. The Camargue also produces sea salt, rice ands wine. Worth a visit are the huge salt hills near Salin-de Giraud along the Grand-Rhône. On a surface of 11.00 hectares every year there is a harvest of one million cubic meters of salt.

From March to July the salt basins are filled with water from the sea. The pumping continues night and day, because of the fast evaporation by the bright sun and strong winds.  

The harvesting starts in the beginning of September and lasts for about one month. The salt is cleaned and stored in the hills voor the use in next year. 

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The Grand-Rhône shortly after emptying in the sea. At the mouth of the river anglers are fighting for the best spots.

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The Grande Camargue is one of the few locations around the Mediterranean Sea where the pink flamingo lives in large numbers. There are about an estimated 20.000 couples. 

One of the best places to spot these slender birds is the nature park near Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer.

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boat trip on the Petit-Rhône is a relaxing way to meet with the wild life in the Camargue.

Most of the horses that ever lived in the wild here are tamed in the meantime and are widely deployed in riding schools. As a part of the mini cruises on the river horses and bulls are used to entertain the passengers. During these shows the 'gardians' with their special heads play a leading role. 

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Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer is both a place of pilgrimage as a seaside resort. Gypsies from all over Europe are travelling to this town on May 24th and 25th to celebrate the feast of their Patron Saint Sara. 

Central location of the ceremonies is the church from the twelfth century. 

The imposing building dominates the landscape in the coastal part of the Camargue.

Just outside Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer the Petit-Rhône empties in the sea. Because of the mix of sweet and salt water there is a lot of angler's activity.