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The Saone is an entirely French river, rising near Viomenil, in the Lorraine region of eastern France and flowing south to merge with the Rhone at Lyon. It is 300 miles (480km) in length and has one major tributary, the Doubs. More than 230 miles (370km) of the lower section of the river is navigable being almost entirely canalised with 30 locks. Canals connect the Saone to the Rhine, the Loire and the Seine. The Saone passes through stunning landscapes. In the Jura there are gorges, alpine meadows and pretty villages. The Macon is prime wine producing country set among medieval villages. Lyon is one of France’s most historical cities and a UNESCO world heritage site, the old town set on the river’s bank, with the Cathedral, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere and the Metallic Tower of Fouviere (Lyon’s answer to the Eiffel Tower) right next to the water.
Much of the Saone meanders its way through vintage Burgundy and this is not just a region famed for its wines but also its gastronomy. Dijon – renowned for its mustard – was also the capital of the Dukes of Burgundy and the site of their beautiful palais. There are superb food markets in every town, delightful cafes and regional specialities. Burgundy was a powerful dukedom and a wealthy one, so there is a multitude of historic buildings. The Romanesque Cluny Abbey was founded 910. Chalon-sur-Saone is an ancient town – mentioned by Caesar in his Gallic Wars when it was known as Cavillonum. St Vincent’s Cathedral dates back to the eighth century and its food market is renowned. In July it hosts a major street artists festival and its city square is packed during the summer months with tourists and locals enjoying the cafes and the relaxed Burgundian way of life.