River cruise teaches Detroit's French history during 2-hour Sunday tour

Darlene A. White
Special to The Detroit News

Many Michiganians know about Detroit’s French connection, which will be spotlighted during a cruise on Sunday.

The Alliance Française de Détroit French History Cruise is a two-hour tour that will teach passengers about the city’s French heritage.

“The French History Cruise is an opportunity for guests to gain awareness of the French history of D’étroit “The Strait” and a reminder of our connection not only to France and Canada across the border, but to many francophone countries around the world,” said Stephanie Potier, a French teacher at Bloomfield Hills Schools. “It’s an invitation to celebrate French language and heritage.”

The Alliance Francaise de Detroit French History Cruise sets sail Sunday.

Passengers will learn about explorers to the Detroit River region, ribbon farms, famous historic landmarks, Fort Ponchartrain, Detroit’s connection with Canada, as well as the first settlers and their legacy, she said. 

To complete the experience, fiddler Michael Francis will perform French-Canadian music and John Cooper will narrate during the cruise. There will also be a raffle for those onboard and Alliance Française de Detroit T-shirts will be available for purchase. 

 There will also be a cash bar that includes light beverages, including beer and wine, but no outside food or beverages will be allowed on board. 

The number of passengers this year has been limited, said Potier.

“We have been hosting this event annually since 2016,” she said. “This year it’s a smaller intimate event due to COVID restrictions. We will have a maximum capacity of 115 guests.”

Potier, also an Alliance Française de Détroit board member, said she’s always had a passion for sharing the French culture with others. 

 “I have a passion for sharing French language, culture and heritage with my students in grades 6 through 9 and community members, as well,” she said. “When I moved to Michigan from Canada, it was important for me to find authentic experiences to help my students acquire the French language and gain intercultural awareness in a meaningful way. I enjoy creating engaging curriculum and learning experiences and most of all witnessing my students’ reactions to learning. That’s why I enjoy taking part in this event.”

The Alliance Française de Détroit and French Institute of Michigan is the world’s largest network of French language schools and cultural centers with over 830 independently run committees established in 133 countries that teach over 550,000 students.

The cruise is open to anyone willing to learn about the French culture. Passengers will not need to know the French language to participate in the event on the river. 

“Our event is open to all those with an open mind and a willingness to explore French culture and Detroit history,” she said. “You do not need to speak French to attend this event but beware you might just find yourself wanting to explore the language and experiment with some key phrases as a result of your experience. We invite you to do so.”

There will be so much to see and do at this year’s event, said David Anstett, president of Alliance de Détroit.

“I will be looking forward to putting a smile on everyone’s face as we sing the French National Anthem with our violinist,” he expressed. 

Our hope is that once the cruise is over people will have learned about the roots of the French contribution, Portier said. 

“Perhaps the experience will ignite their passion to learn the French language and share their knowledge with others,” she said. “Most of all we hope that they will feel welcome to join in other events that we will host this year.” 

Alliance Française de Détroit French History Cruise

Boarding begins at 2:30 p.m. at  Stroh's River Place, 300 River Place Dr., Detroit

3-5 p.m. sailing time

Cost: $30 per person; deadline to buy tickets is Friday

visit www.afdetroit.org