The Beauty of Barging in France

Cruising in comfort on the waterways of Burgundy

Reams of travel information cross my desk every day. I find it impossible to read everything. But when a package addressed to Journeywoman arrived from The Barge Lady, you can be sure that I sat up and took notice. This had all the makings of a potential female-friendly encounter. A quick review of the material and, a phone call to the gals at Barge Lady headquarters proved promising–Was I interested in cruising the waterways of Burgundy? On a barge? Absolutely! I could combine this rural relaxation with some running

Preparation is easy…

Preparation and packing for a barge adventure are easy. Think informal. Think layers, think comfort. Leave the fancy clothes at home. This is not a CRUISE cruise where you dress for dinner. A clean T-shirt, jeans or a skirt, and sneakers are just about as fancy as it gets on board. Rule of thumb– Carry only what will fit in a small suitcase. Everything else is excess. Trust me!

To rendezvous with the barge is easy, too. As long as you can find your way to The Regina Hotel, the centrally designated Paris pick-up point, you’re set. Eight of us were picked up in a luxury mini-van and driven to Burgundy country where our floating guest house, the Luciole, was moored. (Actually, I arrived earlier than I needed to, checked my bag at the hotel and popped across the street to visit with the Mona Lisa at the Louvre). She definitely smiled when I told her where I was going!

Relax in comfort

The Luciole accommodates up to 14 passengers and two of its cabins are designated for solo travellers. Pricing is definitely ‘go-alone’ friendly with the single supplement only an additional $50 U.S. Bravo! Cabins are very nicely appointed with a toilet and shower en suite, they’re air-conditioned when it gets really hot and lots of luxuriously thick towels lend a lovely pampering touch. The dining room cum lounge is small enough to be intimate but large enough to accommodate all guests with ease. When the weather’s not perfect, this space becomes a relaxing haven with books, music and comfy corners to chat in. And, a peek behind the bar reveals an array of bottles to suit every taste. Just help yourself! It’s on the house! The open deck is where outdoor relaxation takes place. Pull up a chair, take the sun, feast your eyes on the passing scenery, enjoy a glass of wine and get to know your co-bargers. Or if you’re feeling energetic, get off the barge at the first lock, then walk, jog or bike along the water (No! You don’t need to bring your own. The barge carries bicycles for everyone). And, don’t fret about over-doing the exercise bit. You can get back on board at any of the locks along the way.

Superb sightseeing

As the barge makes its way along the Nivernais route there are opportunities for longer stops — imagine tiny villages to explore, wineries to visit and maybe a local market or two to enjoy. Van excursions are available for those treats that are a bit farther afield. There’s the cathedral in Auxerre with its 13th century stained glass, the vineyards of Chablis and the hill town of Vezelay. This is definitely sightseeing with a difference! British Captain Peter Oldham and his pilot e, Michael Rubley are both very knowledgeable, extremely competent at what they do and (please pardon my sexism) very, very lovely to look at! How lovely? Think ads for Italian jeans and you’ve got the picture! Watching them was part of my relaxation.

Food, glorious food

Meals on the Luciole are a gourmet’s delight! While the dress code is “very informal,” the menu, the table settings, the wines and service are a study in casual elegance. Jane, a certified Cordon Bleu chef is in charge of the kitchen and … my, how that girl can cook! Whenever possible, local French specialties are presented. Each dinner features the region’s wine and cheeses and each breakfast includes croissants and baguettes baked at the closest village boulangerie.

And, what fabulous dinner conversation! Try mixing a California space engineer, a Canadian west coast prosecuting attorney, a gal who’s lived in Japan for umpteen years, a Journeywoman, and countless bottles of fabulous Burgundian wine. I’d do it again in a minute!

For further information about barging in Europe contact: The Barge Lady, 101 West Grand Ave, Suite 200, Chicago, IL, 60610. Tel: (800) 880-0071 or (312) 245-0900. 

Evelyn Hannon

Evelyn started Journeywoman in 1994, and unknowingly became the world's first female travel blogger. She inspired a sisterhood of women, a grassroots movement, to inspire women to travel safely and well, and to connect women travellers around the world. She passed away in 2019, but her legacy lives on.

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