Luxurious barge with spacious accommodations for 8. Every detail is handled. The cruise begins with high tea at the Stafford Hotel in London before transfer to the barge.
The Magna Carta is beautiful, meticulously clean and very ... Read More
Luxurious barge with spacious accommodations for 8. Every detail is handled. The cruise begins with high tea at the Stafford Hotel in London before transfer to the barge.
The Magna Carta is beautiful, meticulously clean and very comfortable. Our cabin and bathroom were large and nicely appointed. The staff was lovely and anticipated our every need. Our tour guide was very well informed taking us to Oxford, Highclere (Downton Abbey), Cliveden, Windsor and Hampton Court.
One of the many highlights was sitting on the sun deck cruising through the locks with a Guinness or cup of tea enjoying conversations while passing lovely countryside.
We were served 3 gourmet meals a day accompanied by exquisite wines. A full bar was also available.
We took the Queen Mary 2 from New York to meet the Magna Carta in London. The food and service on the Magna Carta far exceeded Cunard’s.
It was a wonderful week on the Thames. Read Less
The trip was great in every respect. Crew were all helpful and pleasent. The food was all good and and a variety. The trips of the boat were interesting and guides gave us sufficient information. The trip up the Douro was the best view ... Read More
The trip was great in every respect. Crew were all helpful and pleasent. The food was all good and and a variety. The trips of the boat were interesting and guides gave us sufficient information. The trip up the Douro was the best view I have seen on any river trip. The passenger were from vareous destinations, which made for interesting conversations. The meals were sit where you like which helps to make it more interesting than being with the same people all the time. Travelling through the locks was very interesting as I am a Chartered Engineer. There is a lock which rises about 100 feet. It was an unbelevable experience.. The boat was very clean and every thing in good order. The only slight problem was that all the wall s and columns were stainless and lik mirrors so it took a little while to get use to seeing one self when moving arround Read Less
My husband and I, along with dear friends, celebrated our wedding anniversaries with a 6 night cruise on the barge Enchante. It was truly a wonderful trip. Our accomodations were very comfortable and the staff was beyond fabulous. Our ... Read More
My husband and I, along with dear friends, celebrated our wedding anniversaries with a 6 night cruise on the barge Enchante. It was truly a wonderful trip. Our accomodations were very comfortable and the staff was beyond fabulous. Our Captain, Pierre Yves, was a master, our Hostesses, Cheryl and Sophie pampered us beyond our expectations, our Tour Guide and part-time lock operater, Claire guaranteed fun and informative excursions, and lastly, but certainly not least, our Chef, Sylvain, kept us well fed with the most delicious and beautifully presented foods all accompanied by wonderful wines. I can’t think of anything that could have made our trip any better.
The barge was quite comfortable and much more spacious than we expected. The rooms were well appointed and the common areas were attractive and spacious enough for all. The covered deck was perfect and we shared many afternoons relaxing on it. We would take this barge trip again in a heartbeat! Thank you to the entire crew and owners for a great experience! Cookie & Kyle Read Less
Our week on Enchante was amazing. The accommodations were roomy and luxurious. This barge has beautiful furnishings and great character. The countryside along the Canal du Midi is beautiful. Watching it pass by on the barge, walking along ... Read More
Our week on Enchante was amazing. The accommodations were roomy and luxurious. This barge has beautiful furnishings and great character. The countryside along the Canal du Midi is beautiful. Watching it pass by on the barge, walking along the tow path and biking alongside are relaxing and very enjoyable. This is a great way to take a break from the world. The Captain, Crew and Chef are an amazing team always ready with anything we needed and made us feel at home all week. The common area on deck and the covered salon common areas were spacious for eight passengers. The excursions to local sites complemented and added interest to the journey, giving us a flavor of the history and local color. Each dish or each meal prepared by our Chef was a work of visual and flavorful art, never to be forgotten. Our Chef was kind enough to share recipes and cooking tips. Local sourced foods and regional cuisine was complemented by lovely wines each meal.This was truly a week that surpassed our expectations, we loved everything about it. Read Less
We have taken quite a few cruises including ocean, canal and river and quite honestly this is the best water trip we have ever taken. If you want an incredibly relaxing 6 night vacation with excellent food and service, good company and ... Read More
We have taken quite a few cruises including ocean, canal and river and quite honestly this is the best water trip we have ever taken. If you want an incredibly relaxing 6 night vacation with excellent food and service, good company and scenic views constantly passing by your window, then this is the trip for you.
We were picked up from the Hotel Westminster in Paris and taken in comfortable mini buses for the 3 hour ride to the embarkation point at Fleurey-sur-Ouche All the male crew drive the two buses and the way they navigate through the streets of Paris (which are a nightmare to drive in) is a wonder to behold.
The itinerary itself along a stretch of the Canal de Bourgogne was superb and we were lucky enough to have good weather and to time it just when the trees along the canal were changing into their spectacular autumn colours. The pace is very slow which means you can just hop on one of the supplied bikes and take a trip to the next lock or two, or even visit a nearby village and be back in time for lunch.
Our accommodation was also excellent. We had the Renior suite in the bow section of the barge which was surprisingly spacious along with a similar well appointed en-suite. Most other passengers had to put their suitcases in a separate store, but we had room for ours in the suite. We had to request bottled water and soap which was not a problem and this was replenished as required.
The food and wine were superb. Joss our English chef did us proud every day for breakfast lunch and dinner. Breakfast was light if you wanted it, with cereals, preserves, fruit and fresh bread from the local village boulangerie. However if you wanted eggs in any style with some crispy bacon, that was not a problem either. The food complimented the local area and was restaurant quality especially the Duck Confit we had for dinner on the first night. We also visited the local market in Dijon to stock up on supplies and to provide lunch which Joss and the staff prepared for us when we got back to the boat. Similarly, wines were mostly from the local Burgundy area which were very good. Occasionally we had something different and a couple were a little disappointing.
The rest of the barge is well designed with a lovely dining area with seating for 12 and a lounge area, although this was a little tight if all the 12 passengers were there. We were the only non American passengers and we got on very well with the other five couples and exchanged addresses and emails to share photos at the end of the trip.
The crew always went above and beyond and would try to cater to your every need. Daniel who was officially the captain was well organised and very knowledgeable about the local area and gastromony. The two hostesses Carolyn and Erell who supported Joss and did pretty much everything else from serve dinner with great panache, describe our wines to keeping your room immaculate. Lastly there was Vincent who expertly steered the barge through excruciatingly narrow locks- a real Bargeman and of course Sam who ably supported him in all this.
All trips were included and they were varied and very enjoyable. All required a short ride in the mini-bus, but the highlights were the trips to Dijon and Clos Vougeot with wine tasting after. But the standout was our trip to Beaune and the famous negotiant Bouchard Pere and Fils which included a guided tour, a tutored wine tasting of fabulous burgundy wines and finally a perfect lunch with superb wines laid out in their orangery.
It would come as no surprise that we are looking at doing another trip with European Waterways in 2019. Read Less
This is our third barge we've been aboard with European Waterways. Each barge was very different, but the experience, service and cuisine were superb! It was especially fun to meet Florian and Judith again after our trip in 2015 ... Read More
This is our third barge we've been aboard with European Waterways. Each barge was very different, but the experience, service and cuisine were superb! It was especially fun to meet Florian and Judith again after our trip in 2015 aboard La Belle Epoque. We brought along two other couples who were new to hotel barges. Now they are as excited as we are about this experience. Our chef on this trip, Ollie, made the experience special. His mantra "butter, butter and more butter" will ring in our ears for a very long time. His cooking is magical! If you want to be spoiled, pampered (11 guests with 6 staff to indulge your every whim) then European Waterways will exceed all expectations. The boats are kept in bristol-fashion. Shore excursions were fun, especially going to Thursday morning market with Ollie to gather food for the day's meals. Two luxury Mercedes passenger vans shadow each barge, ready to take you anywhere you would like to go. It was also great fun and welcome exercise to hop off the barge on one of the bikes provided for each guest. We immediately began planning for our next trip with European Waterways. An excellent value for money! Read Less
Never does “It’s all about the voyage” ring more true than when that voyage happens to be a luxury hotel barge cruise on France’s Burgundy Canal.
And small wonder. While the facts and figures are interesting, the feelings you ... Read More
Never does “It’s all about the voyage” ring more true than when that voyage happens to be a luxury hotel barge cruise on France’s Burgundy Canal.
And small wonder. While the facts and figures are interesting, the feelings you experience are what make such a voyage so special and which linger long after the trip ends.
Still, we need a few of those facts and figures to set the scene and launch our voyage.
On this cruise, the European Waterways barge La Belle Epoque, its six passengers (out of a maximum 12) and six crew members travel 63 km/39 mi. over six days, gradually (at 4kmh/2.5mph) descending through 34 locks from the small town of Veneray les Laumes to Tanlay.
With 18 vessels, EW is Europe’s largest luxury hotel barge operator. The focus is on a high-level mix of attentive service, gourmet food and wine (including, on our cruise, 19 cheeses and 22 wines), and varied excursions.
So, let me give you a rundown of those six days on La Belle Epoque. Then you can judge for yourself.
Sunday. With barge Capt. Jolanda at the helm (well, steering wheel), an EW Mercedes minibus picks up the six of us from the Hotel Westminster in the centre of Paris for the three-hour drive to meet our barge.
We would never have known La Belle Epoque used to carry logs from the Burgundy area to Paris and Amsterdam – especially as we notice the hot tub and table and chairs on the forward deck while we drink “welcome aboard” glasses of champagne and nibble on canapés.
Inside, we look around the wood-panelled saloon-dining area, with its well-stocked (open) bar, as Jolanda says:
“This is your home for the next six days. We take on town water every night when we tie up, so you can enjoy a shower as long as you like. If you want anything at all, just let one of us know.”
And she introduces us to Julian, the pilot; Brendan, the chef; hostess Lola and host Carlo (who take care of housekeeping as well as serving the meals) and deckhand Albert (pronounced the French way – “Albair” – even though he comes from England).
The cabins and bathrooms are compact but comfortable, not cramped, with portholes that open “but please close them when we are going through the locks, so water doesn’t come in from the lock walls,” Lola reminds us.
I won’t describe every meal. But the Sunday night dinner gives you an idea of why I gained 5kg/8lbs after last year’s barge cruise on the Midi Canal. (I haven’t spotted a scale yet after this trip; admittedly I haven’t looked very hard.)
• Red onion tarte tartin with whipped goat cheese and candied walnuts.
• Black garlic chicken, pomme puree, peas and garlic foam.
• Cheese Abondance, Brie de Meaux, St Maure de Touraine.
• Natural yogurt mousse with pistachio. Chocolate and raspberry delice.
• White wine: Clos de Malte Santenay 2011, Louis Jadot. Red: La Comme Santenay 1er cru 2007, Charles Noellat.
• Tea, coffee; liqueurs.
Chef Brendan announces the details of each of the food courses; Lola or Carlo do the same for the wines and cheeses.
Dinner over, Albert sets up one of the mountain bikes and a helmet for me so I can burn off at least some of the calories before it gets too dark. The towpath along the side of the canal (where horses used to tow the barges) is exceptionally wide and smooth, not like some you find that are narrow with loose gravel or tree roots.
And so to bed, with never a worry about rough seas day or night (we always tie up for the night).
Monday. Awake before dawn for another bike ride, I’m off to explore sleeping villages along or just off the canal.
Then I’m back to the barge just in time to do the daily morning run with Albert or Jolanda to the nearest bakery to collect a very large, very strong paper bag full of crusty baguettes, croissants and various sweet treats for breakfast (which also includes fruit, cereals, freshly squeezed orange juice, cold cuts and any cooked eggs you’d like – as well as a daily hot special).
Today we cruise in the morning, quickly adapting to lying on deck or strolling or riding on the towpath along the side of the canal (where horses used to tow the barges) as we glide from one lock to the next.
“Bonjour, la belle fashionista!” I call out to an unlikely looking lock operator: a 20-something blonde who rewards me with a smile and a wave.
Like her more usual older male lock operator counterparts, she cranks the big lever to open and close the gates so our barge can be lowered to the next level of the canal. Still, I suspect no lock activities were responsible for the trendy tears in her tight black overall pants.
This afternoon we visit Alesia, famous as the site of a decisive battle in 52BC between Julius Caesar for the Romans and Vercingetorix for the Gauls (think Asterix)…although there is some controversy over whether this was indeed the actual site.
I have a limited attention span when it comes to relics and ruins. But this large wooden cylindrical MuseoParc interpretation centre does an excellent multimedia job of transporting my fellow cruisers and me back to the times leading up to the battle (wherever it was held), explaining the two campaigns which led to a Roman victory.
We then drive up a nearby hill to see the 6.6m sheet copper statue of Vercingetorix with a face resembling (surprise, surprise) Napoleon III, who commissioned the statue.
Final stop for the day: Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, where the movie Chocolat was filmed but which today has a greater claim to fame though les Anis de Flavigny, a candy-maker dating back to 1591. We sample the variety of flavours in addition to the original anise.
Tuesday. Another historical site comes into sight – this time UNESCO honoured Abbaye de Fontenay – and again another pleasant surprise for this history hesitant visitor.
Not only is the abbey an actual series of buildings with an expansive garden but its story fascinates:
In 1118 Saint Bernard founded the abbey, home to 200 monks who espoused complete self-sufficiency and solitude. Ahead of their times, they diverted a river to power giant hydraulic tilt hammers to beat and fashion iron.
Then came the French Revolution and the state sold the abbey, now with barely a dozen monks, to Elie de Mongolfier, descendent of the inventors of the hot air balloon, who turned the place into a paper mill.
But former glory returned after 1906 when Banker Edouard Ayard bought the abbey from his father-in-law, Raymond de Montgolfier, to “extract Fontenay from its industrial slime” and the restored results are indeed worth the visit.
Wednesday. Too much wind means no hot air ballooning, much to the relief of Sue, who is celebrating a late 70s birthday on the cruise. Instead, there is plenty of time to visit a small, local market and then wander around medieval Noyers-sur-Serein.
Local knowledge kicks in here as Capt. Jolanda stops by a house to take a key from the mailbox to unlock a gate, allowing us to climb up to a viewpoint on the ruins of the town ramparts. Then it’s time for coffees and beers all around at a café by the market.
An afternoon cruise brings us to Ancy-le-Franc where, for a change, we go ashore for dinner at a restaurant with an impressive cheese trolley featuring some 30 different varieties.
Thursday. Well-timed showers allow us to stay dry during our indoor visit to Chateau d’Ancy-le-Franc, with France’s largest collection of Renaissance murals. The rain lifts in time for us to stroll through the nearby local market and then back to the barge.
Whatever the weather, several of us make good use of the hot tub with its hydromassage jets, and regular “Can I bring you anything?” offers from Lola or Carlo.
It doesn’t get much better than being water massaged in a hot tub, a cup or glass of your favourite beverage in hand, while the scenery drifts slowly by: Burgundy’s famous white Charolais cattle, hay in distinctive round bales, unharvested wheat fields, bikers on the towpaths, locks to go down, bridges to go under.
Friday. Perhaps with favourite beverages in mind, today we visit the family-run Domaine Alain Geoffroy outlet in Chablis to learn about and taste six wines ranging from a $16 Petit Chablis to the top-of-the-line $55 Grand Cru Chablis (prices in France).
Equally intriguing (at least to me) is the amazing variety of 4,118 corkscrews, which make up more than half of Geoffroy’s prized Corkscrew and Vineyard Museum’s entire collection of 7,953 wine-related instruments and equipment.
“Three of the corkscrews were made by convicts in Cayenne, French Guiana, in sculpted corozo nut featuring grotesque heads,” says Geoffroy. Other corkscrews date back to the 1800s, including a selection of novelty phallic items called Les Pisseux.
We all dress up a little for the Captain’s Dinner this evening, and the crew join in the reminiscing and laughter which goes well beyond the usual bedtime hour.
Saturday. Did the six days really go by that quickly? What a memorable trip – the first barge cruise for some of the passengers but from their reactions certainly not the last.
The minibus takes us back to Paris, and to a world where once again we have to decide where to go and what to do – especially what food and drink to buy. And where life’s scenery passes by far more quickly than 4kmh/2.5mph. Read Less
We had a wonderful week aboard the Scottish Highlander with Mick and the crew during the first week of June, 2017. Our cruising companions from the United States, New Zealand, and Australia were delightful and made for a fantastic week ... Read More
We had a wonderful week aboard the Scottish Highlander with Mick and the crew during the first week of June, 2017. Our cruising companions from the United States, New Zealand, and Australia were delightful and made for a fantastic week cruising the Caledonian Canal. Charlotte, our chef, made every meal a culinary delight. Pete, our tour guide, gave us complete historical descriptions of every place we visited and the places along the route. Steph, our hostess, was knowledgeable about the wines served and waited on us hand and foot catering to our every need. She also gave us restaurant recommendations in Inverness and Edinburgh for our time in Scotland after the barge cruise. Mick, our captain, welcomed us onto the bridge whenever we were cruising. We will remember this cruise with very fond memories event though the weather wasn't always agreeable. We experienced lots of clouds and some rain here and there, but we were prepared for it, and we still had a remarkable time aboard the Scottish Highlander. Read Less
This review is a bit late, but the memories of our fantastic barge cruise on Magna Carta with Dominic and his amazing crew still remain with us. Magna Carta is top notch; the cabins are roomy, the beds are comfortable, and the common ... Read More
This review is a bit late, but the memories of our fantastic barge cruise on Magna Carta with Dominic and his amazing crew still remain with us. Magna Carta is top notch; the cabins are roomy, the beds are comfortable, and the common areas are wonderfully maintained. Dominic has placed time and effort into her and it clearly shows. Magna Carta is perfectly designed for relaxing and seeing the Thames. (During our trip, Dominic's son, Oliver, was certified as a ship's captain -- so the love of the river runs in the family.) As great as is Magna Carta, the true joy of this trip was her crew - they're professional, friendly and their service absolutely wonderful. The crew of KT, Vicki, Oliver, and Dana did a fantastic job - their service was so friendly, by the end of the cruise we truly felt like a part of the family! They keep Magna Carta spotless and assist Dominic in guiding the ship through the many picturesque locks on the Thames - if you're interested, they'll even show you how to work the gates! Meals were amazing - Vicki is a fantastic, creative and enthusiastic chef. The effort she places into each meal is impressive. She knows the shops along the Thames and knows just where she can get the freshest, special ingredients for each meal. Our group enjoyed wine and cheese with lunch and dinner, so the crew went out of their way to serve the finest local cheeses each day - a real treat! Each day was filled with tours but there was always time to relax on the river and meals watching the Thames roll by were a real treat! Speaking of tours, on each stop our visits were well organized and informative with a comfortable mini-van to get us to many of the sights. Each were wonderful, but the highlights had to be our visits to Highclere Castle (the home of Downton Abbey) and Cliveden House (Lady Astor's country estate). Both were spectacular and the grounds gorgeous. All in all, truly a trip of a lifetime and one we will never forget. Read Less
Are you ready for one of life’s more laid-back travel experiences: an ideal mix of relaxation, scenery, history, exercise and fine food-and-wine dining in the Languedoc region of France’s southwest?
Then you are ready for Anjodi.
... Read More
Are you ready for one of life’s more laid-back travel experiences: an ideal mix of relaxation, scenery, history, exercise and fine food-and-wine dining in the Languedoc region of France’s southwest?
Then you are ready for Anjodi.
Barge cruising is the absolute antithesis of today’s 5,000-passenger cruise ship experiences. For example, it takes all seven of us on this trip only a couple of minutes to step on or off the barge, or set out on an excursion. And as you will read here, the Anjodi experience stands out in so many ways.
Although it’s a small group to travel with in relatively close quarters, we have a fair bit in common. And there’s enough space if you want some privacy, and enough to do on your own if you choose.
Whether the barge is cruising along or has tied up to the shore, you can hop off to go for a stroll or a run, or jump on a mountain bike to ride along the towpath to explore local villages and countryside.
Half-day excursions via Mercedes minibus allow you to walk where perhaps the Gauls and Romans walked – at Carcassonne, for example, perhaps the most complete medieval fortified city in existence today. With its 52 watchtowers, portcullis and extraordinary repertoire of defences, it resisted the many attacking armies.
Back on board, you can reach out to almost touch the passing scenery – the giant plane trees lining both sides of the canal, the vineyards, the fields dotted with red poppies, the stone farmhouses, the other barges and boats.
Families and groups often rent a whole barge. Founded in the mid-’70s, London-based European Waterways is the largest operator of hotel barges in Britain and Europe, owning or contracting 17 barges carrying six to 20 passengers each (www.gobarging.com)
And with this barge, you are travelling on a bit of a celebrity. Anjodi was built in Holland in 1929 to carry grain and refitted/renovated several times since 1982-83 by current owners European Waterways as one of France’s first luxury hotel barges.
She appeared in the 10-part Rick Stein’s French Odyssey TV series which took celebrity chef Stein on a 700km voyage of culinary discovery in southern France, from Bordeaux to Marseille.
But let’s fast forward to this trip as I invite you to join me on some typical days here on the Anjodi, EW’s first barge.
Because I’m an early riser, first mate/sommelier/driver/guide Steve has prepared one of the mountain bikes for me and locked it to the gangplank. (We tie up every night – sometimes to a pier in a town or village, sometimes to a tree in the country.)
Off I pedal along the towpath, luxuriating in a smooth ride if the path has been paved, otherwise trying to avoid the occasional roots and ruts.
I have some stretches of the canal to myself, shaded from the rising sun by the plane trees. In the busier areas, work and pleasure craft – barges, owned or rented boats – cruise by or are tied up to the shore. I exchange “bonjours” with early risers on these boats, with other bikers, with walkers.
I particularly enjoy my visit to Portiragnes, not far from our final port of Marseillan (where a pirate flag is incongruously waving from the top of a large building), just west of Marseilles.
It’s a 10-minute ride down to the sandy beach on the Mediterranean, all but deserted except for early morning dog walkers. I follow a track leading into the wetlands – and find several dozen flamingoes feeding in the shallow waters.
Now my stomach is also saying “breakfast” so I return to the barge in time to meet Steve climbing aboard with a bag full of goodies from the local bakery: crusty white and multi-grain baguettes, croissants, chocolate and almond Danish.
Aneta (foodservice, housekeeping) has set up the breakfast buffet with coffee and tea, fresh fruit, cereals, slices of ham and cheese, freshly squeezed orange juice, grapefruit juice, yogurt, jams, butter. Some mornings I order an omelette or a poached egg on toast (a toasted slice of baguette).
Excursions happen in the morning or afternoon depending on the day’s cruising schedule.
“We have to be on time so we don’t miss our reservation at the locks,” says Laurent, our erstwhile skipper. And indeed, we traverse eight locks on our 75km trip from Le Somail, near Narbonne, eastward to the ocean at Marseillan.
At Fonserannes, we descend 14m through seven locks and then float high above the River Orb in our canal cum aqueduct.
You realize how much planning goes into even a relatively short cruise like ours when you see Steve continually disappearing and then reappearing. He puts a bike into the back of our minibus, drives to the next place where the barge will tie up ahead of an excursion, then rides back to meet us somewhere along the canal.
No visit to France would be complete without a winery tour and tasting. We visit the 14th century Château de Perdiguier, famed for its frescoes and cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir and chardonnay wines – and local guide who sticks his head into an oven-like opening in a wall and sings into a deeply resonant chamber.
Another day we visit Minerve, the ancient capital of Minervois, which boasts a 12th century Cathar fort surrounded by deep limestone gorges. Besieged by Simon de Montfort in 1210, its hilltop location affords spectacular views.
Here our group finds a Real Chocolat shop, where the proprietor breaks up some of his stock to heat up in a saucepan of milk for some very real hot chocolate drinks.
So much of this barge cruise is about the gourmet wine and food – thanks to chef Tom who creates a variety of salads and lighter cooked dishes for our various lunches, with a cheese course or dessert, and always with unlimited white and red wine (as well as other alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages).
Dinner is a four-course affair; Tom, Aneta and Steve take turns introducing the dishes and wines. And in between meals, any of the crew will bring you tea, coffee or any other libation in the lounge, up on deck or in the Jacuzzi.
The four crew members do everything they can to enhance the trip for the seven of us.
“We’ll go slowly and can stop again to pick you up whenever you like,” says skipper Laurent when three of the passengers say they’d like to go for a walk along the towpath for an hour or so.
Then there are the special touches, like the L’Occitaine products in the bathrooms. Like having Philippe (sax), Roger (keyboard) and Mel (bass) show up unexpectedly to serenade us during pre-dinner drinks and nibbles one evening where we are tied up just through the world’s oldest canal tunnel of Malpas.
And like, for a change, dinner ashore at l’Ambassade, TripAdvisor’s #1 restaurant in Beziers, with its impressive cheese trolley.
All too soon it’s time for the Captain’s Farewell Dinner. The next morning Steve drives us from Marseillan back to Narbonne where he picked us up almost a week ago. Six days and 75km? No specific time and distance can ever encompass all our experiences and memories from a voyage like this along the Midi Canal. Read Less
L'Art de Vivre is a wonderful barge with a fascinating history dating back to the Somme of 1917. Beautifully fitted out, it is a gorgeous barge on which to travel. The crew - Fabrice, Kat, Oli and Melissa - were an absolute delight, ... Read More
L'Art de Vivre is a wonderful barge with a fascinating history dating back to the Somme of 1917. Beautifully fitted out, it is a gorgeous barge on which to travel. The crew - Fabrice, Kat, Oli and Melissa - were an absolute delight, friendly and helpful. Oli's gourmet food is truly stupendous - these were meals to die for! The camaradarie and friendship between the crew was clearly evident and much enjoyed by all the guests. Kat was quick to put everyone at ease, and was incredibly informative about the wines at each meal. From start to finish, the organisation was superb and at every stage the care and consideration for the guests came first.
At the Hotel Westminster, bags were kept safely until the vans arrived before being taken out to the bus for us. From the welcoming champagne on board the barge to the fresh hot coffee and croissants served on the coach back, the service and food was first class and more! Fresh croissants and bread were collected from a local patisserie every day. Each day, there was a cruise further down the canal, plus a guided excursion led by Melissa. Melissa was a friendly, helpful guide who was really interested in everything she was showing us. She had taken the time to research and study the different places and was able to identify the most interesting aspects such as the fascinating history of Vauban at the Chateau de Bazoches du Morvan, the pilgrmage links at Vezelay or the crypt in the cathedral at Auxerre. She was always full of ideas as to where to shop, find the most appropriate chocolate.
When one of the guests had a birthday during the cruise, Oli made a spectacular birthday cake at very little notice. We loved the idea of the challenge - supplying him with unusual items to make a meal from the market! It was a wonderful way to show his skill. His dramatic style added to the overall fun. The scenery along the route was really pretty, especially once we started going through the limestone cliffs. A small vessel, with space for just 8 guests, it is very intimate and relaxing. Bikes were available if anyone wanted to go for a cycle along the towpath. A local group came on board to provide live entertainment on the Thursday evening. Moorings each night were in peaceful quiet spots guaranteed to ensure a good night's sleep.
This was undoubtedly the best trip I have ever undertaken and my breath was taken away by the sheer service provided. Fabrice even used the minibus to take guests (one of whom needed crutches to walk) to the top of a cliff so that everyone could enjoy the view. For sheer relaxation, enjoyment and fun - this is a cruise that can only be wholeheartedly recommended in every single way. It is superb, pure gold. Read Less
Four of us recently cruised for 6 days on the Enchante. It cruised from Carcassonne to Narbonne in southern France on the Canal du Midi. We had an absolutely delightful time. Although the barge can accommodate 8 passengers, there were ... Read More
Four of us recently cruised for 6 days on the Enchante. It cruised from Carcassonne to Narbonne in southern France on the Canal du Midi. We had an absolutely delightful time. Although the barge can accommodate 8 passengers, there were only 6 of us on the cruise for our week. There were 5 staff taking care of us, including the captain. The staff were extremely helpful all week long, from picking us up at the Narbonne train station through dropping us off at the train station at the end of the week.
Silvain was the chef. His food was exquisite. I would certainly nominate him for Michelin stars. Included in the fare are wines, other alcohols, soft drinks, and water.
The daily guided tours, guided by Anthony, were all historic and very interesting. The other staff were spectacular. They all contributed to this cruise being maximally enjoyable and pleasant.
There is a Mercedes van which travels with the barge for daily transportation, such as excursions, etc.
By barge standards, the cabins were large, well decorated, and modern. Each cabin has a bed that is about the size of a queen, or may be configured as two singles. There is a 3/4 bath with a shower. The room was large enough to have a small desk. There was a hot tub on the foredeck available for use.
The common area of the barge, although, being small due to limited space on the barge was very comfortable. There was both indoor and outdoor seating. When the barge was not cruising, the staff would set up a sunshade over the outside common area.
The barge only goes about 3 miles per hour, and carries bicycles. This allows you to walk along the canal path with the barge or explore the other small French towns that you pass through.
All in all, this was luxury cruising at its' finest. Read Less
This fabulous little barge cruises north and south on the Shannon River through the Midlands of Ireland. With 10 lovely cabins and a crew of four, every detail is attended to and every creature comfort (within the confines of being on a ... Read More
This fabulous little barge cruises north and south on the Shannon River through the Midlands of Ireland. With 10 lovely cabins and a crew of four, every detail is attended to and every creature comfort (within the confines of being on a river barge) is provided. Rauirie Gibbons (skipper/owner) has sailed this river for nearly 20 years and his wife, Olivia, provides food that's better than any fine dining restaurant to be found anywhere, let alone Ireland. The small staff caters to your every whim and introduces local culinary treats. Day excursions give wonderful insights into Irish history and traditions and by the time your trip is over, you wish it could start all over again! A word of advice--pack lightly, but well. Weather can be tricky (it's Ireland for Pete's sake) so pack an umbrella. This is not a dressy cruise, so you don't have to dress for dinner.
If you're looking to see a part of Ireland sometimes overlooked--or just want a relaxing way to see many parts without packing and unpacking all the time, the Shannon Princess is not to be missed! Read Less
Our trip started in Paris, meeting on a Sunday at the Hotel Westminster on Rue de la Paix at 1:45pm. The drive down to the boat was about 3.5 hours as we went to the farthest point from Paris in Venarey-les-Laumes. We were met by the crew ... Read More
Our trip started in Paris, meeting on a Sunday at the Hotel Westminster on Rue de la Paix at 1:45pm. The drive down to the boat was about 3.5 hours as we went to the farthest point from Paris in Venarey-les-Laumes. We were met by the crew with champagne and snacks.
I had extremely high expectations about this canal barge trip...and they were exceeded almost immediately. The cabin was comfortable and the bathroom quite large with big fluffy robes and towels. We had one of the Jr. Suites. It was definitely bigger than the regular cabins but you really don’t spend much time in it. Our first dinner was nothing less than suburb - Escargot (a bowl of 20), a huge, perfectly cooked Duck breast with orange sauce, 3 regional/artisan cheeses, and a poached pear with caramel mascarpone ice cream. I have never in my life had ice cream or even gelato that good...not even in Italy! All this was paired with 2 excellent local wines. Even my husband, a non-duck eater, LOVED the duck. He told the chef that it couldn't possibly be duck as it was way too delicious.
All meals continued to be five star plus. Breakfast was the same every day: cereals, fruit, yogurt, pastries, bread, meat, and cheese. The bread and pastries were fresh from local bakeries. The jam was made in one of the villages. Everything served on board was basically purchased by the chef at local markets. Lunch was elegant with a main dish like Quiche Lorraine, Stuffed Quail, Baked Salmon, or various pates and meats together several salads. This was followed by either two cheeses or dessert but usually not both. There were always two local wines, a white and a red.
About an hour before dinner we had aperitifs with appetizers that were always different and always excellent. We had stuffed mushrooms, tempura shrimp, duck or salmon mousse on blinis, tapenades, etc. After a drink from the open bar came a top notch dinner, accompanied by two local wines, a cheese course with 3 local options, and dessert. Over the course of the week we had duck, veal, venison, white fish (or guinea fowl), and beef tenderloin. There are not enough superlatives to describe how truly good dinner was. We did eat out at a top rated restaurant in Chablis one evening. It was fine but could not even come close to the dinners we were having on the barge.
During the course of the week we visited an abbey, several chateaux, markets, vineyards, and quaint villages. The barge was always moored at night. We would normally cruise either before or after our excursions. We would walk and or bike along with the boat to get some exercise in an attempt to diffuse the day’s gastronomic extravaganzas. There are lots of locks on the canal so it’s very easy to move faster than the boat. Most days we moved somewhere about 10 km and went through a half dozen locks. There is also a hot tub on the main deck. I was the only one to use it during our trip. All I can say is the others missed out!
The crew caters to your every whim. My husband wanted chips and they magically appeared. A couple of us on board drank Diet Coke rather than coffee, so it was always stocked. All manners of spirits were available. If there was something you didn't like, the chef would make you something else. The crew really makes the cruise special. It was a first class operation that leaves you wanting for nothing.
Our cruise ended in Tanlay. We were transferred back to the Hotel Westminster, arriving about 12:30p.
If you love excellent food & wine, beautiful countryside, interesting excursions, and personal, attentive service, then a canal barge is the way to go!
FLEURY-SUR-OUCHE, France – The morning mist rises slowly from the canal as L’Impressionniste glides almost silently through the water. A grey heron watching for its breakfast fish takes off from the edge of the canal as the hotel barge ... Read More
FLEURY-SUR-OUCHE, France – The morning mist rises slowly from the canal as L’Impressionniste glides almost silently through the water. A grey heron watching for its breakfast fish takes off from the edge of the canal as the hotel barge approaches.
Depending on your temperament (and how late you were up the night before), you might be still asleep, or looking out your cabin window, or sitting on deck with a morning cuppa, or riding a mountain bike along the towpath as the rising sun flickers through the trees along the shore.
You and 10 or 11 others are getting to know a way of life here in France’s Burgundy region in perhaps the most relaxed way possible – that is unless you are powering along on that mountain bike before breakfast and after dinner every day to work off the three gourmet meals, featuring 18 different regional cheeses and 21 different fine French wines (plus an open bar) served during the week-long cruise.
It’s such an amazing feeling to have this experience on so many levels: educational as you learn about the people of this area – their lifestyle, their history; self-indulgent as the crew of six anticipate practically your every need and want; scenic as you get up close and personal with the birds, fish and mating frogs (more on those later); above all, gastronomical as you feast on the specialties of the surrounding countryside.
So come along on what for me has been a particularly memorable travel adventure, something for almost everybody’s bucket list – and remember to bring your appetite.
Our adventure starts in Paris, where the 11 of us meet for the three-hour drive south to le canal Bourgogne (the Burgundy Canal). Lively laughter soon dispels any concerns about whether we’ll get along: six women who are either related or good friends plus two couples, all from the U.S., and I.
The cruise begins at the tiny village of Escommes, the high point of the canal 378 metres/1,250 feet above sea level. And there she is, tied up at the side of a pond, the lady herself: our home for the next six nights.
She’s a 38 metres (126 feet) by five metres (16.5 feet) hotel barge with six cabins, all with ensuite bathrooms, and a crew of six to look after the maximum 12 passengers. There’s a Jacuzzi up front, open and covered deck areas for sitting outside or doing yoga, and a dining room inside. Also on deck are the mountain bikes.
Dinner the first night sets the bar high: After a champagne reception with nibbles and then cocktails, we dine on asparagus with quail’s eggs and homemade mayonnaise; duck with puy lentils (the green variety from this area), cherry and cassis sauce; two cheeses – Langres, Morbier; mousse au chocolat.
How impressive to see all of this is prepared by chef Josh in a tiny galley with only two burners and a home-size oven.
The 33 glasses on the table are never empty: bottled still or sparkling water, Condieu white wine and a 2002 Moulin a Vent red. Plus three or four varieties of bread with that amazing salted French butter. And tea/coffee.
After dinner I really do need to jump on one of those bikes to burn off at least a little of all that food and wine.
I ride around the lake as the sun goes down, past locals who sit in folding chairs with fishing rods angled out over the water, past a lone white swan and some ducks, past a horse grazing in a field. Together with the evening bird sounds and sweet grass fragrance, they all combine to create such a tranquil and relaxed feeling that after my ride sleep comes quickly.
I’m up early the next morning for another spin – this time on the towpath which runs along the canal, to check out the first of 42 locks we’ll be navigating. I venture off the towpath toward a local village – but beat a hasty retreat when I run into a McDonald’s under construction.
I pick some mock orange blossoms and long grass for the breakfast table and return to the barge just in time to accompany Captain Rudy on the first of his daily forays to a local bakery to collect a variety of baguettes, croissants, brioche and sweet rolls.
Add cereals, fresh fruit, any kind of cooked breakfast – and several others decide to step ashore at the next lock to walk along the towpath, quickly getting far ahead of our barge which rarely reaches 4kph (2.5mph) and frequently stops at yet another lock to be lowered to the canal’s next level down. The canal even crosses a bridge over a river.
After a “light” lunch on board (chicken, ham terrine, a quinoa-like salad, broccoli, green salad, beetroot salad, cheeses, wines) we head off to visit the Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin, with all its portraits including those of various historic notables’ mistresses. We wander through the rose garden, and follow the twisting path of a labyrinth created from shoulder-high bushes.
This evening I am impressed by the 1999 Louis Jadot Les Bertins Pommard Premier Cru Cote de Beaune Burgundy we are served – costing at least $100 a bottle in a store, perhaps $200 in a restaurant. Of course, here on L’Impressionniste you can have as many refills as you want.
I definitely need another bike ride after this dinner, feeling the warm and cool air spots as the late summer dusk approaches around 10pm.
Day Three and the locks come every few hundred metres/yards on this stretch of the canal. Almost all are manual, some operated by the people who live in the lock houses, others by attendants who control several locks, riding from one to the next on a bike or scooter.
This afternoon we visit Beaune, with its famous Hotel-Dieu – founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin who had been a bad boy and wanted to redeem himself by providing a hostel-hospital for the indigent. (Impressively it stayed open until 1971.)
Then back we go to the world of wine, for which the Burgundy area is so famous, with a visit to the Bouchard Pere et Fils cellars. Some 2.5 million bottles are stored here at a constant 13 degrees, including 2,000 bottles from the 19th century – the oldest: six whites bottled in 1846.
“We use these very old wines for research purposes,” says Laura Muller, our guide.
That evening we are serenaded by very vocal frogs apparently having a marvellous mating session – sounding out both high and low notes. I go ashore for a walk, record the “music” on my iPhone and spot a green frog sitting on a leaf at the water’s edge.
The days pass with more visits to local landmarks, more peaceful times on deck, more walks and bike rides, more food and wine.
“You know you have been drinking a lot of fancy wine when you start swirling your glass of water,” says fellow barger Joe, adding: “You also know you are on a luxury trip when you wash off fruit with a bottle of Evian water!”
Indeed, there are the special touches: A Lindt chocolate on your pillow after turndown service before bed, a designer Kleenex box, l’Occitane amenities in your bathroom. And caring guest support: “Let me wheel the bike off the barge for you – the gangplank is a bit slippery,” says deckhand Mark.
We start our final day with a visit to the food market in Dijon, where Captain Rudy and tour guide Brendan buy the groceries for the upcoming week.
“Let’s all meet at 11am – we have a special surprise,” says Rudy. It turns out to be…more food and wine, this time sitting outside a local café-bar: oysters, smoked salmon, prawns, sea snails, bread, cheese, cherry tomatoes, ham-veg in aspic, Aligote wine. Back on the barge and we – our stomachs – are relieved to hear lunch has been delayed until 2pm. Which means the Captain’s Farewell Dinner (five courses including three cheeses) has also been put back, and runs until midnight.
We drive to Paris the following morning, already missing the unique experiences and feelings of a hotel barge canal cruise in the French countryside but grateful for the good weather (generally only one week in five has sunshine every day).
On this last day, our group exchanges email addresses and for months to come will share with each other our memories of everything we enjoyed on this luxury escape.
This was a fabulous 6 day cruise up the Caledonian Canal in Scotland with a total of 4 couples. Our barge was luxurious, the 4 person crew was simply the best, the food was awesome with lots of choices, and best of all, we really enjoyed ... Read More
This was a fabulous 6 day cruise up the Caledonian Canal in Scotland with a total of 4 couples. Our barge was luxurious, the 4 person crew was simply the best, the food was awesome with lots of choices, and best of all, we really enjoyed the other passengers. Everything was taken care of including meals, wine, drinks, excursions, a deck to relax on, bicycles to ride during our down time, and wonderful trips to a wide variety of local destinations in a clean modern van.
We enjoyed castles, going through the locks, a Pict village site, several museums, the Glen Ord Distillery, battlefields, waterfalls, hiking trails and more castles. The view of Ben Nevis on day 1 was amazing. Our ports included Fort William, Fort Augustus and Inverness, all having access to multiple activities. We even had a private Scottish band on board one night, which we really enjoyed. This trip was fun and relaxing and never boring, as we became one happy group!
Many thanks to the entire crew and our new friends. Read Less
European Waterways operates the Anjodi, but we booked through Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) through our travel agent. Unfortunately, A&K did a very poor job of relaying information. Most importantly, A&K never passed on the ... Read More
European Waterways operates the Anjodi, but we booked through Abercrombie and Kent (A&K) through our travel agent. Unfortunately, A&K did a very poor job of relaying information. Most importantly, A&K never passed on the warning that having the cabin configured as two single beds was strongly advised. All our paperwork just listed our cabin as "twin/double." I don't remember if we were asked our preference, but I know that unlike the other two couples on our cruise, we were not strongly advised to request single beds. (A&K also specified the pick-up point incorrectly -- which fortunately our travel agent had corrected, and also gave us the final itinerary backwards, so I was very confused about what we were doing when we arrived at the Anjodi.) We would have gone with singles if so advised.
If the cabin is configured with a double bed, it entirely fills one end of the cabin and one person must climb out over the other. The bed is 30 inches high with two drawers under it. The second night of the cruise when I needed to go to the toilet in the middle of the night, I fell crawling out over my husband and broke my foot. I was trying to be very careful and had taken the cabin flashlight into the bed with me, so that I could see what I was doing. I might have been able to catch myself and avoid the injury if I had not been holding the flashlight. The staff were very helpful and attentive both before and after the accident. The captain spent the next day with me at the emergency room. The French emergency room doctor told me I had to go home immediately, insisting that I needed surgery within six days. (The orthopedic surgeon at home took the French cast off, put my foot in an AirCast "boot" and told me that the fracture would heal naturally.)
If you encounter a problem, the only way to summon the crew in the middle of the night is for someone to exit the cabin, go up several steps, cross the lounge and ring a buzzer. The crew being young sleep much more soundly than we do in our 60's. My husband had to buzz repeatedly to get ice for my foot after I fell.
The other problems we noticed with the cabin were that the sewer gas smell built up so on our third (and since we were evacuating for our emergency return early the next morning, our last night), was quite strong. The couple in the cabin across the hall complained about the "cat piss" smell the previous morning.
With so few passengers, the chef asked about allergies and likes and dislikes when we arrived. After that we just had to wait to be surprised. The wines were excellent and we enjoyed the cheeses. The food was good, but not spectacular. Read Less
1) It's all inclusive - no nasty surprises. Luxury cabins, all meals, drinks, wine, transportation to and from private excursions/tours, equipment, EVERYTHING is included for one reasonable price.2) Our luxury suite just happened to ... Read More
1) It's all inclusive - no nasty surprises. Luxury cabins, all meals, drinks, wine, transportation to and from private excursions/tours, equipment, EVERYTHING is included for one reasonable price.2) Our luxury suite just happened to be located on the ship. Rather than us packing, unpacking and then repacking at a luxury resort every day - they move our resort for us! Talk about easy! You simply could not replicate this trip on dry land without spending a huge amount of money and spending most of your day traveling from one port to the next. And even then, finding restaurants and meals and equal accommodations, for all practical purposes, impossible. The canal barges are an excellent value for money deal.3) The entire crew was Johnny-on-the-spot eager (!) to help, answer questions, find answers and provide whatever our whims required. Want a major US newspaper delivered to your cabin door in the morning (even if the ship is miles from any major city)? Just ask ahead of time; out in the relaxed rural areas, the locals are very much less interested in stocking the LA Times daily. We asked for - and got - the papers of our choice. (It turns out the crew spent some time arranging delivery to a local shop, in the shop in the town we would b at the next morning. Then at first light a crew member would go out and retrieve the papers from the local shop. This feat is even more amazing as the local shops are not usually open at 5:30 AM. How the crew managed to pull of this trick day after day still amazes me.)The crew did not cease to amaze me in the care and feeding of the passengers. Can't eat grapefruit because of a medical concern? Let them know ahead of time, and if by magic, grapefruit disappears from the menu. The replacement, a large assortment of other fresh fruits, was available. The impressive part of this is that the chef very quietly took care of our diet needs in such a way as to be absolutely undetectable by any other passengers. Rather than pointing out a medical condition by serving one 'odd man out' meal, the entire menu was seamlessly adjusted so that everyone could fearlessly eat everything that came out of the kitchen. It's a small touch, but it means a lot.Our guide would meet us after breakfast and off we would go for another private tour (no line to wait in at all). Private wine tasting with the vintner himself? Check. Private tour of historical sites? Check. Time to explore small towns? Check. And all the while, our Guide was charming, funny and very informative.The entire (small) crew work hard and long to achieve, and retain, a very high level of service and comfort. They seemingly defy gravity in their efforts to meet passenger requests. These guys and gals earned their tips, and I gladly stuffed an envelope for their gratuity, for I was, and remain, grateful for all of their hard work. Read Less