Barge Meanderer cruising on the Canal de Briare
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Canal Barge Trip Aboard the Luciole

Canal Barge Trip Aboard the Luciole
It was great!! No current newspapers, no TV. Flew to Paris, dropped bags at designated hotel, met the other participants later, and were picked up on Sun afternoon, and the 13 of us were driven to the barge - about three hours South of Paris.

It was a week's trip. The food was truly sensational -- cholesterol be damned!! It was extremely relaxing and restful.

Daily, we would have a half day barging and half a day with a knowledgeable crew member driving us to a local town/village and giving us the highlights whether it was a cathedral or a castle or a market or a vineyard. On the barge part of the day, our capitaine would give us the distance to the next lock - and we could walk it on the towpath, or bike it (a supply of these were stored on deck for our use). The speed limit for the canal was 3 and 1/2 knots which the skipper rarely attained, so you easily outstripped the barge. Or you could just take advantage of a deck chair and "cheer on" the athletes. Most walked at least one mile, a lesser number manned the deck chairs, and the least popular choice was bike.

Our crew (4 men, 2 women) was outstanding. While panning the scenery from the deck, you could have iced tea, lemonade, wine, beer, and biscuits. Beer turned out to be the popular choice. Hard liquor was also available, and like everything else, was a freebie, which no one called for until the last night.

At mealtimes, for breakfast, it was tables for 4 or 5 -- and buffet style with juices, fruit, cold cereal, assorted breads and pastries, coffee, milk, tea. Lunchtime again was the same table setup but one of the crew showed and explained all the choices and you were served individually at your seat. There was no assigned seating -- it was very informal -- and you pretty much got to eat with everyone. At dinner, the tables were pulled together into one long table and service was individually -- by courses. At both lunch and dinner, a cheese course was served -- always two or three different cheeses, preceded by an explanation of the background and qualities for each. Again, at both lunch and dinner, a different red wine and white wine, were discussed, and as always, replenished -- especially was this true at dinner. Almost everyone commented on how much more wine, he or she, consumed during the trip than they ever had at home. And the meals were truly gourmet - truly outstanding.

There was a small varied library on board, if you chose to read and hadn't brought your own reading material. And you had ample opportunity to read, as you slowly wandered down the canal and river (which overlapped in places).

Most times, shorts were in order. The only time the men dressed up was the last night's dinner, so, trousers. And some of the men wore jackets for this, dinner but some did not, nor did the capitaine, who ate with us for this one meal.

The cabins were quite small -- but all had a shower, sink, john etc. -- and you spent very little time there. (Twin beds butted at right angles against each other.)

We had a British couple and an British single woman, two related couples from Ohio, a couple from San Diego, and a couple from N.C. - with the ages running from 57 upwards to me.

The weather cooperated beautifully - which always helps.

The barges don't run in the winter, and this particular one will be closed up in a few weeks. Normally, the charge is just (in the mid to upper US$3,000 per person). I saw an ad in the Washington Post. We looked into it, and it was handled by an outfit over in Annapolis, specializing in barge travel, and they were great. They stayed with us -- not just until they had our credit card -- but even after the trip was completed.

Back to Paris - an hour and a half North, by car. And Paris is still Paris -- very nice! Last time there, lodged on the Left Bank, this time Right Bank, directly across the road from the Tuileries, about a block from the Louvre. Last time, walked everywhere. This time took a bus which connected with three others, making four loops in all, around the city. Finally caught up with Montmartre, which before had been seen only from a distance.

So, five days in Paris (food was OK - but not as good as previously. We were probably spoiled by the Luciole's chef). St. James & Albany Hotel and Spa was very good.

In balance, barge portion was excellent - thanks to Capitaine Stephon, Caroline, Paul, Neil, Elizabeth and William. ]

C.N., aboard Luciole, Canal du Nivernais, Burgundy

Canal Barge Trip Aboard the Luciole

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