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She Barges the French Nivernais Canal


Together and apart...

Each afternoon we all piled into the two minivans for a sightseeing excursion led by La Belle Epoque's Captain and witty tour guide, Nick Jones. He introduced us to Vincelles and its surrounding sun-lit vineyards, Mailly's morning markets, the soaring Saussois cliffs, ancient Vezeley and the charming town of Clemency. We learned first-hand about foie gras, took part in wonderful wine tastings and shopped, shopped, shopped to our hearts' content.

There were also many lovely solo moments when one could go off and do her own thing. I have fond memories of a quiet early morning stroll beside the river -- locals fishing off the banks, trees reflected in the almost still water, mama duck and her flotilla of little ones gliding by and an old man setting up his artist's easel. This was absolute and true relaxation. I could feel any signs of stress abandoning my body.  

Easy dress code...

One of the many things I loved about this barge holiday was the informal atmosphere and easy dress code. Think of it as a floating summer camp. Days were spent in shorts and T-shirts, evenings in cotton pants or skirts and tops. The only time we dressed up a bit was for one meal eaten ashore and the Captains Dinner on the last night of our cruise. That made this a perfect packing situation for any woman who wanted to combine barging with a week of European travel on their own.  

Food glorious food...

All onboard meals were served in the barge's 'country formal' wood-paneled dining room. Breakfast was a tempting buffet affair -- fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt, local jams, and French cheeses. Each morning we were treated to French baguettes, pain au chocolat and heavenly croissants purchased 'warm from the oven' in the village closest to where we were moored.

Buffet lunches and formal dinners were incredibly satisfying. Not only was the food tastefully prepared and the table impeccably set but each meal was a perfect lesson in the wines, cheeses and culinary specialties of the region. I called it 'Burgundy Gourmet 101' presented without a whiff of pretension.

Think Paté Campagne, Beef Bourginon, warm asparagus dressed with herb scented Sabayon, duck foie gras and filet mignon done-to-perfection. Imagine the tastes of fruit baked-in-custard, orange-flavored crème brulé, Nougat Glacé, and you get a small sampling of the veritable feast we enjoyed those seven days.  

Fun and informality...

Meal times were also the catalyst for lively, interesting conversation as travellers around the table (some couples, others single) exchanged ideas, told stories, swapped recipes and recounted the day's highlights. Soon guest nicknames began to emerge and lots of light hearted teasing and bantering took over. Informal "formality" reigned.

During the day Chef Guy and his partner Barbara practiced a welcoming open kitchen policy. If guests wanted to see a particular dish being prepared, they were free to come in by appointment, observe and ask any questions they might have. Marilyn, who loves to cook, spent time watching the creation of Nougat Glace and has since then been able to replicate it with great success for her family.  

Back to the real world...

Too soon our suitcases reappeared, packing was completed, farewells made and our relaxing, first-class barge experience was over. I must admit it was somewhat of a shock leaving this protective little cocoon and having to deal with the real world again. Bravo and merci to the generous crew of La Belle Epoque who did their best to introduce us to the pleasures of their little French corner of the world and spoilt us silly in the process!

If you'd like further information about European Waterways luxury barging experiences in France, Germany, Scotland, England and Ireland. You can contact them at:
35 Wharf Road
Wraysbury, Middlesex
TW19 5JQ, England
Tel: +44 (0) 1784 482439
Fax: +44 (0) 1784 483072
Toll Free from USA: 1-800-394-8630
Web Site: 

Have fun everybody!

More water holiday stories...





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