Ahh Burgundy! – The thought of this famed French region springs to mind historic towns, enchanting wine villages, cultural treasures, gorgeous rolling countryside, replete with breathtaking vineyards and of course wine!
Barge Cruising in Burgundy
The term barge brings to mind a different annotation, associated with that of working vessels used for transporting freight. The luxury bateaux plying the waterways of Burgundy couldn’t be further from this description! Hotel barges are former cargo barges, but have been renovated and converted into elegant, comfortable passenger vessels carrying between 4-21 passengers (most carry 12 or less). Barges welcome guests on board for six night cruises from the months April through October, when the beauty of the canals is at its peak.
Barging is all about exploring the idyllic countryside, gourmet food and wine, while relaxing and being pampered. On board, your dedicated, English speaking crew accommodates every request. 3 to 4 hours of the day are spent cruising, either the morning or afternoon (barges do not cruise at night). Bicycle along the towpath or into town as the barge cruises, chat with the Captain in the wheelhouse or relax on the deck with a glass of wine and take in the sprawling countryside from your floating pied-à-terre for the week. The other half day is spent enjoying a guided excursion to a regional highlight near to the cruise route. Winetasting at local vineyards, châteaux, historic churches, markets and captivating medieval villages are just a sample of what you might experience.
Food and wine are major highlights of barge cruising! Wake up to a beautifully presented breakfast spread of freshly baked croissants, pastries, cereals and fruits. Buffet style lunches, multi-course dinners and desserts are prepared fresh by your gourmet Chef – every day.
Local ingredients purchased from daily market trips are showcased. Almost everything is made from scratch – the pastas, sauces, quiches, soups, ice creams, etc. A red and white wine is hand selected by your Chef to complement every meal. These wines are local vintages of the region and are not exported, thus making for pleasurable discoveries. Of course…don’t forget the cheeses! An indulgent cheese selection is presented after each lunch and dinner.
Combine barging and Burgundy and the result is tres magnifique! Burgundy has been called “The Land of Good Living” – and what better way to get an in depth experience of the good life in Burgundy than on a barge! Considered the quintessential barging destination due in part to the divinely beautiful countryside, famed vineyards, art and architectural treasures and accessibility from Paris, it is perfect for first timers and repeat guests. Over the years I have been to Burgundy more than I can remember, each time discovering something new, reaffirming my deep love for the region. Burgundy is divided into Northern and Southern Burgundy. Here you will find the highest concentration and widest variety of vessels ranging from charming and cozy floating inns to luxury vessels with top amenities.
Northern Burgundy is located a two to three hour drive south of Paris. All barges in this region offer convenient chauffeured pickup and return in Paris. Vessels float along the Canal du Nivernais, the Canal de Bourgogne, and the River Yonne, lined with colorful villages at some spots, sailing through dramatic cliffs in others. Winetasting in Chablis, 30,000 year old cave paintings at Grottes d’Arcy, historic Auxerre, and Vezelay with its spectacular 12th Century Basilica are a few of many experiences this area offers.
Head a little further southwest into the geographic heart of France and you reach Southern Burgundy, encompassing the famed Cote d’Or vineyards and roll call of wine villages including Nuits St. Georges, Pommard, Puligny Montrachet, Volany. Cruise routes ply the Canal de Bourgogne, Canal du Centre, and the River Saone, serving up some of the most meltingly beautiful countryside in all of France. Beaune, with its immaculately preserved medieval hospice and cobblestoned shopping streets, market day in Dijon, the hilltop village of Vandeness-en-Auxois, and the remarkable Chateau Sauvigny-les-Beaune housing 80 fighter jets lined up against a beautiful backdrop of vineyards are a sample of some highlights guest might enjoy on a barge cruise in Southern Burgundy.
Whether you choose to barge in the north or the south, with Burgundy you can’t go wrong. It comes down to preference and what sites and barge calls out to you. Both areas offer easy access from Paris, perfect for adding on a night or two in the famed City of Lights for an unforgettable holiday in France.
Ellen Sack, The Barge Lady, has been a broker of French canal barge vacations since 1985. She represents barges which range in size from 4 to 21 passengers. She has visited France at least fifty times, as if anyone NEEDED an excuse to travel to the top regions, cruise on untouched waterways, and enjoys the finest wines, cheeses and local sightseeing. Ellen has been named a Top Travel Specialist by Conde Nast Magazine, making her one of the most elite travel providers in the world.