>Agent Review: Barge Cruise Aboard the LUCIOLE


Article & Photos by Pat Jeske
LUCIOLE cruising beside fragrant lavender fields
My most vivid memory of France is cruising on the beautiful French canal du Nivernais for a week-long barge cruise in the Northern Burgundy region. On-board the luxury hotel barge LUCIOLE there were 14 passengers that were looked after by a friendly and talented crew who became part of this wonderful experience, too.

After being met at a very central hotel in Paris, we were then privately transported to the mooring location of the LUCIOLE. After a delightful welcome cocktail and introduction to the crew, we settled in to our comfortable cabins and later experienced our first impressive gourmet dinner prepared by our private chef.

The next morning, after breakfast, we were soon underway for our first cruise. Many of us gathered on the sun deck to fully enjoy the experience and the warm sunshine. Our talented captain, Neil, pointed out the sights as we meandered along. All the way up the picturesque canal, as the barge nosed her way along, we were struck by the dazzling scenery all around, starting from the spectacular city of Auxerre where the medieval Cathedral towers above the Yonne River.

Medieval Cathedral towers of Auxerre, towering above the Yonne River
Each day the barge moored in interesting villages and countryside. From each mooring, we enjoyed a sightseeing excursion in the barge’s own comfortable vehicle that accompanied us for the entire week. We visited the wine center of Chablis – the real Chablis, from where the finest wines originate, with a private tasting of Premier and Grand Crus in a cellar within the town. We also visited the magnificent 12th century Basilica of Vézelay that dominates this hilltop city. On another day we visited the imposing Château Bazoches which is set on a hillside amidst the splendid rolling countryside.

View of grapevines and beautiful rolling French countryside
Many of us explored the delightful villages along the cruise route on the multi-speed bicycles that the barge provided. We also walked and bicycled on the tow-path that runs alongside most of the canal, catching up with the barge at a later point as it was moving along the canal at a leisurely 5 mph. 
Passenger enjoying a bicycle ride along the tow-path
Our LUCIOLE barge had the gracious ambiance of a fine country inn, combining traditional and regional French fabrics and the ever-present bouquets of fresh flowers throughout the barge. Our cabins with private baths were very comfortable and attractively decorated. On the top deck there was a spacious sundeck with huge umbrellas for those who wished to be in the shade. The sun deck was the best way to view the gorgeous scenery as we cruised along the waterway, and also provided the perfect setting for alfresco dining.

On-board chef prepared to 
serve delicious starters

Every day our French-trained chef fed us as if we were royalty, combining traditional French cuisine with a contemporary twist. We enjoyed tempting luncheon buffets of delicious salads and quiches that had been prepared from fresh local ingredients purchased that day at the local market. The 4-course evening dinners were a feast for the eyes and were the gastronomic highlight of each special day. Each meal was accompanied by the fine wines of Chablis, Bordeaux, and the Côte D’Or, chosen to be the perfect complement to the menu.

On the last morning we were taken back to Paris, to the Hotel Mansart near Place Vendôme where the original rendezvous was made. One of the passengers said, “back to reality.” But most of us thought we’d actually seen “the real world” on our very special cruise.

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