BARGE CRUISING: IT CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE
By Rossana Wyatt
Gluten-free lifestyle and travel writer Rossana Wyatt shares her experiences on Big Blend Radio, about her recent luxury barge cruise through Europe.
Barge cruising has been well-known in Europe since the 1960s. In the last few years, it seems to be increasing in popularity with people wanting more of an authentic, luxury experience. Barges are much smaller than riverboats and they vary in size, carrying anywhere from 4- 20 passengers. But there is so much more that makes the barge experience vastly different.
During a six-night journey, barges only travel a short distance, traveling at no more than 4-6 km an hour, and stopping at the various locks along the canal daily while they are cruising. The entire distance that is traveled may only cover 40-50 km during the week. This is where barge cruising stands out for me. The slow, immersive travel gives you a more authentic, and extraordinary experience exploring the countryside. You have the ability to watch and enjoy the countryside as you drift by, and you can also experience it from land.
Set Your Activity
Barging is also a great experience for active travelers. Unlike other cruises, barging allows you to get off and on at any of the locks along the way, giving you the option of walking, running, or riding one of the many bikes available. You can bike ahead, or walk alongside the barge while it glides down the canal for a few hours a day, from early morning to late afternoon.
The itinerary is set up so that there is always available time during the day to be active off the barge, but sitting on the deck sipping tea, or a lovely cocktail and enjoying the beautiful countryside as you pass by is another level of relaxation. Depending on the barge, excursions to the vineyards, historic sites, chateaus, and charming villages are usually scheduled in the afternoons. This gives you plenty of time to burn off some calories from the previous evening’s delicious meal, by running or bike riding.
We were cruising on the Luciole, booked through Barge Lady Cruises. It was originally a mule-drawn freight vessel built in 1926. The owners purchased and established it as a hotel barge in the late ’70s, adding several refurbishing’s and additions.
On most barge cruises, there is a greater emphasis on gourmet dining and wine tasting from the region you are traveling through. On the Luciole, we were fortunate to savor the idelectable cuisine and wines of the Burgundy region as we cruised along the Canal du Nivernais. The daily gastronomic delights were just that – a true feast for the palate!
During our week, the meals on the Luciole were prepared by the owner and chef, Penny Liley, who trained at the Cordon Bleu. Penny, along with visiting chefs, created meals for our dining pleasure. The meals included refreshing light lunches made from local, seasonal fare, usually consisting of an array of wonderful salads, with accompanying white, and red wines. The four-course dinners were another treat to the palate, again with local, seasonal fare and accompanying wines. All lunch and dinner courses included a delightful assortment of local cheeses, with 2-3 types being offered at meals. Although I could not partake of these, I certainly did not miss out on a cheese course as a variety of goat cheeses were provided.
The small size of the Luciole allows them to cater to any dietary needs. My meals were gluten-free and dairy-free, another passenger was vegetarian, but all the meals were carefully prepared and outstanding. Every evening we were treated to an elegant, and beautifully set table although the attire on the Luciole is far from formal. On our last evening we dined with the Captain, most people opted for something a little dressier that evening. Mornings started off with specialty coffees, a selection of fruits, yogurt, cereal and beautiful baskets of freshly baked pastries from the local villages.
Excursions to places of interest included the Château de Bazoche, the former residence of the Marquis de Vauban. Visiting the Château certainly give you a sense of why the Marquis was the one Louis XIV looked to when it came to designing his fortresses.
Other highlights included a visit to a UNESCO world heritage site, the 11th Century Romanesque Basilica of St Magdalene. The Basilica houses the relics of Mary Magdalene. It was not only the relics that intrigued me, but how light and the alignment of the sun were incorporated into the design of the Basilica itself. Truly spectacular.
In Auxerre, the Cathedral of St Etienne, with all of its stained windows and sculptures throughout, was awe-inspiring. The charming medieval villages along the way gave us the opportunity to do some shopping of our own, stopping into some of the local boutiques for handmade goods, and visiting the local market. A slice of rural living…
Of course, no visit to the Burgundy region would be complete without a visit to a winery, including a stop in their underground cellars, to learn the history of the wine and area; finishing off with a tasting of the amazing wines. Every afternoon we moored at tiny villages along the way for the night, which could be explored before dinner or in the early morning before setting off again.
From the moment we stepped aboard the Luciole, every need and want was taken care of. We were definitely pampered. If you have been wanting to cruise but hesitant to try it, this is the perfect way to experience one. It will certainly change you! The Luciole sails from Late April to early October and can be booked through www.BargeLadyCruises.com for single or double occupancy, as well as charted for group trips with specialty themes.
A gluten-free lifestyle and travel writer specializing in family and solo travel, Rossana Wyatt loves discovering new foods and adventures on her journeys as she explores. Rossana tells the stories of the destinations she has visited, sharing her love of travel, her wanderlust and enticing her readers to explore these places on their own. She is a member of IFWTWA as well as the International Travel Writers Alliance. When she is not travelling, Rossana works as a social media strategist. She brings people and brands together, creating campaigns that build awareness and community while building influencer relationships. Keep up with Rossana’s travels at http://www.lifeisfullofadventures.com .