Experience of the lifetime – Cruising on the Burgundy canal in France
Imagine yourself relaxing to the soft sounds of nature with a fine glass of wine in your hand. Enchanting lush forests, a verdant countryside dotted with purple irises, and the historic architecture of medieval towns pass by – this is cruising on France’s Burgundy canal.
The Floating Hotel:
A barge cruise is truly an exceptional way to travel and to see the Burgundy canal, because it forces you to slow down and enjoy the finer things in life at a much leisurely pace. A hotel barge cruises at four miles per hour, and stops in the evenings. Excursions into local parts of Burgundy are thorough and enjoyable easy-going. These cruises are less about the distance travelled and more about immersion into the rich culture and history of the region.
Burgundy, or “Bourgogne” as the French call it, is home to over one thousand kilometres of navigable canals open to pleasure craft, two hundred and forty-two of them belonging to the indescribably beautiful and historic Burgundy Canal. Its one hundred eighty-nine locks punctuate the flow of the canal every mile or so, and are proudly manned by helpful attendants who live in rustic lock-houses along the canal. Some locks are automated and some powered by good old fashioned elbow grease.
Burgundy’s famous canals were dug in the early industrial age. Preparations for the Burgundy canal had already been underway as early as the reign of King Henry IV in 1605. By the early 1780s the construction had began, and continued until 1882. The Burgundy canal was planned as the most cost effective method of transporting goods from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, and although its commercial use waned over its lifespan it was largely considered an enormously successful engineering achievement for its time. Today, the Burgundy canal is a pleasure craft passageway open to hotel barges, privately owned boats and hire craft.
Barge Cruise Trips:
If you think a comfortable cruise appeals to you, consider one of the barge cruises offered along the Burgundy
canal. A hotel barge comfortably accommodates 2-12 passengers. Sit back and enjoy friendly conversation and take in the views the sun dappled countryside has to offer. Winding through pastures of curious flocks of sheep and beautiful horses, and through picturesque villages where time stands still. This is a travel experience on a floating hotel, where the sights and the scenery come to you as you enjoy fine meals and attentive service.
Luxurious full service barges can be hired with a captain and crew take care of the nagivating, cooking and give you an experience of some of the best organized tours in the world. Hotel barges have comfy state rooms, and all the comforts you’d expect from a good hotel – eating and drinking the best that Burgundy has to offer. You may choose to travel individually, or charter an entire barge to share the company of friends and family.
European Waterways, www.gobarging.com, owns six hotel barges that that travel several different canals in the Burgundy region. Wine and Water, www.wine-water.com, gives the passenger the choice of two flexible charter cruise programs. Specialized onboard chefs prepare traditional and international cuisine throughout your journey, often traveling into the local patisserie early in the morning before guests wake in order to gather the croissants, breads and pastries that will accompany breakfast.
Perks of the Barge Cruise:
- Comfortable and intimate abience
- A small number of passengers and attentive staff
- An extremely easy-going traveling pace, encouraging immersion in the local culture and endless opportunities to learn of its history
- Expert knowledge of the wines and food of each region of the Burgundy canal
- Chances for small groups to explore places off the beaten path and get an authentic taste of the region
- Wine appreciation courses may be offered
- Cabins cleaned daily
Perhaps you’re interested in many of the self-drive boat rentals offered along the scenic Burgundy canal. There are many reasons to choose to take your own rented pleasure craft, if not simply for the freedom it allows.
Perks of Self-Drive Boat Rentals:
- Requires no skipper permit
- Can accomodate up to twelve of your own guests
- Personal and intimate
- An extensive variety of starting points along the Burgundy canal
- One way or return trips if you choose
- Freedom of travelling at your own pace
- Choosing the sights you want to see at your leisure
- For those who love cooking, preparing your own meals on board
- For those who don’t – dining out in the bistros, cafés, and restaurants of your choice!
- Setting your own schedule
- Making your own choice of activities
- Staying at a certain location for a duration of time that suits you
Things to consider when renting your own boat:
- The size of the boat and ease of handling
- The sleeping capacity of the boat
- The rental price
- The region of the cruise
- Whether it is one-way or return trips
- An upper and lower helm
- Air-conditioning inside
- Inside and outside steering capacity
- Any hidden extra expenses you may not initially think of while planning the trip, such as fuel cost, bicycles and enough helmets
Hotel barges make special daily stops for its passengers to enjoy what the regions along the Burgundy canal has to offer. The locals of Burgundy are proud of what they do, and delight in showing off their skills, their cuisine, and their historic marvels to travelers. Even seasoned travellers of Europe who have visited most of the well-travelled and famous sights can be amazed by the delightfully intimate and private experience of these immersive and unique cultural excursions into the lesser-known parts of the Burgundy canal region.
Excursions along the Burgundy Canal may include:
- Bike riding along the canal
- Hiking, jogging, walking on the pathway
- Morning shopping trips in the markets
- Tours of castles, chateaus, abbeys, churches and cathedrals
- Wine tastings in private Burgundian wine cellars
- Trips to local patisseries
- Sight-seeing historic architecture
- Dinner at a chateau
- Horseback riding
- Participation in local festivals
- Guided tours of villages
- Visit to a local cheesemaker
- Visiting important historical sites
- Learn about local crafts and try your hand at them
- Beaune, the Wine Capital of Burgundy
- The Roman town of Tonnerre and its 13th century refuge
- 16th Century Châteaux of Tanlay
- Ancy Le Franc
- the Abbey of Fontenay
- Group tours to famous vineyards including Savigny, Meursault or Nuits St Georges
A family Vacation:
Undoubtedly, a hotel barge is an ideal family vacation. Northern Burgundy’s Luciole is capable of comfortably
carrying 14 passengers, including two single cabins for solo travellers, and offers Adventure Cruise private charters at under $4,000 per person. What makes this such an incredible deal is the chauffeured transfers included to and from Paris, as well as all of your meals, wine and an open bar. Luciole also offers their passengers a daily activity program which has featured go-karting, zip-lining, as well as kayaking for kids, and group shopping trips to markets and tours to local vineyards for the adults. Always check ahead to see the types of activities offered.
Northern Burgandy also boasts Randle, a smaller barge capable of carrying 4 passengers. Randle offers great value for a family vacation charter: This particular barge is classic in appearance, with stunning wood paneling and French-tiled baths. One of Randle’s cabins has a comfortable queen-sized bed, and the second includes upper and lower berths. Dinner on Randle won’t be included, which may suit some families better anyway, and offer them more flexibility to eat what they choose. But like Luciole, it does include the chauffeured transfers to and from Paris. Activities offered to families range from visiting a dinosaur theme park, pony trek excursions, and canoe trips. As usual, always check ahead to verify activities before planning your vacation.
What is Included in a Hotel Barge cruise:
Typically, a hotel barge cruise will include meals (continental breakfast, a lunch, and a delicious evening meal) as well as local wine and cheese. There is usually an open bar unless otherwise stated, but it is always wise to check ahead. The use of any onboard facilities such as a jacuzzi, pool, or exercise equipment your boat may offer. If transportation is necessary to any of the arranged daily excursions, this should be provided. Also the use of bicycles.
A Few Things to Remember:
- July and August, the hottest months, may be too hot to be enjoyable for some heat sensitive guests
- April can be particularly rainy – however the more budget-conscious traveller can benefit from the lower prices offered at this time of year
- Barges operate beginning the middle of the month of April, through October
- May and June, September, and the first two weeks of October are considered to be peak cruise season
- Don’t underestimate how long it might take you to get to your excursion destination, always factor in the time it will take to travel back to your boat
- If renting your own self-drive boat, try to rent one with both indoor and outdoor steering to allow for more comfortable navigation through any possible rainy weather
- Prepare for any delays getting through locks by having back up plans: Mooring and going for a walk, bike ride, or just doing some exploration
- Plan where you will visit a laundromat to clean and dry clothing
- Once you settle into your own boat, it is advised to go into town and stock up on anything you will need as soon as possible
- Try to ensure you have your food for breakfast and lunch for the next day. That way you can be sure you have your meals if you’re held up in locks.
- Ask ahead about any activities the cruise offers
- Bring small bags and backpacks for groceries and anything that will attach to the backs of bikes to help carry anything you might need to bring back.
- Bring your own condiments with you on your own boat, including mayo, salt and pepper, mustard, as well as laundry detergent and dish soap – you don’t want to have to rely on the local stores carrying the brands and sizes you need.
- Some recommend bringing your own towels on the hotel barge if you prefer a certain thickness
- Bring a pair of extremely heavy gloves for handling the ropes at the locks. The ropes get wet and difficult to handle
- Bring comfortable shoes for walking
- Remember to bring a rain poncho
- Advise staff of any food allergies ahead of meal time
An extensive road network makes the Burgundy canal region accessible, and there are several train stations and airports in this region:
- Dijon Airport – 5 kilometres from the city centre
- Dijon Airport offers scheduled flights to destinations in France – call ahead
It should be noted that for the majority of cruises in the Burgundy canal region transfers can be arranged if they are not already included in the price of the cruise, from the city of Paris, thereby making the large airports of Paris Charles-de-Gaulle and Paris Orly your arrival points from outside of France.
TGV train stations:
- Le Creusot
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