Are you ready for it?
Six days, six staff and just six guests – sounds good?
Plus – all this luxury and excursions while you cruise through Burgundy on a 126 foot freight barge built in 1960.
Well of course it is not quite like that at all – in 1996 the Dutch built freighter was turned into a luxury 12 berth hotel barge with aircon, ensuites in all the cabins, a hottub on deck, bikes and all this complemented by an interesting and varied excursions to towns and chateaux plus a few wine tastings.
Welcome to a week on the Impressioniste!
Dinner and a champagne reception on the first night – a taste of culinary joys to come! Note – all meals are served with 2 Burgundy wines and a selection of cheeses.
On the first morning we set off at a gentle pace – no other speed is available – through 9 locks.
Interestingly we cruised along side an abandoned railway line – and it is odd to reflect that the train came – damaged the commercial primacy of the canals and then disappeared under trees whilst the canal continues as a leisure highway though this breathtaking scenery – think of gentle Somerset fields with Charollais cattle grazing and the odd sheep but with a sprinkling of sleepy little French villages.
Our first excursion was to The Clos de Vougeot vineyard created by Cistercian monks
Château de Clos de Vougeot, dates from 1551. From 1945, this building has served as headquarters of the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin. (You do not pronounce the s)
The next day a visit to Dijon – after breakfast – charming and excellently organised
Back on the boat for lunch and then 8 locks
And so it continued – a little cruising, some biking or walking or just sitting about reading.
The boat travels at a gentle pace - so if you get off at one lock you have plenty of time to rejoin the boat at the next of to cycle into one of the pretty canal side villages.
Everything was so smooth as Sophie and Ellie kept an eye on us all and seemed to guess the right time to ask
“Would you like a tea or a coffee?” – - "or perhaps something stronger"?
The questions – a hard life indeed.
The lock keepers travel ahead of the barge on scooters to prepare the locks
For a change we take the Mercedes mini bus to a Michelin Star restaurant in the beautifully restored Abbaye la Bussiere.
Bought from the Church by an English couple who turned Amberley Castle near Arundel into a luxury hotel – this renovation is just impeccable.
And then to Chateau Commarin which the same family have owned for 26 generations – where the Queen Mum dropped in for tea in the ‘70s.
Perhaps the most stunning day was the visit to Beaune and the Hospice de Beaune Hotel - Dieu – founded in 1443 and continuing in the same buildings until moved to new premises in 1971.
The beds for the poor might be expected to sleep up to 4 people – all arranged so each could see the altar.
And then the glorious hill fort of Chateauneuf en Auxois – once an outpost for the Dukes of Burgundy but now a national monument which towers over the canal and the barge.
Chateau towers above the canal and the Hotel Barge
And on each of the excursions we had Magali as our guide - who enthused and informed us - and kept and eye on us too.
But the best thing about her was the way she pitched the commentary - too often French guides want to tell you just everything - Magali edits well and keeps to the essentials.
And as a local she has the back story on most things too.
Ah – the struggle of it all!
To watch Rudolf jumping off with ropes, adjusting your bike and checking the tyres - quite exhausting!
The barges are only a few centremeters narrower than the locks - so Nico has a challenge. In fact he hardly even nudged as he piloted the huge boat into each lock
All topped off with a dinner at the Captains table where Nico hosted a veritable feast cooked by the wonderful Emma and served by Sophie and Ellie.
After 6 days we had made it seemed 10 friends – the other 4 guests and the 6 crew. If they thought they were doing a job it never showed – it was as if we were honoured friends and as we all left the barge for the last time the farewells were the sad but joyful ones which mark a special stay.
Go on – pamper yourself in extreme luxury – as the advert says “you are worth it”
A 6-night cruise aboard hotel barge L’Impressionniste, from €3,190pp in a twin/double cabin, including all meals, wines, an open bar, excursions and local transfers. There are many other waterways and countries served by European Waterways and they all look fun.
Call European Waterways: +44 (0) 1753 598555, or visit: http://www.gobarging.com/
And in the Midi