A River Barge Cruise in Burgundy, France
The Hotel Barge Luciole
Gourmet Cuisine & Wine in France
From Sept. 2-8, 2018, my wife, my Dad, and I enjoyed a delightful river/canal cruise through Burgundy, France aboard the Hotel Barge Luciole, and it was so wonderful, I just have to write about it. Full disclosure: I am not a professional travel blogger, and I received nothing in exchange for this. I simply wanted to share one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life, just in case anyone else is inspired and wants to try it. :-D
We first learned of the Barge Luciole through The Barge Lady and Wendy Perrin Travel (my Dad has used Wendy‘s travel services previously, and he arranged most of the trip). It‘s a 3-Star rated cruise, and it was worth every penny of the fairly expensive tickets. We were a bit lucky, as my Dad was using the last of his gazillion frequent flier miles, which covered our flights over and helped make it a tad more affordable.
As one would naturally expect from a cruise through the famous Burgundy wine-making region of France, the wines flowed quite freely aboard this cruise. What truly amazed us all, however, was the amazing, phenomenal, terrific, delectable, delicious, and incredible gourmet cuisine that we enjoyed aboard!
We also had some delightful fellow cruisers, a friendly and ever-helpful captain and crew, and the beautiful, gently-rolling hills of Burgundy to enjoy as we relaxed on board or stretched our legs walking the towpath and local tracks.
If you've ever been on a river cruise by a cruise line such as Viking...this isn't the same thing! LOL We've never been on one of those, but several friends have, and from what they tell us, those are quite a bit bigger, even if they are just 50-100 people. The Luciole is equipped to hold 12 passengers, although we had 10. My wife and I were the youngest passengers by at least 10 years, and most of the passengers were 60+. We were fortunate to have a wonderfully engaging group of fellow bargemates, so the conversations flowed as freely as the wine.
The rooms are naturally small, as are the bathrooms, but the point of such a cruise isn't to hole up in your little cabin, and we practically never spent time there except when sleeping.
The Culinary Mastery of Tadek Zwan
Our chef for the week was Tadek Zwan, whom I wish we could have gotten to know more, but he was usually hard at work in the kitchen. While they didn't mind if we stopped in occasionally, I didn't get the impression that we should just hang out in there and talk. Besides, that was a tiny kitchen! Still, the gastronomic works of art and taste that emerged were literally world-class. Given that he worked and trained under famed British chef Heston Blumenthal, that's not surprising.
I wish I had the vocabulary to even begin to describe the exquisite range of flavors that Tadek created with each dish, but I don't. Divine, sublime, nuanced, mouth-watering, , transcendent, magical....and those are just beginning to touch the surface. As you can see, the presentation was equally beautiful.
Did I mention WINE!?!?
Oh my oh my, how the wine flowed that week! Obviously, since we were cruising through Burgundy, home of the AOC Chablis, we drank a lot of Chablis and Pinot Noir wines. While I'm generally a Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot drinker, as is my wife, these many bottles of delicious wine made a convincing argument to broaden our palettes and expand our wine inventory at home. We'll be checking out Total Wine near us soon, to see which of these are available in Charlotte, that's for sure.
We toured the Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard vineyard, which was right near the town of Chablis. Did you know there's actually a town named Chablis? It's quite small but pretty. We really wanted to order some wine to ship home, but it seems the trade wars of 2018 are interfering. Our host, Sebastian, said that several people, who had ordered cases a couple months ago, have had their orders stuck in port for a month or more, with no word on when they'll be released. :-( Oh well, we did get their information, in the hope that we'll be able to order in the future.
I've included snapshots of every bottle, just in case you'd like to try them yourself, assuming you can find them. Not all are exported to the US, I think.
It's been a kind of stressful year at work so far, what with integrating a lot of awesome new 3D digital dental technology. That's why this cruise was the perfect vacation for us - it was so easy!
Francisco was both our bus driver and our barge captain, ferrying us on almost daily excursions through the rolling hills of Burgundy in the bus when not steadily steering the Luciole along the narrow canal and into the EXTREMELY narrow locks, which lifted us up into the hills every few miles, as we were going upstream. While cruising, we could enjoy brisk walks along the towpath that meandered alongside the canal, use either regular or electric bikes to do the same, or we most often sat on deck and talked. Coffee or tea were always available, but we usually started on the wine by about 11am. :-D
The excursions, besides the vineyard, included the lovely towns of Auxerre, Clamecy, Chablis, Vezelay, Noyers-sur-Serin, and the Chateau Bazoches. Our guide was Paul, a Scottish journalist by day, who provided humorous and detailed historical and geographic information for each.
(Click any photo in the gallery to the right for a full-screen slideshow.)
After 6 days and 7 nights, we were driven back to Paris and dropped off at the Hotel Mansart, right where it began. It was sad saying goodbye to Francisco, Paul, Tadek, Cerys and Morgan, Jack and Dean. All of them, along with the good Hotel Barge Luciole, combined to create one of the most memorable and delightful travel and culinary experiences of a lifetime.
I simply cannot recommend them highly enough.