We’re starting a new series: BEST EVER. These articles will be about food travel experiences that we have found and engaged in ourselves. And, they will all be experiences that we feel you should add to your must-do food travel list.
Our first BEST EVER is a France barge cruise through Southern Burgundy on the ultra deluxe Adrienne, a member of the French Country Waterways fleet.
We took this dream cruise on my 50th birthday. To say it was a trip of a lifetime is a huge understatement. From start to finish everything was top-notch, the details were carefully looked after, and it is the kind of experience whose memories will continue to bring joy long after the journey has ended.
The trip is a 6 night/7 day slow and pleasurable canal cruise through the beautiful Southern Burgundy countryside. The adventure begins with a most civilized mid-afternoon private coach pick-up in the lobby of the beautiful Hotel Raphael in Paris. We opted to stay at the Hotel Raphael for 2 nights prior to the cruise. Let’s just say that it is a deliciously comfortable and luxurious Parisian hotel within walking distance of the Champs-Ellysees and many other right bank Parisian hot spots.
You start the adventure in earnest with a jaunt on the TGV, or high-speed train, to Dijon that lasts just under two hours. If you’ve never taken the TGV you’ll be impressed by the cleanliness and efficiency on this 200+ mph rail that gets you where you’re going in no time.
You are welcomed on the Adrienne with a champagne reception, of course! The Adrienne has 6 luxurious cabins with the choice of one King or two twin beds. Each cabin has its own private bath with shower, much bigger than most ocean cruise suites. This means there will likely be 12 people on board. The Adrienne has an English speaking crew of 6 well-trained members, who will dote on your every need. Each guest completes a profile prior to the trip so the staff know in advance your food allergies and food and drink preferences. I happen to love vodka as well as wine so they made sure to have my favorite brand on hand in the fully-stocked bar onboard.
The beauty of the barge is immediately apparent. The word barge seems very odd considering this is nothing like a typical barge you might expect to see. This opulent floating inn has every amenity you can imagine – salon, bar and separate dining room all done in classic French decor, with lovely carpeting, carved wood furnishings, and lovely brass accents. Central air-conditioning, granite and marble bathrooms and both 110 and 220 electrical outlets in every cabin.
What’s included in the price? In a nutshell, everything! All meals breakfast, lunch and dinner, all wines with lunch & dinner, open bar, daily escorted excursions and the use of onboard bicycles.
Be Prepared to Eat & Drink
The highlight of the cruise is definitely the food+wine. Every lunch and dinner we were offered red and white estate-bottled wines. There was an in-depth explanation of each wine and its origin. We greatly appreciated the very detailed history and in-depth knowledge the barge “captain” brought to each presentation.
We also sampled three unique local cheeses at every lunch and dinner. Some were made at tiny dairies specializing in those particular cheeses, some from area villages or monasteries, and some we’re likely never to taste again. It was a cheese and wine lovers’ paradise.
The stops during the cruise featured a visit to a Cote d’Or wine producing area featuring Premier Cru and Grand Cru vineyards including a private tasting with the vintner.
Also included in price of the cruise is a dinner at the Michelin three-starred restaurant Maison Lameloise in the tiny town of Chagny. This was a very special treat but we all agreed that the food on board the cruise was on par with that of the Michelin starred restaurant.
Our on-board chef, Cyril, was a young self-taught French chef who was adorable and charming and whose world-class cooking skills were quite appreciated by all on the barge. He even provided us a tour of his small but efficient galley and offered some French cooking tips.
From our first stop in Dijon to our last stop in St. Leger every port of call had its own unique qualities and wonders to explore. We had escorted walking tours and a visit to a working Chateau where we chatted with the Count whose family has owned the Chateau for generations. We had a tour of Beaune known for its unique tiled roofs and Hospice de Beaune. And, we strolled through a 12th century castle.
To make the adventure even better, as the barge slowly moves from port to port you may choose to walk, run or bicycle along the canals yourself. There is a paved path along most of the canals that allows you easy access to quaint French towns along the way. We hopped on bicycles one day and experienced the smallest towns in a way we most certainly never would have even been able to otherwise, even on a driving trip through France.
If you choose, you can relax onboard and experience going through the many canal locks, watching as the crew make it look a lot easier than I think it really is.
New Found Friends
Our companions on the cruise were wonderful food and travel-loving people. We all became fast friends after our first meal together and enjoyed each others’ company throughout the journey. Sharing of the day’s tales and comparing travel stories made for some late nights over wine, scotch and other libations.
Since it was my special birthday, the crew made the evening we celebrated my day really special. The Chef created a wonderful birthday torte adorned with a huge spun sugar sculpture. We ate and drank ourselves silly and finished up the evening with Moet & Chandon Imperial at the barge bar while comparing pedicures. Fun was most certainly had by all.
A Trip To Remember
Our France Barge Cruise through the canals of Burundy was and still remains one of my most favorite food travel memories. I’ll always remember the food, the wine and the friends I made on that week-long France Barge Cruise.
Quick Bites: If you’re looking for a truly special food travel experience check out French Country Waterways France Barge Cruises. It’s a very special week filled with local food, cheeses and wine that will provide memories for a lifetime.