Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

Bill Fisher and his wife in the garden before dinner at the home of their barge captain's parents, France.

Bill Fisher and his wife in the garden before dinner at the home of their barge captain’s parents.

If you want a super-relaxing weeklong vacation in France and love to sample a wide variety of wines and cheeses, look no further than a barge cruise through Burgundy. We spent a week on the Magnolia arranged by Caroline. Choosing a canal cruise can be somewhat overwhelming but Carloline’s insight made the process seamless and her recommendation was perfect. The crew on the Magnolia was wonderful (5 crew for 6 guests) and the food and wine pairings were spot-on. The daily excursions were intimate with such a small group and our visits to local markets, truffle hunting, and dinner with one of the crew members’ parents in their own home were truly memorable. A typical day included bike rides on the path next to the canal (the boat goes REALLY slow) and leisurely four-course meals at the end of the day. This is a great way to unwind and sample the food and wine while cruising the canals of France. If you want to investigate opportunities, make sure and give Caroline a call.

Caroline suggested a week-long cruise in North Burgundy aboard La Belle Epoque, a 12-passenger barge to ply the inland waterways of wine country; she was spot on. Caroline got me an upgrade to a suite and I was ready to cast off. Captain Craig, Pilot Luke and Matalo Brice safely and SLOWLY (at 2 to 4 knots) ferried myself and 6 other vacationers around the farmlands southeast of Paris. Chef Jan and his hostesses Ola and Emma kept plying us with wines from the region, cheeses made from the cows we passed on our cruise, and fresh baguettes and croissants every morning (and tasty fish and beef entrees)!!

We visited chateaus, churches, abbeys and vineyards…sampled (more) local fares and were entertained by amazing people. Imagine being buzzed by an eagle during a falconry demonstration or dining with the baron and baroness (friends with the former Queen Mother and Diana), tasting their family’s latest champagne vintage!!

We had a wonderful time on our September barge trip through Scotland (9/17-23)! Mark in Ellen and Caroline’s office helped us to decide on the Spirit of Scotland, a lovely vessel with comfortable cabins and a spacious upper deck for lounging in the hot tub and viewing the gorgeous landscape. Alas! The weather gods did not smile upon us, and most days were too cold, wet (or both) to do any outdoor lounging, but we enjoyed ourselves immensely nonetheless. Our daily excursions were well-planned and interesting—Culloden battlefield and its museum provided a wealth of information about Scottish history; Cawdor Castle was simply gorgeous, both inside and in the gardens; the raptor demonstration enabled us to examine these beautiful birds at close range (we held owls, a hawk, and an eagle!); and the Dalwhinnie distillery tour combined educational (how Scotch is made) and sensory (a fabulous tasting that paired the spirits with chocolates) components. The barge crew—captain, chef, hosts, deckhand, and cruise director—were all terrific and worked tirelessly to ensure that everyone had the best time possible. Meals were amazing in both quality and quantity, and we especially appreciated the list of menu items (including wines and cheeses) provided at the end of the cruise. A little rain—actually a lot—could not ruin our fabulous vacation!

PANDEMIC TRAVEL  Juanna in Ellen’s office planned a wonderful cruise on the Savoir Vivre barge. She helped steer us through two years of COVID until we were able to travel in June. We picked this barge as it was small and stopped each night for dinner in a local restaurant. This appealed to us and we were not disappointed! The restaurant experiences were all very good. Breakfast and lunch were delivered daily by local providers. All were plentiful and delicious. Richard, our captain, was very welcoming and accommodative as was Axelle his mate. Our daily tours were led by Simon who was very knowledgeable and interesting. The barge is well appointed. We enjoyed walking the tow path ahead of the barge for exercise. Biking is available also. We thoroughly enjoyed our cruise as well as our fellow passengers. We recommend Ellen’s team, and the Savoir Vivre as an enjoyable way to see Southern Burgundy.

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