Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Barge slowly through the Loire Valley

Locks unlock the trip.
Beautiful landscapes, charming French villages, historic castles, superb cuisine and friendly crews make barging the canals of France a hard-to-beat getaway.

The inclusive trip isn't cheap, you could drive the route in under three hours or, with a few boating skills do it yourself, but the pleasure of being cossetted while informed and given an insight into the lives of the French that tourists never see is priceless.

It's also relaxing and a whole lot of fun.

La Renaissance
European Waterways provided my introduction to this specialized form of travel with accommodations aboard La Renaissance's first "voyage" of the season. There were four passengers on the eight-passenger hotel barge that is the largest of all on the 373-year-old Briare Canal, our comfort, captain's challenge.

Adieu Court, Fountainebleau
Over six nights we went from Montargis, the Venice of France, to Chatillon-Sur-Loire; visited three castles - Fountainebleau, Sully and La Bussiere, where we met the Duchess de Sully working in her beloved garden.

The medieval village of Moret Sur Loing
We strolled through two markets, several medieval villages, a faience factory, countless churches and cathedrals and a winery in the Sancerre region.

Rapeseed crop
We listened to birdsong, admired large fields of brilliant yellow rapeseed and marveled at the French knack for getting trees to grow the same height and hedges to fill densely and grow squarely.

Plane trees
We chatted with locals, tasted the finest foods and wines of the area and transited Gustave Eiffel's remarkable creation, a canal bridged over the Loire River.

Barge along a canal over the Loire River, thanks to Gustave Eiffel.
It was a compelling argument for seeing a little bit thoroughly over speeding through a large area and really seeing nothing.

For a day-to-day look at my barge trip, look for "Aboard Renaissance" at