Barge cruising with European Waterways is one of my favorite travel experiences. In this La Bella Vita cruise review I share all the details of my fantastic 6 day barge cruise in Italy.
There is a reason that a European Waterways barge cruise has become one of my favorite travel experiences – actually, it’s a lot of reasons. A week long cruise always includes incredibly attentive service, fantastic food, exceptional local wines, and specially curated excursions. And all this is provided in an intimate, small group setting. What’s not to love about that!
A week long Loire Valley barge cruise with European Waterways was a truly relaxing and slow paced journey with intimate service, gourmet food and wine, and visits to out of the ordinary sights in the French countryside.
Before there were planes, trains and automobiles, France developed a vast network of canals that were used to transport goods from one part of the country to another. These canals connected to the major rivers and also to the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. The canal network made it easy to move all manner of goods from one part of the country to the other, and in particular, allowed Parisians to easily taste the delicacies from all corners of their realm.
Today, the canals and their many locks are used primarily for recreation. European Waterways expertly manages a fleet of 12 luxury barges that ply the many canals of France on a variety of itineraries. I had already experienced a wonderful cruise along the Burgundy Canal on the La Belle Epoque and was quite familiar with this unique way of touring France’s less visited countryside.
Luxury barging in France on the Burgundy Canal with European Waterways has been one of my most memorable travel experiences. Discover why a France canal cruise should be at the top of your bucket list with this detailed review.
To have unique experiences is at the heart of why I travel. Recently I was privileged to have one of the most extraordinary luxury travel experiences that I have ever had. I was invited on a France canal cruise on the barge La Belle Epoque with European Waterways. For six days on my Burgundy, France Canal cruise, I had the ultimate slow travel cruising experience that included gourmet meals, amazing wines, impeccably attentive service and uniquely curated excursions.
One of my favorite activities during the European Waterways Burgundy Canal cruise was the being able to bike on the towpath alongside the canal. The barge cruises very slowly, so keeping up was never an issue. The path was quite level and since the canal passes through woods and farmland, the bike ride was quiet and very peaceful. It was a relaxing way to burn of some calories before the next five star meal that our chef prepared for us.
I’ve tasted sparkling wines, but never true champagne from France. One of the special excursions on my European Waterways barge cruise on the Burgundy canal was a private and fascinating behind the scenes tour for our group of the Alexandre Bonnet champagne production process. Afterwards, we were treated to a tasting of four of their vintages which provided a delectable introduction to this bubbly version of Bacchus’ elixir, a taste I could definitely get used to.
One of the most unique aspects of our tour of the Chateau de Commarin were the original heraldic tapestries made for the castle in the early 1500’s. The tapestries depict family armorial designs alternating with alchemical symbols. As a precursor to chemistry, I was particularly fascinated by the alchemy references. Sadly (for us), some of the tapestries were trimmed down to fit the existing space, so some of the panels were no longer complete. However, despite the centuries, the colors were still vivid and all the detail quite impressive. The tour of the Chateau de Commarin was the first excursion on my European Waterways barge cruise on the Burgundy canal.
My first day’s excursion on the La Belle Epoque Burgundy Canal cruise was to the Chateau de Commarin where our group had a private falconry demonstration. The climax of the demonstration was this beautiful eagle- owl, who with its 6 foot wingspan is one of the largest owls in the world.
One of the excursions on my European Waterways Burgundy Canal cruise was to the UNESCO listed Abbey de Fontenay. The abbey was founded in 1118 by a group of Cistercian monks. On our tour, I leaned that the Cistercian order was established in response to the excesses displayed by the Benedictine monks. The Cistercian’s believed in hard work in a simple, austere environment and they built this large abbey to insure that they would be self-sufficient. Much of the original abbey architecture remains to this day, including the cloisters seen in this photo.