Chateaux and Chablis
- Cruise ship - L'Impressioniste
- Destination - Burgundy, France
- Month of Travel - May
A few months after returning from this idyllic, slow, slow voyage on board L'Impressioniste, the painterly images were as clear as ever: I can see the tranquil, tree-lined towpaths, feel the warmth of spring sunshine and re-live the taste of exquisite cheese and wine on board this charming hotel-barge.
With 1,200 kilometres of waterways, Burgundy is best toured by boat. Its very name symbolises fine wines and classic cuisine (Boeuf Bourgignon, L'Escargots, Kir), to be sampled amidst a backdrop of ancient abbeys and castles.
This Lower Burgundy cruise with European Waterways, offers visits to vineyards and wine cellars (without having to drink and drive!). With a skipper and crew in charge of navigating the canal locks and the all-inclusive hospitality, we can just sit back to enjoy scenic views and sip a glass of chilled Chablis.
Passengers travelling to join a cruise on board L'Impressioniste are advised to take the TGV train from Paris to Dijon. The heritage La Cloche hotel, (with lovely gardens and fine restaurant) is the ideal place to stay pre and post cruise in order to explore this charming town.
A coach transfer from the train station and this hotel takes all guests to the Hotel-Barge moored along the Canal du Bourgogne.
Captain James welcomes us aboard to meet the crew - Francois, Kitty, Joe and Chef Marie. The barge accommodates 12 guests in homely twin/double suites (with private facilities) - on this particular cruise there are just six of us so even more space and comfort.
L'Impressioniste is a former Dutch cargo barge which has been furnished in Country House style, lounge-dining salon and open sun decks with a hot tub.
Wining and dining on board is taken extremely seriously on board, beginning with a gourmet dinner on the first night with lively conversation as we get to know the fellow guests from Canada and Australia.
Our canal trip begins in warm sunshine as we sit out on deck, passing fields, meadows, orchards, distant forested hills, cruising slowly at 3 mph through a series of Locks (Ecluses) en route to La Repe. It's fascinating to watch the Lock Keepers at work - due to health and safety we are advised not to offer to help.
And of course due to the sedate pace of the journey, we have the freedom to stroll or jog along the canal paths, as well as borrow one of the bicycles on board for a gentle ride from Lock to Lock.
The week's itinerary ensures we experience the cultural heritage of the region and daily guided excursions are included in the cruise fare. We drive past Grand Crus vineyards, the heartland of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes to the Medieval town of Beaune for a private tour and wine tasting at Bouchard Aîné & Fils.
One evening the Captain moored carefully for a perfect view of the magnificent Chateauneuf en Auxois, located at the top of the hill. Dinner was served on deck as we watched the gradual sunset bathe the castle in a rose-tinted light.
Memorable moments through the ever-changing Paysage as we meander along - sunflowers, poppy fields, waterlilies, herons in flight, an avenue of cypress trees, sunlight shimmering on the water. This scenic beauty was like being part of a living Monet or Seurat impressionist landscape.
And the high standard of meals from our first breakfast to farewell dinner (Smoked salmon millefeuilles, Charolais beef, Epoisses cheese, Crème brulee) was exceptional with paired wines described with passion and flair.
This was a fabulous, fun and very sociable house party with professional hospitality from the friendly young crew. A slow, slow, graceful cruise on board L'Impressioniste is surely the most romantic and relaxing way to explore the winelands and waterways of beautiful Burgundy. Enchanteur!
European Waterways is a well established company (1974) with a fleet of luxury hotel-barges (6 - 20 passengers) offering a wide choice of canal, river, lake and loch cruises across UK and Europe from South of France to Scotland. Private Hotel-Barge Charters also available. More information here European Waterways
Written by Vivien Devlin