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French Barge Cruise

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The French Country Waterways Experience
French Barge Cruise

The 128-foot Nenuphar floating luxury hotel plies the waters of Burgundy.

Photo courtesy of French Country Waterways, Ltd.
Cruising along the tranquil canals of Burgundy on the Nenuphar, a 128-foot epicurean barge owned by French Country Waterways, is one of the finest ways to convert a six-night journey into a trip of a lifetime. The barge slowly meanders along at four miles per hour while the landscape unfolds to reveal vineyard-covered rolling hills, grazing cows and chateaux galore.

Just as key to the French barge experience are the culinary offerings – which include an intoxicating assortment of cheeses (three at each meal), quiches, savory sauces, chocolate towers, and escargot in delicate layers of pastry. That’s paired with premier and grand cru wines for each course. Many vintages hail from the world’s most renowned vintners and are not available for export.

When the barge is in cruise mode, guests can stay on board and read (there’s a tiny library), play one of the many board games, inhale the French scenery from the deck with a drink, or simply wave back at the waving onlookers ashore.

Many sections of the canal contain locks every half mile or so. That gives ample opportunity to get off at a moment’s notice and walk or bike alongside (the barge is equipped with a number of top-of-the-line bicycles).

Part of each day is devoted to an excursion, which includes guided visits to Beaune and Dijon, a bike ride or stroll to Santenay (an ancient town filled with winemakers) or trips to esteemed wineries that may otherwise be closed to the general public.

Meals are aboard the ship and during each cruise there’s one dinner ashore at the three-Michelin-star Lameloise. The restaurant was outstanding, yet the chef’s cuisine on the barge was even more pleasing.

The Nenuphar barge accommodates a maximum of 12 guests. Lunches and dinners are communal. It’s not ideal for everyone. But for serious foodies who long to see the French countryside from the unique canal vantage point, French Country Waterways offers the ultimate honeymoon or romantic getaway. Due to its intimate size, the amount of attention you'll receive from the staff is significant.

Barging appeals to VIPs with impeccable taste: While our ship was moored in Dijon, an adjacent barge held Barbra Streisand (the Nenuphar crew remained tightlipped, but this writer her passed her walking on the dock). The superstar even gave a friendly wave from her vessel as her ship headed off.

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