A couple of weeks ago I wrote about, cruising on Lough Erne, the freedom of the waterways in Ireland and the great weekend I had, this week however, I am writing about the waterways, but in a very different setting. This boating holiday was just a little bit special!
A hotel barge cruise on a Burgundy Canal is a wonderful experience and hopefully when you have finished reading this you too with be excited enough to go and try it for yourself.
Burgundy boasts some of the world’s finest wines with around 60,000 acres of sunlit vines and arguably the prettiest canals in France. The Burgundy Canal winds its way in smooth curves through the heart of renowned vineyards, medieval towns, elegant châteaux, magnificent cathedral
s, picturesque villages and wonderful local markets.
When one travels with European Waterways you will experience all the very best in 5 star luxury, food, and service. My collection point was in Paris, so the easiest and cheapest way was to book an Easyjet flight www.easyjet.com in to Paris Charles De Gaulle or CDG as its known.
I made my way to the heavenly Hotel Pont Royal, (http://www.leshotelsduroy.com/en/hotel-pont-royal) which is located in the heart of the stylish Saint-Germain des Prés district. This beautifully authentic and elegant hotel has 65 rooms and 10 suites, which have spacious high ceilings and romantic views of the city.
The reason I chose this hotel was because of their new Gatsby in Paris offer, which was the perfect Parisian package. Paris is a place to inspire the creative mind and imagination. Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Miller all spent time at the Hotel Pont Royal enjoying the charming surroundings and lavish accommodation.
Even today the building evokes a glamorous vintage mood and satisfies the appetites of artistic characters. I wasn’t able to stay in the Gatsby suite as my budget did not stretch that far, but the room I had was indeed beautiful.
Service at the hotel was great and it was located in a superb part of Paris. Breakfast was a treat with a fine selection of offerings from around the world. So if you fancy “pushing the boat out” then the Gatsby package in the Pont Royal in Paris, could be the one for you as it offers you to the very best of Paris’ literary scene whilst offering the top Panoramic suite with enviable views of the city.
Make the most of a weekend in France’s idyllic capital city with Hotel Pont Royal’s Gatsby in Paris package:
One night in the Panoramic Suite
Buffet breakfast included (for two persons)
One cocktail “Great Gatsby” per person
Walking Literary Tour around Paris
Chocolate box from “Hugo&Victor” as gift in room
Rate: 1 200 Euro per night
No luxury is omitted in this innovative package; where guests will feel like literary legends for the night.
The Gatsby in Paris package prices start from £1,027 (€1200) per night for two people including taxes and service. For bookings contact: http://www.leshotelsduroy.com/en/hotel-pont-royal / Tel: + 33 (0)1 42 84 70 00
The 8 passenger L’Art de Vivre started life as a Scottish munitions carrier and survived long enough to be transformed by a team of skilled crafts-men into a floating celebration of the Burgundian “good life”.
Her facilities included a sun deck, spa pool and 8 bikes, perfect for gentle tow path ride along the canal side. The air-conditioned interior boasted a comfortable saloon / dining room and an always open inclusive bar.
My air conditioned, en-suite cabin had a double configuration (twin at your request), it was compact but beautifully furnished with wood panelling and suitable nautical brass fittings, the bathroom was extremely well equipped with a very generous fully functioning power shower.
I have to say this way of cruising has to be the best cruising you can do. No seasickness, no hoards of tourists running all over the place, no queues for the restaurant, you remain stationary at night and only cruise during the day, at no more than 5 kmph. And every night you eat at the Captains table!
The food on the L’Art de Vivre was Michelin class repast, Jim our chef was outstanding, a quiet man but obviously so focused on his craft, he was barely able to speak, but when he present his magnificent fare we were spellbound.
Poached eggs in red wine, stuffed pigeon breast, sweetbreads, foie gras, oven baked salmon and 5 cheeses every day.
This is a region with a vast variety of cheeses, in all shapes, sizes and colours, strong in character or mild and fresh and all can be enjoyed with full-bodied red Burgundies, or perhaps with lighter white Chablis wines. Burgundy’s gastronomic tradition is certainly rich and diverse and a sedate cruise on a hotel barge along one of its delightful waterways will allow you to indulge in good food and wine, two of the real pleasures in life. Make no mistake about it, this is a gastronomic experience that will leave you breathless, and it will without doubt increase your waistline a little.
The crew of the L’Art de Vivre, comprised of our Captain and tour guide Paul, Master Chef Jim and Housekeeper, all of whom have a love for the region, and all secure in the knowledge that their vessel represents L’Art de Vivre itself.
Our week flew by, but to give you some idea of the way it works goes like this we were collected on Sunday and we transferred to the barge, which was moored in Auxerre.
Following a champagne welcome, we were free to explore the medieval town of Auxerre or take a stroll along the banks of the River Yonne before returning for dinner on board. Dinner was an exquisite affair and after a few glasses of port and possibly a larger amount of Bailies Irish cream, I retired for the night.
Monday Day 2, morning I was up bright and after breakfast we set off on our morning cruise which took us past past vineyard-clad hillsides to our rural mooring at Vincelles.
The afternoon excursion took us to Chablis, home of one of the most famous white wines in the world. A tasting at family run winery, Jean-Marc Brocard introduced us to some of the local Petit Chablis and Chablis wines.
After another splendid Dinner on board, we retired for the evening.
Tuesday, Day 3 after breakfast, we set for a cruise southwards through rich pasture lands past grazing Charolais cattle to the town of Mailly-la-Ville. Once again after a sumptuous dinner on board and a few jokes round the deck top table it was lights out.
Wednesday, Day 4, we visited the charming 14th century medieval market village of Noyers, one of the most beautiful villages in France. In the afternoon we cruised past the Saussois cliffs where an international climbing centre creates a spectacular setting. Giving Jim a night off, we ate wonderfully at a local auberge.
Thursday, Day 5, In the morning we enjoyed an excursion to the town of Vézelay, one of Burgundy’s most famous treasures with the Romanesque Basilica of St Mary Magdalene, craft shops and fine views of the surrounding countryside.
Lunch on board followed by an afternoon cruise through the Yonne Valley to sleep off our recent acquisition of Chablis. We had dinner on board and more craic as the wine and jokes flowed.
Friday day 6, saw us take a morning cruise through beautiful countryside to Chevroches.
By now as the waste lines expanded we all decided to start walking the tow-paths in an effort to avert the inevitable. In the afternoon, we visited the Chateau of Bazoches, whose illustrious visitors included Richard the Lionheart and which was later remodelled by Maréchal Vauban.
Captain’s Farewell Dinner followed on board with a celebration and applause for our superb staff. Our last morning we were reluctantly dragged from our cabins as we all had decided that a return to normal living was not for us.
Upon return to our individual homes, our new found American, New Zealand and South African friends all embarked on emailing each other, berating the fact we had to cook, clean and make our own beds and that when we raised a hand a Bloody Mary or Chablis was not trust into it. So if you want to live the good life I can highly recommend European Waterways and please make sure you visit www.gobarging.com
Prices for a 6 night cruise aboard the 8 passenger hotel barge ‘Art de Vivre’ are from €2,990pp (€3,190 in 2014) in a twin/double en suite cabin, including all meals, wines, an open bar, excursions and local transfers. Full boat charters are also available. Call European Waterways: +44 (0) 1753 598555 Website: www.gobarging.com
Considering I was away for about 10 days, I needed somewhere to park my car close to Belfast International Airport. I have checked out all of the car parks and for me I have found KARL to be the cheapest and best suited to my needs.
KARL Airport Parking is located in KARL Business Park and it is only a 5 minute drive to the Terminal at Belfast International Airport. It provides a reliable, quick and easy way to both start and finish your journey. The car park is manned 24 hours per day and 7 days per week. The floodlit parking areas are all hard standing (e.g. tarmac, concrete or hardcore), the entire perimeter is fenced and CCTV operates 24 hours a day.
Transfers to and from Belfast International Airport are included, available 24 hours a day and take approximately 5 minutes. Please arrive at the car park in plenty of time as the bus may have just left to go to the Airport when you arrive in which case it should return in around 15 minutes (this time should be less if more than one bus is running).