Barge Ladies have been regularly and happily traveling to Europe since 1985. From the canals of France, to the lochs of Scotland, to the lagoon of Italy, we eagerly anticipate our travels on the luxury barges gently cruising the antique canals and petite rivers of Europe.
Throughout our travels, it is the people we have met, the pictures we have taken, and the memories we have made which help us remember and celebrate the joys of travel.
We’re excited to share our most cherished barging memories made both onboard and ashore. Join the Barge Ladies as we reminisce on our favorite moments from the scenic cruising, dynamic culture, gourmet cuisine, and unforgettable experiences we have been fortunate to enjoy along the inland waterways of Europe.
Having been barge cruising the inland waterways of Europe for 35 years, selecting just one memory is akin to selecting my “favorite” barge…near impossible! After some 50 barge cruises, I never tire of the timeless allure and sweet serenity of the French canals.
Relaxing on deck and soaking up the gorgeous Burgundy countryside as it gently unfolds is my utopia. I relish my memories onboard barge Finesse, lounging on deck as we cruised along the Canal du Centre in Southern Burgundy, drifting past quaint villages, charming lock-houses, and expansive vineyards. Blissful, and yet endlessly fascinating! It felt as though I was floating through another world.
I love to shop in the French markets – you never know what you’ll find! What could be more French than mingling with the local shoppers and watching them carefully make their purchases, bien sur? I have salivated over the most fabulous cheeses, colorful produce, and artisanal breads. Other finds at markets over the years have included colorful tops, adorable antique china plates, and special postcards.
Some of my fondest memories are of joining Chef for informal cooking lessons and culinary demonstrations. (No, I don’t actually cook, thankfully for the other guests!) Meeting the creative chefs, discussing their philosophy, and watching the preparation somehow makes the delicious cuisine served onboard taste even more divine.
After a decade spent cruising the canals and traversing the European continent, I can’t help but feel a partial bias when it comes to Burgundy. While I enjoy exploring other regions and new landscapes, I am always excited to revisit the beauty of Burgundy. When barging on the waterways of Europe, I am always scoping out an exercise opportunity. Do I enjoy staying fit and active? Of course. More importantly, my waterside workouts allow me to fully indulge in the incredible cuisine, and copious amounts of cheese and croissants, guilt free.
The memory of one morning in particular while cruising on Rendez-Vous in Southern Burgundy always brings a smile to my face. I had awoken early to get in a morning run before breakfast. As I stepped off the boat, the sun was starting to peek through the morning fog as steam rose from the canal, and the fresh morning air felt extra invigorating. Running along the Canal de Bourgogne, taking in the sublime surroundings and quiet splendor, I felt tranquil, yet energized.
I returned to Rendez-Vous to find a beautiful breakfast buffet had been laid out on deck by the crew. As I sipped my Earl Grey tea, savoring each bite of warm, buttery chocolate croissant, I was filled with a sense of gratitude. It was one of those moments where everything aligned…a perfect sunny day, a sumptuous breakfast spread, and picturesque scenery providing an unparalleled backdrop. Looking back on this experience, I feel this memory really encompasses the aspects I love most about barge cruising, and it is why Burgundy will always hold a special place in my heart.
The River Thames is not exactly top of mind when it comes to the classic barge cruise experience. That being said, my week on the Magna Carta in October of 2019 proved to be one of my most memorable journeys yet. As the resident Anglophile among the Barge Ladies, I was uniquely ensconced in the past and present of England’s epic place in world history while also enjoying the personal connections in every day life so often overlooked as a traveler.
A walking tour of Dorney Court, a preserved private Tudor estate now regularly used as an event venue and film set, intimately revealed both the astonishing longevity and fresh perspectives of today’s working British aristocracy. From the tiny church erected in the 12th century in which village residents still worship to the pristine collection of family portraits presented with care on the walls of the main house, the sweep and scope of Britain’s powerful influence in the European experience came to vivid life. When history is this exciting and accessible, it is unforgettable.
I have so many unbelievable memories over the course of my barge cruise travels. One moment that immediately comes to mind, is a cruise I enjoyed aboard barge Magnolia in Southern Burgundy a few years back. Owners Nicolas and Magali have one of my favorite itineraries, for me the highlight of the week being the home hosted dinner at Magali’s parents house in the French countryside.
It was one of, if not the most authentically “French” experiences I have had to date. Magali’s parents, Joelle and Alain, were so warm, welcoming me into their charming French country home. Sitting down with Magali’s family, sipping wine, and listening to their animated conversation, it truly felt as though I were visiting family in France.
It has been almost 5 years, but when I think back to this moment, I can still smell the heavenly aroma of garlic from the Joelle’s escargot, filling the kitchen, and feel the warmth of my French family for the night. It is an unforgettable memory I am grateful to have experienced, and one of my most favorite travel moments to share.
I have been fortunate to experience some of Europe’s most lovely landscapes on the 40-plus barge cruises I have traveled on over the years. However, nothing quite compares to the wild beauty of the Caledonian Canal and Scottish Highlands I discovered while cruising on the Spirit of Scotland.
Connected by a series of naturally-formed and man-made lochs along the heart of the Great Glen, Scotland’s blend of rolling mountains, verdant countryside, and expansive skies are a breathtaking combination. I relished daily walks in my hikers, soaking up the beauty and nature surrounding me, nourishing my soul.
I vividly recall sunset on the last night of my cruise, returning to the boat, moored in Muirtown, after a pre-dinner stroll. Catching the changing colors of the countryside nestled against the Caledonian Canal as the sun began to wane over the water was just exquisite! The serenity I felt in that moment, and many others throughout my time cruising in Scotland, along with the awe and appreciation I felt admiring Scotland’s marvelously untamed nature are some of my most cherished memories.
There is nothing like the sunshine and rustic beauty of the Canal du Midi. My barge cruise aboard barge Athos was the perfect introduction to the Languedoc region. It holds a special place in my heart, as my father joined me on this cruise. Tasting freshly pressed olive oil, exploring the medieval splendor of Carcassone, and shopping for produce in the bustling covered market are just some of the memories from the cruise I enjoy.
However, it was the time spent socializing on the deck during our daily cruises, and being able to share this experience with my father, that I most fondly recall. Watching the provincial scenery slip by, sipping glasses of a regional rose, and happily chatting with the crew are the most treasured memories of my unforgettable week on the Athos.