Imagine a week full of France…festivity…and FOOD! On “Barge and Bistro” cruises, guests enjoy a combination of lunches and dinners taken onshore at local cafes and auberges, exposing them to the unique pleasures of France’s famous cuisine culture. A popular choice for those who wish to truly experience the authenticity of France’s gastronomy, this option also appeals to value-seeking travelers, or for those for whom experience is more intriguing than on board amenities. Feast your eyes on 5 of our favorite “Barge and Bistro” cruises for foodies!
1) Savoir Vivre – 8 passengers, 3-star, Southern Burgundy
Gastronomes and Francophiles, rejoice! A Barge Lady favorite for foodies, the Savoir Vivre’s “Barge and Bistro” program is the ultimate canal cruise for lovers of gourmet French cuisine. While breakfasts and lunches are catered on board, all six dinners are eaten ashore at charming and authentic bistros in delightful towns along the cruise route. Your Captain makes all the arrangements, and the cost of all dinners, including wines, are covered in the cruise price. Dine with the locals like a local! While not feasting on the most appetizing of French food, guest enjoy the Savoir Vivre’s cruise route, which showcases the region’s top sights.
2) Johanna – 6 passengers, 3-star, Upper Loire and Champagne
Lighter cuisine and approachable wines are front and center on this casual and charming barge! Owned and operated by one of the most hospitable couples in barging, Captain Kris and Chef Pastie Rostaert, the Johanna’s “Barge and Bistro” program offers a fantastic choice for parties of four, five, or six looking for high quality cruising at an affordable price. Two dinners are enjoyed ashore, included in the cruise fare; dinner venues feature locally-owned auberges in adorable villages. When not feasting on regional specialties, passengers are also encouraged to join Chef Patsie in her state-of-the-art open kitchen for informal cooking demonstrations, furthering the Johanna’s culinary experiences.
3) Esperance – 6 passengers, 4-star, Canal du Midi
Aboard the Esperance, gourmet cuisine and a lavish lifestyle come together for a luxurious cruise along the iconic Canal du Midi. This dynamic dining program showcases the complex tastes and succulent “savuers” found in the south of France, and includes two dinners on the Esperance, all and breakfasts and lunches thereafter. Four dinners will be at passenger’s expense in small local bistros along the route, carefully selected and recommended by your Captain, for a genuinely regional French dining experience. Guests will also enjoy a freshly pressed olive oil tasting as one of the day’s excursions!
4) Randle – 4 passengers, 3-star, Northern Burgundy
Gourmands are in for a real treat aboard this small barge, thanks to the perfect pairing of catered breakfasts and lunches paired with nightly dinners ashore! Breakfast and lunch are provided by Chef Gael, who creates hearty meals such as savory smoked fish paired with potato pancakes, and flaky crust flatbreads with sundried tomatoes and artichoke hearts. Dinners are taken off the Randle at the expense of guests at a curated itinerary of venues deep in Northern Burgundy, ranging from sophisticated Michelin-starred restaurants to delightful local auberges.
5) Caroline – 6 passengers, 3-star, Canal du Midi
Love to talk about ingredients, cooking, and cuisine? Then the Caroline’s dining plan is the perfect barge cruise for you! Chef Ute, who spends much of her time in the small galley preparing the freshly made meals, invites guests to pull up a bar stool and chat with her as her magically cooks gourmet cuisine using regional ingredients. For meals eaten shore at guests’ expense, many of the cafes and bistros are within walking distance to the moorings, offering a bona fide French dining experience to stroll into a tiny village — and enjoy your meals among the locals!