There are about 60 boutique hotel barges that cruise along the peaceful and beautiful canals and rivers of France. They vary in size, comfort level and price – and they can be found in all the most attractive regions of France. Some can be booked by cabin (room) others are chartered complete by groups and families. Whatever the details of any particular barge, they all come complete with captain and crew who look after navigation; and professional chef and hostess to care for guests.
People often say that they feel they have been treated ‘like royalty’ and this is a very unique experience. Here is just one example of what that fabulous luxury hotel barge cruise in France is like:
Hotel Barge Panache
Panache offers two different itineraries:
• Alsace Lorraine: Krafft-Erstein to Niderviller – Canal de la Marne au Rhin
• Champagne region: Chalons-en-Champagne to La Ferte sur Jouarre
Panache has all that its name implies: considerable flair, whether it be for the warmth of its hospitality, or the charm and luxury of the accommodation that it provides. The brass and mahogany fittings gave a distinctly nautical feel to the décor, the six en-suite cabins are comfortably appointed and the sunny deck has a spa pool. On hand are six crew members on a mission to cater to your every need.
The rivers and canals of North-East France pass through the forests of the Ardennes, the Vosges Mountains and the breathtakingly beautiful Doubs valley, with the River Rhine marking the region’s eastern-most edge. Being so close to Germany and Switzerland, castles, steeply pitched roofs, decorative timberwork, hearty cuisine, Riesling wine and a vast selection of beers all add a distinctive character to the experience.
Relaxation is the order of the day. While away your mornings gliding along the leafy green canal, unwinding on deck as the verdant countryside unfolds around you. For those keen to explore this bucolic region for themselves there are bicycles available, or you could simply enjoy a stroll along the shady towpath. After a delicious buffet lunch, most afternoons will offer diversion in the form of a visit to a local attraction – perhaps a trip to Sarrebourg to see the stunning window in the town’s chapel, which was designed by Marc Chagall.
Set menus of inventiveness and variety are prepared by the accomplished chef, who uses fresh ingredients which are locally sourced. Your four course dinner will be complemented by a selection of fine regional wines, and vegetarian, pescatarian, vegan and non-allergenic dishes can be served given at least 8 weeks’ notice prior to your departure date.
Panache’s Alsace Lorraine itinerary sets the tone with a champagne reception to welcome you on board. After a refreshing night’s sleep prepare to be enchanted by a cruise across the Gran Ried wetlands, home to an abundance of birdlife, en route to Strasbourg where you can discover the 12th Gothic cathedral and the maze of narrow streets which make up La Petite France. Cruising past the European Parliament the following morning is quite an experience and when you have arrived at Hochfelden, a scenic drive into the rolling Vosges hills on the Route des Grands Vins awaits you, so you can enjoy a private tasting of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Noir and Riesling wines. Day Four takes you to Saverne where you will moor by the impressive Hôtel de Rohan, said to be the Alsace Versailles, before visiting the Meteor Brewery which was founded in 1640 and is the last privately-owned brewery in the region. Your next port of call is the devastatingly pretty village of Lutzelbourg where you can discover the nearby René Lalique Museum that houses 500 exceptional examples of Art Nouveau and Art Deco glassware. Both the arts and the sciences are included on this thoughtfully planned trip, which ends in Niderviller, as not only will you see the astonishing engineering feat of the Arzviller boat elevator – Panache will actually ascend 450 feet up the mountainside in a matter of minutes. Delights for your final afternoon include a tour of Sarrebourg, to see the 13th century chapel containing Marc Chagall’s remarkable stained-glass window and your unforgettable holiday is rounded off by the Captain’s Farewell Gala Dinner back on board.
These lazy days on Panache, drifting through some of the most languidly beautiful landscapes and offset with just the right amount of cultural stimulation, will surely work their magic and leave you feeling renewed and replenished. The countryside, the culture and the cuisine really are the stuff of which dreams are made and when you surface at the end of a memorable week, you will probably find yourself wanting to dream again.
► Make an enquiry to get a firm quotation for this or any other hotel barge for the time of year that interests you.
Barge Cruising – Alsace
Hotel barges often collect and return guests to a pre-agreed Strasbourg hotel. The primary French international airport is at Paris-Charles de Gaulle and there is a European-flight airport at Strasbourg. There are also TGV express train stations at Strasbourg and Nancy; and many other towns in the region have railway connections.
Barge Cruising – Champagne and Marne
– [below] In the region: Paris, Reims, Epernay, La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, Meaux, the Marne –
Hotel barges usually collect and return guests to a pre-agreed Paris hotel. The primary French international airport is at Paris-Charles de Gaulle. There are also TGV express train stations at Champagne-Ardenne (near Reims) and Chalons; and many other towns in the region have railway connections.