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Travel: Go Barging! Luxurious Travel Through the Canals of France

Posted By Karen Young On July 14, 2010 @ 1:05 am In Featured,My Daily Find,Recreation & Tourism,spotlight,Travel | 2 Comments

BY MARY McGRATH

July’s here and for many, it’s vacation time! If you are planning an overseas adventure, think about a unique trip in France (after all, today is Bastille Day). The euro is working in our favor, making this region all the more affordable compared to recent years.

We just returned from a luxury barge cruise through the Loire Valley and Burgundy, and for you foodie fanatics and oenophiles, this is the type of excursion that will forever remain embroidered to your heart.

Renaissance barge docked in a French town. Photos: Mary McGrath

Luxury barges have been converted from carrying cargo into pristine hotel vessels accommodating up to eight passengers as well as a crew of five to attend to every detail. Amenities on the barge will satiate the most discriminating traveler. You’ll be spoiled, to say the least.

A selection of cheeses on the barge.

Barge cruising is the perfect combination of relaxation, exquisite dining and wine pairings. You can even get off the barge to stroll along the canal, or take a bike ride into one of the many charming towns nearby.

Included in our itinerary were several visits to notable chateaus in the region, wine tastings, bike rides, and an optional balloon tour over the wine region for an additional charge. It was a tough life indeed, including the hot tub on deck for decompression purposes.

There are many tour operators hosting barge tours, but we selected Gobarging.com aboard their opulent Renaissance, for its upscale amenities. Wine pairings were selected by region, with feasts prepared daily by 29 year-old Slawek, reminding me of a young Wolfgang Puck.

Paris: The cathedral at Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower.

We decided to fly into Paris ahead of time, to get acclimated to the time zone, and decompress before boarding the barge. This meant a tour through the Louvre, Notre Dame and other areas of interest, along with sampling the local cuisine. A must is sitting in one of the many cafes to watch life go by.

Locals enjoy a picnic above the Seine.

Contrary to popular sentiment, Parisians were not snooty or rude. Be respectful, and you’ll find that the French are like any people in larger cities. Paris reminded me a bit of NYC with a bit of Rome thrown in for flavor.

Satiated after six days of barging, we then returned to Paris to take in more sites, and visit the areas surrounding the Eiffel Tower. While dining at a local café, we witnessed a hoard of Harley riders zooming by hailing to the Fourth of July. Who says you can’t celebrate abroad?

All roads lead to Paris.

If you’re a spontaneous traveler, check and see if there are any barge cancellations, which can result in some favorable savings. For those who prefer to plan ahead, you have a wide selection of areas from which to choose for barging. Scotland is next on the radar for this lassie. I can’t get enough of those castles.

But many people prefer to book the entire barge and create a memorable vacation with family and friends that will be enjoyed for years to come.

For more information: www.gobarging.com/renaissance-standard-itinerary

Mary McGrath is a freelance writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including: Newsweek.com, Good Housekeeping, Rangefinder Magazine, After Capture Magazine and Copley Newspapers.  She specializes in travel, fine dining, and educational pieces regarding photography.  She can be reached through her web site at www.marymcgrathphotography.com or grathy@aol.com

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