L’Art de Vivre: A Luxury Hotel Barge in France
- 1 L’Art de Vivre: A Luxury Hotel Barge in France
I sat on the deck of the barge, thinking about all of the big decisions facing me. I gazed at the postcard-perfect French villages while seeking some inspiration to my many dilemmas. We were on the Canal du Nivernais in the Burgundy region of France, where big decisions weighed heavily on my mind. My husband had gone out to cycle along the towpath that runs alongside the canal. Apparently, he was also considering his issues.
What were these dilemmas on L’Art de Vivre?
There were quite a few, actually. This is what a river cruise in France does to you. Would I hop off at the next lock and explore a medieval village? Would I get into the jacuzzi on board the barge and drink something with bubbles? Maybe I would watch the swans gracefully performing a ballet on the water? Would I think about what the private chef on board was making for our next 4-course meal? Maybe I would ponder which wines and cheeses would be presented to us at both lunch and dinner. Perhaps I might chat to the charming deck hand, a French girl who also takes us exploring. Perhaps, I might practice my French on one of the lock keepers. Or maybe I might just admire the changing scenery in this beautiful part of France.
As one of the guests said as he watched life on the canal, “it is much like gazing into a roaring log fire; you don’t tire of it.” He was correct.
The Cause of such Dilemmas.
Gordon and I were aboard the hotel barge L’Art de Vivre, which translates to the ‘Art of Living’. We were cruising on the Canal du Nivernais in the Burgundy region of France. Our barge cruise is one the many all-inclusive canal cruises that European Waterways offers in France. It has many others around Europe and each is a luxury’ floating hotel’.
Is Barging for Everyone?
If you like excellent wines, delicious cheeses, gourmet food and beautiful countryside, meandering lazily along a canal on a stunningly restored barge – then the answer is probably yes.
Rick Stein certainly popularized barging in France, with such fine wines, gourmet foods, stunning scenery and this was our own French Odyssey.
We did indeed experience the ‘art of living’, L’Art de Vivre.
This was our first experience of barging and I wondered how I might cope with six nights aboard. To be quite honest, decadence and hedonism in both material and aesthetics sits very comfortably on my shoulders. The staff work hard and anticipate your every need. I have never slept so soundly from being so pampered and having had every one of my senses totally stimulated.
You can be as close to the other guests as you choose to be. You have the options to walk alongside the barge, cycle along the paths on bikes that are provided on board, and go together on the escorted visits organized. You can also just sit in the sun on the deck, or in the comfortable lounge area and do as much as you want or as little as you want.
We mixed it up and thoroughly enjoyed our gourmet meals together, discussing what we had seen and done throughout the day. Sometimes we all sat on the sunny deck, each seeing something new and different along the canal.
The landscape varies from forests to fields with the first buds starting to show. The Charolais cattle are in the background as we admire the French villages.
There are a lot of people who cycle the paths, and we all call out Bonjour! in our newly acquired French accents. This is a friendly cruise.
About L’Art de Vivre
L’Art de Vivre started life as a Scottish lumber carrier. It has been carefully renovated by skilled craftsmen into this barge, which is fitted out to celebrate the art of the good life. The recently refitted cabins have modern en suite bathrooms; there is a lovely saloon with contemporary leather and more traditional furnishings. In reality, the bedrooms are cabin size but are for sleeping, and we only ever saw them at night when we were turning in. Spring in France is the time of long daylight. The sun decides it just might call it a day at about 9.30 pm giving us plenty of time to eat, drink and watch the world go by from the large deck.
About our experiences on L’Art de Vivre
We were picked up by staff of Go Barging/European Waterways staff (they are one and the same company) at the Hotel Westminster Paris where we had stayed for 3 nights, then taken by luxury mini bus to the hotel barge moored in Auxerre, where we were greeted with canapés and champagne. On the banks of the RiverYonne, there was an antiques market with local music. It was a perfect sunny spring French day to start our journey.
On our cruise, there were just four passengers, though the hotel barge can accommodate 8. There are 4 crew members – the Captain, a Master Chef, Deck Hand/Tour Guide and Hostess. They are all experienced and love the barge as much as we all do. We have a cooked breakfast every morning, as well as different cereals, fruits, yoghurts as well as fresh breads and croissants that the staff source locally each morning.
At lunch, we enjoy four courses, with matching red and white wines specifically selected to match the menu. For the evening meal, we have another 4-course meal, again with carefully selected wines and cheeses to exploit our taste buds.
Getting on well with other people is very easy in such a stunning environment, and I mean both the beautiful barge and the Burgundian countryside. We are all in awe of the beauty and the luxurious experience.
Each barge cruise by European Waterways has wine and foods representative of the region in which they are sailing, so with L’Art de Vivre we are being feted with Burgundian wines and local foods.
Where did we go?
The barge slowly cruises just 65kms from Auxerre to Chevroches and on alternate weeks navigates in the other direction. There are some 32 locks that the barge goes through, some so narrow that we marvel at Captian Fabrice’s skill. Each day we sailed for a while before mooring at a selected location. Sometimes you sail in the morning and other times the afternoon. When the barge has moored, there are shore excursions. The Captain is an excellent leader of the crew and is always working, as are his crew. All the crew speak English and, there are 2 French people and 2 British on board, catering to our every whim of which there are few since everything has been considered. Coffee awaits us in the morning, and our beds are turned down at night. Going through the locks is exciting and, you realize how very important the lock keepers are to the flow of traffic on the canal. The chef on our barge even gives cake and other tasty morsels to the lock keepers to keep in their good books.
We pass a number of other barges at times, and at other times it is the local birdlife such as herons which overtake us.
Shore Excursions from L’Art de Vivre
There are trips to wineries, basilicas, chateaux and market villages. The barge stops for the night at various villages along the way. We have guided visits and our own free time. We are driven around in a luxury minivan by our tour guide, the deckhand, who has excellent knowledge of the places that we visit and can field our varied questions. One of our first visits was to Auxerre, a city of 35,000 people with some amazing architecture and a huge medieval church and monastery.
Another interesting trip was deep into Chablis country to the actual town of Chablis and a pioneer of Chablis wine, the William Fevre winery. Here we learn about the attention to detail that has made this such a refined wine. We learn all about how important the details are in the process. . We learn that you can pick a wine by taste and determine what side of the hill it was planted, and probably whether three virgins wearing yellow ribbons planted the vine. This is not too far from the truth such is the attention to detail. This limestone soil, has fossilized oyster shells in it, and that is why Chablis and seafood are a perfect match.
Another trip was into Noyers-sur-Serein, a cute village in Burgundy to the weekly market. Here we were invited to challenge the chef and to bring back ingredients for him to cook. Consequently, we arrived back with artichokes, turnips, and onions, to which he made a variety of dishes. There is one night where you go to a restaurant in a village that has been hand-selected by European Waterways to experience the regional French cuisine. We went to Auberge la Beursaudiere in the village of Nitry.
Another village visit was to Vezelay with its Romanesque Basilica of St Mary Magdalene. We explored the Château de Bazoches, the family residence of the Marshal de Vauban, and an extremely important man in French history.
Note well: This is a luxury hotel barge.
Hotel barge L’Art de Vivre is an incorrect name. It should be called Luxury Hotel Barge L’Art de Vivre; one could even go so far as to say it is Hedonistic Barge L’Art de Vivre because every need is attended to by the staff. The scenery and the excitement of the canal is a given.
How you can enjoy this unique experience too
Prices and availability for all the different barge cruises by European Waterways can be seen on their website www.gobarging.com
They also have a YouTube Channel with a great selection of videos:
And you can follow them on Facebook:
Would we go with European Waterways on another barge cruise and recommend them to everyone? A resounding yes. I can vouch for the fact that you will love it. It is an experience of a lifetime where you can have your own French Odyssey. It is intimate because there are so few passengers, and there are a lot of staff anticipating your wants and needs. It is all-inclusive so that once you have paid that is it. I don’t know who doesn’t want to have some of these major dilemmas that I faced on my barge cruise with European Waterways, but I do know that because of it, I have an even greater appreciation of the ‘art of the good life’.
Sounds like a totally amazing experience. All that food! I’m dreaming thinking about that cheese platter. Just to show that cruising doesn’t necessarily mean crowded, huge ships and manufactured fun! LOVE IT!
I ate so much cheese. It is a totally different and bespoke small group experience where the emphasis was on us and our wants and needs.
You truly captured the spirit and luxury of a barge cruise. We had the opportunity to take a barge cruise in Burgundy a few years ago and I often say that it was truly one of the best travel experiences, if not the best, I’ve ever had. Everyone who loves to travel and loves food and wine should not pass up the chance to take one of these very special cruises.
You have summed it up perfectly Sue, it is an amazing experience that combines everything that is good about travel – beautiful scenery, great food, wine and ambience.
Hey Paula! This post had me drooling all the time when I was reading it. I reckon you really enjoyed your stay in France. When I get to save up I’ll definitely consider visiting this place.
It was a seriously good trip and one we would do again ..immediately.
This looks like a lot of fun and I love the jacuzzi on the barge. We enjoy cruising and I am thinking we might enjoy a barge hotel. I also really like your dilemmas, as they are good ones to have. Your photos are beautiful – thanks for sharing your experience.
Thank you, I think the landscape was just so beautiful it was easy to photograph. Highly recommend a luxury barge cruise with European Waterways. they really know how to meet all of your needs and wants.
I’ve been pondering doing a barge cruise in France for years and this is pointing me solidly in the direction of “yes”! The whole experience looks and sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing your trip!
Yes and yes; do it and I just know you will love it as much as we did.
Perfection! Your beautiful photos of both the French scenery and food really put me there, but I would love to experience this L’Art de Vivre hotel barge myself!
Shelley, definitely do it. We had an amazing time and would love to go again. Thinking maybe Ireland may be nice.
Decisions, decisions. I think i’ve finally found my cruising niche!
I think that a small luxury barge cruise is certainly the way to go.
Beautiful! I’ve always wanted to travel this way and to do it in such style, well – how can that not appeal? I know that barge holidays are very popular in the UK and I have a few friends who rave about the experience, but this is definitely more ‘me’ than piloting a barge on the Norfolk Broads! Another one for the list, thanks Paula!
It was an excellent experience and the countryside was beautiful as we were being very well looked after.
It was beautiful
I’d love to stay on a Hotel Barge, Paula. It seems pretty comfortable and definitely pretty unique. In fact, if it’s France, I’d probably stay even in a tent…
It was very comfortable and very enjoyable. Would go again tomorrow
All your descriptions got me sold on this. I would love to do something similar.
Definitely do it, you would not regret it ever.
Looks fabulous! Especially some of the food. Salivating a little here!
It was amazing in every respect, food included. Loved being on La’Art de Vivre, and European Waterways look after all of your needs.
Wow! what an amazing experience..it’s out of a dream in France.
Definitely go with a luxury hotel barge of which European Waterways have quite a number in different regions.
That countryside scenery is truly magical, and all that wonderful food to go with it – how could you go wrong. When I read your short “who should go on a barge” description, I wasn’t so sure it was for me, but by the time I got to the bottom of this post I am completely inspired. I think we might have to add this cruise in a future travel.
I was unsure too Rhonda but now am a total convert. It was an amazing experience
All I can say about that is wow, what an amazing experience…I would be scared of how much weight I’d gain in the end though, but please pass me some more of that wonderful cheese!
Noel, we tried to balance our cheese and food intake with exercise by walking or cycling along the pathways. The cheese however won the day.
Was so excited when you mentioned Noyers-sur-Surein in your post! I visited there five years ago, and absolutely fell in love with it. But most people (like 99.9%) have never heard of it!
I have actually written a post coming up next week on all of the villages we visited. I also, had not heard of many including Noyers-sur-Surein so I am sharing these little gems with everyone that we saw on L’Art de Vivre barge.
This does sound idylic! And what a lovely area to cruise through. Looked like you had the perfect weather too. A magical experience I;m sure you’ll never forget.
It was a wonderful experience and one that I will recommend to everyone. We were very fortunate with the weather
Paula that does look amazing. I have been on several ocean cruises and in December will go on my first river cruise on the Rhine, but barge cruising looks like something different again. I’m sure I could handle the dilemmas you faced too. Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard.
I loved barge cruising and we would do it again. I have added the #TheWeeklyPostcard badge, and hope it is done correctly
What an incredible way to see a wine region! I can see that these dilemmas are quite frankly very stressful so I am glad that each option was good!
So may dilemmas, Anna. I had to really consider so many hedonistic options.