Languedoc: Rich History of a Beautiful Destination
The peaceful vineyard clad countryside of Languedoc hides a turbulent history. In the thirteenth century, a bloody crusade was launched by the Catholic Church over a Christian heresy called Catharism. Castles that are now viewed as scenic were once the last defense of a minority that didn’t even speak French. At that time, southern France was a patchwork of smaller kingdoms and duchies with borders that shifted on a regular basis. One of them encompassing much of southern France was Occitania. The language of the area was known as “les langues d’oc”—which is the origin of the name for the region of Languedoc. Thus, the Cathars, in what is now France, were fighting not just for their religious freedom, but also for their independence as a cultural minority.
Visit Historical Treasures on Barge Cruise Excursions
Today you can explore this fascinating and disputed territory on the guided excursions included on our barge trips on the Canal du Midi. You will take an excursion to Minerve, the ancient hilltop village overlooking the confluence of two rivers where the peaceful Cathars were besieged by Simon de Montfort in 1210. A local museum re-creates the Cathar seige with a miniature diorama.
Whether you make your home aboard a charter barge with your own private party or join other passengers on a hotel barge, you will visit the city of Carcassonne, which is hailed as the most complete medieval fortified city remaining in Europe today.
From the deck of Anjodi or Athos as it passes through Beziers, you will have the opportunity to glimpse the hilltop city where all the townspeople were massacred when they refused to renounce their faith as demanded by Pope Innocent III and the French king Philippe II Augustus.
Aboard any of our Canal du Midi barges, you will have the opportunity to trace the footsteps of the Cathars as they peacefully and valiantly struggled to retain their independence.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Excellent dining on barge cruises is one of the highlights, usually taken on board with your own chef. The barge Savoir Vivre offers another way with its all-inclusive dinners on shore in a variety of local restaurants. You can choose from the menu and 1/2 bottle of wine per person is included in the cruise price.
To whet your appetite for this unique dining experience where you can mingle with the locals and sample six different restaurants, enjoy the restaurant dining guide provided by James Waggott, owner Savoir Vivre.
Our clients have loved the variety, authenticity and exceptional quality of the restaurants selected. Transportation is provided, too!
“L’Auberge Gourmande” in Fleurey
A friendly and warm welcome awaits you by Delphine and Christophe Faivre at the L’Auberge Gourmande. Situated in Velars-sur-Ouche.
Their goal is no less than “to satisfy all your desires and we will spare no effort in doing so. We want our guests to enjoy quality service and we strive to offer all the comfort you deserve.”
The restaurant is located on a quiet street in this typical village and has two rooms with elegant décor, air conditioning and a pleasant terrace outside.
Head Chef Christophe learned his craft at the Moulin de Saint Remy Martorey, Guy Savoy, Negresco, Girardet in Switzerland as well as spending seven years abroad (Tel Aviv, Israel, Rio, London, and on a private yacht for a billionaire Englishman). So his credentials speak volumes.
The result of all this effort? A recent restaurant critic declared that this restaurant offers a “pleasant setting for a restaurant that is going places, the food was exquisite”.
Menu Highlights – Specialities include eggplant tartare with balsamic vinegar, espuma melon lemon balm. Cromesquis fried ham with parsley, Burgundy escargot, hummus, and wild garlic. Confit of lamb shoulder in kefta stuffed with tomato reduction, rosemary and paprika.
Its no surprise that this restaurant is tipped for big things, we’ve caught it during its ascendency, we think this is the “Savoir Vivre” time to visit.
L’Abbaye De La Bussiere – Le Bistrot des Moines
To demonstrate our commitment to offering new levels of experience and value, we are offering dinner in the renowned L’Abbaye De La Bussiere for our 2014 passengers. The setting is magnificent and the head chef, Emmanuel Hébrard, is a genius.
We dine at the more relaxed Bistrot section of the restaurant – i.e. the Savoir Vivre way to dine in such a magnificent setting. Just as in the more formal gourmet restaurant, it uses the best products of the season and is of the same quality.
This is an indulgent and exciting restaurant which significantly enhances our already unique experience. We are delighted to offer it for all of our 2014 passengers.
“Chez Camille” in Arnay le Duc
It is common in France for authentic restaurants to sit within a hotel. Moreover, it is not unusual for the restaurant to be the star of the show! This is exactly the case with Chez Camille, a traditional, elegant and interesting restaurant set within the building of the modest Chez Camille Hotel located in the centre of Arnay le Duc, itself a quaint and pretty town.
Proprietor Arman Poinsot is as French as they come with the style and composure straight out of Disney’s Ratatouille!
Head chef Pascal Godillot’s kitchen works in step with Mr Poinsot – the food is traditional with occasional complex highlights to attract the eye of the sophisticated and adventurous diner.
The dining area is fabulous with traditional round tables but with decidedly untraditional features such as a tree canopy and glass viewing areas to the kitchen where a team of crisp white clad chefs are hard at work.
This restaurant offers a French dining experience at its most traditional routes. The building, décor, ambiance, proprietor, and menu all hark to an era which so many restaurants around the world strive to emulate. This is a rare example of the real thing and is an essential cast member of our dining experiences.
Menu Highlights – How about a caramelized pineapple and vanilla zabaglione with gingerbread and rum sorbet?!
Sorry we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Other highlights include everything from traditional Burgundian favourites such as Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon to more adventurous dishes such as walnut sweetbread cutlet with juice reduction, spinach, mushrooms and parmesan crust.
“Ferme de Rolle” in Rolle
Long before her Michelin Star grade owners took residence, the site of the Ferme de Rolle experienced a fascinating history involving peasants, pig farmers, and soldiers gaining a strategic advantage.
Over a century ago sixteen households (pop. 30) lived in and around the current building – three wells assured water supply to the modest community.
In 1933 the buildings and surrounding land were converted into a pig farm. A Mr George Flacelière developed and later sold the farm to a Mr Denvin. However, during the Second World War, in addition to his pigs, Mr Denvin played host to the Canadian allies. The site held a strong position being very close to the farm of La Belle Emélia Saint-Jean-de-Boeuf, occupied by the German army.
In 1975 the entire site was given a new lease of life through its conversion into a fabulous restaurant which it has remained ever since. Since spring 2004, the Sangoy family, who previously owned the Michelin Star awarded ‘Gevrey-Chambertin’, have taken the restaurants to new gastronomic heights.
Menu Highlights – The house speciality is ham roasted over an open spit right in front of you. This hearty traditionally prepared dish compliments this wonderfully historic restaurant, don’t miss out on it!
This is a very special restaurant in the countryside of Burgundy and “the Route des Grands Crus”, it quite rightly sits at the heart of our restaurant selection.
“Le Spuller” in Sombernon
Rather like the Chez Camille (above) ‘Le Spuller’ is set within the ‘Hotel le Spuller’. It is located in Sombernon, a village of approximately 800 residents nestled in a location equidistant from Dijon, the Côte-d’Or vineyards, Chateauneuf and Beaune, talk about location location location!
On top of this are the views offered by its hillside location, they are absolutely magnificent!
However, It is the restaurant itself that really caught our attention and that of many local residents. The dining area offers panoramic views of the valley below – it is a perfect setting to enjoy a lovely dinner while afternoon turns to evening. The food is of an excellent standard with charming staff and a menu which offers something for everybody.
Our 2013 guests have universally adored Le Spuller. The combination of quality, setting and exceptionally friendly and amiable service hits all the marks.
Menu Highlights – The food at Le Spuller is unashamedly simple. Elegantly, authentically, and tastefully so. This is in contrast to some of our more avant-guard restaurants and sits nicely in our selection.
This includes Oeufs en Meurette and other Burgundian classics.
Other highlights include roast trout with Emmental and ginger cream and the ”Salade Spuller” made with an Epoisse cheese gougère pastry.
ps – the kitchen is also very flexible here, a simple child-friendly pizza can be catered if so desired!
“I’Orre du Bois” in Chateauneuf
Chateauneuf en Auxois is a rarely beautiful place. This hilltop medieval village is one of the last remaining examples of 14th century Burgundian military architecture. During the Hundred Years War, towers and curtain walls were built to defend the village and the Auxois plains. Many still stand to this day.
From the 14th-17th centuries wealthy Burgundian merchants built houses at Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. One such house is now home to “l’Oree du Bois”! This gem of a restaurant sits comfortably in this fascinating location.
Rather than focus on traditional Burgundian cuisine, “l’Oree du Bois” (roughly translated ‘Edge of the Woods’) has chosen to focus on another French culinary bastion, the ‘crêperie’.
Those unfamiliar with this type of restaurant need not worry, we’re not just talking about Nutella and Grand Marnier pancakes here! Authentic French creperies started in the Brittany region but later became widespread across France and are now considered a national dish. It would be a shame not to visit one on a culinary tour of France!
Authentic creperies offer a wide range of savoury (and sweet) crepes each made with skill care and attention using locally sourced ingredients.
The restaurant itself is barely noticeable from the outside with its ancient historic building perfectly and correctly untouched. Once inside, however you are greeted with vaulted ceiling with a very pleasant central fireplace and mezzanine dining level.
A quiet amble around Chateauneuf is the ideal way to finish off your evening. We can suggest a spectacular vantage point just one minute’s walk from l’Oree du Bois from where, weather permitting, you will have a stunning view of the green and lovely land that is Burgundy.
At times restaurants may be unavailable due to special occasion bookings, seasonal closures etc. In these instances we have several other high quality restaurants to choose from, all of them are up to our standards.
To cruising calm waters…
Savoir Vivre Owner, Author, Guest Blogger
Ready to go barging? Please contact us today to select and book your barge cruise.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Daily excursions are a highlight of a canal or river barge cruise. When cruising in the south of France on the Canal du Midi, you are immersed in a region which offers natural beauty, a rich history, and many lovely villages and small towns to explore on foot or by bike.
Carcassonne – a Canal du Midi Barge Cruise Attraction
Carcassonne, a stunning fortified town that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight of the Canal du Midi barge trips. Though people have been living on this site for millennia, since before Roman times, Carcassonne is mainly known as a prime example of a European medieval fortified town – maybe the best of its kind in all of Europe. It is amazingly well-preserved and is yours to explore with all of its ramparts and towers.
What is there to see and do in Carcassonne?
- Transport yourself to medieval times as you explore the amazing fortifications with its double walls and winding streets.
- Find the bust of Madame Carcas at the Narbonne gate and learn about the legend of how she saved Carcassonne from a siege ending in the joyous ringing of bells (“Carcas sona”)
- Step into the ancient and majestic Basilica of St. Nazaire. The grand organ and colorful windows can’t be missed. Simon de Montfort, leader of the crusade against the Cathars of Languedoc, was buried in the basilica before being moved by one of his sons.
- Visit Chateau Comtal and walk the ramparts for beautiful views of the countryside.
- Brave a visit to the Torture Museum, which displays a variety of medieval instruments of torture.
- Try some of the local dishes, including cassoulet, which combines sausage, duck, and beans.
Be sure to bring a camera with you and take lots of photos of the architectural details. Soak in the atmosphere and get transported to another era. Your tour guide with the barge will give your visit more meaning, as you’ll better understand the historical significance of this very strategic site.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
There are almost a thousand UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and most of the cultural sites in France are buildings. However, deep in southern France is a UNESCO Heritage Site that you can enjoy in leisurely comfort from the deck of a canals of France barge – the Canal du Midi, an engineering marvel of the seventeenth century.
Canal du Midi: A Work of Art
The Canal du Midi was first envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci when he visited France in the early sixteenth century. The idea was to connect the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea via a link between the Garonne and Aude Rivers. The project, which was spearheaded by a Frenchman named Pierre-Paul Riquet, began in 1654 and ultimately completed in 1694, 13 years after his death. The total length of the waterway, including the river portions, is 360 kilometers.
Thousands of workers were employed (12,000 at the peak of the project), including 600 women when there were not enough men available! Together this workforce constructed 328 elements in this industrial work of art, including locks, aqueducts, bridges, spillways, and tunnels. The total cost of the project was over 15 million livres, and the result was a functional communications and transportation waterway that symbolized the power of seventeenth-century France. Its impact extended to the development of a number of canals across Great Britain and even America, where George Washington was involved in a number of canal development projects.
Canal du Midi Barging: The Languedoc Wine Region
The designers of the Canal du Midi were very aware of the impact of this project on the local landscape, creating designs that were both monumental and elegantly simple. Today it traverses the Languedoc wine region, providing a scenic and historic backdrop for ten of our luxurious barges. While no longer used for communications or commerce, you can still enjoy the beauty of this transportation marvel. From the intimate Emma to the ultimate Enchante, you can appreciate the charm of the Canal du Midi while also sampling the delights of local winery tours, regional cuisine and stupendous sightseeing opportunities in medieval abbeys and hilltop towns.
For more information and to arrange your own experience of this engineering marvel, contact us today.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Perhaps you’ve seen the ads on television, with the large, stately vessels floating along a scenic European river, and you think to yourself, “that sounds like a lovely, relaxed way to see Europe.” And you would be right!
Then you hear about barge cruises on the canals, and wonder, “what is the difference?”
It’s like comparing apples and oranges – they are both delicious. I often say a barge cruise is like being welcomed into a charming boutique country inn and a river cruise is like staying in a fine, elegant hotel. I hope this information helps you decide which is the best cruise for you and your interests. Or, like some of our clients, they do both and “vive la difference!”
Features of a canal barge cruise
- An intimate, personalized experience with 4-21 passengers and friendly crew
- Cruise on scenic man-made canals through small villages, vineyards and pastoral countryside covering approximately 50 miles
- Canals are excellent for walking and biking while the barge is floating along – bicycles provided
- Customized itineraries for private charters are gladly provided
- Barge trips are 6 nights, usually starting on Sunday or Saturday
- Everyone dines together at one table with one menu, creating a festive, homey atmosphere
- Often operated by the owners who are captain and chef and have put their heart and soul into your barge cruising experience
- Small group excursions allow for private visits to savor local culture
- Prices range from $3,500 – $8,000
Enjoy browsing our website with 40+ canal barge cruises to choose from.
Features of a river cruise
- With an average of 130 passengers, you can socialize with a diverse group
- Cruise on large rivers with moorings in river towns
- Walking and biking are possible only when the ship is moored. Some ships provide bicycles.
- River cruises are 7-21 nights and can cover many miles in several countries
- Dining is similar to an excellent gourmet restaurant
- A broad overview of many cities and sights
- Operated by an English speaking, multi-national crew
- Often a selection of excursions to choose from
- On excursions, passengers are typically divided into groups and transported to sights on buses
- Prices start at $3,000 per person and vary by stateroom category and season.
Features of both canal barge cruises and river cruises
- Guided excursions including entrance fees are included. There may be optional excursions available with a supplement, i.e, hot air ballooning, golf, etc.
- All meals and wines are included (some half board plans are available on small charter barges). Barge cruises and some river cruises offer an open bar.
- Dietary restrictions are gladly accommodated.
Ready to go barging or river cruising? Contact us today to experience the unparalleled beauty and experience of a vacation on the water, with all the individual attention of a personalized, and personal-sized, canal barge cruise or elegant river cruise.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Why do I like the barge Esperance so much? As well as totally admiring and respecting the owner, Captain Mathias Gilles, it is because of the rave reviews I get when my clients return from their barge trips with comments such as:
“The excursions were wonderful! A little bit of something different every day. And our guide Marion was the best!” From Monica V, September 2013
“We loved the barge and crew! The crew was totally professional and at the same time totally engaging.” From David A, October 2013
But the comment I hear the most is:
“We loved the barge and crew. We are convinced that Mathias is the best barge captain anywhere on the planet, and Joe’s cooking was to die for. We did not expect the food to be as superb as it was.” From Judy D, September 2013
And so it is my pleasure to highlight the chef, cuisine and wines of this very special barge cruise on Esperance.
One of Captain Mathias’ many talents is the table setting for each dining experience. His sense of style and joie de vivre are impeccable.
Barge Cooking Demonstrations
Chef Joe is not only a fabulous chef, his personality is warm and welcoming. Cooking demonstrations? You bet! The open kitchen on Esperance invites guests’ participation and conversation.
Canal barge cruising and local wine pairing
Local wines from Languedoc abound in grape varieties and blends making them very diverse and interesting. Pairing with the food is an art practiced on board Esperance.
For more information and to book this barge cruise which cruises on the Canal du Midi, please contact us.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
The anticipation I feel when visiting barges as a barge cruise specialist is hopeful that my first impression will be the same delight my clients feel when they step on board. So when my husband, Jack, and I stepped on board Papillon, a 6 passenger deluxe barge moored in the peaceful port of Dijon, I sighed with pleasure at the immaculate deck scattered with chic and comfortable chairs bordered by planters of lush greens and flowers. The friendly welcome by Owner Bill Higgs, Captain Cedric and Hostess Barbara set the tone for our time together aboard this exquisite gem of a floating country inn.
France Barge trips with gourmet dining
Every inch of Papillon exudes not only charm from the tasteful fabrics and décor but quality in design and timeless woodwork. From the spacious deck, a few stairs down lead to the airy salon with sink in sofas and inviting open bar. Fresh flowers and plants along with a library of books and music created a homey, lived in atmosphere. The traditional dining room lined with designer fabric and warm oak furniture provides an intimate space for gourmet dining. Chef Ollie was not on board, but her reputation as an excellent chef is renowned in the barging world. Hostess Barbara proudly showed us the cabins which she keeps spotlessly clean.
Cabins on a Barge Cruise are well planned
Down a few steps from the salon, the cabins are cozy and beautifully planned for unpacking and storing luggage. The newly renovated colorful Provencal tile bathrooms with shower and wc are top quality and pleasing to the eye. The largest of the cabins has twin beds end to end with a sink and vanity separating them. It has the feel of a large cabin even though it is quite narrow. Guests who enjoy unique, comfortable accommodations in small, elegant spaces will love Papillon’s cabins.
Papillon’s crew consists of the captain, chef, hostess and tour guide who take care of guests’ every need and desire. Accommodate special dietary needs? Absolutely! Stock your favorite liquors? Yes! Customize the activities around your interests? You bet! After a very satisfying visit on board Papillon and very positive feedback from recent clients, I recommend Papillon without reservation.
For more information and to book this exquisite barge cruise which cruises in southern Burgundy and the Canal du Midi, please contact us.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Did you ever think about the history of the canals that meander through the French countryside? Created by human labor, these channels were produced through human perseverance and ingenuity in days when traversing wilder countryside was possible only by rugged pathways or old Roman roads. A good day’s travel was measured in tens of miles, not hundreds, as it is today. The waterways we view from the decks of a Burgundy canal barge, with the eyes of a tourist or pleasure cruiser, were historically created for the critical purposes of commerce and communication.
Take, for example, the Canal du Nivernais, or Nivernais Canal, in northern Burgundy. It was begun in 1784 in order to aid in the floating of lumber from the Morvan National Park to Paris. There are 110 locks and three tunnels along its 180 kilometer (110 mile) route – which makes it a fascinating waterway to traverse from a touristic perspective, but must have been extremely difficult to design and build with the limited technologies available more than two centuries ago. Over the years, the Nivernais Canal contributed significantly to the economic development of the valleys of the Yonne River through which it flows.
Between Auxerre and Clamecy, you float through lush countryside, with daily excursions to northern Burgundy’s highlights including:
- Auxerre, the bustling market town on the Yonne River
- Burgundy wine village of Chablis with wine tasting in a charming wine cave
- Pretty medieval town of Noyers
- Hilltop artisan village of Vezelay with sweeping views and the Basilica of Mary Magdelene
- Chateau de Bazoches, fascinating home of the Marquis de Vauban, France’s great military engineer
From your vantage point on the barge or when walking and biking the towpaths, you will see curved stone bridges, vineyard vistas and bucolic pastures. Pretty villages dot the landscape inviting you to explore.
The important mercantile history of the Nivernais Canal with its heritage and beauty adds to the charm of a barge cruise along this remarkable canal. Ready for an historic adventure?
Contact us today to book your cruise on the Nivernais Canal.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Gosh, I love my job when I receive glowing reports from clients who return from their barge cruises.
The 12 passenger deluxe barge, L’Impressionniste, continues to get rave reviews for its cruise through the Valley of the Ouche in Southern Burgundy. Take a look at these unedited reviews:
“I’m sure no one ever celebrated a 55th wedding anniversary in a more beautiful, caring, environment. The staff became a part of “our family” for the week, and the sun smiled happily down on all our activities.”
“We returned from Paris yesterday and I wanted to send along a big “thank you” for a truly wonderful barge cruise.
“Beth – we just got back to the Westminster and have had a joyous barge trip! The crew and passengers were outstanding. Fine food, fine wine, fine service and fine people. We couldn’t have asked for better…oops! Weather could have been better. We had cold and rain but it didn’t slow anyone down. Fantastic time! Thank you!” J and D
“Barging through the Burgundy valley has always been on my bucket list. Thanks to all involved, from Beth who helped us with our reservations to the barge crew for making the experience a wonderful and memorable one for me and my wife.” Ken N.
“The service was excellent. I swear they washed the windows and port holes daily. When we asked for a napkin folding demo, they jumped at the opportunity and were always accommodating to each passenger’s needs. Unbelievably beautiful French countryside and smaller towns/winery visited.” Alice N.
“The barge cruise and vacation were absolutely superb, wine and food were on a par with a 5 star hotel and so was the Hotel Westminster. We met wonderful people and we are going to get together with two couples in July who live nearby! As a conclusion, everything was super and all the connections worked smoothly. Thank you so much for organizing this trip for us !” P and P
Contact us today to book your cabin or charter on L’Impressionniste.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
England is steeped in history (as well as tea!), and nowhere is that more evident than when navigating the waters through which that history has flowed. We believe that one of the best ways to become steeped in that history yourself is by taking a river barge cruise aboard the Magna Carta on the Royal River Thames.
Aboard the luxurious, eight passenger Magna Carta, you will enjoy both the elegance of a bygone era and the comfort of modern conveniences. Built in 1936 of mahogany, teak and oak woods, the Magna Carta includes such modern amenities as under floor heating, a spa pool and modern, ensuite facilities in its spacious 200 sq. foot staterooms. The barge is also outfitted with amenities such as WiFi internet access and touring bikes that you can use to meander along the Thames footpaths. The upper deck includes a salon in which you can sample a wide variety of wines, as well as the dining room, where the master chef will present you with succulent local dishes including roast guinea fowl, rack of lamb, breast of duck, and traditional English cheeses.
While enjoying the lovely English countryside from the comfort of your floating country hotel, you will meander past quaint riverside villages and historic royal palaces. Your trip begins with an English cream tea to properly prepare you for your idyllic waterway excursion. In addition to river views of the fabulous waterside houses of Bray, there are carefully planned side trips to points of interest such as Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and Windsor Great Park’s Saville Gardens. From the ancient village of Hurley with Ye Olde Belle, England’s oldest inn, to Cookham, which hosts the painter Sir Stanley Spencer’s gallery, to the River and Rowing Museum at Henley, you will find a wide array of sights and sounds to please all of your senses.
So come steep yourself in tea, history and idyllic English countryside.
Contact us to sign up today for your cruise on the Royal River Thames!
Bring on the crumpets!