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Barging in Burgundy
As I roll out of bed I open the curtains and see the beautiful storybook village of Dole outside my window. I quickly get dressed and head upstairs for breakfast in the restaurant. French pastries, local cheeses and an assortment of fresh fruits await. As my barge mates and I sit and sip our coffee, taking in the view of this historic port right outside our windows, our made-to-order omelets are prepared.
With only 20 guests on board, the experience of a canal barge is convivial. While I have come to know the other guests quickly, I can’t help imagining what a great experience it would be to fill the whole ship with a group of friends or family. As I chat with the other guests, our on-board cruise director greets us and reminds us of the daily schedule. We will begin after breakfast with a walking tour of Dole.
Our guide is a lively, local woman who brings us through the town pointing out historic buildings and filling us in on the local lore. Louis Pasteur, the famous scientist, was born here. We walk by his birthplace and learn about his time here. We end the tour in a bustling local market where some of my fellow Cruisers pick up a couple items to enjoy back on board. We make our way back to the barge independently as it is conveniently located in the city itself.
After freshening up in our cabins we head back to the restaurant for lunch, enjoying a delicious vegetable soup and roast chicken, followed by my new favorite tradition, the cheese course. Today, our lovely Cruise Director stands up with her map of France and points to the city of Meaux, describing the creamy Brie we will taste. Next she shows us the region of Franche-Comte, where we are currently cruising, and explains the method of making comte cheese. Served with a salad and generous portions of each cheese on our table, I can see everyone is in heaven! I should mention that it was paired perfectly with the included wine served during the meal. I could really get used to this!
This afternoon the barge will continue sailing towards the town of Ranchot. Bicycles are available for any guests who wish to ride along the canal path, or the afternoon can be spent at leisure on board. I opted to get some exercise and meet the barge later in the town of Ranchot, however as I am getting ready to depart I see my fellow guests settling in for what looks to be a very comfortable and relaxing afternoon! Several have changed into bathing suits and are making their way to the hot tub, some have grabbed their books and are enjoying the sun deck, while others are playing games and having a drink in the Lounge Bar. I think a few may be nodding off in their cabins after our delicious lunch.
Cycling along the canal is flat, making for an easy ride. The barge has many stops along the way at various locks providing opportunities to re-embark. However, I decide to meet the barge in Ranchot, allowing me some time to look around town before getting back on board for dinner. Whenever the ship is docked guests are free to come and go as they please so my fellow guests will have time to explore after dinner if they are interested.
After my afternoon of cycling, I am ready for dinner! We enjoy a drink in the lounge before being welcomed into the dining room for another wonderful meal and excellent dessert, with included drinks. Conversation flows throughout the meal and we head to the lounge after dinner to continue the revelry. Some guests begin heading to bed, as others enjoy a nightcap on the deck under the stars. Tomorrow we sail to Besançon - I can hardly wait!