That’s Pascal in the photo above. He’s pictured presenting Beef Wellington, which was off-the-charts delicious. Some on our trip said that Pascal’s culinary creations were tastier than the Michelin-star dishes that they had experienced before boarding the barge. That should come as no surprise. Strasbourg-based CroisiEurope partners with some of France’s best chefs, including culinary greats such as Paul Bucose, with two Michelin stars, and Marc Haeberlin, who reached up to the sky and pulled down three Michelin stars.
In our minds, Pascal deserves a constellation. During our barge trip this past April, he told us that his Bordelaises grandmother inspired his love of cooking. We were glad she did.
Pascal was not only an excellent chef but also a charming and sincere one. He serenaded us on the last evening of the trip with Edith Pilaf’s signature song, “La Vie en rose.” It doesn’t get any more authentic than that.
The barge experience is all about authenticity. You get to experience a slice of French life along the narrow canals that cut through this gorgeous country. If you’ve not barged before, it is difficult to wrap your head around the idea of traveling on a vessel that we typically associate with transporting cargo, cattle or coal.
To distinguish from the latter, companies such as CroisiEurope often dub their vessels luxury hotel barges. They are, in fact, like floating boutique hotels. I outlined the highlights of this mode of travel in my post, 10 Reasons To Choose Barge Cruising, but you really have to be there to experience moments like the spontaneous serenade or the taste of that Beef Wellington (with a bold Burgundy accompanying it).
I realize that some of you who are considering my barge trips may have two concerns: 1) the size of the staterooms; and 2) venturing to Europe for a seven-day trip.
You’ll find a video of the stateroom here. I don’t recall anyone ever complaining about the size of the stateroom. I’m 6’5″ and have managed well in the staterooms on barge trips I have done annually (except for the Covid years) for the past several years.
So that they can transit the canals, the barges are narrow but they’re wide enough to offer staterooms that sleep two, store your luggage, provide you with a desk, closet, safe, television and large bathroom. You won’t lack for room to spread out.
For those who would prefer a balcony, the whole barge is your balcony. You’ll find that you’ll spend most of your time in the “living room” on the main deck or on the outer decks or bicycling or walking along the canals. You will not miss having a larger stateroom.
My answer to those concerned about crossing the Atlantic to travel Europe for seven days is don’t. Combine it with something else to make it a two-week or longer trip. That’s why I am offering back-to-back trips where Dijon serves as the turn-around hub.
You could also combine a barge trip with a river cruise. The Saône is 45-minute drive from Dijon. I saw Avalon Waterways on the Saône on our last barge trip. Or you can get to Lyon by train in two hours to begin a Rhone river cruise.
If you’ve ever considered joining one of my barge trips, take a look at what’s offered for April of 2023 here. I’d love to welcome you on board – and so would Pascal. Who knows? He might even serenade you. – Ralph Grizzle
Below, some of the beauty along the canals this past April.