A Spring Barge Trip Through Holland’s Tulip Fields: First impressions

We are to meet for pick-up at the Grand Café by Track 2 in Central Station at 4:30. And we arrive ten minutes early.  Immediately, we are asked if we are guests of European Waterways by a man who turns out to be our captain, Jules, and a pretty lady called Lea who will be our land guide. But though we wait for another 20 minutes or so, the other couple who is supposed to be met …

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The French barge cruise: Even the shopping is all about food!

I’m addicted to food stores and always love to browse through the local providers in the countries I visit. France is rich in superb fresh vegetables and excellent prepared foods, as well as bakeries and patisseries that are brilliant to look at, with sweets and breads arranged like artwork. The barge cruise made it easy to indulge in my food shopping addiction. In the little villages we stopped in, I found artisanal chocolate, with salted caramel, rose …

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The leisurely pace of a barge cruise makes excursions memorable

Part of the charm of a barge cruise is the leisurely pace. The boat moves slowly, and so do you. If you want the faster pace, you can have that too – there are bicycles on board that you can use for trips into the villages or countryside, or, if you are sailing the canals, you can hop out and either walk or bike the paths along the banks. Because the barge is slow, you can easily …

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The Nooit Volmaacht…a 70-year-old Dutch beauty

The Never Perfect is a 70-year-old Dutch barge that has been carefully restored. There is room for two couples, or four people, on board for a cruise on the canals and rivers of France. It is not luxurious, but it is comfortable, authentically historic, and charming. Cabins are small, but the good linens, pictures and lamps make them pretty and very comfortable. There are all the comforts – no television, but there is wifi, lovely music, a …

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Sunday morning in Sens, France

It was a brisk but sunny morning when we woke up, and I went right up on deck to enjoy a cup of coffee and watch the town come alive. Breakfast was a generous affair, with fresh croissants that Marc had fetched on his bicycle from the nearby boulangerie. Jam, fresh butter, yogurt, strawberries, and muesli, as well as coffee, tea and orange juice was more than we would usually have for our breakfast. We headed out …

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Meeting the barge in Sens and our hosts for the week

Mary, one of the owners, whom I had spoken to on the telephone, and conferred with by email, met us at the train station. She recognized us from a picture which we had sent her. We walked with our bags about four blocks to the river Yonne and got our first actual sight of the barge. The Nooit Volmaakt is everything I had expected, charming and authentic. She was shining in the sun and Mary’s husband Marc …

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Paris: The best pre-cruise port

Three days in Paris – could there be a better way to gear up for a canal cruise? We stayed in a perfect hotel, the Hotel Duc De Saint Simon, (www.hotelducdesaintsimon.com) in St. Germain des Pres. It is a jewel, quiet, clean and elegant. It is small, just 35 rooms, and our room was tiny, but the large windows looked out on the garden, the sheets were high thread count, with the hotel’s emblem embroidered on the …

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Books and movies: Preparing for a few days in the City of Light

My upcoming canal cruise is the main reason I am visiting France, but before I get to Sens, where the cruise begins, I plan to spend a few days in Paris. I will be able to get my rusty French language skills in some kind of order, and also to enjoy one of the best cities in the world. France has fascinated the world for centuries and so, to get in the right frame of mind to …

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The history of barge cruising in Europe

The barge has a long and dignified history, starting out as a ‘modern’ improvement on commercial transportation in the 1800’s. Often pulled by horses, sometimes by men, barges were used to transport goods along the miraculous system of canals and locks that traversed France. Their importance waned as other faster forms replaced them, but in the early 1960’s they were reborn as a form of floating vacation home by people who fell in love with the boats …

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Celebrating a big anniversary on the canals of France

I’m barging into an adventure in a few weeks, and I can’t wait. It’s unchartered territory for me, though, so I have some reservations. Nonetheless, on Aug. 26 I will board the Nooit Volmaakt and begin a holiday on the canals of France. The Nooit Volmaakt is a restored Dutch barge owned by a Canadian couple from Victoria, B.C. It is the kind of holiday I always look for, a bit different, a bit challenging, not too …

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