On the last leg of our European Waterways cruise, from Lezinnes to Tanlay, there are five more locks and some of the group wanted to make the most of the nice weather by walking most of the way. A few others took the opportunity on our last cruise day to ride bikes.
Throughout the cruise, Captain Jolanda has made a point of warning everyone not to fall overboard when getting on or off the barge at the locks. As the locks leave only a few inches of clearance on each side of the barge, one member of the group joked that falling through one those cracks would be quite a challenge. In any case, Pilot Fred has done a great job with steering La Belle Epoque only one slightly bumping into a lock wall due to a particularly windy day.
In the late afternoon we made our last visit of the week to our third and final chateau. The 16th century masterpiece of the Italian Renaissance architect Sebastiano Serlio, who was employed by the French court, the unique Chateau d’Ancy le Franc is considered to be an “amazing Renaissance Palace” with impressive marble floors throughout. It is lavishy decorated and furnished. It features the largest collection of murals in France, paintings by Burgundy and Flemish painters, and by artists from the School of Fontainebleau. Disconcertingly, I found far too many depicting all sorts of historical murder and mayhem. A major exhibition of Lego constructions displayed throughout the chateau was a jarring contrast in sensibilities, seemingly disturbingly out of place.
Coincidently this is the year France celebrates 500 years of cultural Renaissance, led by Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo was invited by French king Francis I to be “First painter, engineer and architect to the king” and brought with him a few paintings to finish, including the Mona Lisa, now in the Louvre. He died in France at the royal Chateau Amboise in the Loire Valley in 1519.
Back on La Belle Epoque, our final evening was celebrated with a Captain’s Dinner with Jolanda dining with us. Chef Bryan went all out with an asparagus plate of Bayonne ham, poached egg and Sauce Charon for appetizer; an entrée of Tornedo Rossini with Pommes Ana and red cabbage; followed by cheeses Epoisses, Roquefort, and Comte; and accompanied by a white Chablis Grand Cru 2016 and a red Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2007. The chef’s grand finale was a birthday cake for our Aussie group member John that was, well, grand.
Our cruise ended and we returned to Paris on Saturday morning with most of the group extending their stays elsewhere in Europe. I’ll be looking for river cruise ships on the Moselle and Rhine and among the tulips of Holland to photograph for my Cruising the World book before returning home.
Story and photos courtesy of Dennis Cox