Thursday, 1 November 2012

14th - 21st October

The 2012 season is over. We finished with a great week, cruising with a group of friends from high school still travelling together. Shared birthdays - meant an excuse for a celebration - cake and Crement de Bourgogne. A fitting week to finish off a memorable season.

Over the weekend we cruised the boat from the far end of our route back to Auxerre - where the Luciole will rest the winter - under the watchful eye of Francisco. Winterising the boat as we cruised along, packing up everything and storing all away. A sad time in some respects as Luciole is prepared for hibernation, yet a relief for the crew who have worked so hard for the last 7 months, overseen by Penny and joined by friends for the final voyage of 2012. The crew go their separate ways; Alex returns to South Africa, Francisco and Neil travel home and Tim, Stuart and I return back to England dreaming of Sunday roast dinners.

The Luciole crew sharing a well earned drink, leaving the last lock of the year
Although it is a relief to relax, I know in a few days I will be remembering the good times and the many people I shared them with. A wonderful opportunity of which I know all the crew are grateful for; to work on such a fantastic boat. Thanks to all those who made it such a wonderful season.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

7th - 13th October

A lock keeper manages the barrage, removing stakes to allow more water to flow down
The end is in sight! After 8 months just one week to go. Big building work is proceeding on the quay in Auxerre where the whole water front is being rebuilt, they have progressed very quickly and it is shaping up to be fantastic and ready for the spring and our next season. The Luciole will moor for the winter on the city quay, close and convenient to Francisco's on-shore home, so he can keep an eye on her.

Great passengers onboard, unfortunately the weather could have been a bit better, but the river has started to fill again.  After the last 2 months the region is in need of rain. Neil was give the opportunity to taste this years Chablis, hot off the press and still fermenting in oak barrels. It is disconcertingly fizzy. Given time it will evolve and mature, the winemakers hope, into something special.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

30th September - 6th October

Sunset from the top of the coral cliffs

October already! Autumn has arrived, sunsets and night time are creeping earlier and in the mornings there are fantastic sunrises while walking to collect the bread. We must be getting nearer to the end of the season, tally charts from the crew chess games now fill the page and canal traffic slowing down. Good to see our friend the barge 'Randle' back on the Nivernais after spending some time south of Clamecy due to lack of rain, when asked how he got through the shallow stretch, as we passed each other in the cut, he replied; “Balloons”.  

We nearly lost the chef on Friday after he took a slip into the canal.  He was pulled out drenched by the crew, we can't afford to loose a good chef. Been there, done that myself! Never the nicest experience, but happens to the best of us, its a sort of 'Canal Christening'!

23rd - 29th September

The Chardonnay grapes of Burgundy
Grape picking has begun in the vineyards; the whole valley comes to life! Alien tractors covered in pipes - specific for the vineyards fill the roads – creating Burgundy traffic jams. Unfortunately, it has however been a terrible year for the wine makers.  Prolonged 2 months of rain in early summer, followed by 2 months of drought has had a dramatic affect on yield. We will have to wait to see what it tastes like and can guarantee that it won’t taste like any other year - they’re all different - that is the joy of Burgundy wines.

On the Chablis tour, tour guide Neil parked the bus beside the Grand Cru vines and our guests had the chance to get involved. “The bus is trashed!” Neil joked, referring to the muddy footprint throughout after clients pottered around the vineyards, I just hope they didn’t eat too many grapes!

A birthday special Captain's Dinner with a celebratory cake for a passenger and our hostess Alex, who sat down with the guests for the meal. 

16th - 22nd September

The Luciole in her Gurgy mooring

The hostess Izzy has now departed, returning to England to continue her final term of university. The replacement; Tim, is here to see us out to the end of the season as he did last year and a great week to welcome him back. Poor hostess Alex is now stuck with 5 men, coping with all the general clutter without a murmur of discontent. 

Living and working on a boat for 8 months can be difficult. Credit to all the crew, this season there has been a fantastic atmosphere behind the galley door and had remained as good as the first week, if not better. It’s a pleasure to work onboard and often I think to myself how lucky I am to have this job.  Sitting out on the stern of the Luciole with friends, eating fantastic food while watching the starlings flock by in the evening light, swans bellow and badger to be thrown bread and maybe for the crew in the evening a glass of Chablis to accompany supper. A tough life but someone has to do it!

Sunday, 23 September 2012

9th - 15th September

Yet another great week with a fantastic visit to the 12th Century chateau of Noyer-sur-Serein. The chateau was once the biggest of Northern France but destroyed by Henry IV, abandoned to nature, the chateau was gradually swallowed by woodland. A steep off road track takes us from the town up to the site on top of the hill - out of the bushes comes Willem - a Dutchman dedicated to putting this chateau back on the map. Behind him crumbling old walls that 15 years ago were buried under debris.
Willum the Dutchman of Chateau Noyers and Neil
A further 50 metres on and we find ourselves in a Medieval building site, a tower is taking shape once more. Over the last 10 years it has been rebuilt, and it looks fantastic. Willum leads the way, pausing at the stone mason's workshops and then into the tower and up the stairs. The guests follow him, he explains the history of the chateau and process of rebuilding along the way. It is well understood that this will take hundreds of years to complete, but Willem has started something great and we feel fortunate to see 'the work in progress' .

Willum explains to our passengers the brief history of the 12 Century Medieval chateau
and how he is reclaiming it from the grips of wild wilderness

Keep in touch with Willum and the progress of the chateau via the website:

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

2nd - 8th September

The weather is glorious at the moment.  Perfect temperature, with a hint of late summer, early autumn feel.  Some of the trees are beginning to turn and the grapes are ready for harvesting. Up in the vineyards the wine makers inspect the vines, waiting anxiously for the day when regulations say the picking commence.

Earlier in the season, like last year, in the lock outside Auxerre, horses crossed the bow of the Luciole to reach their pastures on an island.  The lock keeper stops the lock filling at exactly the right moment, so the deck is level with the land and the horses hastily cross, they are used to the exercise now. It is a thrill to see.  The picture below is the spring shot, as you can see they are happy to be there, I am scrubbing the deck down!

The horses are pleased to be on their summer residence, an island between the River Yonne and the Nivernais Canal
Stuart arrives on horseback!
Stuart our chef saw an opportunity for a quick ride and appeared along the side of the Luciole in the next lock.  A real 'Luciole moment'!  We had a wonderful week on board with a fantastic family charter, celebrating a 60th wedding anniversary.  Many congratulations encore to Jim and Carolyn

26th August - 1 September

Our cruise this week finished in the pretty village of Gurgy, just south of Auxerre.  It was an exciting cruise down the River Yonne, through the larger river locks.

Passengers race up on deck when they realise a hot air balloon is about to land nearby

Earlier in the week, we watched one of the hot air balloons, belonging to France Montgolfier, land very close to the Luciole.  Passengers rushed on to the deck to take pictures, in between the supper courses.  Seeing a hot air balloon at close range is always a thrill.

The balloon lands in a nearby field

Monday, 27 August 2012

19th - 25th August

This week saw the arrival of our new chef who we will finish the season with us; Stewart from England cooked up some serious storms for our passengers. Adding his own touch to some classic French dishes, yes the photo above tasted as good as it looks!

The weather was blisteringly hot, up to 40°C! (+100 °F ),  but the welcome breeze and our air conditioning throughout made a wonderful difference. Drastic measures were required to cool down and so all my hair had to go! The weather was great for our guests (and what fantastic guests we had) and the for the crew who had plenty of swims in the river sections to cool off. In August, starry nights follow the days with the 'Milky Way' appearing particularly brightly at the moment.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

5th - 18th August

A scheduled two weeks off in Auxerre, to give the crew and the Luciole a bit of a mid-summer break and opportunity for a 'spruce-up' thanks to our old friend and expert painter Roy. Neil went home to his house in the Morvan. While Izzy, Alex and I went to London.  I met up with my parents (John and Penny) and brothers to celebrate my Grandmother's 75th birthday.  We organised a surprise picnic for 35 family and friends and I swapped cork pulling in rural Burgundy for the English countryside.  Thankfully after the good weather of the Olympics, it just about stayed dry for us too!

Cork pulling in England as opposed to Burgundy

Francisco stayed in Auxerre and gave the outside of the boat a new coat of paint. We also said goodbye to chef Dave who returns to his job in England after helping us out for the last two weeks - before our new chef, Stuart joins us until the end of the season.

The Luciole moored in Auxerre under the imposing Abbey of Saint Germain

29th July - 4th August

This week we had a family from Japan charter the boat. They were fantastic, both passengers and crew loved every minute. Language barriers required a lot of hand signals and the family were incredibly polite. The three youngsters helped the chef and spent the days in the wheelhouse, sat next to Francisco, the 9 year old even put the boat in a lock. A pleasure to have onboard, and hopefully my Japanese will improve before our next group.
The Medieval centre of Auxerre with painted timber framed buildings and imposing clock tower

22nd - 28th July

A visit from an old friend and past chef, Dave. A true English gentleman and pleasure to have onboard. Joining us to fill the gap for the next two weeks after chef Dan and Liane left to continue their travels. Francisco spent the week teaching various passengers the skill of barge piloting, he makes it look easy – it isn’t!

Navigating into a lock takes skill and practice
The Luciole as like most barges spends most the time going the way she wants and not the way you want her to. A long delay in response time between turning the wheel and her reacting doesn’t help, plus a 170ton moving object with no brakes takes a long time to stop. Built for the maximum carrying capacity (not to be aerodynamic!) and previously pulled by horses, steering her takes a surprising amount of skill and a lot of practise

Saturday, 18 August 2012

15th - 21st July

Alex and Izzy walk up to a glacier in Chamonix
A weeks gap meant some well earned rest. Francisco visited Amsterdam with his 5 year old son and partner. Izzy, Alex and I took a car down to Chamonix in the alps where we spent the time walking and admiring the spectacular scenery - Alex even managed to catch some of the Tour de France and do some paragliding. Neil spent time at his home in the summer heatwave that has hit.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

8th - 14th July

Bastille day fireworks in Clamecy

It was Liane and Dan's last week on the Luciole. A great pair who will be missed as they leave to continue their travels around Europe. Dan's food never stopped improving and all the best to the two in the future.

Bastille day on the Saturday meant an interesting drop off in Paris for Neil and I as we passed an army of tanks and fire engines after the parade. A firework display in the Clamecy port that evening meant that Dan and Lani were sent off with a bang as the fireworks exploded directly over the boat.

1st - 7th July

July already! A great week onboard with a family from Australia. An active group that cycled, went ballooning over Vezelay and canoed down the river Cure. Much fun was had by all, with hot weather briefly interrupted by a sudden downpour or two. The arrival of Izzy ready to cover for Alex who left on the weekend to see more of France was very nice, a crew memeber from last year and my girlfriend who will be working for the next 2 months.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

24th - 30th June

John steers through Accolay

This week we had a VIP onboard - owner John Liley – who spent most the week steering the Luciole through the sunshine. His anecdotes and stories of past times kept us entertained. A man who many are very grateful to, for his part in hotel barging having started the company in 1976.  Over the three and half decades there have been many great times for passengers and crew alike; “This is all your fault John!” – to be taken as a complement after a fantastic week onboard which ended with Neil playing guitar on deck after captain's dinner and laughs all round. We even had a proposal - the Luciole wishes the happy couple all the best!

News on the canal; dredging is starting in front of the last lock, below the port of Clamecy. A digger and pontoon should somehow come to the aid of the many boats that have become beached in the last few weeks. Hopefully it should be completed in the next few days....... however this is France. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

17th - 23rd June

Fillet steak, tastes even better than it looks!
A great week, a mixture of Australians, English and Americans. Further guests were Liane's parents, who joined us for most of the week - following along in their campervan.

Dan's food is fantastic, he even seems to be mastering French baking with fantastic gougéres. Not bad for an Australian. More food pictures available on our Facebook or Photogallery pages

10th - 16th June

Francisco this week gave the time to teach almost all passengers how to steer the boat. All discovering that he makes it look easy - really it's incredibly difficult. Barges don't stick straight! Especially in a narrow canal, there is also a delay in response time and a lot of turns are required of the wheel to turn the boat, eventually most got the hang of it. I have also applied for my pilots license, which takes a lot of practise and numerous exams to aquire... watch this space!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

3rd - 9th June

Luciole cruises up the canal, with the River Yonne flowing on our port side

This week we had a lovely charter group on board.  Bill and Ginnie the leaders had cruised on Luciole 20 years ago.  Its always wonderful to have passengers back on board.

The Nivernais canal has 114 locks and is 108 miles long, and was built to link the Loire and Yonne valleys and was once used to float timber to Paris and then later transport gravel/stone. As commercial use slowed down in the mid-1960s the canal was saved by the arrival of the pleasure industry, first the hotel barges and now the hire boats, all enjoying this beautiful stretch of water. 

After nearly 40 years on the canal, the Nivernais has become Luciole's home, and the barge has become part of Nivernais history. My parents still know a number of the lock keepers from before I was born! The joy of our canal is that it really does feel like you are stepping back in time and for a short while, enjoying life in the slow lane.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

27th May - 2nd June

Luciole powers up the river
June already? Time is going quickly! This week a group from Key-West Florida, we seem to have a following on that island; friends of the gentleman who put me on youtube using the boom - took over the boat and they brought the weather with them.

Being halfway through the cruise route and stuck at Mailly la Chateau for the weekend due the high water levels last week - it was decided to cruise from Mailly la Chateau to Auxerre in on the Monday and then spend the next 4 days cruising to Clamecy. One issue of the water levels meant we were unable to pass lowest bridge in Mailly la Ville, the boss of the canal was called and a dam was lowered - we were able to pass through 10 minutes later. Somehow we managed to do it all in one day, this in memory has never been done on the Luciole. Arriving the last lock at 5 minutes before the locks shut, every lock had been a race with the chef and girls helping us all along. Great team effort!

Unfortunately we never made it into the port of Clamecy as a sandbank had built up bellow the lock and on the river. A tractor was required to pull us off and we fell just 100m short of our final destination!

An eventful week, barging is never boring!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

20th - 26th May

The Luciole sits bellow Mailly le Chateau

A big storm hit Tuesday and the river levels rose. Cruising to Auxerre we were unable to make it under the Mailly La Ville bridge so a day trip to Beaune was organised and a visit around the very impressive Hotel Dieu (Hospice de Beaune) - a hospital for the poor founded in 1443, a great step back in time and architecturally very beautiful. I joined along for the trip and the drive down was gorgeous, a very different area of Burgundy to our Northern part, predominantly covered in vineyards..... it was lovely to get back to our Nivernais Canal though, I have to say.

Fortunately we were stopped on a section of canal and Francisco offered piloting lessons in the evening. The sun really came out for the last few days of the week and it was really hot, passengers took the time to explore on foot and bike.

13th - 19th May

A week off! The crew made full use of the time to recover. Chef Dan and Liane travelled to the Alsace in Eastern France, hostess Alex spent some time with Family and I briefly travelled back to England to see my girlfriend.

The river was given the chance to die down a bit and some welding was done to the back of the boat including an exhaust chimney, plus the usual bit of painting here and there. Hot weather also seems to be arriving hopefully it will stick around this time.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

6th - 12th May

A peacock butterfly infront of the Luciole
Unfortunately nature intervened with our itinerary this week! The river still considered too dangerous to navigate until the Thursday. This meant we had to stay put in Auxerre. Wine tasting passed the time with a very special day trip out for the passengers to Beaune - a beautiful city renown for being Burgundy's wine capital.

Thankfully after a frustrating few days we were able to cruise and sped up the canal, making it all the way to Mailly la Ville on the Thursday, Friday we continued on but were stopped just short of Clamecy in Lucy sur Yonne. The river still had some pace to it and many trees sped downstream and even trapped us in a lock for 30 minutes, sand and mud washed away in the flood created sand banks that had to be dodged. However a fantastic two days of sun and blistering heat that came out of nowhere kept the smiles on everyones faces, very little was missed due to a fantastic effort by all. A great end to a frustrating start of the week.

29th April - 5th May

A week off gave us a chance to put some time into the boat and hold a domino tournament. A newly decorated crew area and work bench in the engine room, along with many touch ups through the boat. Moored in the park of Auxerre for a change, a nice spot. The girls enjoying the chance to run and cycle while the boys went to see Auxerre play football, unfortunately not very well and have since been relegated to the division bellow. The speed of the river is slowing down thankfully and a pleasant visit from John Liley (my father) for my birthday which fell mid-week.

Friday, 4 May 2012

22nd - 28th April

Storm clouds roll in over canola fields

Spring showers hit hard this week with most of France being extremely wet. The Yonne has swelled up and the barrages opened, bringing many logs down the river. The canal was still open on the Friday morning in time for us to cruise to Auxerre before closing after lunch. A few hairy moments including the bridge in Vaux, under which we usually have a metre clearance turned out to be more like centimetres.  Mooring in Auxerre was a challenge, with the river running as fast as it was. Francisco's piloting experience on the River Seine in Paris came in useful and all went well.

We all hope this weather has past us and as I write this now the sun is shining and the water levels have dropped. A week off next week gives the river a chance to calm and the valley is looking very green as an explosion of life creeps up along the Yonne. 

15th - 21st April

The season has started. All the preparation came together and made for a wonderful first cruise with a special 3 generation family chartering the barge.  Luciole looked fantastic following all the off season work and with Spring officially arriving mid week, Burgundy is starting to come to life again after the winter. Spring showers dampened the region but not the atmosphere on board.

A lot of changes along the canal were seen for the first time, repairs to banks, locks and barrages. However the Nivernais still remains its old self and pilot Francisco did not let his rustiness show as we cruised. 

Dan the chef has made the kitchen his home and slaved away, producing very tasty food. Being Australian, snails were a new challenge, but he pulled it off! The hostesses were trained in as if they had done it for years thanks to Fi and hard work from Penny pulling everything together. 

A great start and a great atmosphere onboard. May it continue for the rest of the season. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

The Crew, 2012

Francisco, Liane, Alex, me, Neil and Dan
This season sees some new and old faces. Our wonderful captain and tour guide Neil, with us for his fifth season, along with Francisco our pilot (commencing his third season). Both of whom spent the winter relaxing and recovering in Burgundy along with a jaunt to home life in Cheshire to experience narrow boating in England. This year we are joined by our talented new chef Dan, cooking up a storm and producing the quality of food that gives the Luciole her reputation. He is also joined by his wife Liane and our young Alex, the pair will be looking after all things on the inside as hostesses.

A great atmosphere onboard. And I am very excieted to start the 2012 season with some old and new friends.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

2012 pre-season refit

Neil giving the Luciole some new make up
Liley brothers cleaning the saloon roof

The team sit down to a delicious lunch
The Luciole is restored to her summer glory after her winters rest in the port of Auxerre. A full team effort on this years refit! With some fresh faces in the mix. A new wooden front and windows to the saloon look great. A big thank you to Carpenter Chris, aka ‘Baron of Bristol’ and Giles. A set of new chairs in the saloon look really classy. Some updates to cabins and en-suite bathrooms plus the usual complete new coat of paint. 
A lot of hard work only interrupted by a visit from potentially France’s next president ‘Francois Hollande’, who gave a wave to crew eating lunch on deck as he passed by.
Thank you to all involved both back home in the office and those on board.

Monday, 26 March 2012

2012 Season - just around the bend

With the 2012 season starting on the 15th April, preparations are being made to the Lady Luciole in order to get her ready. A coat of paint has given her a new outfit. And a new front to the saloon will also be very smart.

A selection of new and old faces make up the crew, including myself. Very much looking forward to seeing the scenes and old faces along the canal that make Burgundy so special, while knowing that many strangers will also become friends over the next 8 months.

Look forward to seeing those of you this season who are cruising with us; and for those who can't - I will make sure I keep you updated on here.

Stay tuned.

Regards, your matelot.


Sunday, 12 February 2012

Our movie gallery

We have a new Barge Luciole video..... 

Roll on summer sun - make the most of - beautiful Burgundy

.......sit back, relax and watch......ENJOY!

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Adventure Barge Cruises

Have you considered chartering a barge with your family or friends but wishing there was more activity and adventure? Hotel Barge Luciole is now offering the perfect cruise for you!

Tree walking, horse riding, cave climbing and kayaking are exciting activities alongside our regular visits. Families and friends wanting a summer adventure that pleases every age, do check out our full itinerary for the week.

Horse riding through Burgundy, close to the Parc du Morvan

An ADVENTURE barge cruise on Luciole combines barge cruising, with a choice of exciting activities or our regular visits to historic sites. Perfect for a mixed age charter group of under 10s, teens and upwards.

From barge cruising to kayak paddling

We can organise the perfect vacation for you, full of activity, yet still maintaining the essence of a barge cruise in our historic region of Burgundy.