Sunday, 8 November 2015

End of the 2015 season

The seasons come and the seasons go, faster it seems with every year.  For the first time in a number of years, the final cruise week with passengers finished in Auxerre, place of our winter mooring. Last season we cruised through Auxerre and on to Paris for the five yearly inspection. Two previous seasons in 2012 and 2013 we finished in Clamecy, which made for a busy few days cruising all the hours the locks were open, with a private lock-keeper to see us down.

On the Saturday morning, we waved the passengers off and began a busy end of season day, winterising the Luciole. Us girls working out the bed and table linen inventory (next season will be here before we know it) and the guys focusing on the outside duties.

The prize was sitting down to the traditional end of season Merguez Sausage Casserole followed by Apple Crumble (thank you William).  It was a birthday celebration night for Vicente, our Captain's lovely son, who is growing up fast, before our eyes.

Saturday supper on the night of the morning of the last day of our season

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the fabulous crew who have taken the Luciole through the season in such a professional and kindly way:

Captain - Francisco
Tour guide - Anna
Chef - Marc
Hostesses - The Stephanies - from Australia and the UK - and of course Emma and Izzy
Matelot - Tom - thumbs up too for his expert blog writing and for the humour in the detail that bring back the memories
Duties various - William

Wishing everyone a wonderful winter and thank you for cruising on the Luciole!
Blue sky

Monday, 2 November 2015

18th - 24th October 2015

Cruising with The Walking Party

For our last week of the season, we were joined by 'The Walking Party' led by the delightful James and Diana Tamlyn. Three families from Kenya joined them to cruise and walk through Burgundy's glowing autumnal countryside.  The colours of the vines and trees along the river and canal banks were stunning.

The crew were kept on their toes by the younger members of the families, whoe entertained with dancing, apron wearing (no fear of the cold there) and general jolity.  On the final evening, the saloon became a dance floor and music was played until curfew time of midnight in the magical setting in Auxerre, beneath the floodlit Cathedral of St Etienne.

Next season, we celebrate 50 years of hotel barging.  The first hotel barge was called the Palinurus and she began cruising in 1966. In 1985 she was bought by our company and renamed the Luciole.  We are looking forward to celebrating the golden anniversary of hotel barging next year.

Our mooring on the River Yonne, in Vincelles was spectacular

Sunday, 18 October 2015

11th - 17th October 2015

Bike and Barge cruise with France à Vélo

The penultimate week of the 2015 season is upon us, and with it come many extremely successful and enjoyable variations to our normal schedule. This week we worked in partnership with a local business called France à Vélo, that run cycling tours all across France, so we spent the majority of the week with the very welcome and magnificently beautiful Charlotte, lovingly nicknamed the slave driver by our fearless passengers. She lead the cycle tours from the front, braving the weather and the hills with her group following closely behind. The combination of barge and bike worked seamlessly, as we cruised, Charlotte would muster those willing to take on the days cycling and lead them via the scenic route to rendezvous with our tour guide Anna at the days tour location, be it Chablis, Auxerre, Bazoches, Noyers or Vézelay. Unfortunately and rarely the weather wasn't entirely on our side this week and the temperature plummeted, but that didn't put our brave adventurers off, everyday the group got on their bikes, wrapped up warm and prepared for anything, and set off on their way. We look forward to cruising with France à Vélo again next season, and can envisage a long and very close relationship with this excellent organisation.

Smiles in the sunshine on the first day of our Bike and Barge cruise
We were also fortunate to welcome aboard not only 9 very funny and entertaining guests, one of whom, Lynne, joined us for her 3rd cruise and the 1st for 8 years! But also we were thankful to have with us a grand total of 3 Lileys including our lovely mastermind Penny and her 2 eldest sons William and Arthur, joining us for the sake of logistics and just generally being a helpful and constantly amusing bunch. Additionally we had long time friend of Penny and the barge, and very welcome guest Ant, complete with his ever present camera equipment, so hopefully a new video should be with us soon!

Finally I have another birthday to announce, that of perhaps the barges most popular resident, our most extraordinarily talented chef Marc, turning 24 this weekend, Happy Birthday from all of us here!

Burgundy on a glorious day on Bike and Barging

Sunday, 11 October 2015

4th - 10th October 2015

We're steadily approaching the end of our season here on the Luciole, with only 3 weeks remaining! A sad thought that soon we will be back to the real world, I'm sure we won't know what to do with ourselves. Thankfully we have had a wonderfully relaxed, family orientated week, before the end of season madness resumes. Shared with a very excellent group of people, a mixture of Canadians, Americans and one lone Brit. When asked what their favourite aspects of the week were, they replied "being with family" as number one, followed by making new friends and meeting the other groups, and of course as is often the case food was mentioned very highly on the list. Hardly a surprise there then. It's was a treat to be joined by 2 lovely families, plus father and daughter pairing Martin and Claudia on their first joint adventure. It was very sweet to see the family interactions and new friendships blooming before our eyes.

As I mentioned it was a very relaxed week, the weather was good, and smiles were everywhere. Most days cruising were spent on the deck or sitting comfortably in the saloon with a book, or in the case of some, with an enormous jigsaw! Brought specially in the event of a rainy day which in fact never happened, but of course it was completed anyway thanks to the masterful efforts of Sharon, Janet, Dennis and Becky. Our most active member this week was Loree, a very nice Canadian lady who spent most of the day walking, cycling and on one occasion managing to convince a local fisherman to hand over his rod and give her a go at angling. I'm not so sure everyone believed her story that she managed to catch a fish, but as we cruised past the fisherman in question later that day he backed her up and people were left eating their words.

Finally I have a special shout out to another one of my elusive blog readers, so hello to the ever smiley and always sincere Dennis. Thank you for being as charming as you were, hopefully you're home safe and sound by now but one can only assume, secretly wishing you could come back!

             Blue sky and Autumnal colours in Burgundy.  

Sunday, 4 October 2015

27th September - 3rd October 2015

We've had a wonderfully sunny autumnal time in Burgundy this last week, shared with our extremely lovely bunch of passengers all from America. I'm not sure I've ever met a more helpful and involved group of people, stacking their plates and moving all the unused glasses to the end of the table to offer a helping hand to hostesses Steph and Steph. I'd like to say a special thank you to extremely helpful chaps Bob and Larry who didn't miss turning around a single lock, though not them alone, as practically everyone had a go at opening the locks or turning the manivelle. However Bob was so dedicated he would stand at the edge of the boat ready to jump off and dive into action closing the lock gates behind us.

Speaking of diving into action perhaps this is the time to mention the funniest moment of the week, as marvellous moustachioed Kent along with the aforementioned Bob decided it would be good fun to swing off the boat using the boom arm. They had been insisting all week before Captain Francisco finally gave them permission on Thursday afternoon, in fact they may well be the last passengers to get such permission as their exploits were heart stopping but equally hilarious. Bob made it to dry land but his landing was primarily on his face, finished by a rather impressive forward roll, Kent on the other hand made rather a splash as he fell from the boom backwards and straight into the canal. No one was hurt thankfully except possibly for Kent's pride.

We've also had a real celebratory mood on the Luciole this week as we had amongst us a grand total of 4 birthdays! So many happy returns to the impeccable Kent, Marlene, Gladys, and our very own hostess Stephanie. The English Steph this time, celebrating her 23rd birthday, not the Australian Steph who celebrated her 23rd birthday last week. Bizarre quite frankly, but an excellent excuse for more cake so I'm sure no one's complaining.
The 'birthday girl' Steph pauses before giving the cheese speech out on deck, as we cruise under a bridge

Sunday, 27 September 2015

20th - 26th September 2015

What an excellent, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable week it's been on the Luciole. The sun is still with us, usually after a little morning mist, the scenery and skies seem to get more beautiful by the day and our passengers this week have been a truly amazing group of people. They were always happy, always talking and joking, and pretty much always with a glass in their hands. Indeed "more wine" was probably the most commonly used phrase of the week and led to many hilarious exploits throughout the week. Perhaps most memorably we had the lovely Keith falling off his chair in the process of trying to stick a spoon to his nose, or perhaps Melvin playing with the boat's boom pole, swinging on and off the boat to the disappointed looks of his partner Beverly but with the encouragement of a rather nervous Francisco. Evenings on the boat were always a spectactle and a party, the group getting lively as the night passed, big group singalongs at the dinner table accompanied by Pina Colada loving Anne on the Ukulele.

We were also very happy to celebrate the wedding anniversary of Zan and Paul, celebrated in style with and pair of candles in their desserts and a bottle of bubbly in their cabin. I'd also like to say Happy Birthday to our wonderful hostess all the way from Australia, affectionately known as Stephie. So congratulations to all, let's hope we wake up feeling ok for our next group of passengers on Sunday!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

13th - 19th September 2015

It's been an adventurous, exciting and extremely funny week here on the Luciole. Autumn is beginning to creep across the land, bringing falling leaves and sudden storms, the days are getting shorter and the country is beginning to take on a different look as the exceptional greenness of Burgundy slowly shifts to golden brown and yellow hues, while the evening skies drift from orange, to pink, to purple and finalise in truly dramatic sunsets. Autumn is a very beautiful time of year around here.

Our charming guests this week joined us mostly from the states with a lovely couple from Canada, all strangers at first but seemingly great friends even by Tuesday as the jokes were flying non stop all week, almost as much as they flew along the towpaths on their bikes. Almost everyone this week took up the call to cycle and regularly departed as one big group exploring the countryside and finding nice spots to sit and wait for the grand old lady The Luciole to catch them up. During one such excursion, indeed only 5 minutes after their departure, the heavens opened in perhaps the most dramatic storm I've ever witnessed in this part of the world, it laste
d only 5 minutes, but was so extreme our very courageous and soaking wet captain was forced to stop the boat and take shelter under a bridge as he couldn't even see the Burgundy flag flying on the boat's prow, perhaps only as much as 30 meters in front. The passengers on their bikes seemed to fair extremely well for the most part, all except for poor John, selflessly sheltering the others with his body as they took refuge under another bridge. Betsy, mother of the 3 marvellous ladies Carole, Susan and Wendy, managed to do even better during this storm, as she was sat very comfortably in the warmth of the boat's saloon, I think we all know who the real winner was here.

Tour guide Anna's had a nice surprise, bumping into her hero 'Vauban' at the Chateau of Bazoches

Finally I have several mentions to make and a few congratulations from the crew to pass on. First of all congratulations to Ellen on her retirement from teaching. Wendy on her 20th Wedding Anniversary with her husband who unfortunately for him wasn't invited! And finally to Shawn and John on 25 years of marriage. Congratulations to all, we hope your time on the Luciole was the perfect celebration of such big and memorable days.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

6th - 12th September 2015

It's September already, though you wouldn't have thought so from the weather, it's still hot and bright out here in Burgundy, though the nights and early mornings are beginning to get the chill of Autumn and the boat starts each day with a fresh layer of dew coating it. The crew holidays are finally at an end with myself, Tom the deckhand, returning from 2 weeks in Normandy, so we're completing the final 7 weeks of the season in style with our regular crew all together again at last. Anna, Francisco, Marc, the 2 Stephs and Tom raring to go.

My first week back here has been a wonderful one, with 12 very nice and extremely funny American passengers joining us on board as we cruise to Auxerre from Clamecy. I'd like to say one particularly special mention to lovely, smiley Karen, always cracking jokes and constantly saying the nicest things, but most importantly, an avid reader of the blog who very kindly told me she had been missing my updates! So thank you for that Karen, I hope you read this one especially! Captain Francisco has also been a very happy man this week as he has had a Spanish speaking friend on board in the form of Sandy, an ex language teacher with flawless Spanish and rather good French to boot. She very kindly lent Francisco a Chilean book of all things which he seemed to find completely fascinating, indeed every time I saw him he had it in his hand with another 100 pages or so behind him. So thank you Sandy I think you made the Captain's week.

Finally I would like to mention Sandy one last time as we congratulate her on not only her birthday which was celebrated one evening with the addition of an extremely large cake, expertly cooked up by Chef Marc, but also to congratulate her and husband Chuck on their 30th wedding anniversary. Cheers to the both of you!

Sunday, 30 August 2015

23rd - 29th August

The first of Tom's two weeks holiday means I (Will) am back onboard the Luciole as deckhand, after three years of taking on a more land based and office role. I was not the only old school Luciole member of crew to be joining, as Mike, who last worked for us in 2009 came to cover as tour guide, now even more experienced, he slotted in very well, the week bringing back many memories for him, during his time nearly a decade ago on the Luciole he also met his wife, who was chef at the time. The Luciole has been the start and catalyst for many relationships, including that of my parents!

The week included a special guest, with Monty Waldin, a wine maker of BBC fame, who has vineyards in Italy and  bravely tried making a wine in England, he joined for the week to sample our wines. We also had photographer Lizzie Sheppard onboard, her work is well worth a look: taking the picture located bellow.

Fabulous picture of the Luciole moored in Auxerre, taken by Lizzie Sheppard
Overall a great week with good weather, John Liley steering the boat at the start of the week before returning back to England. Also the work cleaning Vézelay Bascilica, which has been on going for some time, is now finished - so less hoovering for the Nuns - who have been known even to interrupt our tour to hoover the alter.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

16th - 22nd August

A week off for the Luciole, and her crew. The Luciole spent the week moored in the port of Clamecy, a week off gives us the opportunity to put some time into the cabins and boat, touching up the interior and even some major improvements in the bathrooms and crew areas, maintaining our standards all round.

Tom and our new hostess Steph, from the UK, not to be confused with our Australian Steph, spent the week onboard, Steph giving the bathrooms and cabins a very deep clean, while Tom focused on maintenance, improving storage and getting the paint brushes out. Captain Francisco spent the week in Barcelona with his son, Anna returned to England to see the family, Marc returning to Scotland to see his family and a lot of rain. Steph made a trip to Disney land and the UK, catching up with friends.

'The Stephies' the Luciole's lovely hostesses

The week also meant an invasion of Lileys on the Luciole. With John visiting the boat, accompanied by youngest son Tristram and oldest Will (me) We spent the week working on the boat in the sunshine. The next 2 weeks is Tom's holiday, so I will be the deckhand for the period and also writing the blogs!

Sunday, 16 August 2015

9th - 15th August 2015

Week 15 of the season and the last week before the crew start disappearing on their various holidays to places far and near, and a week in which several welcome visitors showed their faces in preparation for the upcoming week with no passengers. So to kick things off we waved Anna the tour guide off on Thursday for her adventures with her regularly appearing other half Neil. Replacing her just for the end of the week we have the well known technical director Will, up for a spot of tour guiding before a week of activity improving the boat along with younger brother Tristram and Matelot Tom. Directing this merry bunch is father of the Luciole and most esteemed guest John Liley, fortunately arriving on time to pilot the barge for an afternoon and join the passengers for Friday night's customary Captain's Dinner, alongside Captain Francisco.

The week itself was magnificent, 13 extremely pleasant people joined us from the States, Australia and Britain and acted as though they knew each other for years from the first night of meeting. Wine thankfully seems to have such an effect! This group spent most of their days together, going on long distance cycling adventures, finding places to swim and places to drink before returning to us on the boat. In fact they managed to find themselves drinking in a small bar in the tiny village of Lucy, a bar I previously thought was no longer open! They must have been very persuasive because their persistence paid off and they all returned to us later that day with big smiles on their faces. We've been very fortunate this week as the skies have for the most part been extremely clear, especially at night, and the stars have been quite exceptional. The milky way is often visible in this remote part of the world, but it's less common to see such vast numbers of shooting stars. The night in Mailly-le-Chateau in particular with the beautiful chateau silhouetted against the brightness of the stars was quite a view to behold, but unfortunately one my camera wasn't quite capable of capturing.

As the end of the week is upon us it seems a good time to say "Bonnes Vacances" to several other crew members as they leave us for a week or two, Australian Steph to England, Marc to Scotland and Francisco to Barcelona with his son. Enjoy your holidays and see you all soon.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

2nd - 8th August 2015

It's been a memorable and bitter-sweet week on the Luciole, a week of mixed emotions and unusual happenings. First of all we have had a very nice and very mixed group of passengers with us, Australian, New Zealander, American, English and Scottish, along with our own Chilean Captain we formed a very cosmopolitan bunch floating down the Nivernais together. This group were active every day, enjoying a good cycle and big walks together, as well as a little swimming in the evenings, infact the fantastically brave Pru even threw herself into the waters of Vincelles with style using the barge's boom arm, a long steel arm designed to swing you off the boat and onto the shore. Alongside that we had our second successful angler of the season in the form of 16 year old Gabriel, who did fantastically well reeling in his catch. Unfortunately on the cycle back to the boat the poor lad broke too hard and flew over his handlebars, luckily he wasn't too hurt but in the crash managed to chip a front tooth, hopefully a quick visit to the dentist will sort that out for him.

The saddest news of the week is that of much beloved hostess Emma's departure to pastures new, she who shared almost 4 months of cruising alongside us and was always impeccable in all respects. So tearful and fond farewells were had on Saturday, with passengers and crew alike. We all wish her the best of luck, though I'm sure she doesn't need it, she will excel no doubt.

Now of course the departure of one hostess means the imminent arrival of another, so may I present the rather lovely Steph, here to join current hostess Steph, in a now rather confusing double act of a hosting team. Depending on your outlook perhaps that just makes things more convenient, no one will ever have an excuse to forget their names again, that's for certain.

Luciole crew the day of  Emma's departure. From left to right: Neil (Anna's right hand man and general nice guy), Tour guide Anna, Hostesses Steph and Emma, Matelot Tom, Chef Marc and Captain Francisco

Sunday, 2 August 2015

26th July - 1st August 2015

Week 14 of the season, just over half way, and what a real pleasure these past few days have been. We were joined by a family with branches spanning both sides of the Atlantic, a really delightful group of people who kept us talking, laughing and happy all week. Remarkably amongst them we had five mothers and five daughters, plus an extremely sweet grandmother and three excellent gentleman, and none of them could have been nicer, funnier or more charming.

The pace of the week was comfortably sedate as one would hope, days spent out on the deck in the sun, people playing scrabble in one corner while others sketched and painted the passing landscape. Two or three people would often be out on their bicycles getting way ahead of the barge and exploring the local area, while others paced along beside us on foot, waving, shouting jokes towards us and generally just being well humoured and natural. It's weeks like this that show us just how easy our jobs can seem and remind us how lucky we are to be in the position we are in. When the line between passenger and crew blurs and friendship and camaraderie prevail, that's the Luciole's speciality, and I wouldn't change that feeling for anything. A flawless week.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

19th - 25th July 2015

What a week it's been here on the Luciole, we're on our 13th week of the season and have with us our 3rd adventure themed charter group, a very sweet and kind American family of 11, including grandparents, parents and kids, and we had a really great time with them. The family were on holiday celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of grandparents Ken and Peggy, joined by their 2 children and their partners, and their 5 grandchildren.

The kids all week were fantastic, always full of energy and laughter as one would expect, but also surprising all of us with their politeness and brightness. Morgan and Alison at the helm with Captain Francisco, steering us into locks and practically giving the Captain a week off from piloting, the same could be said for Chef Marc and his little helper Vicky, who did a wonderful job creating Chocolate brownie and Canapes and just generally being a great commi chef at age 13, and Daniel and his week long fishing adventure with his uncle Wayne, only one successful catch between the two of them but what a beauty of a Pike Wayne landed.

In other unusual events for the week, we had horses crossing the boat once more at l'ecluse de Vaux, in order to help out lock keeper and friend of the boat, Olivier. In a normal season the horses cross back from the isolated pastures at the far side of the lock quite late in the year, but this year due to extremely low rain fall, and lots of sunshine, the grass was exhausted and so the horses had to make the return journey earlier than expected. It's always nice to see everyone so excited at the crossing, the passengers forming the deck chairs into a make shift auditorium, everyone with cameras out , including crew that see it every year, but somehow it still remains entertaining.

Finally I would like to wish many happy returns to our truly excellent hostess Emma, who turned 30 on Saturday. I can only speak for myself perhaps but I think there may well have been a few sore heads this morning, totally worth it however as we had a night to remember. Happy birthday Emma!

 Wayne and his formidable catch.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

12th - 18th July 2015

The Luciole has had a very exciting and unusual week this past week as we were joined by a lovely family from the States. Seeking not just the Luciole's special brand of peace, local beauty and indulgence, but also adventure and excitement hidden amongst the greenery and tranquility. The family spanned three generations, which is always a pleasure to have onboard, including five teens, so aside from the mid-morning starts this was a very active and busy week. Cruises were marked by mass cycling, ten or eleven of our passengers rampaging down the towpaths and up to see the sights such as the beautiful as ever Roche de Saussois, or the multitude of pretty villages and hidden Lavoires. The tours were a good mixture of local culture and adventure activities, with the group splitting on certain days to fit as much in as possible, the kids going climbing, kayaking, horse riding, while the parents and grandparents enjoyed the vinyards, cathedrals and chateaus Burgundy has to offer.

Additionally Tuesday was the 14th of July, Bastille day in France and the opportunity for a huge celebration. Auxerre hosted a firework display on the river on Monday night, so we changed our cruise schedule slightly to accommodate and in order to reserve our front row tickets to a spectacular display we departed from the pretty little town of Gurgy, just north of Auxerre. It was a fantastic family orientated week, and hopefully everyone enjoyed themselves as much as we enjoyed having them on board.

A Panoramic view of Auxerre, courtesy of our very own hostess Steph.

 Happy Bastille day!

Sunday, 12 July 2015

5th - 11th July 2015

We have officially passed the half way point of the season here on the Luciole and what a fantastic three months it's been. What better way to celebrate such a milestone than with the wonderful group we've had with us this week. Group leader James was with us alone in May to scout out the route and organise himself for this week, a unique idea in which he chose to combine barging with his usual group activity of walking. Along with wife Diana, they chose the Luciole as their base of operations and organised their own outings alongside our usual visits and cruising schedule. What a huge success it was too and a great idea, the walking tours to local towns, places of beauty, swimming spots and on one occasion the local pub worked flawlessly when paired with our own itinerary, thus it was an active and enjoyable week for all.

This week was a first as far as I'm aware in that we were fortunate enough to have our first ever Maltese guests, six of them in all, along with two Australians and six Brits, all extremely courteous and friendly people, and seemingly having an excellent time. Hopefully it was a chance for all to relax a little also, especially James and Diana themselves, who generally cater and look after their tours alone, so perhaps it was a nice change for them to sit on deck with their friends, sipping one of the many bloody marys consumed over the course of the week, swimming off the boat almost every day and night, and of course being fed by our master chef Marc, most definitely the highlight of the week for such a food loving group of people. 

The final words of the week were spoken by James, after Francisco's customary Captain's Dinner speech, and finer and nicer words could not be spoken, summing up the week, crew and passengers in one rather lengthy poem dedicated to all. Unfortunately I don't have a copy, and perhaps it's best it remains that way, as another memory of a magical week on the Luciole.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

28th June - 4th July 2015

The first week of July is upon us heralding summer at it's finest, the sun is shining and the skies are big and bright blue, Indeed I've experienced some of the hottest weather I've seen in Burgundy so far, but no complaints from anyone over here, it might be scorching hot but when you've always got a fresh and extremely cool river next to the boat, it's certainly not so bad. Aside from all the paddling and diving into the water that seemed to be a recurrent theme of the week, everything was extremely calm on board.When it's this hot it seems the world moves in slow motion, the barge itself being an exception, as it always moves in slow motion, a relaxed pace we prefer to call it.

Otherwise it's been an extremely pleasant week, we were joined by 3 Americans, 5 Brits including long time visitors and friends of the Luciole, Leslie and Malcolm, as well as Julia, the sister of tour guide Anna, and the always charming French-Australian Antoine. This group melded with each other extremely quickly and spent all hours of the day together as one big family, sharing games of scrabble in the wonderfully cool air conditioned saloon, or sitting on deck in the shade of the parasol, creating water colours of all they could see. If not there then perhaps in some fascinating place being shown around by Anna, otherwise at the table together eating some fantastic creation of Chef Marcs and finishing off a good few bottles of wine. Either way it was all done with a smile on the faces of all and will keep a special place in everyone's memories as Burgundy truly at it's finest

 We get weather in Burgundy! The passengers plus our very own Penny line up on the deck after an unfortunate wind related incident with the parasol.

 Two very lovely pairs of sisters on the Luciole. From left to right: Leslie, Sue, Julia and our exceptional tour guide Anna.

Unfortunately not a very good picture, but it depicts host George successfully closing the gate of a lock, while student lock keeper Daniel sleeps peacefully in his chair. We managed to enter the lock, stop the boat and close the gates before he finally woke up. Quite an achievement nonetheless and certainly a first for everyone. The poor lad was definitely red faced when he awoke.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

21st - 27th June 2015

Another gorgeous week on the Luciole, a week of music, laughter and sun. It didn't take long for this mixed group of Brits and Americans to discover not only the CD player and the bar, but also Ken's hidden and rather unsuspected profession as a dance teacher, so naturally a demonstration was mandatory and exemplary.The music stayed blasting out all week in the saloon, very fitting timing indeed as France's national Fete de Musique was in full flow from the 21st of the month onwards.

Fuelling the party was an array of cocktails created by host George and hostess Steph, and as the boats official guinea pig and taster that I am, I can testify to just how delicious they were, provided you like your drinks with a little bit of a kick, I think it's fair to say this weeks lot certainly did! The affable and always funny Bob being the one exception, not being much of a cocktail drinker, but I know he was happy regardless, sitting on the deck in the sun with a glass of the ever elusive Grey Goose vodka, his particular favourite, it's rare to see a man with such a big smile across his face. It must be true what they say about simple pleasures.

Adding to the party atmosphere was our weeks reasons to celebrate, and excellent reasons they are too; the joint birthdays of 90 year old Rosalie and her niece Sharon who just turned 70, for every major birthday these two travel away together along witgh Rosalie's daughter Meralie. So this year I'm very glad you made the right decision and came to join us on the Luciole, Happy Birthday to the two of you, we hope you had a very special day and a wonderful week with all of us.

The group line up on deck in Auxerre, complete with Captain Francisco and Tour guide Anna.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

14th June - 20th June 2015

It started as a peaceful week in Burgundy as usual, gently cruising down the canal and seeing the sights, joined by several familiar faces and a few new ones too. Of the new arrivals we were fortunate enough to be joined by Texan sisters Gwyn and Karen, Canadians Caroline and Carey and British couple Meg and Bob, and very nice it was to meet them all too. As for the more familiar amongst us we were very happy to have onboard once again Fra and Steve, and Matelot Tom's Parents Rob and Jan. Additionally we were also extremely lucky to have with us again Arthur, Penny and Jon Liley's middle son, and all around good guy who couldn't have been more helpful, especially at night time as he very helpfully pointed things out with his newly acquired lazer pen, things like your eyes for example.

Shattering the peace and quiet midweek were our sudden arrivals, but very welcome ones all the same. So with that said perhaps it's time to reintroduce George the host, host from last season on the Luciole, covering Emma's two week holiday and taking his opportunity to escape busy London life and replace it with a bit of serenity. On wednesday evening we also had yet another set of welcome faces as Alice, another hostess from previous seasons, and her mother Mary, came to visit from near Dijon and join us for dinner, the lucky souls. So a busy week it's been, with our many visitors and all the catching up with old friends that had to be done, but what a pleasure it's been to see them all again, who knows who will come to stay next week, around these parts it could be anyone.

Sunday evening sunset over Auxerre

Sunday, 14 June 2015

7th - 13th June 2015

The Luciole season commences with another wonderful week cruising through Burgundy, it's been sunny and beautiful all week with one rather magnificent thunderstorm in the middle of the night, typically Burgundian and always welcome, fingers crossed the summer stays this way. It's looking good from where I'm sat, especially the ever increasing tans of all the crew, even if it's impossible to compete with Chilean Captain Francisco.

We are always very fortunate with our guests on the barge, we seem to only attract extremely nice, courteous and friendly people, and this week was no exception, big personalities all around and plenty of activity going on all week. People have been out and about since day one, "the Boys" Bob and Ben on their bicycles, cycling to every tour location and meeting the bus with the rest of the group, their beautiful 89 year old mother Jessie helping me all week by looking after the flowers and refusing any assistance beyond a pair of scissors. We had our first swimmers of the season with lovely Australians Diana and Diane, and our first big game of Petanque along the water front at Vincelles, such professionals no one even lost a ball! We were also fortunate to be joined midweek by Stephane, the brother of Chantelle, and yet another first as the only French guests of the year so far, putting my completely inadequate French to the test, it's always fun to give it a go though.

I have two final special mentions to make. I'd like to wish a very happy 20th anniversary to Donald and Linda, we hope you had a lovely day, and a shout out to the extremely nice Diane, the first guest I've met who confesses to reading this blog! So thank you Diane, it's very nice to know I don't write this just for my own pleasure.

 Diane our first swimmer takes a leap.

Closely followed by Diana's magnificent dive.

Auxerre's passerail basking in the evening sun.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

31st May - 6th June 2015

Burgundy has been hit by a blazing heatwave, the skies are blue without a cloud to be seen and the sun is beating down on the shining decks of the Luciole. What a way to greet our newest set of arrivals all the way from sunny Florida, and to welcome home our crew who have taken the week to travel around to other corners of France, seeing friends and family.

We've had a very special family joining us this week celebrating the 58th wedding anniversary of Jon and Rebecca. Along with them are their three sons Jonathan, Ford and Steven, their wives Debbie, Fran and Betty, and their children Lara, Paige, Julia and Robert. A truly lovely family they were too, always smiling, ever talkative and constantly active and who can blame them for such activity in the sunshine we've had. It wasn't a surprise to see everyone out and off the boat so often during the day, cycling, walking and running around the countryside, exploring hidden places and finding things to do around the canal, even helping the lock keepers with the lock gates all day as we cruised along. It was also a very musical week as several passengers were talented musicians. Dinner most nights was ended with coffee and a sing along, the perfect accompaniment to a sunny evening with a dramatic sunset, and the perfect ending to an excellent week.

 Happy Anniversary!

Betty, Paige, Ford, Fran, Lara, Rebecca, Jon, Debbie, Jonathon, Robert, Julia and Steven line up on the deck.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

17th - 23rd May 2015

The Luciole's fifth week of the season, and the first adventure charter this year. A week in which our extremely energetic guests have the choice of not only our normal tours of towns and chateaus and vineyards but of local high pace activities. This week they chose to kayak down the Yonne, horse ride through the forests, witness the medieval reconstruction of Guédelon castle and scale the walls of the really quite intimidatingly high caves of le Grotte de Champs Retard.

Joining us on this exciting week we have had a truly exceptional family from Chicago. Grandfather Dave and the two parents Judy and Rich leading their group of ten twenty-somethings, children, their spouses, nieces and nephews all around Burgundy with a pace even the crew couldn't have maintained. A very fun week for everyone, impressively they were also one of the loudest most cheerful groups of people I've seen on board, very friendly, certainly not sober, and brimming with boundless energy. How anyone has the stomach to drink whiskey and wine until four in the morning before riding a horse the following morning I will never know, but I was extremely impressed nonetheless.

A hard group to say goodbye to on Saturday morning, after getting so close and getting to know the family so well, but then that's the purpose of the golden book, to read the sentiments and relieve the memories of each week.

Tommy examining the dizzying heights of the Grotte de Champs Retard.

This coming week on the Luciole is without passengers, so it's a good chance for the crew to get a little rest, and for Tom and Captain Francisco to complete some finishing touches to the exterior, a never ending job on a barge but an extremely satisfying one regardless. Here's hoping the weather stays as bright and beautiful as ever.

10th - 16th May 2015

Spring seems to have arrived at last in Burgundy, the weather is fine, the birds are singing, the flowers are beginning to bloom and more to the point the wine is flowing. Red wine in the case of this week, and plenty of it as our smiling, happy guests finish another evening in style in the saloon of the Luciole.

A seamless week it's been for all, easy company and cheerful faces everywhere you turn. Whether it was waving at the distant Mark and Karen off to far flung areas on their bikes, or Steven and Bridget waiting for us at each lock on their more leisurely tour of the area, hunting down the perfect cafe. Perhaps even a rare glimpse of James, touring and researching the whole area on foot, reappearing again at meal times before heading back out in search of the next town, usually after inspiring others to join him on his trails.

At least half of our passengers this week are from sailing backgrounds, so Captain Francisco was joined at the helm practically continuously as everyone wanted to challenge themselves with the complexities of barging, a very different way to navigate waterways than sailing, one that requires a fair amount of patience considering the speed we cruise down these canals, That slow pace that I wouldn't change for the world, that relaxed, leisurely pace only a barge can offer, and in this sunshine, surrounded on all sides by lazy, rural France and all of it's natural beauty, you wouldn't want to travel any faster.

 A view over the town of Chablis, where hostess Steph was lucky enough to visit with the passengers this week.

3rd - 9th May 2015

It's the third week of the season here on the Luciole and things have been a little different to usual due to the River Yonne flooding and navigation closing for a few days. As a result of this unfortunate and thankfully very rare event we've had an interesting and fun filled time with extra tours and visits all around Burgundy for our ten lovely and extremely understanding guests.

We started the week with the visits to Auxerre's cathedral and the vineyards of Chablis on the Monday The cathedral being a truly inspirational and grand piece of architecture, surrounded by the winding and fascinating medieval streets of the town, packed with boutique shops and cafés. Chablis as well as being a beautiful little town with its high hills layered with its famous vineyards is also an interesting tour as you see the processes involved in the wine production, and of course afterwards get to taste the fruits of all their labour.

On Tuesday we incorporated a full day visit to the ancient and charming town of Beaune, another name famous for its wine production and rich history with it's auctions at the superb Hospices de Beaune being the primary wine auctions in France.

Wednesday was as usual with a morning tour of the gorgeous village of Noyers, with its weekly market and twisting streets leading up to the castle ruins atop the hill, the perfect place for a walk and a coffee in the sunshine. In the afternoon we invited the very friendly and always welcome Rosemary to come to the boat for a few hours of "colour me beautiful" A very fun idea in which as a group you pick the colours most suited to the person in question, choosing what tones and shades people should wear, something every crew member has been through also, pretty informative if you have a dress sense akin to mine, that is to say no sense at all.

On Thursday the group visited the extraordinary Vezelay in the morning, a place of majesty and real historical importance as the starting point of La Pelerin, the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, one of the most important Christian Pilgrimages throughout History, third only to Rome and Jerusalem. This was followed in the afternoon by a relaxing visit to a spa for a bit of pampering for the ladies, fortunately for tour guide Anna it was a good opportunity to "test the facilities" or so she said, with a big smile on her face.

Friday was another day of two trips and more, the morning was spent at the weekly market in Auxerre, a big market for mostly food and regional products, but spend enough time walking around and you'll see just about everything you could ever hope to buy here. The afternoon involved a short visit to the Roman ruins at the town of Escolives, a place we have never visited as a group, but one that was quite fascinating and extremely well preserved. The passengers also joined Marc in the kitchen for a cookery demonstration before enjoying the meal they had helped prepare at the customary Captain's Dinner.

So a good week all around, and a busy one at that, with so many different activities and things to see just a stones throw from the river, it's a wonder why anyone would choose to holiday anywhere else.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

26th April - 2 May 2015

We've gone photography mad on the Luciole this week as the exquisitely talented group leader Elizabeth Opalenik brought her group of photographers with her to the Luciole for a week long workshop in Burgundy. They travel the United States and the world together as contingents of various sizes, taking incredible pictures everywhere they tour.

Their enthusiasm for the perfect shot lead to several moments of near madness, the most heart stopping being the time they chose to jump off, or perhaps step rather gingerly from the boat at a bridge in order to access the train line running over the bridge. This part of Burgundy typically sees about five trains a day, but of course as they all stepped over the tracks we heard the rumble of a train approaching. Myself and Francisco ran up to find them immediately not knowing what to expect, but just found them very happily taking their pictures with big smiles and looks of concentration, not a care in the world but to get a great image to take home. Madness so it may seem, but completely infectious, crew members got swept up in the joy of photography, even total amateurs such as myself could be found with phones in hand all week waiting for photo opportunities to arise.

I would love to post and even see all of the photographs taken this week by this extremely talented, knowledgeable and helpful group of people, but as it's no doubt in the thousands of pictures it's not possible so I will simply link to the website of the wonderful Elizabeth and hope she picks a few prize shots to publish.....below a couple of favourites by Elizabeth on the Nivernais Canal

Morning mooring at Lucy-sur-Yonne

Cruising past the Cliffs at Saussois

19th - 25th April 2015

The first week of the 2015 season is under way after a winter of constant work and activity, the journey to and from the Paris shipyard plus the many changes to the interior of the boat made for a busy but successful few months. The winter refurbishments are finally completed however and the Luciole is looking even more magnificent than ever, inside and out. Along with the changes to the décor we also have two changes to the crew this season, specifically the two hostesses, Emma and Stephanie have joined us from England and Australia respectively and will hopefully feel like old pros in no time. We also welcomed the exceptional and experienced Isabella back to the boat to train our new members and share a trick or two with the girls. Joining them are the old familiar faces of Captain Francisco, Tour guide Anna, Chef Marc, and Matelot Tom.

If this first week was a precursor to the ambience and satisfaction of the rest of the season then we should be in for a joyous summer. It was an excellent week that ended before we even knew it had begun. The sun was shining, the passengers were absolutely wonderful people who seemingly had as good a time as the crew, judging by the smiling faces all around. We had two special reasons to smile this week and great excuses to celebrate, first of all for the honeymoon couple Nikolas and Lauren, and secondly for the birthday of Francisco, so big congratulations to all.

In addition to all the celebrations and the reuniting of the crew, we saw the many familiar faces of the lock keepers of the Nivernais, it's always good to catch up and see how things have changed, though as is typical for Burgundy nothing has changed and things continue as they seemingly always have done. The biannual crossing of the horses as a favour for Olivier the lock keeper also took place, always an exciting moment to see the boat rocking around in the lock under the weight of such enormous creatures. More surprisingly still, there was no special surprise deposited by the horses during the crossing for Deck hand Tom to clean up, so all in all a most successful endeavour, an extremely effective winter, and a most satisfying week and hugely enjoyable group of people to begin our season on. Here's hoping for many more of the same.

 Arrival drinks on the sun deck. From left to right: Nikolas, Lauren, Ronda, Rob, Marie, Ellen, Anne-marie, Greg and Monica. Photo courtesy of the lovely Monica.

L'ecluse de Vaux the lock of friend of the Luciole, Olivier, leading one of his two horses across the bow deck.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Spring sunshine in Auxerre

The final preparations for our season are in full swing.  There is always so much to do but the light is at the end of the tunnel, so it was Sunday off and everyone took advantage of the fabulous weather. The crew, Marc, Stephanie, Izzy and William took a boat out up the River Yonne.  Thankfully they came back!

Four crew in a boat heading for the South of France

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Winter work - underway

Our work programme for the winter is well underway.  John, Francisco and Giles have been organising updates for the season that begins on the 19th April.  We know it will be here before we know it.  In fact as I write, on Thursday the 19th February, I realise its two months today.....

The Air Conditioning is being replaced in the cabins and there will be new carpets throughout.  Bathrooms are also benefitting from their annual updating and of course everything will be painted.  All very exciting.

Out in the Burgundy countryside it is still beautiful in the winter, with frequent frosts and pale skies.  There is just a hint of Spring in the air however. What a lovely thought!

Pinot Noir vines rise up the hillside above the village of Irancy 

The church of Asquins, close to Vézelay, with its bright red cross

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The New Year

A new year and the Luciole is moored in Auxerre, after her visit to Paris, for the five yearly inspection.  All went smoothly, with little work required enabling the Luciole to be back in Burgundy, well before Christmas.

Our crew are scattered in exotic places: Mexico, New Zealand, Thailand, Australia, France and England.  Soaking up the sunshine or playing in the snow.  Batteries re-charging.

The Luciole begins her 49th season of cruising in April.  The big 'five oh' next year!  There have been many alterations and improvements since 1996 of course and the winter work programme for this season is now well underway.

We were delighted to be awarded by the highly respected British Paper 'The Times' a top fifty position of best holidays in France for 2015.  Roll on Spring.....

The Luciole moored on the quay in Auxerre