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.