For the past ten years, I have been longing to do a barge trip through
France, my appetite whetted by a few short but idyllic days back then spent on
a crewed private charter barge on the Canal du Midi. I considered a
"hotel" barge tour, but preferred the idea of cruising with friends
and with a minimum of structure. My fantasy was floating lazily through the
French countryside, stopping where we pleased, exploring what we wanted, and
doing it on our own schedule. So this time, I decided to experiment with
The extensive canal and river system of France offers cruising in most
regions of the country, and Nicols, our "outfitter" for
this grand expedition, operates 16 bases throughout the country. Burgundy?
Bordeaux? The Lot? Brittany? The Loire? Aquitane? Each has its appeal, so
choosing wasn't easy.
We finally settled on Alsace. I'd heard good things about its food, wine,
and scenery, but had never experienced this eastern-most region of the country,
where the culture is as much German as French. My only concern was that in
early October, when we were going, the weather might not be too great. The
"we" who were looking forward to five hopefully glorious days
exploring the French countryside included Gail, my partner both in
Hideaways and life, and Norma and Jerry Pomerantz, friends from
Philadelphia whom we'd met and had great fun with on a Renaissance cruise, some
five years before.
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