I’ve had the pleasure of shoving off terra firma in a variety of vessels, from mammoth ocean-liners being swaddled by the Mediterranean to the Danube’s dancing river boats. Of all the sailings I've been on, I would give a whole-hearted “Aye aye, Captain!” to boarding a small boat to visit France’s beautiful Burgundy region.
Recently I floated through G Adventures’ Burgundy River Cruise Experience. Here are five reasons I’d do it again in a heartbeat.
River cruising has a certain je ne sais quoi
Here’s what really floats my boat while on a cruise: space, complimentary wine, amazing food, quaint villages dotting the riverside, another glass of wine and even more space. Despite being a classified as a small ship, the petite 22-passenger Daniele managed to fit all of my favorite things into one package. Plus, wine!
On board, it felt like I was walking through the pages of Vogue, with décor that combined modern amenities with classic and cozy comfort. I experienced the art of slow travel as we floated down the Canal du Centre, the Saone River and the Burgundy canal at the boat’s meandering pace — maximum 3 miles per hour — and I marveled as the boat maneuvered through the canal locks.
Eat like the French do
With a leisurely itinerary, meals take on the attention that French cuisine deserves. Lunch and dinners are not rushed affairs, they’re multi-course experiences, made even more delicious thanks to the view as you pass by the idyllic French countryside. Often, conversations were paused to point out a church steeple in the distance, or horses grazing on the riverbank. The small European villages that dotted the landscape were fodder for passengers to chat about other travels within the continent.
The included cheese tastings were a surprising delight. Tastings of Sainte Maure de Touraine (goat milk cheese) from the Loire region and Brillat Savarin (cow’s milk) from the Burgundian and Normandy regions were heavenly. I’ve always had an amicable relationship with cheese, but I didn’t realize it was the love of my gastronomic life until I tasted these flavors. The day after I returned from France, I went to my local bakery and ordered a baguette and cheese. I was chasing the experience, but it can’t be replicated.
In vino veritas
And about that wine. As, the saying goes, “the truth is in the wine.” But the truth is, French wine alone is worth a flight to Europe. With unlimited wine (and beer) throughout the river cruise, we were introduced to regional beverages, perfectly paired with the day’s menu.
Red and white wine are equally important in Burgundy, and I learned (through hard work and dedication to multiple tastings) that I prefer red wine grown in higher elevation, but also a glass of crisp rosé with a peach infusion will bring tears to my eyes, as it’s so uniquely good. Pro tip: Order a glass of Kairos rosé at La Corbeau when in Auxonne.
On land, winery tours and tastings introduced us to different methods and resulting flavors. We learned about terroir — a reference to a vineyard’s combination of natural factors like altitude, soil, orientation to the sun and more. In Burgundy, the idea of terroir means that all their wines are unique and cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. I wholeheartedly agree.
This trip locks!
Passing through more than 30 locks (itinerary depending) provided various opportunities for everyone on board. Those interested in the mechanics of it all can watch at close range and even lend a helping hand. Those who wish to step off the boat can walk right off at a lock and stroll canal side, meeting the boat at the next stop.
While the weather wasn’t quite cooperating, as the French countryside was being flooded with rain during my time there, I relished the opportunity to walk off my elevated caloric intake and wave to the locals working in their farms. A camera in one hand (and yes, sometimes, an umbrella in the other) was all I needed since I knew I could hop back on the boat at any time. Walking by charming houses with laundry on clotheslines and chickens on the ground had me daydreaming about which one I would buy when I win the lottery. To make it easier on myself, I’ve decided I would purchase all of them.
Reinvent the wheels
For those looking to stay active on the trip, there are bicycles on board available for use. We scooted into villages for a sneak peek at a church or coffee at a local shop before catching back up to the boat. With bridges punctuating the canals, you can hop to the other side for a different perspective, then watch from the bridge as your floating home approaches.
The wind in my hair as I passed locals carting their daily ingredients home in their bike baskets felt like camaraderie — there’s something about riding a bicycle in Europe that really makes me feel like a local. Shortly after returning, I purchased a brand new bike, with its very own basket, to try and keep the (bi)cycle going.
There are so many unique ways to travel the world. Ten days in France aboard a river cruise is certainly up there. I tend to research, plan and execute my travels with annoying precision. But learning, experiencing and tasting while floating has turned me into a traveler who can really relax and just go with the flow.
Interested in a Burgundy river cruise?
G Adventures runs the Burgundy River Cruise Experience over a number of dates to make it easier to choose. Contact a Cruiseable travel advocate and they'll hook you up with the best value at the lowest price — Cruiseable is a G Adventures travel agency partner. Email a Cruiseable travel expert or call 1-877-322-3773.
This article originally appeared on the G Adventures site.