Why I Am Looking Forward To Sunday: Cruising On French Country Waterways Horizon II

Home for one wonderful week: Horizon II in Burgundy

It’s April, and I am in Paris (or will be on Sunday).

Could anything in life be better? My not-so-insignicant other speaks of “creating moments.” She says that creating infinitely memorable moments is what life, and travel, is all about. I agree, and I know that Paris in April is such a moment.

We have big plans, but those will have to wait, because on Sunday, we rendezvous at the Hotel Raphael to transfer to French Country Waterways’ Horizon II. I’ve looked forward to this trip for years.

I know nearly nothing about French Country Waterways, except that the company operates four luxury barges on the inland waterways of France. I’m told that on board, we’ll find the “gracious ambience of a fine country inn.”

No balcony staterooms, all the rage on the rivers nowadays, but rather such refinements as warm wood panelling, handsome provincial furnishing and at atmosphere of informal elegance (I packed a jacket and tie just in case). Staff is bilingual. Thank god.

Stateroom on Horizon II

We’ll occupy on of four (that’s right, four) suites on Horizon II. The company’s website tells me we’ll be accommodated in “charming quarters,” a description that always frightens me. We’ll have private baths, full-sized beds and generous storage (still, Europeans scratch their heads when they see all that American travelers feel compelled to bring along with them, present company included).

Refined elegants: Horizon II Lounge

Horizon II carries only eight guests, taken care of by six crew. That’s 1 staff person per each 1.33 guest. We should be well taken care of.

My favorite line on the website: Complimentary bars are stocked with a wide selection of favorite spirits and liqueurs. Need I say more?

Pull up a chair at the bar.

There is a spacious sundeck, loungers, and for activity, bicycles on board. I know that I’ll straddle a saddle for more than one ride in picturesque central Burgundy, where we’ll spend an oh-so-glorious week in the heart of France. Excuse me while I take a minute to catch my breath.

Sun deck on Horizon II

I’ve read where Burgundy is interlaced by a network of more than 600 miles of waterways. I did not have to crack open a book or browse the web, however, to know that Burgundy is known for vineyards that produce some of the world’s most prized wines.

Some of the highlights of our trip include a private wine tasting in Chablis, a visit to the 12th century Abbaye de Fontenay and the 16th century Château of Ancy-le-Franc, plus dinner ashore at Le Relais Bernard Loiseau.

A word about this landmark dining experience: Relais Bernard Loiseau is a premium Relais & Châteaux property, offering Michelin three-star dining since 1991 at the Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux restaurant.

Known as La Côte d’Or until 2003, the restaurant’s prestigious guest list (from 1930) include the King of Spain Alfonso XIII, the Aga Khan, Prince Rainier, General Juin, Sacha Guitry, Orson Welles, Vivien Leigh, Reynaldo Hahn, Mistinguett, Edith Piaf, Charlie Chaplin, Gary Cooper, Raoul Dufy, Salvador Dali, Rita Hayworth, Bernard Buffet — and soon, The Avid Cruiser & Co.

The Grand Chef Relais & Châteaux  has held three Michelin stars for more than two decades now. But, I digest – I mean, digress.

We’ll be greeted in Paris by our guide, who will escort us by private motorcoach to the barge’s mooring. I’m particularly eager to see how barging works. I know we’ll encounter lots of locks, and I understand we can easily step off the barge for leisurely strolls ashore or to pedal a bicycle along quiet lanes through quaint villages. Or we can simply relax on the sundeck and watch the lovely French countryside slowly unfold before us. I am spilling tears on the keyboard as I write this.

Hop off for some cycling ashore.

There’s a lot more in store: visits to markets, even an optional hot-air balloon adventure. I’m told that we can rest assured that during the course of this wonderful week, we will discover a land of quiet beauty and gracious people, and gain a rare, insider’s perspective of provincial France. I can’t wait until Sunday.