What an experience. To be here, in spring, in France, two hours from Paris, with the evening light reflecting off the Loire River, sitting on the top deck of the new Loire Princesse, sipping a draft beer from Alsace and nibbling on peanuts. I ask myself, Can life get any better? Of course it could, but only by small margins.
Here in the city of Nantes, I am living the joie de vivre that fills us unfortunate souls on the other side of the Atlantic with a sense of envy. Yes, they’re quirky by some standards, they fight hard for their rights (La Liberté, and hence frequent strikes) but alas, they are French. They seize the moment to enjoy life. They seem to have perfected the art of living. An appreciation for food, for wine, for art, for culture, for undistracted conversation (people, not phones, command attention here), the French, while not perfect, have much to teach us busy, busy people across the Big Pond.
The French are inventive too. Look at the Loire Princesse. No one thought that this shallow river, where a yardstick could touch the river bed at times, could be navigated. And yet the Schmitters, the Strasbourg-based family that owns CroisiEurope, designed a ship that could.
Two paddle wheels protrude out from each side of the ship. When engaged, they scoop water to propel the Loire Princesse up a river of fairy-tale charm (the chateau that inspired Sleeping Beauty is here, for example).
I can’t wait to go where no other river cruisers have gone before. To see this land from the perspective of the river is something new for river cruisers and something fresh for those of us who have done the Danube, rode the Rhine and sailed the Saône.