Friday, 14 October 2016

9th - 15th October 2016

The final week of the season.  A lovely charter group to finish 2016, passengers and crew were treated to spectacular autumnal weather of warmth and sunshine.

Almost every night the dining table was pushed to one side and the dancing began.  Hats off to you ladies and gents for sure.  Ten out of ten for dance moves and exuberance.  Thumbs up for Scot's DJ skills and Cathy's salsa moves.

Dresses and tops were bought, from Noyers-sur-Serein market (could have been New York) and were worn with panache. The night to remember for attire however, of course has to be Wednesday evening and the Toga party, a sight to behold on the Luciole. Sheets, table cloths and shower curtains have never been put to such good use before, aboard.

Jennifer kept up her cycle miles, along the tow path.  Whilst others strolled.  Emergency runs were made for Bailey's liquer.  The perfect spirit to round off the days for our lovely group.

Roses in Mailly-la-Ville

Fifty years ago in 1966 the Palinurus began cruising.  In 1986 the Palinurus was renamed the Luciole, when our company bought her from Richard Parson's.  As the oldest hotel barge cruising in France, we certainly are proud.

The Luciole thank you whole heartedly for choosing to cruise with us and for making the finish of our 2016 season so memorably.

Fabulous day below the Roches de Saussois

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

2nd - 8th October 2016

The penultimate week of the 2016 season aboard the Luciole, and what a delightful time we've had, gently crusing up to Clamecy in the autumn sunshine with a host of familiar, friendly faces, plus a few first timers to Burgundy. Amongst the new comers joining us this week were English ladies Mel and Ann, New zealand couple Tim and Sandra, as well as our lone American traveller, Kathy. Joining us again, although it feels like only yesterday that they all left, we were very happy to welcome back onboard Bob and Mary who last cruised with us in May. Emma, Sue and Clare returning after staying with us back in 2014, and the lovely Jennifer, godmother of our very own Penny.

We had a very relaxed week indeed, with classical music brightening up the wheelhouse in honour of Ann, essentially our stand in Captain for the week! For 3 days straight she joined Captain Francisco at the wheel with a big smile on her face as she learnt the ropes and made a sterling effort of navigating us through all those locks. Francisco naturally being extremely pleased as he pulled up a comfortable chair and took the opportunity to put his feet up! Meanwhile Tim, Sandra and Clare were off charging around the place on their bikes, exploring tiny villages and reaching our destination long before the rest of us arrived, only returning at cocktail time surprisingly enough! Kathy, a life long horse lover, teamed up with hostess Emma, also an avid rider, and spent a long and enjoyable afternoon trotting through the forests with their guide as the rest of us cruised along serenely.

Finally I would like to I would like to wish a huge congratulations to Tim and Sandra on their 39th wedding Anniversary, and welcome the Lileys back onboard, we are fortunate enough to have Penny, William and Arthur all joining us for next week, our final week.

Captain Francisco and lock keepers at the first lock of the week

Thursday, 6 October 2016

25th September - 1st October 2016

This last week of September has been another great one, with a really wonderful and easy going group of passengers joining us from all across the world. Between them forging friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Fred with his indispensible skills behind the wheel of the barge, plus his production of a bottle of fig liquor to put a fire in all of our bellies after Captain's dinner! Joe with his pretty impressive scottish impression(that or Tony the Tiger) to make Jade feel more at home. Sandra and Sheila sat on the deck, putting the world to rights and gossiping the days away, or trying their best to embarrass Sandra's daughter and our lovely hostess Emma!

With the end of September upon us and Autumn transforming the land, we find Burgundy to be a hive of activity as the grape harvest is collected, as well as all the wild fruit trees producing their bounty just waiting to be foraged by a passing opportunist. This week it was the Luciole and her crew unable to pass up on the opportunity to make off with a few bushels of apples, a handful or two of walnuts and 2 rather sour peaches. Thankfully we have our master chef Jade onboard to make something of all those foraged apples, producing a delicious batch of eves pudding, a favourite recipe of her grandmother and certainly popular around these parts now!

Thanks to the grape harvest or "Vendange" reaching the domaine of Jean-Marc Brocard along with the other wineries of Chablis, we had the chance this week to not only take our excellent tour around the Domaine, but also to see grapes being delivered and crushed. Chablis' hugely popular guide Sebastien also invited Andy and our passengers to try the freshly squeezed juice that will go on to become Premiere Cru Montmains. The juice was deep green and very cloudy, but delicious according to everyone fortunate enough to try it. Following this, Sebastien produced the finished Montmains from last year, along with no fewer than 7 other excellent Chablis wines, including 2 bio-dynamic wines from Julien Brocard. Even following all of that with a helping of pate and bread, perfectly paired with their 2009 Grand Cru Valmur. What a treat!

The gang inside Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.

Friday, 30 September 2016

18th - 24th September 2016

The Luciole has been heading towards Clamecy for the second last time of the season, it's absolutely astonishing how quickly it all passes. For Francisco, Andy and myself, us old boys that have been here since the start, it seems only a matter of weeks since we first set off from Auxerre all the way back in May. Despite how late in the season it is the elements seem to be continuously smiling on us as the weather is holding out wonderfully. We're fortunate to still be enjoying long sunny days and crisp, cool and clear evenings, the skies lit up by a plethora of stars.

We had on board with us this week a full boat of excellent and most amusing people, a mixed group of Americans and Australians, a very chatty bunch, brightening all our days with their ceaseless joking and boundless curiosity. This curiosity which led to Andy bringing along several bottles of Ratafia, a local fortified wine similar to Marc de Bourgogne. Served as an apperitif and created from the mulched grapes remaining from the production of wine, which are then fermented and blended with grape juice. This gives Ratafia a deliciously sweet flavour with an extremely potent kick! No wonder it was so popular!

Other happenings of the week include 89 year old Peter amazing everyone, including his wife Evelyn, with his distance walking skills, something he apparently hasn't done much of for many years. He did the whole walking tour around Auxerre with the rest of the group and hopped off at least once per day to keep pace with the boat while we navigated. On friday night during Captain's Dinner we celebrated the 23rd anniversary of Lisa and Denny with Cremant de Bourgogne and Jade's specially made Chocolate celebration cake. The night concluded for the gentlemen aboard with Hank's very kindly donated and absolutely enormous cigars out on the deck. A most fitting end to a very special week.

 Mailly le Chateau as seen from the maze of streams and rivers beneath it.

Chateau de Bazoches. Former home of Vauban, tactician, inventor and adviser to King Louis XIV One of our regular visits and a firm favourite.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

11th - 17th September 2016

Another week aboard the Luciole, another week of peace and serenity surrounded by the natural majesty of Burgundy. We had with us a full boat of 14 passengers, a combination of Brits and Americans, all strangers to begin with but that lack of familiarity soon melted away as it always does. Roughly around the time main courses are served on the first night, as the wine is beginning to flow and the festivities are starting, you wouldn't believe you were witnessing a group of strangers dining together, not amongst all the chatter and chuckles of laughter. By friday everyone was practically inseperable, spending all day as a unit. That is aside from one member of the group, Keith, who spent a good deal of his time with our Captain Francisco, steering the boat and doing a fine job of it, including entering several locks unassisted. I can testify to how difficult that is, regardless of how easy and casual Francisco makes it look.

Bizarrely this week we were accompanied by a few new and slightly unusual members of the team. First of all there was a snake which somehow managed to drop from the underside of a bridge and land right in the middle of the deck, causing quite a bit of panic, mostly for the snake itself however which beat a hasty retreat! It's very rare to see snakes in this part of the world, and of course the ones you see are typically very small and (thankfully) completely harmless, still quite a shock to see one on board! Our second uninvited guest was quite a lot more welcome than the first, an inquisitive little cat that no matter how many times he got shooed off, would for sure reappear sooner or later stalking the place and trying to make himself comfortable on the deck cushions. Our final little visitor of the week was anything but! An absolutely enormous moth, quite stunning really and discovered munching on the Chilean flag we fly from the stern. For 3 days we kept discovering this moth, hanging around the boat and keeping itself to itself, he must have come for the atmosphere like the rest of us!

Finally I would like to offer our congratulations to Stan and Vicki on their 45th wedding anniversary, Mindy on her 65th birthday and lovely Pat for her 80th birthday. Sante!

Michael Moth as he affectionately became known. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

4th - 10th September 2016

Once again we've been blessed with another sunny and marvellous week aboard the Luciole, departing from Auxerre and heading in the direction of cheery little Clamecy. Joined this week by an exceptional and mixed group of people, 11 in total, 10 outstanding Americans and our unforgettable resident Canadian Julie. Not only that but we're very happy to welcome back technical man of the business William for the week as well as his mother; our very own irreplaceable Penny! It's always a good atmosphere with these two present, laughs a plenty and their boundless enthusiasm for the Luciole spurring us all on.

Glorious cruising days on the Nivernias Canal

This past week felt very easy and enjoyably relaxed and it passed by far too quickly, it was Friday night and Captain's dinner before we knew it. That seems to be the nature of this place when we have such a relaxed and easy going group of passengers on board, it feels somewhat more akin to providing for friends and family than it does to working. Days were spent as they often are around here, cruising and walking in the sunshine, fantastical meals and  phenomenal cocktails, fascinating tours of the region and perhaps a snooze or two - just to check the AC is working correctly in the cabins I'm sure! On top of that we had a little tournament of petanque in play most evenings, I won't bother to list the scores as the team comprising of William and myself was pretty abysmal and I'd prefer not to give too much glory and attention to our reigning champion, the Captain.

I'd like to extend a special mention to Matt and Julia, a big thank you to the two of you for the amazing slide show of photographs taken throughout the week and shown on Friday evening, as well as being the all round genuinely excellent people and good guys that you are! In fact for the latter reason alone thank you to everyone who joined us and made this, the  memorable week what it was.

Monday, 5 September 2016

28th August - 3 September

It's been a beautiful week in Burgundy, it may only be September but the beginnings of autumn have started creeping in, littering the paths (and the Luciole!) with leaves of red and brown. The sun however is still very much on our side, and is thankfully starting to lose it's sting somewhat. 

Joining us onboard our happy boat this week was a very friendly and constantly amusing family of Australians, the Messenger family, ranging from grandparents Philip and Pauline down through the generations all the way to 11 year old Sebastian, a fine young chap and our local skateboarding champion for the week. Indeed that's how half of his time was spent, careening down the towpaths with the rest of the family cycling along trying to keep up! Otherwise it was a lovely, calm week with everyone out and about enjoying the sunshine and swimming from the boat at every opportunity, crew included. It was perhaps the first time that I've seen every single member of the family deciding to have a go at steering! With grandad putting us into a lock immaculately, followed by son Mark nailing it too, or at least on the second attempt anyway!

In other news our new arrivals Jade and Kim are settling in wonderfully! It may only be their second week on the boat but already they're looking and sounding like old bargees, professionals through and through and from the looks of it having an excellent time in the process. The ambience on board is truly excellent, completely jovial, relaxed and as perfect as ever.

Skate boarding super hero - Sebastian