The fourth day on board European Waterways‘ La Belle Époque was a busy one, but one of my favorites. We started the day off with an exquisite brunch served outside on the sun deck. There is something magical about moving slowly along in the water, eating farm-fresh food and sipping French wine. We had a choice of Eggs Benedict, Eggs Florentine or Eggs Royal (I chose Benedict and Florentine). We had radishes with salted butter, fresh local breads (also with that incredible salted butter) and fruit. The chef offered us two wines: a bright Rosé Epineuil and a red Beaune du Château, Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils. Of course, I tried both, but really enjoyed the rosé. There’s nothing quite as nice as a chilled French rosé on a warm day.
Visit to a medieval city
Immediately after brunch, we headed out with the captain to the medieval village of Noyers sur Serein. A short drive brought us to a picturesque village with half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and still-intact ramparts. It is like something right out of a fairy tale. We were in time for the market, and tagged along with the captain as he ordered up items for the barge, including local fish, fresh-baked breads, cheese and wine. I was in my version of heaven, smelling all that fresh-baked bread and sampling cheese.
We had just enough time left over to explore the shops around the village square and sip an espresso in a sidewalk café. As I sat there, I closed my eyes and imagined that I lived in the little village and could walk down to the town square every day for fresh bread and cheese. I knew I’d lost my heart to the French countryside. As we headed back to the barge, I felt a sense of belonging and peace that I’d not felt in a long time.
Touring a Renaissance palace
After a quick rest, we headed out late afternoon for Chateau d’Ancy le Franc. This 16th-century Renaissance palace, built by an Italian architect, also has elaborate formal gardens. The interior is filled with lavish decorations and an exceptional collection of murals. You can get a guided tour daily (except Monday) from mid-April through September. It always amazes me in Europe that these centuries-old palaces can be situated in some tiny village, still an active part of the community. Chateau d’Ancy le Franc is a perfect example of how the old and new mingle so beautifully.
Evening on board
After such a perfect day exploring the French countryside, it seemed only fitting to begin the evening a little early with a Champagne toast. The captain joined us for a toast with Champagne Michel Lenique a Pierry. Then, we once again made our way to the table for another gourmet offering. We started with a smoky lentil soup with crème fraiche, which somehow tasted even better than it smelled. As the smoky goodness of the soup settled in, we enjoyed a veal filet, then a cheese course of Soumaintrain and Camembert. The chef followed that with Crepes Suzette and banana flambé, prepared in the dining room. I’m not a banana fan, so the chef served me crepes topped with juicy red strawberries and fresh cream. It was heaven on a plate.
We enjoyed our red wine from brunch along with a bottle of white – a 2009 Saint-Aubin Premier Cru Les Pitengerets, Bastion de l’Oratoire Chanson. After such a long, active day, it was an early evening and I fell asleep to the sound of water gently lapping at the sides of the barge. The trip was half over and I never wanted it to come to an end.
Missed the first part of my voyage on the Burgundy Canal? Read about the start of my journey here. Ready to move on? Check out day five of my journey, with a visit to a beautiful abbey, here.