Our final day of cruising on European Waterways‘ La Belle Époque, was a gorgeous Spring day under brilliant blue skies. We moved slowly past tiny villages and into the town of Venarey les Laumes. I was sad to know we were near the end of our journey and wouldn’t be cruising again. While I’d had to search for ways to fill my spare time the first couple of days, I was now embracing those moments of quiet and solitude as the world slipped past. I found myself wanting more time now that I had relaxed and embraced this casual pace.
Final lunch on board
The week had started out with cool, rainy days, but we ended the journey under bright sunshine. Our last lunch, served on the sun deck, was ideal for the chilled white wine the captain had chosen for us – a 2010 Sancerre “Les Baronnes,” Henri-Bourgeois. Along with the wine, we enjoyed chicken with fresh pesto and green salad with pink shallot dressing. Our cheeses were Chabichou du Poitou and – my favorite of the trip – Reblochon. Reblochon is a cow’s milk cheese from the French Alps with a soft outer rind and creamy center. Our red wine was “Les Cloîtres” Bourgognes Hautes-Côtes de Nuits, Bouchard Aîné & Fils.
Searching for Chocolat
After lunch we once again piled into the van, this time for a trip to the medieval village of Flavigny sur Ozerain. This beautiful village, with its rock buildings, narrow alleys and cobbled streets has a renowned history. Not only was it the setting for Johnny Depp’s movie Chocolat, but it was a burial place during the Iron Age, a camp for Julius Caesar in 52 BC and was occupied by the English in the 100 Year War.
As you wander the town – allow a couple of hours to see it all – you’ll discover a Benedictine monastery and examples of traditional medieval architecture. I enjoyed ice cream from a little shop near the 13th-century St. Genoest Church, where we watched the locals coming and going, nobody in any real hurry.
We wound our way back toward the barge via gorgeous French countryside. We stopped for a bit of shopping in Semur-en-Auxios, a beautiful medieval town with an assortment of boutiques, restaurants, cafés and antique shops. It’s a quaint walled town with towers and ramparts that leave you feeling as if you’ve stepped back in history. The city is built above the Armançon River and a stroll around the city is a peaceful way to end a day out.
Captain’s farewell dinner
Our final night on board La Belle Époque was a celebration. We started with before-dinner drinks then the captain joined us for a celebratory meal. The dinner was filled French flavors: French onion soup, frog’s legs and a cassoulet of Boeuf Bourgogne. As promised, the cheese and wines were the best of the entire trip. For our cheese course, we had a Roquefort along with a Comté and Morbiere, both French cow’s milk cheeses. Comté is only made from milk of Montbeliarde cattle. Morbiere is a semi-soft cow’s milk cheese known for a thin layer of tasteless ash that cuts through the middle of the cheese. Our white wine was a 2010 Pouilly-Fumé, Henri-Bourrgeois, while the red was a Charmes-Chambertin Grand Cru, Camu Père & Fils. The chef finished spoiling us with a luscious chocolate torte. A perfect end to a perfect day.
Overview of the trip
Now, for one final look back at the entire cruise experience, check out the short video from European Waterways. I'm ready to try another canal cruise. Maybe Scotland this time.
I slept soundly my last night on board La Belle Époque, but hated knowing my trip was over. It was such a grand adventure of tastes, smells and sights from Burgundy. I’d met people who had quickly become friends and seen a part of France that made me fall in love with such simple yet pure tastes. The French countryside and love of their food and wine touched something inside me. I had truly felt at peace this week. We were a quiet group heading back to Paris the following morning – but one I’m sure was just a few pounds heavier.
Missed the first days of my journey down the Burgundy Canal? Start reading here for the once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
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