European river cruises give you the opportunity to see a country up close and meet its people. To truly experience a country you have to spend time there, but that often involves road time, and driving the roads of Europe can be anything but relaxing.
European river cruises allow you to travel through France, Holland or Belgium without the hassles of traffic and long lines. Whether you’re taking walking tours of vineyards or exploring a French chateau, your on-board cabin is your home for the trip.
Wine and the French Chateaux
The winemaking industry of France is a national treasure, and no lover of fine wine would consider visiting France without sampling the world class wines that are produced there. Many of the vineyards grow along canals and rivers, so hotel barges offer a unique opportunity to view wine making up close (and sampling of the wines is a must!).
French river cruises explore some of the most fabled wine-making regions of France. Burgundy is a popular choice for cruise travelers, and a trip through the region includes such stops as Dijon and Beaune, Burgundy’s wine capital.
Vineyards dot the countryside in France, but it’s the medieval castles that dominate the landscape. Built for defense, French castles reflect the history of a violent past—and a castle tour brings home that point. But castles were also hubs of society, not to mention the final destination of many of those fine wines we were just talking about. A castle tour will introduce you to a way of life long since past.
The medieval castles eventually evolved into the more modern chateaux, large manors with or without fortifications. The main function was no longer protection of the people and the surrounding area, but showing off one’s wealth. Luckily, most chateau owners met this goal.
The French chateaux have quickly evolved into popular tourist attractions for European travelers and, as such, tours of a chateau can be noisy, crowded affairs, quite at odds with the beauty and elegance of the chateau itself. Taking this into account, many European river cruises organize private tours of the French chateaux they visit. Often these private tours are le8d by the chateau owners themselves.
Holland: Tulips, Gouda and Springtime Cruises
If you’re planning a European river cruise in the spring, consider cruising through Holland, but you should leave all your paper work and distance work. For example Au.PapersOwl can help you out with that if your work is connected with writing. In Holland, where everything must be seen and nothing must be missed, tulips rule the countryside between March and May, blooming along canals and in parks—in fact, almost everywhere! You can’t rival Holland in the spring for sheer beauty and color.
While France is famous for its wine, Holland is known for great Gouda. This mellow, yellow cheese was named after the Dutch town of Gouda and is a very versatile cheese, going well with many different types of food, from fruits to fondue. Get some Gouda while you’re there. You’ll enjoy the memory of your visit to Holland when you’re back on board enjoying it with a fine wine.
Life on the River
The abundant tourist attractions and appeal of the European rivers are obvious, but what can you expect when you board your hotel barge for a river cruise? Barges come equipped with lounges, saloons and dining areas. Dinners are elaborate four or five course affairs, served with the best French wine (and possibly Gouda cheese). Planned tours are often included.
European river cruises offer a variety of on-board appointments. The largest barges, plying the larger rivers, can hold up to 90 passengers. Smaller barges average between 20 and 30 passengers. For more private voyages, barges that hold six to ten passengers are more intimate and are perfect for a family vacation.
Of course, if you prefer more independence or don’t fancy sharing your holiday with strangers, you might consider skippering your own barge. Most self-skippered barges hold five to six passengers. You can pick from a number of travel itineraries, and help is only a phone call away. Self-skippered barges travel at a sedate five miles per hour, so they’re easy to use and navigate. Your travel itinerary takes you through calm, gentle waterways, so the experience is as safe as it is thrilling.
The galley of a self-skippered barge is well stocked with all the equipment, food and wine you’ll need to prepare your own meals. If you’re not thrilled about cooking, don’t worry. You’re provided with extensive information on the best restaurants and attractions on your route.
Life onboard a hotel barge is luxurious and relaxing, with elegant dinners and lunch buffets. There’s something wonderfully decadent about drinking your morning coffee on deck as you watch the countryside unfold before your eyes, but you should also plan to explore the local attractions. Most European river cruises offer a range of walking tours for their guests.
http://www.europeanwaterways.com/ – European Waterways is Europe’s largest all-inclusive luxury hotel barging company, offering vacations in nine countries and carrying well over 2,000 passengers a year. Founded nearly 40 years ago, we own, operate and market a private fleet of luxury hotel barges with cruises in France, Italy, Scotland, Ireland, England, Germany, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg.
You walk at your own pace, seeing the attractions you want to see. And, of course, at the end of the day there’s another remarkable dinner on board to give you the energy you’ll need for the next day. Most barges also provide bicycles for their passengers’ use. You can arrange to have the staff pack you a picnic lunch and go cycling through the French countryside.