We floated with the grace of a swan, paced considerably slower than a stroll. We dined for hours. We lingered and lounged and watched the ever-changing countryside. We visited sites and we biked and hiked, but whatever we did, and wherever we were didn’t really matter, for a European barge cruise is not about reaching a spot and checking off sights seen, it’s about thoroughly, lazily, enjoying the moment. Barging is as easy as a nap, pleasant as a sweet dream, enjoyable as a summer afternoon.
Here, let me tell you about a top-notch trip on La Reine Pedauque (translating the goose-footed queen—don’t ask), a 4-bedroom, 8-passenger hotel barge floating on the Canal de Bourgogne.
We boarded the barge in Vandenesse, the flower-filled village near the summit of the canal.
While the crew lugged luggage to our room (all four truly spacious by barge standards),
we stayed on deck and became acquainted with fellow passengers and Kir Royal—the fabulous Burgundy aperitif.
KIR ROYAL: Put an inch or so of crème de cassis (the luscious blackcurrant liqueur specialty of Burgundy) in a flute. Fill the flute with Crémant de Bougogne (the heavenly sparkling white wine specialty of Burgundy). Sip. Repeat.
After the liquid welcome, passengers changed clothes for dinner (no dress up, just clean—each room has an attached bathroom with shower and an array of French toiletries—sweet!). Nights on both the Pedauque’s three-night mini-cruise or six-night full cruise belong to fine dining (glory be). Each four-course dinner starts with an amuse-bouche (which, frankly, didn’t amuse me as the tidbits were so tantalizing I found it a terrible tease to be limited to one bite).
During the day, we peacefully floated through the countryside
passing farm fields
and small villages
and majestic châteaux
and fields of sunflowers
and green pastures graced with Burgundy’s famous white Charolais cattle.
(Vegetarians close your eyes—the same breed of cattle sometimes graced our dining table).
And we passed through locks (45 of them),
sometimes getting off the barge to bike (borrowed from the barge) or hike (more like stroll) along the tree-lined towpath.
We also toured small villages and a grand chateau and even Dijon (See WHERE TO EAT IN DIJON).
On board we talked, read, napped, drank and ate an endless array of marvelous food.
Yes indeed, barging on Le Canal de Bourgogne is the crème de la crème—and so is this recipe, both literally and figuratively.
SALADE REINE PEDAUQUE
COMPOSED SALAD WITH CRÈME FRAÎCHE VINAIGRETTE
A variety of baby lettuces
A variety of vegetables, trimmed and boiled until just tender. Good choices:
Stalks of baby fennel
Ground cherries (or yellow heirloom cocktail tomatoes)
Micro herbs (or finely chopped assorted fresh herbs)
Arrange lettuces in the center of each serving plate. Arrange cooked vegetables in a pretty pattern on top of greens. Garnish each plate with peas, ground cherries and tomatoes.
Drizzle a little vinaigrette over top of salad and sprinkle lightly with micro herbs.
SALADE REINE PEDAUQUE VINAIGRETTE
Yield: About 1 cup.
3/4 cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon-style mustard
1 small shallot, peeled and finely minced
Salt to taste
Freshly ground white pepper, to taste
Put all ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well blended.