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Cruise Ship Information

La Belle Epoque is a barge of the Belgian Spitz category. She was built in 1930 to serve carrying timber. In 1995 she was renovated and now serves as a Boutique Hotel Barge on the Burgundy Canal.

La Belle Epoque was originally built in the Netherlands, her original name being Savornin Lohmann and original owner being Leendert Kruijt. Growing up on his father's barge Leendert went from school to school, travelling with his parents aboard the barge and often spending only a few hours in one school before moving on and going to another the following day.

1939 bought the start of the Second world war which caused the Kruijt family to escape with the barge to France.

La Belle Epoque now became a timber barge carrying wood along the canals and rivers of France. Clamecy on the Nivernais Canal had an active wood yard, which would take pine from the Morvan hills on flottages (wood rafts) down the upper reaches of the Yonne River. La Belle Epoque would then take trimmed lumber from the wood yard to Paris and beyond as far as Berlin.

The Kruijt family grew in number and they moved ashore leaving someone else in charge of the barge. The timber business gradually ceased and the barge's cargo-carrying days came to an end.

In 1993, they decided to sell the barge and retire. It took 3 years before they could find a buyer, but Leendert didn't want the boat on which he had grown up to finish up as wooden planks and re-cycled iron.

So in 1995, she was purchased by European Waterways who renamed her La Belle Epoque and renovated her, building luxury cabins, a jacuzzi, a bike store and everything else required to transform her into a boutique hotel barge.

Today, she once again cruises the Burgundy Canal carrying passengers and crew on weekly cruises between Pouillenay to Tonnerre.

Atmosphere on board

The 13-passenger La Belle Epoque, sister barge to L'Impressionniste, was built in 1930 to carry logs from Burgundy to Paris and Amsterdam. The 128-foot long, 16.5-foot ship was converted to a hotel barge in 1995 and cruises through Burgundy on the Upper Burgundy Canal.

La Belle Epoque has seven cabins, including one single and two suites. Rooms range in size from 90 square feet for the single to 165 square feet for the larger of the suites. Three of the rooms can be configured as either twin or double. Guestroom decor is reminiscent of an Art Nouveau French country manor, with dark woods, toile fabrics and appointments from the Belle Epoque. Each guest room has a closet, reading lamp, hairdryer and at least one window or porthole that opens; the suites have small sitting areas. The en-suite baths are tiled in marble and have a toilet, sink and shower (the suites have a full tub). Amenities include towels, shampoo, shower gel and soap. All current is 220 to 240 volts (North American appliances need converters) with the exception of the bathrooms, which have a 110 outlet for shaving only. Rooms offer air-conditioning (individually controlled) and central heating.

The saloon, located above the guestrooms, is large and comfortable, with a curved sofa, armchairs, occasional tables, a bar, a stereo with CDs and a small library. Attractive and relaxing, the room is furnished with antiques and reproductions from the Belle Epoque. The dining table seats 14.

Forward of the saloon is the outside deck, with a covered portion, an open portion and a six-person hot tub. Tables, umbrellas, teak reclining chairs with pads and flower-filled pots create an inviting atmosphere. During nice weather, wine, snacks and occasionally full meals are served outside.

Meals are served in a single seating, with breakfast and lunch offered buffet-style. Breakfast is Continental with breads, croissants, yogurt, cereal, fruit, coffee and tea. Lunch is typically breads, cold-cuts, salads and cheeses, with the occasional hot entree or soup. The meal is served with wine and finished with dessert and coffee. Dinner is an elegant candlelit affair, with regional cuisine paired with wine, desserts, cheeses, coffee and liqueurs.

As on all of the hotel barges in European Waterways’ fleet, La Belle Epoque is an all-inclusive product, with wines, soft drinks, bottled water, beer, liquor and liqueurs, as well as all onboard meals and snacks, included. (Certain vintages of wine and Champagne -- except for the Welcome Aboard greeting -- are not included, but can be provided for a fee.) Shore excursions, usually lasting from two to four hours, typically take place once a day; all entry fees are included with your cruise fare. Optional activities, such as golf and hot-air balloon rides, cost extra. Two air-conditioned VW mini-buses follow the barge’s route and are available at designated times for transport.

Excursions on La Belle Epoque include private wine and fois gras tastings, a visit to the Abbey de Fontenay, a UNESCO world heritage site, and a trip to the village of Flavigny sur Ozerain, location of the film "Chocolat."

La Belle Epoque carries 10 bicycles. Because the boat travels so slowly, passengers can easily debark at a lock and catch up with the barge later. Board games, boules, and binoculars are available for guest use. Special family, wine or walking theme charter cruises are also available.

The barge has five crew members: a captain, chef, stewards and a tour guide, all of whom speak English and French.


Family with Kids/Teens


Family charters are available aboard all our hotel barges. You have the whole vessel to yourselves and she becomes a home from home, except we take care of all the hard work!

Whether you are young or old or a combination of all ages, or whether there’s cause for celebration, or just a chance to enjoy each other’s company. Any one of our voyages, with all that can be experienced, really does take some beating.

Many years of experience have shown us that every group is different and we try our hardest to make you aware of everything the region you have chosen has to offer, be it the Scottish Highlands, England, Ireland, Holland, Italy, Burgundy or the South of France.

Having your own chef makes evening meals both enjoyable and flexible on a family charter. Dinner can be enjoyed as a family, with perhaps a casual barbecue during the week for children to enjoy some alfresco dining. Or a high tea can be served for younger children with the normal recipes they enjoy. Alternatively, a combination where elder children join the adults for dinner and then a break between courses for an evening stroll before bedtime. Adults can then relax in peace and quiet with coffee and liqueurs.

The voyage itself is already great fun. Grandchildren may find themselves steering their 126 foot vessel along a tree-lined canal, perhaps joining their cousins in the barge jacuzzi or biking together, as their parents relax alongside on the sundeck just a few feet away. The 6 passenger Nymphea in the Loire Valley is a great example of a barge and itinerary seemingly perfect for a family to enjoy.

Ashore, as well as our traditional cultural visits, we can arrange horse riding, water sports, tennis and many other activities to keep the younger ones and young at heart, completely satisfied. As with all our charter itineraries your experience is fully customisable to suite the ages and needs of your group. Child equipment such high-chairs, car seats, child bike seats, travel cots, children’s bicycles and more are available on request at no extra cost.


Past Passenger Programs


There's one inside public room and one-and-a-half outside. The small covered deck has a small table, and the large open deck sports a table big enough for all guests.

The inside space, known as the "saloon," serves as the dining room, bar, living room, relaxation area, conversation pit, and, depending on the crowd you're with, the dance floor. It isn't big, but it's well laid-out with banquettes along the walls and two small armchairs, a small bar and a long dining table that seats 14. It's a cozy space for conversation, for reading, and -- because it's flanked on both sides by big picture windows-- for seeing the route if the weather isn't good enough to be outside. When the weather is good, though, outside is where you want to be. The big teak table on the upper deck is surrounded with teak lounge chairs and pads. It's a comfy spot for sitting and watching the scenery as the barge wanders lazily through the canals and rivers that make up this route. Whether you grab a beer from the fridge or the crew serves wine and canapes, it's a convivial spot. It's also surrounded with terra cotta planters filled with flowers and herbs; it's not unusual to see the chef come out and snip something or another for that night's supper. At the very bow, in front of the upper deck, is a hot tub that seats six. It was pretty chilly most evenings on our voyage, but the whirlpool did get used a couple of times.

The lower deck is covered and has a table for four. The view isn't as good, but it's a quieter and more private place to hold a conversation or to enjoy the out-of-doors with a good book.


Fitness And Spa


La Belle Epoque has touring bicycles available for both men and women. Guests on our journey used them in Vallabregues to visit the little town, and in Maguelone to ride the mile or so to dip their toes into the Mediterranean Sea.

Other than that, the fitness routine depends on how much walking one wants to do while ashore.


Food & Dining


Starters

Salad nicoise - Green bean and potato salad with tuna and anchovies

Gnocchi verts - Handmade potato & Basel pasta with a tomato & herb sauce

Champignon farcee- Stuffed mushrooms

Saumon gravadlux mesclun- Salmon carparccio on a bed of mixed salad leaves

Main Course

Fillet de boeuf au poivre - The finest French Charolais beefsteak with a merlot and mushroom jus

Noix de St Jacques avec epinard - Sea scallops served on a bed of spinach

Lotte menieure au citron vert- Grilled Monk fish in butter and lime sauce

All dishes served with vegetables fresh from the market daily.

Cheese Board

Each night, a selection of French cheeses with a description of the cheese & the region accompanied by specially selected wines.

Dessert

A selection of traditional, all-time favorites.

Chocolate mousse

Crème Brulee

Crepe Suzettes Ille flotante

Tarte tatin

Chocolate profiteroles

Raspberry Soufflé


Entertainment


The entertainment onboard the vessel itself consists of a stereo system and several CDs (most of which have been compiled and left by former guests), the camaraderie of the guests themselves, and the interaction with the crew. It doesn't sound like much, but on a journey of this type, it's really all that's needed. One of the more joyous moments of our cruise came on the last night, after the Captain's Farewell Supper, where almost every one of the guests sang along with Don McLean's American Pie. All of us, with the exception of my traveling companion (who happened to be my mother), had grown up during the '60s and could belt out the words with abandon.

There are also some board games, and a small library of both regional travel books and novels, most left by prior guests.

The bulk of what constitutes the "entertainment" quotient on La Belle Epoque, though, is the ability to see and experience, close-up, the region through which we are traveling. In Avignon we visited both the 12th-century Palace of the Popes and the Chateauneuf du Papes winery. In Arles, we saw the Roman Coliseum, known today as the site of "corridas" (bullfights), and walked in the footsteps of Vincent Van Gogh. In Aigues Mortes we dined at a local restaurant and visited the Constance Tower, seeing for ourselves how the Crusades affected the history of France. We also had the opportunity to walk the ramparts of this medieval walled city. In Marseillan we got to visit the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery, to taste the three vermouths produced and to purchase Noilly Prat Amber, which is only available in Marseillan. In Agde, at the end of our voyage, we visited the charming, tiny village of Pezenas, climbing its narrow cobbled streets as Laurent, our knowledgeable and engaging tour guide, gave us a glimpse into life in the 1200s.

Along the way, on the Canal du Rhone a Sete and later on the Canal du Midi, we were witness to the wildlife of the Camargue, a protected wetlands with famous white horses, black bulls, pink flamingos and sundry other species including egrets, pelicans, terns and wild ducks. We waved at the men in overalls who fished along the banks, learned about the culture and significance of "les taurreaux" (the bulls) around Aigues Mortes, and later, as we passed between Sete and Marseillan across the Thau Lagoon, we were witness to the acres and acres of oyster beds and learned about the culture of oysters and mussels in the region.

In the afternoons, as we cruised along our route, we would sit at the large upper-deck table, sipping wine and munching hors d'oeuvres that had been specially prepared for us, and our conversation and laughter completed the circle of our onboard "entertainment."


Fellow Passengers


Traveling on a peniche is a specialty voyage, and as a result, guests on La Belle Epoque tend to be well-educated, sophisticated travelers who appreciate the fine dining, culture, history and wines of France. Go Barging is marketed internationally, so guests might be a mix of nationalities. On our voyage, everyone happened to be American, but the trip just before ours was filled with German nationals and the one just after with Brits.


Our recommendation


La Belle Epoque was purpose-built for luxury cruising on the inland waterways of Europe and was launched as the private luxury hotel barge of the DeKuyper liqueur family of Belgium in 1994. SThere is a comfortable saloon and dining area with large picture windows to enjoy the surrounding countryside.

With two sun decks, there is an abundance of space to relax inside and out. There is a pleasant shaded area, as well as a sunning area with a spa pool available for relaxing in whilst cruising through the stunning countryside.

La Belle Epoque's professional crew of five is comprised of Master Chef, Tour Guide, Deck-Hand and Hostess, led by a knowledgeable and experienced Captain who will ensure your cruise is highly enjoyable and memorable. Their knowledge of the region, combined with the 8 bicycles provided, will allow you to explore the areas you cruise through, in as much detail as you desire.