Monday, 28 November 2016

Winter time

Auxerre is quiet.  The town has slipped into 'winter mode'.  Shutters on the houses are closed at dusk, keeping in the warmth.  Keeping out the chill.

The River Yonne glides on through. Running to the bright lights and gaiety of Paris.  Under the Eiffel Tower, under the bridges, on to the sea, to the English Channel.

On her mooring, beneath the cathedral, the Luciole waits.  Patiently.  Spring will come again and with the longer daylight days, crew will emerge to lovingly prepare for our 2017 passengers.

Luciole beneath the Cathedral St Etienne

Friday, 14 October 2016

9th - 15th October 2016

The final week of the season.  A lovely charter group to finish 2016, passengers and crew were treated to spectacular autumnal weather of warmth and sunshine.

Almost every night the dining table was pushed to one side and the dancing began.  Hats off to you ladies and gents for sure.  Ten out of ten for dance moves and exuberance.  Thumbs up for Scot's DJ skills and Cathy's salsa moves.

Dresses and tops were bought, from Noyers-sur-Serein market (could have been New York) and were worn with panache. The night to remember for attire however, of course has to be Wednesday evening and the Toga party, a sight to behold on the Luciole. Sheets, table cloths and shower curtains have never been put to such good use before, aboard.

Jennifer kept up her cycle miles, along the tow path.  Whilst others strolled.  Emergency runs were made for Bailey's liquer.  The perfect spirit to round off the days for our lovely group.

Roses in Mailly-la-Ville

Fifty years ago in 1966 the Palinurus began cruising.  In 1986 the Palinurus was renamed the Luciole, when our company bought her from Richard Parson's.  As the oldest hotel barge cruising in France, we certainly are proud.

The Luciole thank you whole heartedly for choosing to cruise with us and for making the finish of our 2016 season so memorably.

Fabulous day below the Roches de Saussois

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

2nd - 8th October 2016

The penultimate week of the 2016 season aboard the Luciole, and what a delightful time we've had, gently crusing up to Clamecy in the autumn sunshine with a host of familiar, friendly faces, plus a few first timers to Burgundy. Amongst the new comers joining us this week were English ladies Mel and Ann, New zealand couple Tim and Sandra, as well as our lone American traveller, Kathy. Joining us again, although it feels like only yesterday that they all left, we were very happy to welcome back onboard Bob and Mary who last cruised with us in May. Emma, Sue and Clare returning after staying with us back in 2014, and the lovely Jennifer, godmother of our very own Penny.

We had a very relaxed week indeed, with classical music brightening up the wheelhouse in honour of Ann, essentially our stand in Captain for the week! For 3 days straight she joined Captain Francisco at the wheel with a big smile on her face as she learnt the ropes and made a sterling effort of navigating us through all those locks. Francisco naturally being extremely pleased as he pulled up a comfortable chair and took the opportunity to put his feet up! Meanwhile Tim, Sandra and Clare were off charging around the place on their bikes, exploring tiny villages and reaching our destination long before the rest of us arrived, only returning at cocktail time surprisingly enough! Kathy, a life long horse lover, teamed up with hostess Emma, also an avid rider, and spent a long and enjoyable afternoon trotting through the forests with their guide as the rest of us cruised along serenely.

Finally I would like to I would like to wish a huge congratulations to Tim and Sandra on their 39th wedding Anniversary, and welcome the Lileys back onboard, we are fortunate enough to have Penny, William and Arthur all joining us for next week, our final week.

Captain Francisco and lock keepers at the first lock of the week

Thursday, 6 October 2016

25th September - 1st October 2016

This last week of September has been another great one, with a really wonderful and easy going group of passengers joining us from all across the world. Between them forging friendships and memories that will last a lifetime. Fred with his indispensible skills behind the wheel of the barge, plus his production of a bottle of fig liquor to put a fire in all of our bellies after Captain's dinner! Joe with his pretty impressive scottish impression(that or Tony the Tiger) to make Jade feel more at home. Sandra and Sheila sat on the deck, putting the world to rights and gossiping the days away, or trying their best to embarrass Sandra's daughter and our lovely hostess Emma!

With the end of September upon us and Autumn transforming the land, we find Burgundy to be a hive of activity as the grape harvest is collected, as well as all the wild fruit trees producing their bounty just waiting to be foraged by a passing opportunist. This week it was the Luciole and her crew unable to pass up on the opportunity to make off with a few bushels of apples, a handful or two of walnuts and 2 rather sour peaches. Thankfully we have our master chef Jade onboard to make something of all those foraged apples, producing a delicious batch of eves pudding, a favourite recipe of her grandmother and certainly popular around these parts now!

Thanks to the grape harvest or "Vendange" reaching the domaine of Jean-Marc Brocard along with the other wineries of Chablis, we had the chance this week to not only take our excellent tour around the Domaine, but also to see grapes being delivered and crushed. Chablis' hugely popular guide Sebastien also invited Andy and our passengers to try the freshly squeezed juice that will go on to become Premiere Cru Montmains. The juice was deep green and very cloudy, but delicious according to everyone fortunate enough to try it. Following this, Sebastien produced the finished Montmains from last year, along with no fewer than 7 other excellent Chablis wines, including 2 bio-dynamic wines from Julien Brocard. Even following all of that with a helping of pate and bread, perfectly paired with their 2009 Grand Cru Valmur. What a treat!

The gang inside Domaine Jean-Marc Brocard.

Friday, 30 September 2016

18th - 24th September 2016

The Luciole has been heading towards Clamecy for the second last time of the season, it's absolutely astonishing how quickly it all passes. For Francisco, Andy and myself, us old boys that have been here since the start, it seems only a matter of weeks since we first set off from Auxerre all the way back in May. Despite how late in the season it is the elements seem to be continuously smiling on us as the weather is holding out wonderfully. We're fortunate to still be enjoying long sunny days and crisp, cool and clear evenings, the skies lit up by a plethora of stars.

We had on board with us this week a full boat of excellent and most amusing people, a mixed group of Americans and Australians, a very chatty bunch, brightening all our days with their ceaseless joking and boundless curiosity. This curiosity which led to Andy bringing along several bottles of Ratafia, a local fortified wine similar to Marc de Bourgogne. Served as an apperitif and created from the mulched grapes remaining from the production of wine, which are then fermented and blended with grape juice. This gives Ratafia a deliciously sweet flavour with an extremely potent kick! No wonder it was so popular!

Other happenings of the week include 89 year old Peter amazing everyone, including his wife Evelyn, with his distance walking skills, something he apparently hasn't done much of for many years. He did the whole walking tour around Auxerre with the rest of the group and hopped off at least once per day to keep pace with the boat while we navigated. On friday night during Captain's Dinner we celebrated the 23rd anniversary of Lisa and Denny with Cremant de Bourgogne and Jade's specially made Chocolate celebration cake. The night concluded for the gentlemen aboard with Hank's very kindly donated and absolutely enormous cigars out on the deck. A most fitting end to a very special week.

 Mailly le Chateau as seen from the maze of streams and rivers beneath it.

Chateau de Bazoches. Former home of Vauban, tactician, inventor and adviser to King Louis XIV One of our regular visits and a firm favourite.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

11th - 17th September 2016

Another week aboard the Luciole, another week of peace and serenity surrounded by the natural majesty of Burgundy. We had with us a full boat of 14 passengers, a combination of Brits and Americans, all strangers to begin with but that lack of familiarity soon melted away as it always does. Roughly around the time main courses are served on the first night, as the wine is beginning to flow and the festivities are starting, you wouldn't believe you were witnessing a group of strangers dining together, not amongst all the chatter and chuckles of laughter. By friday everyone was practically inseperable, spending all day as a unit. That is aside from one member of the group, Keith, who spent a good deal of his time with our Captain Francisco, steering the boat and doing a fine job of it, including entering several locks unassisted. I can testify to how difficult that is, regardless of how easy and casual Francisco makes it look.

Bizarrely this week we were accompanied by a few new and slightly unusual members of the team. First of all there was a snake which somehow managed to drop from the underside of a bridge and land right in the middle of the deck, causing quite a bit of panic, mostly for the snake itself however which beat a hasty retreat! It's very rare to see snakes in this part of the world, and of course the ones you see are typically very small and (thankfully) completely harmless, still quite a shock to see one on board! Our second uninvited guest was quite a lot more welcome than the first, an inquisitive little cat that no matter how many times he got shooed off, would for sure reappear sooner or later stalking the place and trying to make himself comfortable on the deck cushions. Our final little visitor of the week was anything but! An absolutely enormous moth, quite stunning really and discovered munching on the Chilean flag we fly from the stern. For 3 days we kept discovering this moth, hanging around the boat and keeping itself to itself, he must have come for the atmosphere like the rest of us!

Finally I would like to offer our congratulations to Stan and Vicki on their 45th wedding anniversary, Mindy on her 65th birthday and lovely Pat for her 80th birthday. Sante!

Michael Moth as he affectionately became known. 

Saturday, 17 September 2016

4th - 10th September 2016

Once again we've been blessed with another sunny and marvellous week aboard the Luciole, departing from Auxerre and heading in the direction of cheery little Clamecy. Joined this week by an exceptional and mixed group of people, 11 in total, 10 outstanding Americans and our unforgettable resident Canadian Julie. Not only that but we're very happy to welcome back technical man of the business William for the week as well as his mother; our very own irreplaceable Penny! It's always a good atmosphere with these two present, laughs a plenty and their boundless enthusiasm for the Luciole spurring us all on.

Glorious cruising days on the Nivernias Canal

This past week felt very easy and enjoyably relaxed and it passed by far too quickly, it was Friday night and Captain's dinner before we knew it. That seems to be the nature of this place when we have such a relaxed and easy going group of passengers on board, it feels somewhat more akin to providing for friends and family than it does to working. Days were spent as they often are around here, cruising and walking in the sunshine, fantastical meals and  phenomenal cocktails, fascinating tours of the region and perhaps a snooze or two - just to check the AC is working correctly in the cabins I'm sure! On top of that we had a little tournament of petanque in play most evenings, I won't bother to list the scores as the team comprising of William and myself was pretty abysmal and I'd prefer not to give too much glory and attention to our reigning champion, the Captain.

I'd like to extend a special mention to Matt and Julia, a big thank you to the two of you for the amazing slide show of photographs taken throughout the week and shown on Friday evening, as well as being the all round genuinely excellent people and good guys that you are! In fact for the latter reason alone thank you to everyone who joined us and made this, the  memorable week what it was.

Monday, 5 September 2016

28th August - 3 September

It's been a beautiful week in Burgundy, it may only be September but the beginnings of autumn have started creeping in, littering the paths (and the Luciole!) with leaves of red and brown. The sun however is still very much on our side, and is thankfully starting to lose it's sting somewhat. 

Joining us onboard our happy boat this week was a very friendly and constantly amusing family of Australians, the Messenger family, ranging from grandparents Philip and Pauline down through the generations all the way to 11 year old Sebastian, a fine young chap and our local skateboarding champion for the week. Indeed that's how half of his time was spent, careening down the towpaths with the rest of the family cycling along trying to keep up! Otherwise it was a lovely, calm week with everyone out and about enjoying the sunshine and swimming from the boat at every opportunity, crew included. It was perhaps the first time that I've seen every single member of the family deciding to have a go at steering! With grandad putting us into a lock immaculately, followed by son Mark nailing it too, or at least on the second attempt anyway!

In other news our new arrivals Jade and Kim are settling in wonderfully! It may only be their second week on the boat but already they're looking and sounding like old bargees, professionals through and through and from the looks of it having an excellent time in the process. The ambience on board is truly excellent, completely jovial, relaxed and as perfect as ever.

Skate boarding super hero - Sebastian

Monday, 29 August 2016

21st - 27th August 2016

After 2 very enjoyable weeks of rest and recuperation for the crew, everyone is back onboard the Luciole fresh and raring to go with another charming group of American passengers, 13 friends travelling together. It's hard to think of more welcome guests to restart the season as we head into our final couple of months. They were gracious, easy company and always joking, getting into the swing of life around here and doing it with a glass in hand and a smile on their faces.

They however were not the only new faces onboard this week, as we are very fortunate indeed to be joined by 2 new members of the Luciole team, taking their first steps into barge life and wondering what on earth they've gotten themselves into. First of all we have the extremely professional, unerringly calm and most talented chef Jade, a fellow Glaswegian and close friend to our dear old former chef Marc. Also stepping aboard for the first time and occupying the role of hostess is the bright and cheerful, smiley and lovely Kim from England. Welcome aboard to the both of you, and welcome back to Emma, hostess extraordinaire from last season and back with us now to brighten our days, never a dull moment with Emma around, particularly when there's rum in reach!

This week was the perfect example of a group working in harmony. With new members on board it can of course become a little chaotic as there is so much to learn and life is so different here to a regular workplace. Despite all the obstacles things ran perfectly without a hiccup and the ambience really could not have been better, thanks in no small part to the understanding and very helpful nature of our guests, they couldn't have made things much easier for us short of doing the washing up themselves!

Unfortunately there is one piece of sad news alongside all the good this week, as much loved and highly respected host Arthur finally took his leave and headed back home to England, time for him to see the very missed former hostess Amelia who departed a few weeks ago, and perhaps even more importantly his great big dog in a tiny body, Buster, who he hasn't seen since April and who has been causing all kinds of mischief at home being shared between Penny, John and William. So to Arthur, best of luck with all your travels and beyond, you'll be missed!

The group all together outside the Chartreuse de Basseville.

The Luciole passing through Pousseaux lift bridge.

Steering lessons from Captain Francisco.

7th - 20th August 2016

The Luciole and her crew took a well earned break from cruising to recharge batteries.  We also said goodbye to crew have been with us for the first half of the season and welcomed new crew who are with us to the end of the season.

We thank Marc, George, Amelia and Arthur for their wonderful work and welcome back Jade, Emma and say a new 'bonjour' to Kimberley, who has joined us for the first time.

The first photograph below, shows the dad and lad teams of Richard Parsons, who began barging fifty years ago in 1966 with the Palinurus (now the Luciole), and John Liley who began cruising with Secunda in 1976.  Each with their sons, who have worked together as hosts this season, George and Arthur.

George and Richard Parsons on the left.  John and Arthur Liley on the right.

Goodbyes to Arthur, Amelia, Marc and George, with Penny in the centre

Jade returns to finish the season after her 10 days in June

Our new hostess Kimberley pairs with Emma, who returns from last season

Monday, 8 August 2016

31st July - 6 August 2016

A lovely week on the Luciole, the sun shone and the atmosphere blossomed as the Luciole cruised from Clamecy to Auxerre.  Delightful passengers joined us from the UK and Mexico and we were treated to the sound of Spanish as our tri-lingual Captain Francisco communicated in his native tongue with the warm-hearted Squire family.

This week, we were saying 'goodbye' to four crew members (replacements, familiar with the Luciole traditions ready to take over!). Chef Marc and hosts George, Amelia and Arthur have come to the end of their half season stay with us, before taking the chance to travel. There were also 'hellos'. At the beginning of the week, we were joined by Penny and at the end of the week John Liley, Arthur's father arrived and Richard Parsons, George's father.  Richard began hotel barging cruising in 1966 on the Palinurus.  John Liley bought the Palinurus from Richard thirty years ago, and she was renamed the Luciole.  It was memorable to have these two highly respected Captains of yore, cruising with us.

Arthur, Amelia, Penny, Marc and George 

Outside: Richard and George Parsons.  Inside: John and Arthur Liley

In the galley, Cornish pasties, with a twist were made by one of our passengers Clive and savoured by all for lunch on Thursday.  Erika and Theo, winners of the France Magazine competition, could not have been nicer. 

All in all, such a memorable week, before we take our summer break and the Luciole takes a well earned break and mid-season touch-up. Safe and happy travels to one and all from the Luciole crew, past and present!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

24th - 30th July 2016

It is the final week of this beautifully warm July in Burgundy, another week in which we've been blessed by the sun's presence. Not only that but by the presence of our honoured guests from the land of the rising sun itself, the ever happy Murakami family. Joining us on the Luciole for the second time since 2012, long before most of this young crew had stepped foot into barging, but not too long ago for Captain Francisco to remember them and remember them well.

This was one of those weeks you can't forget, even with at times a bit of a communication difficulty, but it didn't cast the slightest of shadows on everyone's enjoyment of the week. None of that mattered in the slightest, all was brushed aside with laughter, good spirit, hand signals and red wine.

The family opted for an adventurous week with us, going horse riding and kayaking as well as walking through Auxerre, visiting pretty Noyers and stopping off at the Chartreuse de Basseville as we cruised beside it. Grandparents Yoshiniko and Kazuko joining the family even for the more adventurous visits, Yoshi never failing to get a photograph or 3 of all the action, and getting involved enough themselves! The 3 youngsters Taro, Toko and Sara spent half the week replacing the Captain, steering every day, otherwise showing off their boundless energy running and cycling around, usually off out to play badminton. Taro in particular showed us the reasons why he is Japan's number 1 youth tennis player, thrashing Francisco at badminton, the closest thing we have to tennis on the boat.

Captain's dinner was a very warm, touching and emotional affair, family and crew starting to get blurry eyed or more as we exchanged words and gifts after dinner. The youngsters created a delightful floral thank you and the Captain offered the youngest, Sara a photograph he took back in 2012 as the much smaller Sara and Toko steered the boat from the wheel house, huge smiles on their little faces. Much like the smiles we've seen all week with this very gracious, friendly and eternally welcome family.

 Taro, Captain Toko, Arthur, Sara and ex-Captain Francisco.

 Taro and Francisco face off

Floral thank you - Japanese style - much appreciated!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

17th - 23rd July 2016

We've had a wonderful time on board the Luciole in bright and sunny Burgundy this week. Thanks in no small part to our contingent of fantastic guests, 10 people in total with an abundance of nationalities between them, predominantly English and Australian with an American or two and a smattering of dual nationalities from all over the place. Combined with our mixed crew of English, Scottish, French and of course Chilean, we have had a very international week around here and a very enjoyable one at that. This mixed group rallied together from the start and ended the week as the best of friends, countless glasses of wine surely had something to do with the quick familiarity and team spirit that arose. A highlight of the week was the absolute joy everyone took from the short explanatory speeches about the cheese and wine, leaving the group howling with laughter as hosts explained their cheese of choice and told the many (mostly terrible) cheese related jokes we've obtained over the years.

We were very honoured to be joined by several special guests this week, including the lovely Sheila coming for the 4th time to the Luciole, as well as her marvellous age defying husband John, cruising for the 2nd time with us, it's always a pleasure to see a familiar face back amongst us. Unfamiliar but extremely welcome was Penelope, the twin sister of our weeks resident American, Cleopatra, joining us just for the evening on Friday, getting to enjoy Captain's Dinner from the quayside of beautiful Auxerre. After dinner it is tradition for the Captain to deliver a "short" speech detailing the week and thanking everyone involved. This week English passenger Nick very kindly took to the stage and delivered a few words of his own, thanking all the crew individually in a very nice way, it's a pleasure to hear such kind words spoken and such affirmation for all of us here, so thank you Nick for the kind words, we will try not to let it go to our heads!

 Chef Marc's Crab Tian ready for service

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

3rd - 9th July 2016

Burgundy is heating up and summer is well and truly upon us, much to the delight of our all American charter group, the Gilmer family. An excellent group of people spanning from grandparents Gary and Marilyn all the way down to little Maggie, 5 years old and from the looks of it future boat pilot! Monday was of course the 4th of July, American Independence day, a day to celebrate as our guests certainly did, arriving to breakfast with their red, white and blue beads around their necks, themed socks, USA t-shirts, stars and stripes everywhere you can imagine. We even dug out the star spangled banner of our own to mark the occasion, replacing our slightly contentious Chilean flag representative of our Captain Francisco. The 4th of July wasn't our only celebration of the week with Charlie turning 11 on Friday. Captain's dinner was therefore enjoyed surrounded by balloons, or at least the sound of popping balloons as the kids delighted in jumping on them all. The evening was ended with a huge chocolate celebration cake of Chef Marc's creating, complete with firework candle bigger than Charlie's head, he never did stand much of a chance blowing it out, not for want of trying however!

All in all we had a very enjoyable week in the sun, kids playing all day long, off on long cycling adventures searching for football pitches and basketball courts, steering with Francisco, or out on tour with Andy, enjoying the adventurous activities they had signed up for. Adults staying behind during cruises showing us how it's meant to be done, relaxing like professionals and knocking the cocktails, aperitifs and beers back like they were going out of fashion. A really great week with a spectacularly nice group of people, a perfect note to end on before a passengerless week of maintenance in Auxerre.

 Everyone together after Captain's dinner.

A very happy Amelia indulging in her favourite past time with the passengers.

Monday, 4 July 2016

26th June - 2nd July 2016

What a week to remember onboard the Luciole, joined by the wonderful Marinace and Tomas families. Organised by delightful Grandparents Joyce and Frank, they brought three generations along with them, all excited and raring to go, ready to face the adventures ahead. This group was very sporty and always on the move, using all the options the boat could give them to get around and experience the local environment. Cycling en masse was a daily outing, the kids blazing a trail with all the adults rushing to keep up, they must have cycling half the route over the course of the week, stopping to scale the impressive Rochers de Saussois and disappearing off the beaten track to explore nearby towns. Alongside the bikes we also have two canoes on board, exceptionally for this and the following weeks adventure charters, though with the amount of use they have had from both the family and the crew, I think they should become a permanent fixture!

Amongst the activities for the week we had horse riding, cave climbing, canoeing, zip lining in the trees, visiting Guedelon, a castle in construction using only medieval techniques and playing lots and lots of football. As well as our regular visits of Vézelay, Auxerre and Noyers, all beautiful towns and villages with various draws and attractions at each. The most memorable however may well be the most simple on this occasion, a nice "gentle" game of football near the boats mooring in the town of Lucy, where a game was played of epic proportions, all the crew and all the passengers making up two teams, it didn't stay so gentle for long! Captain Francisco fearing for his life being charged down by Lea and Ella, 12 and 13 year old girls respectively, our own hostess Amelia letting out a glimmer of her competitive side screaming for offside or disallowed goals, or worst of all our poor host George, reduced to limping off the pitch after a crunching tackle from 15 year old Lucas. Thankfully as we didn't have a referee we continued play as always, much to the dismay of our now very hobbly George. The final score 5 - 4 to the passengers!

On the final morning we were shown the real strength of this family, rescuing the boat in dramatic fashion from the bank at Lucy. The water level at this location has a tendency to drop over night, placing the boat very firmly onto the rocks by the morning, making departure pretty much impossible. If it wasn't for the combined efforts of all the men in the family, plus a few men of our own, dragging over 160 tons of steel off the rocks we may have had a lengthy wait for the water level to return to normal. It shows just what can be done with the right group of people, allowing us to carry on on our merry way along the river and ending the week in a familar and much missed location at the port of Clamecy.

The gang and their horsey companions all lined up, courtesy of our lovely Amelia.

Attempt number one, using the boom pole.

Attempt number two using a rope. Success!

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

19th - 25th June 2016

It's been a beautiful week in Burgundy and what perfect timing for such brilliant sunshine. We we're very fortunate this week to be joined by our old friends James and Diana, frequent passengers and the leaders of walking parties, where our guests are lead around the countryside on foot, taking in the sights and visiting interesting spots scouted out by James in previous seasons. All of this was done along side visits in the bus with tour guide Andy, and of course our regular schedule of smoothly cruising along the Nivernais. 

The Walking Party began their walk at the Basilica of Vézelay
Smooth sailing is what this week was all about, considering the amount of organisation that went into it, it really couldn't have been better executed. The group taking off together in the early morning sunshine, enjoying long walks by the rivers and hills, seeing all of the beauty Burgundy has to offer. Once the walking was done they would be greeted by Andy, happy and helpful as always, waiting by the bus to deliver them back to the barge, or perhaps to take them to some interesting locations, imparting his encyclopedic knowledge along the way. The afternoons were spent on the boat as we navigated the canals, basking in the heat of the day on the deck, or down in the crisp and cool cabins sleeping off one of Chef Marc's beautiful buffet lunches. The week came to it's conclusion in it's familiar fashion, Captain's dinner and Francisco's after dinner speech, always an hilarious spectacle. This time however, the reins were handed over to James to deliver the final word, a very touching and funny thank you to all of the crew and passengers individually. A wonderful week, and one we hope to relive very soon.   

Before long the walkers had a different view of the magnificent basilica

Thursday, 23 June 2016

12th - 18th June 2016

The Luciole season continues into June with our 6th group of passengers. Some of the crew used the opportunity of the previous week without passengers to go on various trips to far flung places so it's nice to have them back amongst us. Spoiling the peace and quiet perhaps but certainly being entertaining in the process! With the the crew 'home' the Luciole was ready to resume life as normal, winding our way along the Nivernais Canal. 

The biggest draws of the Luciole are not just the beauty of the region or the comfort of the boat, nor is it the exceptionally high standard of the food and the regional wines and cheeses accompanying it. It is a combination of both our crew and our passengers that make the Luciole such a special place to be. We are very fortunate here to be accompanied week after week by truly excellent groups of people, this week was no exception. We were joined by a group of 8 American friends travelling together, organised by the lovely Susan and Bruce. As well as English couple John and Joanna, honouring us by travelling with us for the second time, along on this occasion with their friend Patricia, and finally travelling alone, the marvellous Carol from America. 

This group bonded very well from the start, sharing stories and putting the world to rights late into the night with a brandy in hand. It was an artistic week around here as Charles our expert garden designer amazingly managed to decorate the deck with several 4 leaf clovers he had found whilst out walking from the boat, which has now prompted everyone to walk around with their heads down looking at the ground in an attempt to replicate his findings. We were lucky enough too, to visit the delightful garden of Jos and Loeloe, in Fontenille.  A garden full of textures and colours and from where they run their business 'Parterres en Kit' (buy a designed border of flowers from them, for your own garden).

We visited the lovely garden of friends Jos and Loeloe in Fontenille

John too revealed his talent and life long hobby of painting landscapes, creating two wonderful pieces of art that thankfully we took photographs of before his departure. 

                                   John worked on his delightful picture through the week and the crew were                                    particularly touched by his end of Captain's Diner thank you!

This week finally felt like a bit of a fresh beginning after the interesting few weeks we have had. As fun as the adventure has been, it's nice to get back to our slow paced routine on the Nivernais, seeing familiar places and familiar faces. It's a pleasure to return to the lifestyle we know and love so well.

Monday, 13 June 2016

5th - 11th June 2016

The Luciole did not have passengers this week, but we were all busy just the same.  Preparing for next weeks passengers and general maintenance.  The Nivernais Canal and River Yonne were calm again.

Calm waters on the Nivernais Canal at Vaux
France prepared for Euro 2016 and the invasion of football fans, throughout the land.  Admittedly we were more than happy to be in our back water!  The French football fans will be shouting 'Allez les Blues'!!  We prefer our 'Burgundy Blues' and fields of blue linseed flowers....

Fields of linseed flowers. Blues in Burgundy

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

29th May - 4th June 2016

Back to the Nivernais this week, heading towards Clamecy, however we weren't to make it quite so far as it soon became apparent. Although conditions on Monday morning were calm and the river navigable, we were to encounter a problem beside the small and pretty town of Vaux. The River Yonne interacts with the Canal du Nivernais in many sections, when they wish to separate canal from river it's done just after a barrage, a controllable waterfall designed to manage the amount of water that can flow through the river. These barrages can create quite a powerful current when there is a large volume of water passing through as there is at the moment. For the first time the Luciole managed to succumb to the strength of this barrage and found herself rather stranded and pinned to the side of the canal. A dramatic experience but fortunately not a particularly dangerous one. After a short wait we were rescued by a man with a very convenient tractor and towed away from the obstacle. Because of this section now being impassable for us with the strength of the current, it was decided we would spend the week by the lock house in Vaux, a pretty lock owned by a friend of the boat, lock keeper Olivier. In reality it was probably the perfect location for this weeks set of guests as it is right next to a bowls green, tennis courts and football pitches, excellent for such an active group of people.

Family boules on the village court close to our mooring

We were joined this week by a single American family all the way from Hawaii and California, ranging from grandparents to children. They were sport fanatics, soccer lovers, thrill seekers and all around brilliant people to have onboard. Always active and looking for another activity to participate in. They had come for one of what we call 'our adventure charters', where the group has many options of exciting activities to take part in. Wether it was karting, climbing, paint-balling, horse riding, cycling, more football of course, and even beauty and colour advice from the always wonderful friend of ours, Rosemary. 

Battle for the boys.  Colour consulting for the girls on the Luciole on Wednesday afternoon

We send an enormous 'high five' to this wonderful family and thank them for their generosity of spirit throughout the week that saw Paris close to flooding.  In the end it was hard to say goodbye to such a lovely group after such an unusual but enjoyable week.  You really were all stars.

22nd - 28th May 2016

The adventure continued aboard the Luciole this week as we made our way from one of our historical moorings in the town of Montbard, on the Canal de Bourgogne, all the way back to our home of Auxerre and the entrance of the Canal du Nivernais. It was a long journey, and a week of all day cruising. In the beautiful sunshine we've been blessed with however, plus a handful of marvellous, friendly and helpful guests the time flew by. Before we knew it we were back in our regular mooring in Auxerre. 

Despite the distance covered, we managed to have a very calm, relaxing week with our Australian and American friends. A mixed group for the most part but one choosing to spend their days with each other. Chatting in the saloon or taking a drink on the deck, stepping off the boat for a stroll or on occasion what was a brisk walk trying to keep pace with us! 

Crab Tian served in Tanlay
Thanks to the exceptional organisation skills of Captain Francisco and Andy the tour guide, helped out by Penny, we made it through these two weeks flawlessly. It's a complicated job arranging the logistics and timings when routine changes in such a manner as it has done recently, and thanks to their hard work, plus the very understanding nature of our passengers, these weeks have been as seamless as ever onboard the Luciole. Though it's nice to return to familiar ground, especially when that ground is the ever breath taking Auxerre.

Home to Auxerre on Friday evening

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

15th - 21st May 2016

The 3rd week of the season and what an adventure we've had these past few days. Due to heavy storms over the weekend plus the light showers during the previous week, the Canal du Nivernais and the river Yonne have been forced to close because of flooding. This however was no deterrent to our fearless Captain, who bravely and instinctively decided to head north, away from our usual haunt of the Nivernais canal, and into the safely enclosed and river free Canal de Bourgogne. Now of course we very rarely navigate other canal systems and as such we are not familiar with the Bourgogne, hence the feeling of adventure. 

Captain Francisco and Matelot Tom consulting the map every 10 minutes, trying to work out where it's possible to moor for the evening. The navigation was hugely successful though, bar the 2 hour wait for a lock keeper, the rest was perfectly smooth. In total this week in 5 days we covered 125km and passed through 55 locks, so double the distance of our regular cruise of around 60km and 30 locks. We arrived on friday evening to the fairly sizeable and very nice town of Montbard, closer to Dijon than to Auxerre!

A breeze catches our Burgundy flag on the bow of the Luciole

We were very fortunate to be joined by some wonderful guests this week, half English and half American and with an age range of twenties to our very youthful Charlie Boy of 92! Thankfully all were very happy with the change of route that allowed us to navigate and gave us the chance to explore a bit more of Burgundy and it's wonderful landscapes. Thanks to them it made the week as smooth and enjoyable as ever,  A different week of curious happenings, but a week that certainly won't be forgotten in a hurry.

The impressive Abbaye de Fontenay

8th - 14th May 2016

Week 2 of the 2016 season and our first cruise back from Clamecy to Auxerre. Once again a week of smooth sailing, aided in no small part by our contingent of wonderful guests, all American and all extremely enjoyable company. This group was always happy and always helpful, assisting with locks and helping Captain Francisco steer the boat, otherwise they were off cycling or walking alongside the boat as it cruised, arriving back just in time for cocktails and a refreshment. Even loveable mascot Bob the toy duck was on hand to brighten up the deck and put a smile on everyones face. The weather was a mixed bag of sunny days and wet evenings, fairly common for this time of year and the reason we're fortunate to live in such a lush environment here in Burgundy.

Bob the toy duck is our mascot but the swans are frequently visiting too

Additionally this week we were very sad to say goodbye to hostess Emma, heading back home to sunny England after her 2 weeks of training up our new recruits Amelia and Arthur. As well as our Technical man William going back to the UK after 7 weeks straight of preseason preparation. We wish them both the best and hope they enjoy the chance to rest.

1st - 7th May 2016

The Luciole 2016 season has finally begun! The period of refitting the boat has drawn to a close and we welcomed our first group of passengers to the barge. We couldn't have asked for a better group to kick things off, an American family travelling together, as well as an American couple and an Australian couple. We had a calm but very funny week filled with laughter, wine, cycling and new friendships. The perfect week for new crew and old alike to get into the swing of barge life and remember just what a pleasure it is to cruise down the lovely Nivernais in the spring sunshine.

Chef Marc's delicious pork medley

We were fortunate to boast an enormous and impressive crew of 9 this week, as hostess from previous seasons Emma was onboard all week for training purposes, and technical manager William bolstered the numbers even more. It made for a busy Galley at dinner time but allowed for a seamless and pleasant week, a very nice bonus to start on such a high.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Pre-season preparations

The pre-season preparations are always a busy time on the Luciole.  So much to do every year!

Thankfully we have a wonderful team of workers, who beaver away before the crew arrive for the final push before passengers arrive.  In the photo there are three from the Liley family, myself and two sons, William and Arthur.

Merci millions and 'WELL DONE TEAM' for your hard work and for the laughs!

The pre-season crew from left to right:
William, George, Emma, Marc, Penny, Roy, Amelia, Arthur, Tom and Francisco
Francisco - the Captain - Everywhere man
Andy the tour guide - turned bathroom constructor with William - the everything man
Marc - our chef - keeping us all fed
Amelia and Emma - our hosts - and inside cabin queens

Tom - the matelot - outside painting chief
Roy - the painter and decorator - superior

George - the host - turned furniture restorer
Arthur - the host - turned barge painter