There’s a new type of luxury travel, introduced by none other than Belmond, owners of luxurious hotels around the world and the famous Orient Express. Baroque Travel finds out all about barging through France
We’ve all heard about the unbeatably luxurious train journeys on Belmond’s Venice Simplon-Orient-Express en route to Venice across Europe, or trips on its other trains around the world, including India. Well, now Belmond has released another series of unforgettable, luxurious journeys to enjoy – barging along the scenic waterways of France.
Currently, Belmond boasts seven different luxurious barges that explore France by river, each offering a different itinerary, but all providing the utmost in comfort and luxury as they cruise along picturesque French canals and villages. These luxury boats offer a unique getaway, a chance to slow down and savor the moment whilst gliding through the French countryside.
Each of the barges is named after a flower. The two most recent additions to the fleet are Belmond Pivoine, which travels to the famous Champagne region, and Belmond Lilas, which explores small villages and towns in the Alsace region en route to Strasbourg.
Every one of the Belmond barges has been individually designed to reflect the area in which it explores. The two latest additions follow the Biophilia design approach, a philosophy that brings the outside world into the plush interior space. Created by The Gallery HBA, London, the design “embraces a love for life and all pure living forms,” according to interior designer Inge Moore, who headed the project. These two barges feature open decks with handmade furniture and a swimming pool surrounded by plants. They accommodate 8 guests in four en-suite cabins, offering a most personalized, intimate getaway that is quite unique.
Belmond Afloat in France offers a variety of bespoke itineraries around the waterways of France, visiting Burgundy, Cote D’Or, Provence, Valle du Rhone, Canal du Midi, Saone and Valle du Rhone. Each barge accommodates between 4 and 12 passengers, and includes an experienced crew, en suite cabins, a living area and a dining room.
Special activities that can be arranged include cycling along canal paths, cooking classes with the private chef or exploring village markets en route. Cruises are on an all-inclusive basis and vary depending on the area, and where the guests wish to go.
Interestingly enough, barges were originally built for transporting freight. But Belmond has taken barging to another level entirely on these flat-bottomed boats, transporting passengers around France in these vessels, which are far more intimate than typical cruise ships on the river and travel at a leisurely pace to enjoy the magnificent scenery and the charm that its tiny villages offer.
Each of the barges was crafted from proper grain vessels—and has its own idiosyncrasies. Ceiling heights are limited, as the height of the barges are constrained by the locks and bridges along the canals, so each space in a barge is quite unique. These unique floating luxury hotels offer guests the opportunity to visit villages and wineries as the barge drifts through the countryside. Dinners are prepared on board by a professional chef if the guests are not enjoying a fine dining experience at a restaurant onshore.