Burgundy canals

I tracked her down at the sleepy hamlet of Gissey-sur-Ouche. She was the only boat on the canal, nestled cosily into the bank just near the stone bridge, and she looked very smart with her blue hull and immaculate teak deck. At first she looks to be quite a modest size, set picturesquely against the canal, the plane trees and the rolling Burgundian hills. But once aboard you appreciate that this 127 ft. barge is seriously capacious.

I spent some time aboard Après Tout getting to know the charming owners, Rory and Caroline Macrae, who run this beloved boat as a luxury hotel barge business. In many ways they are the perfect couple to operate a venture like this. They clearly love people, often chatting about how much they have enjoyed time spent with guests, but it’s also evident that they know and love this part of Burgundy, the Canal du Bourgogne; so much so that they have recently bought a house which is so close to the canal they can keep an eye on their garden as they cruise by!

But in case anyone thinks this looks like a rather pleasant and easy way to earn a living I soon discovered that Rory and Caroline have had to pay their dues in the barging industry before only more recently becoming proud owners. They bought Après Tout in 2011 after some 20 years working for various canal boat companies in France and other parts of Europe. Rory worked his way from steward to captain and then on to managing a canal boat business. Caroline’s experience embraces Cordon Bleu cooking to operational management.

Their experience aboard boats and their knowledge of the market shines through in the exceptional attention to detail. This is a vacation for wealthy people (up to six people per cruise) who seek a rare experience in a luxury setting. Talking to former guests, there’s no doubt that experience is exactly what Rory and Caroline deliver: the en-suite air-conditioned cabins are luxurious and surprisingly spacious; there’s gourmet cooking on board and fine Burgundy wines to accompany your meals.

In addition to Rory and Caroline, there’s an onboard tour guide and a chef/hostess to cater for every need. The deck is beautifully appointed with an al fresco dining area, comfortable recliners and hot tub for relaxation and there’s even TV and Wi-Fi for anyone who can’t resist those modern addictions. Onboard bikes allow the chance to go ashore and work off any extra pounds gained during the cruise!

Last but certainly not least are the off-barge excursions which add to so many guests special memories of their cruise. These include wine tasting, WW2 army jeep safaris, shopping and sight-seeing in Dijon and Beaune, truffle hunting and visits to renowned local artists.

For more information, visit www.bargeaprestout.com.

Guy travelled by train to Burgundy with thanks to http://uk.voyages-sncf.com/en/

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