We’ve had a very barge-y day. This morning after our buffet breakfast we congregate in the vibrant seating area, lower the screen and have a presentation. Audrey tells us about our barge Jeanine (formerly the Lorraine), explains the history, how it was built for passengers unlike most of the cargo carrying barges which are a different shape. Our hull is 5cm thick which, as Audrey ponders, could probably withstand Panzer tank attack (or those U-boats we heard about yesterday in Chalon) though there's nothing to indicate we may need our extra fortification. When the Lorraine was up for sale Croisi Europe were persuaded to buy it by some of our crew. Initially they were planning to just hire the crew for their other vessels but fell for the charms of the barge as we did. During the enormous total refurbishment project Audrey did her stuff on other boats in their fleet whilst as we can see from the photographs, Julien our capitaine and his second Camille rolled their sleeves up (more likely whipped their tops off, as we've discovered is their wont when they’re out of our sight!) and assisted with the paint job. They had input in the design also, designing a bespoke wheelhouse that can lower for the low bridges makes our barge rather the Rolls Royce of barges and the envy of the waterways.
We learnt the new new name is in honour of the company’s owner’s wife who broke a bottle of Crémant de Bourgogne (the local equivalent to Champagne) of the bow, part of this bottle hangs in the wheelhouse as a good luck charm. Jeanine was also instrumental in designing the new, vibrant, modern interior, special kudus for the twigs set in resin coffee table we all covert!
As well as everything you've ever needed to know about our barge we learnt of intriguing methods of getting from higher to lower ground rather than locks. There are curious barge lifts and alarming looking swing bridges. Later today we will be visiting the bargees’ museum as will see a lot more about the history of barge transport.
First we have another delicious lunch. The food onboard has been pleasingly to a higher standard than I'd hoped and we are being finely dined. Georges, our taciturn chef is producing delicious and elegant food but most of our praise sends him scuttling back into the galley, I think he's very shy. For lunch we normally have a roast with various vegetables and salads. And we enjoy Audrey’s “cheese corner” each day, she is taking us on a cheesy gastronomic tour of France. Eschewing both goats’ cheese and blue cheese as I do I thought I'd miss out but we've tucked into stunning Morbier and a double cream that sadly I cannot discover the name of, Compte and Brie de Meaux, with these cheeses they are definitely spoiling us!
After lunch grabbing hats and sunscreen again we meet our guide for a tour around Saint-Jean-de-Losne. Coincidentally our guide is seemingly named after the church - The church being John the Baptist and him being Jean Baptiste. He surprises us by constantly scanning a piece of paper during his talk and pausing to check where he has gotten to. We’ve had such excellent guides, clearly knowledgeable and passionate about their subject it’s curious to have one so lacking. After mumbling through his written notes he excelled himself by suggesting we sat in the cool pews of his namesake church whilst he walks to the front, to the aspe perhaps? He then proceeds to deliver his entire diatribe at the front with his back to us. Slowly we all turn to each other and shrug, no one has a clue what he's talking about. He was waving his arms enthusiastically towards various features, windows, paintings but I've no idea what was said. Not sure if he honoured his namesake church at all.
After a visit to some elegant rooms where all the local couple notarise their marriages we sample some cubes of pain d’epices and other local specialities. We then cross the road to the barge museum, now we are all confirmed bargees we are intrigued by the history and lore of the other bargees before us.
After our dinner the ducks circling our barge encouraged us to see if there was any French bread remaining and it transpires there is plenty. The ducks are very happy. As the sun is setting word has got around the wild fowl community and a trio of swans glide into view for their share making an attractive tableau.
Scenes like this, the quiet (save for the occasional quack), the gentle lapping of the water against the sides of the barge, the inky black skies with the lights twinkling from the town imbibes such a deep tranquility that I just want to stay here forever and can’t imagine going back to all the madness at home. But isn't that what holidays should do for you?