Best way to explore France is floating down rural rivers
PARIS: Belmond Afloat in France, the hospitality company’s fleet of intimate luxury river barges, will have two new additions to its fleet this year — all the more reason to book a leisurely spin around the country’s rural rivers and canals.
The Belmond Pivoine, launched in May, cruises the outskirts of Paris along the Marne, a tributary of the Seine once beloved by Impressionist painters. The boat stops at medieval towns and gardens, the site of a World War I battle, covered produce markets, and for tastings at the legendary champagne houses J. de Telmont and Moët et Chandon.
Starting in August, the Belmond Lilas will sail past the vineyards of the Alsace. Its route takes in the ruins of a castle, dinner at the acclaimed Villa René Lalique, a visit to a 17th century brewery, and a day touring Strasbourg.
Both barges have interiors inspired by the waters they call home — the Pivoine’s yellow-and-white palette mirrors the peonies of Champagne, while the Lilas pays tribute to Alsace’s lilacs — with four spacious spacious cabins and private marble bathrooms.
It produces some of the greatest vintages of all time, but it’s never taken very kindly to visitors – until now.
Each barge has a heated outdoor swimming pool surrounded by greenery, bicycles for on-the-ground excursions, l’Occitane toiletries, and a full staff. Also onboard is a private chef, who prepares candlelit dinners and al fresco breakfasts with regional ingredients from local markets.
Both the Pivoine and Lilas are available for private charter only, which will cost you about what an average U.S. citizen makes in one year. But when you think about lounging on the sun-dappled deck, watching the rolling vineyards and bucolic French countryside pass you by, the price tag makes a little more sense.