One of the most delightful advantages of the kind of ‘slow travel’ experience you’ll find with European Waterways on our barge trips in France, Italy and other places around Europe and the UK, is the opportunity to immerse in the local culture; get ‘off-the-beaten-track’ on exclusive shore excursions to discover the country’s many hidden gems.
Here in Part 1 of our Best Insider Experiences series, we’ll give you a taste of some unforgettable private tours that guests on our barge trips in France and Italy will enjoy as they cruise along the waterways in a floating hotel…
Tour a Château with a Count
One of our most popular barge trips in France is the Classic Cruise on the vessel La Belle Epoque. While there are many, many highlights on this wonderful exploration of Northern Burgundy, one of the most memorable is a private tour of the Château de Commarin, led by the absolutely unforgettable Count Bertrand de Vogue.
The castle dates back to the thirteenth century and has been in the hands of the same family since then – so who better to lead a private tour of the superbly preserved property than a member of that family? Count Bertrand de Vogue lives on site and he is the epitome of the perfect host, offering a wonderful humour and genuinely warm welcome to visitors. As well as an extensive tour of the interiors of the property and the lovely grounds, you’ll get to see a thrilling display of falconry. The Count’s enthusiasm and passion for his home and the history and culture of the Burgundy region shine through and he always becomes a firm favourite with our guests.
Lunch with a Baroness
Another off-the-beaten-track experience on the Classic Cruise of Northern Burgundy aboard La Belle Epoque is the shore excursion to immerse in the thousand-year history of the magnificent Château de Ricey-Bas. This beautiful château is set in a stunning rural landscape amidst vineyards and gorgeous 25-hectare grounds, with a tree-lined driveway, kitchen garden, canals and a waterfall.
Upon arrival you’ll meet the lovely Baroness of the château and sit down to a delicious gourmet lunch with her. It’s a really wonderful way to understand just how life in a château would have been centuries ago and to meet someone who is an intrinsic part of the local heritage. You’ll tour the interiors of the château, including the painstakingly restored twelfth century vaulted cellar, the private salon and the authentic kitchen, complete with original fittings and fixtures. You’ll also have plenty of time to stroll around the grounds and gardens and reflect on the turbulent history of this now very tranquil place.
Dinner with a Countess
For those who join us on our La Bella Vita Classic Cruise in Italy, as you travel between Venice and Mantua along the waterways of the Bianco Canal and the famous Po River, we’ll take you on an exclusive private tour to the sublime seventeenth-century Villa Ca’Zen, to dine with a Countess. Its spectacular setting, within the Po Delta Nature Reserve, affords it a peaceful and bucolic ambience and for those with a romantic streak, this lovely villa has special significance as a favourite muse and creative inspiration of the poet Lord Byron.
This stately home has a wonderful heritage and you’ll have the unique chance to learn it from a true destination insider as you enjoy a delicious dinner hosted by the Countess.
Authentic, Immersive and Utterly Unforgettable
At European Waterways we’re proud of our carefully crafted off-the-beaten-track experiences. Our barge trips in France, Italy and many other destinations allow our small groups of guests to discover not just the wealth of history and culture of the regions we visit, but also to unlock their authentic heart and soul.