Reflections from the Barge L'Impressionniste - By College Professor Jack Ruebensaal

I gave this trip to myself and my family as a retirement trip. Beautiful scenery, wine, cheese & gourmet food – what could be more appropriate to celebrate 40 years as a College Professor.  After giving all those years to my students, it was time to take a grand vacation for myself,  so I treated my son and my two cousins to this trip of a lifetime. And it met up with all my expectations.

Picturesque Conditions

The air is intoxicatingly fresh and breezy.  The views from on deck can only be described as autumn in all of its splendor. From the small village cottage, adjacent to the lock, to the lock keeper who dutifully cranks open the flood gates allowing our barge to rise or fall depending on the direction one is traveling; a barge cruise gives a true glimpse into French countryside life.

Seeing horses and cattle within walking distance of a French castle and visiting small villages dotting the landscape under the pale light of early autumn.  This is the stuff that inspired the impressionists: a riotous pallet of colors bursting across the landscape.

A Burgundy barge trip is a boon to the soul and an elixir for the mind.  One can not help but give into the charms of the countryside; walking the tow paths alongside the barge or riding a bicycle to pick apples along the adjacent water way – – buying a pumpkin from a local farmer, or waving to the amiable passersby.  Your spirit will soar as your troubles are swept away by the experience of slowly drifting down a Burgundian waterway in central France.

Past & Present

It is here where one can relive the France of times past, viewing hundreds of years of French history through a contemporary pair of eyes.  Stone cottages and village churches with their accompanying cemeteries; the odd small produce shop, or the bakeries that line the by ways that serve as major thoroughfares through the French countryside.

As I write in this journal, all my past experiences with France and French culture come flooding back to me; French language lessons at University, the reading of Hemingway, pen pals, past trips to Paris….yet nothing has prepared me for the real magic of France witnessed from a hotel barge.

Speed and time have no relevance here, it is only the moment that matters.  Closing one’s eyes and attempting to visualize the scene that must be playing out around you. The tolling of a church bell, the quacking of the ducks, the rush of wind through the trees, and the soft swirl of fallen leaves, a truly serene moment.

Time to Think

Sound in the countryside seems to take on a greater importance and my mood is one of quiet reflection. It is a lifestyle and attitude very different from the one that I left behind. The glee of school children playing during recess at a local elementary school brings back memories of my own childhood with the exuberant yells, and excitement that a single day could bring. Across from where I write is a beautiful village with a church in the central square; houses back up against the river, and the chattering of French fills the air as people engage in conversation with our crew.

Reflections on the pace of life here do not bring an immediate smile to my face, but rather a yearning for a simpler life; a moment in time to answer the question… Why did I choose to make this trip in the first place?

In the end, I can not help but realign myself with nature and these pastoral surroundings.  Swans swimming past;  the late afternoon sun setting on the placid water. The four o’clock hour being sounded by the bells in that village church – all signal the life and march of time on the inland waterways of France.

If you’ve enjoyed Jack’s meditative musings and you’d like to know more about the hotel barging life you can take a look at L’Impressioniste’s itinerary here.

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