|Today we leave Dijon for our trip either up or down the Canal Bourgogne aboard the barge Magnolia. First we have decided to tour the country side and visit Gaugery Fromagerie - a local cheese factory. After a quick breakfast at Starbucks, we head off to the train station and the car rental agencies to inquire about renting a vehicle for four hours. Hertz agent speaks no English, Sixt wants 300 euro, Europcar quotes 180 euro, Avis 108 euro and finally Enterprise has a small car for 63 euro! The fun begins as the small Opel is a two door, manual! So putting Judi B and Cindy in the backseat, Kay navigating and Judi C trying to remember how to shift we inch our way out of the parking lot! Our destination is the Fromagerie. We stopped once to get directions at the Holiday Inn Express - the young gentleman wrote down the directions and we arrived three minutes after the last scheduled tour!! However, there were videos with English we could watch explaining the process and windows we could watch the workers! So with purchases of cheese, cassis, etc. we decided to explore the beautiful country side of vineyards, canola, cows, horses, etc. We had lunch at La Bar a Vins in Gevrey Chambertin, a quaint little village near the Fromagerie.
By now it is 2:00 pm and our barge pickup time is 3:00pm. We head back to the Enterprise rental return at Dijon train station, turn in the car and hoof it to the hotel, arriving at 2:45! Nicolas picks us and luggage up for the 45 minute ride to Escommes where we are to board the Magnolia for our 6 day barge cruise through 54 locks! The barge is a beautiful blue and quite long. Once on board we meet the crew over a glass of Champagne - Nicolas (owner and captain); Magali (co-owner, wife of Nicolas and tour guide); Pascal (deck hand and assistant); Aude (Magali's sister, cabin assistant, food server, etc.); Isabelle (chef); and Gypsy (the barge's watch dog, protector and lock assistant)! That is a crew of six (counting Gypsy) to four guests! Plus Nicolas introduces us to Mila - Nicolas and Magali's 5 and one/half month old baby daughter!
After a tour of the living quarters - an aft deck with table, chairs, umbrella, two lounge chairs, outdoor barbecue and a forward deck with jacuzzi and six bicycles; below deck a full kitchen, lovely sitting/dining area and three en suite cabins!! - we settle in!
Shortly after boarding Nicolas explains that we are at the highest point in the canal - it is either downhill to Paris to the North or downhill to Dijon to the South! We start in Escommes and will end in Dijon! Starting at Lock #1 we start cruising for our first docking at Port de Vandenesse and navigating through 8 locks! After docking we are treated to our first gourmet meal with Magali describing our wines to accompany our meal and an explanation of the origins of the wines. Our appetizer is an array of tiny one bite pizzas with bacon, soft cheese on bread slice and salmon spread on bread slice; next salad, main dish of salmon with vegetables cooked in parchment, mashed carrots with cumin and mushrooms; next was a variety of cheeses served with red wine to clean our pallets for dessert - 3 desserts (a dense spice bread, chocolate mousse and strawberries with creme de anglais. Of course we then were offered a digestive - Judi Bailey and Cindy had Grand Marnier (Cindy's first!) and Judi Clark had a home brewed pear grappa - Kay abstained! Although we all thoroughly enjoyed the meal, we requested smaller portions for all future meals! Completely satiated we headed to bed for our first night on board the Magnolia! JC