Sitting out on the sundeck is the way to watch the action.
Sitting out on the sundeck is the way to watch the action. Marie-George Stavelot

10 reasons why seniors would love barging

ANN Rickard hopped on board the luxury hotel barge Panache in France and glided slowly from Pont-L'Eveque to Paris. She offers her 10 top reasons to go barging, beginning with the obvious: it's perfect for seniors in no hurry.

1. Because it is slow. Just the dawdling pace of a luxury barge makes you wind down. It travels only a few kilometres a day and floats so slowly you can disembark after breakfast, walk or cycle along the towpath and embark for lunch (or morning tea if you like a short walk.)

Panache, elegant and slow-moving
Panache, elegant and slow-moving Picasa

2. You are spoilt: Panache has a crew of six: captain, pilot, chef, stewards and deckhand. As it takes only 12 guests that means plenty of attention and lots of indulgence. You lift not a finger.

Dining is always a refined, yet casual experience.
Dining is always a refined, yet casual experience.

3. Food: With an onboard chef sourcing the best local produce, every meal is a gourmet adventure. Our chef Oli presented us with salads that ranged from beetroot and goat cheese to duck with artichoke and capers. Main courses of stuffed pork fillet, rack of lamb, seared pigeon, scallops with crayfish and beef bourgignon, delighted all of us. Desserts defied any attempt at restraint, from triple chocolate terrine to apple tart tatin. Cheeses we'd not encountered before (Morbier, Saint Nectaire, Munster) came with each meal and a charming story of their origins.

Chef Oli in the kitchen on board Panache
Chef Oli in the kitchen on board Panache Picasa

4. Wine: Local wines are chosen with meticulous care and offered with engaging information. It's wine-education at each meal. Just saying a few of the wine names we enjoyed on Panache stirs the palate: Pouilly Fuisse; Sancerre; Chassagne Montrachet...more please.

5. Accommodation: Panache has spacious cabins with gleaming bathrooms stocked with L'Oicctane products. Cabins are serviced daily, showers and loos work very well. Evening turn-down and a little chocolate on the pillow...who doesn't love that?

6. Le Bar. European Waterways who operate a fleet of barges in France, Scotland, the UK, and Holland, has an open-bar policy. Help yourself any time from well-stocked shelves or ask one of the stewards to make you a cocktail. French Martinis before lunch, Sidecars before dinner, Brandy after dinner (usually refused but nice to know it was there.) No nasty bar-bill surprises at the end of the cruise.

You will meet cheeses you never dreamt of on board Panache
You will meet cheeses you never dreamt of on board Panache Picasa

7. Excursions: European Waterways puts as much thought into its shore excursions as it does to ensure your comfort and gastronomy fulfilment. A mini-van waits at each anchorage and you are comfortably driven into the countryside to experience famous landmarks, renowned cultural and historic sites...each time to return to the comforting arms of the crew waiting with a new-to-you cocktail.

Shore excursions include visits to cultural and historic sites.
Shore excursions include visits to cultural and historic sites. Picasa

8. Friends: Most European Waterways barges take eight guests, some 12, so the atmosphere is more like a house party on a private vessel. Guests' ages usually range in figures mature folks like (about 45 upwards). Full charters mean you can get the gang or the family together and have the barge to yourselves.

Panache's salon is elegant and relaxed at the same time
Panache's salon is elegant and relaxed at the same time

9. Style and elegance: Panache is all teak and leather and fresh flower displays. Beautiful china and glassware adorn the table at every meal. Service is intimate, friendly with a "nothing is too hard” approach. The crew speak English.

10. Adventure and scenery: Going through the many locks along the waterways provides lively entertainment. Watching deckhand Judy jump on and off the barge with the deftness of a mountain goat to do nautical things with ropes and bollards was part of the experience. Then there are all those bridges to go under and the slow-passing French countryside stretching to the horizon.

Barging provides more than ten reasons to go...it's all about leisure, indulgence and discovery.

The writer was a guest on board Panache.


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