THE idea of barge cruising is to take it slow and easy and that's exactly the experience aboard Panache with European Waterways in France.

The journey is intimate - with only 12 passengers on board - and so far, we have cruised from Paris to Picardy along the Canal du Nord and joined the river Oise.

However, the trip has already eaten up a few days as we laze on deck and let the gorgeous scenery float past.

And talking about eating - the food, oh, the food! Already the waistline is out of control!

We've eaten our way through duck, lamb and pork dishes, had dainty terrines and delicious salads with beetroot mousse and other beautiful nibbly things, all exquisitely prepared by Chef Ollie and matched with local wines.

Our first excursion from the barge into the French countryside was a visit to the Domaine de Chantilly from our mooring at Pont-Sainte-Maxence. 

European Waterways has its own mini vans to drive passengers to locations once the barge is moored. So all we do is disembark the barge and climb into a brand new air-conditioned mini van - good, no?

The elegant chateau is a stunning example of 16th century architecture and is filled with art treasurers in gardens laid out by Andre Le Notre (of Versailles fame), while great horse stables are all part of the estate. 

It's quite jaw dropping, but like many Australians who are not used to grand chateaux and vast art collections, we were a little overwhelmed by it all. See the videos.

But we have another four days of cruising to go and many more adventures ahead so hopefully we will become a little more cultured.


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