Despite being self-confessed hotel devotees we were more than a little pleased when we were invited to try out a license-free boating holiday in Burgundy (courtesy of FPP Travel). Shamefully our only knowledge of Burgundy was that it produces some of the world’s greatest wines and was probably very beautiful. Needless to say we jumped at the opportunity and spent the next few weeks planning, gathering some crewmates and imagining ourselves pootling down the Saone river surrounded by the glorious French countryside.
After arriving at Lyon airport and driving through Burgundy we weren’t surprised to find it was indeed very beautiful – quite breathtakingly so in fact. Green hedgerows lined countryside and brilliant yellow fields were dotted with postcard-pretty medieval towns and Romanesque abbeys. Even many of the roads were lined with elegant towering trees quite unlike anything any of us had ever seen before.
We arrived at our base in Pontailler-sur-Saone and the friendly staff gave us a brief run-down on boat management and our nominated captain also had a quick driving lesson. Our boat was handsome, spacious and full of mod cons. Another part of the attraction of this type of boating is that it’s license-free, meaning that in theory anyone over the age of 18 can drive the boat. After the lesson we realised that although you don’t necessarily need to have to any boating experience you’ll probably have to be fairly practical (and you’ll also have to be able to listen and take in instructions well). This aside, it looked as though we were about to have a lot of fun.
Deep in the heart of the Burgundy it’s very quiet. So quiet in fact the only other sounds we heard were a chorus of melodic crickets and lambs bleating in neighbouring fields. We spent the evening moored in the marina drinking wine on our deck with only a slight nervous apprehension about whether we could navigate ourselves out of the small marina the next morning.
The River Saone is wide, pretty and again very quiet. The next few days were spent eating, drinking, laughing, bonding, heron-spotting and patting ourselves on the back about how well we were coping without a television and internet connection. Oh yes and of course trying to work our way through the locks. Inland boating is mostly great stretches of tranquility, punctuated by moments of tense trepidation. The ‘Lock Challenge’ as we all affectionately called it was of course only completely mastered just as we were on our return journey back to base.
Being laid back types we only managed to make one major stop off (out a potential of at least three) on our long weekend. This was fine with us and when we did stop it was at an attractive town so remote it seemed like the rest of Burgundy hadn’t noticed it.
After we hopped ashore for the last time we all knew we had acquired a new fondness for boating. So much so we’re already planning our next trip. If you’re looking for a holiday where you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery of rural France, where the real world isn’t even a distant rumble, well then we couldn’t recommend a trip like this enough.
House Boat hire at FPP Travel starts from €298 for a weekend and €497 for a week although all budgets are catered for. Diesel fuel and optional insurance are not included in the hire price. France is a popular destination but other boating destinations include Italy, Spain, Germany, Belgium, Poland and Czech Republic. Holiday extras such as a baby set, BBQ, fishing rod, bicycles, garage and car transfer can also be included if required.