Delicately balanced wine, farmhouse aged cheese, lavender, poplar trees, and world-renown light that every artist from Van Gogh to Picasso has immortalized in their paintings -yes, it's just another day in southern France. Southern France is dotted with walled cities, lush vineyards and the sun baked ruins of Roman architecture. However, towering above these many historic splendors and cultural touchstones is food. Provence is the gastronomic core of France, so perusing open air markets for black truffles or whiling away the day eating at a Michelin Star restaurant is common, and not just something that hardcore foodies do. Needless to say, while most tourists choose to visit Provence's small towns and villages by train or car, why not opt for a unique and more glamorous mode of transportation on a fully crewed barge?
Traveling in Style
Let's face it. Those behemoth cruise ships that float from port to port on the Med Sea are a bit daunting and impersonal. Super yachts, on the other hand, like the ones that are strung like diamonds and pearls along the French Riviera, are out of most people's price range. However, if you take the best of a barge and cross it with a luxury yacht, you'll end up with the Roil Soleil. This elegant, six passenger luxury barge (the name translates to Sun King) cruises the Canal du Midi and the Rhone River in Provence. Barge cruising is a great way to see southern France in style.
A Movable Feast
Louis XIV was nicknamed the "Sun King," and whether you embark on the romantic, 17th century Canal du Midi cruise or the Provence and Camargue tour, you will be treated to all the amenities and luxurious comforts that would have made the French king smile. There's the history, architecture and unspoiled nature that's slowly gliding by on the sun-dappled riverbanks, and then there's the mouthwatering food, wine and French hospitality that exists onboard the Roil Soleil barge.
So Many Fabulous Features
The Roil Soleil is manned by a bi-lingual, four person crew. By having a captain, chef, guide and hostess on board, you're guaranteed a personable setting and intimate experience. The barge is distinctly designed for 5 star comfort and luxury. It has stunning panoramic views, three staterooms, skylights, a teak sun deck with inbuilt seating and deck chairs, full air conditioning, spa pool, bar and dining area. Most importantly, the kitchen galley has been specifically designed for open air cooking demonstrations. If you're cruising in the gastronomic heart of France, then you better learn some tricks of the trade. However, those features are only the beginning of what's offered on the Sun King. Amenities include wireless internet, iPod docks, a DVD library, Bose sound system, a fireplace, bicycles and a VW Eurovan for excursions. In other words, everything you could ever need is at your fingertips. The art of living has never been easier.
Personal Touches Go a Long Way
By having the barge limited to six passengers at a time, the crew is able to cater the travel itinerary to the interests of the group. For wines lovers the Roil Soleil organizes private wine tastings to having rare vintages delivered on board, if you have an interest in wine, the crew on the Sun King can turn that interest into a knowledgeable passion. Want to taste the difference between a Bordeaux and a Languedoc Crus? Now is your chance.
For families the Sun King has no shortage of activities to entertain the children. Kids love staying busy, and the Roil Soleil offers everything from horseback riding to cycling and 4-wheeling. With DVDs, games and an onboard spa, children should have no problem soaking up the pleasures of barging. If those elaborate French meals are a bit too much for them, the chef will have no problem whipping up something a little more kid friendly. Cruising southern France on the Sun King is art de vivre at its finest.
This blog was brought to you by The Barge Connection, specializing in luxury barge vacations since 1998.