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Burgundy: Gourmet Barging

Burgundy: Gourmet Barging
A gourmet voyage of discovery on Burgundy’s Canal du Bourgogne aboard a barge that bears little resemblance to the day it plied the waterways laden with grain.
As we strolled beneath the trees it was less than a minute before Bobby located his prized quarry and began digging. Suitably rewarded with a biscuit he ran off, nose to ground, to see what else could be unearthed in the truffière, or truffle plantation, in Nuits Saint Georges.
“I always thought pigs were used to hunt truffles,” mused one of my travel companions as Bobby alighted on his next find - eventually racking up an impressive tally of 105g in 30 minutes. Nick, our guide, explained that whilst porkers have historically been used to hunt the elusive subterranean fungi, dogs are more manageable and easily trained. “You wouldn’t really want to drive round with a pig in your car would you?” he added. Point taken.
Similarly, I hadn’t realised truffles existed in the region best known for producing France’s most famous wines. It was all part of a week-long voyage of discovery on Burgundy’s Canal du Bourgogne aboard a 1950’s cargo barge that today, exterior aside, bears little resemblance to the day it plied the waterways laden with grain.
After 20 years working in the luxury hotel barge industry Captain Rory Macrae and his Cordon Bleu trained wife Caroline, our unfailingly charming and attentive hosts, jumped ship to run their own business “after all these years”. Hence the barge’s new name, Apres Tout - French for after all.  
A three-hour transfer from Paris brought us to the tranquil mooring point at Pont d’ouche. A Champagne reception on the gleaming teak deck and a personalised, illustrated menu set the culinary scene for the week ahead – cream of mushroom soup, fillet of cod with
Burgundy: Gourmet Barging
saffron sauce, fresh pasta and asparagus, cheese platter (Saint Agur, Tome de Savoie and Selles sur Cher), tarte tatin and vanilla ice cream.  
Akin to a floating house party, Apres Tout’s modern day freight comprises just six passengers in lovely double or twin cabins - think ultra-comfy beds, TV and DVD player, ample storage, cosy robes, a big shower and L’Occitane bathroom goodies - and a bottomless, figuratively speaking, wine cellar, bar and interesting under-the-stair storage area with every imaginable drink for guests to help themselves. One legendary passenger, who flagged up his favourite Champagne house in advance, quaffed fizz, and nothing else, morning, noon and night.  
Given the gastronomic and liquid larder on the doorstep, regional food and drink featured large, in every sense of the word. Each morning the nearest bakery supplied bread, croissants, pastries and pain au chocolat. At lunchtime we’d regroup for delicately flavoured salads, hot and cold dishes and the chosen white Burgundy of the day. Determined to dine on deck, even on chilly days, we set a new trend by donning the bathrobes and attracting bemused looks from lock keepers and the inevitable small crowds that gathered to watch Apres Tout’s stately progress through the week’s 65 locks, expertly negotiated by Rory with literally inches to spare.
Some afternoons we lounged in the decadent hot tub on deck, glass of Champagne in hand. On others, with Apres Tout averaging 5kmp, we strolled or took on-board bikes to travel the sections between each ecluse, or lock, deluding ourselves we were burning off ample calories in time for cocktails, aperitifs and the ensuing four-course dinner, always accompanied by two different wines and three cheeses. With the former eloquently introduced by Nick and the latter by Hannah, the fourth crew member variously responsible for cleaning, serving meals and creating imaginative origami napkins and the beautifully drawn menus, it would, naturally, have been rude to decline.
Days were interspersed with excursions to wine cellars for private tastings, trips to towns such as Beune, Burgundy’s wine capital, dinner in a Michelin-star restaurant, the truffle hunt and a memorable drive in World War Two jeeps through the vineyards and villages around the medieval chateau Clos de Vougeot. We thought we looked very gung ho in our Apres Tout baseball caps, but probably resembled a bad outtake from a film. Everywhere we went Nick informed and entertained us in equal measure with his encyclopaedic knowledge and bon mots.
The final night’s dinner included an optional course of escargots. Very fitting for a leisurely and unforgettable week exploring the waterways of Burgundy at a snail’s pace.
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Burgundy: Gourmet Barging
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A very good article and something everyone should experience


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5 August 2013
By: Jeannine Williamson
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