Bonjour, Bistro Barge!
Porthole Cruise Magazine|February 2019

With such luxurious culinary offerings on Luciole, who wouldn’t want to gorge on the barge?

Lily Heise

Driving through the rolling fields of the French countryside, I was already getting hungry. We were headed south of Paris in the direction of Auxerre, where, beneath the city’s ancient gothic cathedral, hovered Luciole — the barge patiently awaiting our small group’s arrival for what was slated to be an exceptionally delectable cruise through one of France’s most famous gastronomic regions: Burgundy.

Located in the center-east of the country, Burgundy is most commonly associated with the prestigious wines of Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, and Chablis. However, it’s also considered the cradle of French cuisine, where many of France’s time honored classics, like beef bourguignon, coq au vin, and escargots à la bourguignonne, were born. The grumblings of my stomach amplified as we exited the autoroute A6 and descended the Yonne River, inching closer to our floating culinary paradise.

Built in 1926 as a mule-drawn freight barge, Luciole was converted into a hotel barge in 1966, making it one of the oldest hotel barges in France. It was bought in 1976 by writer and European waterways expert John Liley, who selected Burgundy’s picturesque Nivernais canal as the base for his beautiful vessel. Today, Luciole is managed by his wife, Penny, formerly the barge’s chef.

Due to their small size, barge cruises inevitably offer guests a more custom dining experience. However, having trained at the Le Cordon Bleu and cooked for the likes of Grand Prix Formula 1 racing drivers and schoolmasters of England’s esteemed Eton College, Penny has placed gastronomy at the forefront of Luciole, leading it to become one of France’s top gastronomic cruises. So while Luciole doesn’t offer a specific “theme cruise,” its gourmet culinary offerings are so highly food-focused that no other cuisine-theme cruise could match them — and that no serious foodie should dare miss.

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