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passenger boats, provide a slow way to experience the French countryside on a vast network of waterways that date back as far as the 16th century. In fact, barging is so gloriously leisurely that you can stroll along the banks of the canal, keeping pace with the boat. When barging, authenticity reigns – you can discover off-the-path villages and find yourself immersed in local life. It’s your very own private house party, crewed by an attentive, English-speaking staff. Since she launched Barge Lady

Cruises (www.bargeladycruises. com) in 1985, Ellen Sack – aka the Barge Lady – has established herself as a leading expert who takes pride in matching clients to the perfect vacation, whether you’re looking for cosy or lavish accommodation. For example, from July 20 until

September 2014, you can take a seven-day cruise in the Champagne region to commemorate the centenary of World War 1 on the barge C’est La Vie (8 guests, ‘Ultra Deluxe’). The region’s historic sites aren’t the only draw on this cruise – guests will have ample opportunities for Champagne tastings. Those who have travelled on the C’est La Vie have nothing but praise for the experience. “We are fortunate in that we take many vacations, and we stay in luxurious places like the Savoy, Four Seasons hotels, and The Ritz,” says guest Brian Fitzsimons. “C’est La Vie met and exceeded the standards at these locations. The cuisine was superb, and the crew are true professionals who take pleasure in seeing to it that their guests have an outstanding trip… a truly wonderful trip that we plan to repeat.” Guests also sing the praises of

the ‘Chocolate and Wine Cruise’ onboard the barge Elisabeth (6 guests, ‘First Class’) in Burgundy.

Chocolate and wine tastings are paired with visits to châteaux and villages such as Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, where the film Chocolat was shot. “The entire experience on the

Elisabeth was ‘over-the-top’ wonderful,” explain Jim and Jerri Masson, who cruised in August 2013. “The crew were friendly, accommodating, knowledgeable and skilful. I think we have friends for life!” Another popular trip is the

‘Burgundy Dine Around Cruise’ on the Savoir-Faire (8 guests, ‘Charming’ class), which emphasises authentic regional cuisine. Guests eat each dinner ashore at charming local bistros, where they have a personal introduction to the proprietor and a review of the menu by the captain. “Our adventure in May 2013 was the most delightful trip of my life,” recalls client Mary Ellen Hoffman, “with friends, food and fine wines making memories that will last my lifetime!”

A TOUR DE FRANCE Cycling & walking holidays

From the high mountain passes of the Alps to the fertile valley carved by the Loire, the geographically diverse terrain of France is a paradise for cycling and hiking enthusiasts. After all, this is the country that founded the most famous cycling race in history! Tour operators such as the award-winning DuVine Cycling and Adventure Company ( combine superb itineraries with epicurean delights and luxury hotel stays. It’s all about embracing French joie de vivre, while being intimately connected to the landscape. The company’s guides are passionate, fun and enthusiastic about sharing their local knowledge. DuVine offers adventures in a bevy of French regions, including the Dordogne, Alsace, the Pyrénées, Champagne, Bordeaux, Brittany,

even Corsica. For those who are looking for a shorter getaway, DuVine also has four-day versions of its popular itineraries in regions like Normandy, Burgundy and Provence. DuVine’s newest French offering is

the ‘Paris, Versailles and Normandy Bike Tour’, the only tour of its kind to feature a stay in Paris (6 days / 5 nights, from $5,495 per person). Serious cyclists can even partake

in a Tour de France itinerary, created in partnership with Cannondale. DuVine’s Founder Andy Levine has been riding the routes and experiencing the action of Le Tour since 1993 and his company’s itineraries offer unparalleled insider access to pro-cycling during this world-famous sporting event. “The French countryside is so exquisite, with its manicured landscapes and charming villages, that it can feel like you are riding through a movie set,” Andy says. “Only it’s better than a movie set

Experience the French the landscape on a DuVine Cycling and Adventure Company tour

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