[Originally published Sunday, August 12, 2012] Today, we’re boarding Panache, a 12-passenger luxury hotel barge that will take us along the Canal de la Marne au Rhin in France’s Alsace-Lorraine region. We’ll be barging through the forested Vosges Mountains, past colorful half-timbered houses, and the region’s rolling vineyards.
A Tale of Two Countries
Separated from Germany by the Rhine, the Alsace-Lorraine region of France features a blend of cultures, rich cities such as Strasbourg, which I cycled yesterday, and charming historic villages that embody a blend of both French and German traditions.
German influences abound in the architecture of the Alsatian villages and citadels along the border, in the local culinary specialties and excellent wines that we will surely taste and in the language and dialects spoken throughout the region. Meanwhile, the Lorraine’s historical capital of Nancy exudes 18th century architectural elegance and culinary delights like the famous quiche Lorraine.
Our Adventure: The Details
Our 6-night adventure will begin in Strasbourg. Historically German speaking, it has served as a crossroads between France and Germany for centuries, with strong essences of both cultures seen throughout its streets. We visited the Gothic pink sandstone Strasbourg Cathedral on the historic center island of Grand Île and the riverfront pedestrian area of La Petite France, with its timbered houses, shops, and cafes.
Later this week, we will visit Nancy, the intellectual capital of Lorraine and home of the Art Nouveau Movement. Nancy’s royal square, Place Stanislas, features gilded wrought-iron railings and lanterns that surround the classic 18th century French architectural monuments positioned within the square.
We’ll stop at a number of small villages to take in the classic French countryside, while experiencing the special local culture and history of each town. Saverne, the exiled seat of the Catholic Prince Bishops of Strasbourg, is home to the medieval hilltop castle of Chateau du Haut Barr. From here, we will get a good view of the Valley of Zorn and enjoy a gourmet lunch of regional specialities.
Panache will also take us to the hilltop village of La Petite Pierre, where the 12th century castle was “modernized” in the 1600’s by the famed military engineer, Marechal Vauban.
At the port of Hochfelden, we will indulge in excellent local beer at the Meteor Brewery, family owned since 1640 and the last of its kind in Alsace. Among the savory regional specialties served will be roasted duck à l’Alsacienne and sea bass with cucumber and smoked eel, and the entire experience will be complemented by an excellent selection of fine wines.
Other special moments include private tastings of the famous white wines of Grand Crus, an ascent up the spectacular, brilliantly engineered Arzviller boat elevator, and a candlelit brunch on deck as Panache passes through two mountain tunnels.
The cruise will also feature tours of one-of-a kind museums, including the Rene Lalique Collection, featuring 500 examples of Art Deco and Art Nouveau glassware, chandeliers, and designs of the Belle Epoque Era.
Panache, which will be our home for six days, features brass and mahogany finishes, and is equipped with a spacious sun-deck with heated spa pool, a professional, English-speaking crew of six, air-conditioned cabins, and bikes for exploring all that the region has to offer.
For information on Cruise Specialists exclusive France barge cruise visit our Panache page.