France, Germany and a Barge: The Cruise

Dec 26, 2018 Avatar Katie Cadar Katie Cadar

Last post we were just boarding the Lilas in France for our barge river cruise. There were four of us traveling together and four cabins, each beautifully designed. One of them even had a soaking tub. We had a crew of six: a female pilot, her assistant, a tour guide who was quite entertaining, plus two ladies who took care of us, served our cocktails and meals and straightened up our cabins. We had an incredible chef; he was so talented! How he created masterpieces of cuisine in a tiny kitchen was beyond me!

The barge had a living room, dining area, patio on deck, and a swimming pool with a deep end so we could actually swim! The barge moves about as fast as a person walks. We could get off at any of the locks and get back on at the next one. We took the bicycles, which are available to guests, and rode the distance of several locks, even having time enough to ride into a village and stop at a boulangerie. The barge had a television which would work on wi-fi. We never turned it on, but nice to know we could watch Netflix if we wanted to.
There was a Bluetooth speaker, so we connected a phone and listened to playlists during cocktails and dinner… very civilized. We did not sail at night, only during the day. One morning after breakfast we were picked up in a van and drove through the countryside to a local vineyard. Wine tasting, chatting with the vintner, then exploring the next Alsatian village was a great way to spend the day. We met up with the barge at the next mooring place. We had such a great time it was difficult to leave! We loved the crew and the barge experience. This would be a perfect experience for a family, or a group of friends. We dined together, rode bikes, “swam” in the pool, walked, went wine tasting, talked, and laughed… and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.
Next stop was Brenner’s Park hotel in Baden Baden, Germany, in the Black Forest. This is another iconic hotel and is beautiful in every detail. They also have a resident cat; the female partner of the Bristol cat lives here, sent away from Paris after they were no longer friends. She roams the halls and can be found sleeping the in the inbox of the reservations office or sitting outside your door as you exit your room!
There are three buildings: the main hotel, the Villa Stephanie, and the villa. And they’re all internally connected! The Villa Stephanie has a medical spa component, and guests often book for long stays and meet with the doctors. The villa section in between the spa and main hotel can be made to be secure and private. President Obama stayed here when he came to Baden Baden. Throughout the hotel are large photographs of a few famous actors, like Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Damon, and Pierce Brosnan. Contemporary style in a traditional hotel.
The grounds are park-like. Trees, lawn, a shallow river, flowers everywhere. So restful and beautiful. The famous thermal spas in Baden Baden are not to be missed. We chose the Caracalla Therme, which has many different pools, jacuzzis, and more. The spa has changing rooms and does allow guests to wear swimsuits, although not into the saunas. Those are clothing free. The Friedrichsbad spa, on the other hand, while more architecturally beautiful, is clothing free.
We enjoyed typical German Oktoberfest beer and wurst, went out for a schnitzel dinner, and tried the brand new restaurant at the hotel. I think I gained at least five pounds. We left reluctantly and drove to Stuttgart, about 1.5 hours away. The others flew out but I spent the day in the city of Stuttgart, which was much more interesting than I had imagined. This city was not damaged during the war, so the historic buildings are still elegantly standing, with parks museums and the new builds all making for a very attractive city.
After a short flight back to Paris, I elected to stay my last night in the town of Chantilly, about 30 minutes from Charles de Gaulle Airport. The hotel was Auberge de Jeu du Paume, a lovely Relais Chateau property, charming in every detail. We drove to the hotel passing a spectacular castle. I felt like a princess when I was shown to my suite, with traditional French decor, champagne, and chocolate cake awaiting. The hotel is perfect for a beginning or ending to a trip to France. It’s outside the city of Paris, so you avoid traffic, and it’s restful and gorgeous. The castle is worth a visit and the town of Chantilly is right there, next to the hotel. What a wonderful way to end a wonderful trip!