Saturday, January 28, 2012

Crusing through France

Paris, Mont St Michel, Honfleur, Normandy, D-Day Beaches, Brittany countryside and Le Boat.

 The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. ~St. Augustine

Tom and I had never been to France and while it was on my radar, I had not necessarily determined exactly what I wanted to see or visit there.  It was in the back of my mind to visit, but that was all.  Until one day when our friend Jan brought out a flyer for Le Boat. 

 "Look at this!" she said excitedly, as she spread the pamphlet out on the counter.  "We can rent our own little houseboat and navigate ourselves through the countryside of France, all at our own pace."  Tom and I looked over her shoulder with interest - the idea of our own little houseboat in the French countryside was appealing and sounded very much like our kind of adventure!

 As we looked at the brochure and began our planning, I became more and more excited but also, confused.  We discovered that we could rent the houseboat (and there were SO many styles and sizes to choose from) and then select an itinerary for a self-cruise through France.  The prices would vary depending on the size and style of the boat as well as the selected itinerary and time of year for travel.  Being the off-shoulder travelers that we are, we quickly determined that we would pick the first two weeks of September for our excursion, which was right at the end of the boating season.  It would still be warm, but the summer crowds would be gone and the waterways would be less crowded.

But now for the boat and itinerary!  We had to select our boat with care - this would be our home for a full week and it could get a bit cramped for four adults and luggage.  It was going to be alot like camping - sort of an RV on the river.  And like any RV, there were multiple models to choose from, each with varying degrees of luxury.  We reviewed the brochure details over and over, studying the tiny floor plan maps as best we could, trying to determine which boat was the right size but within the budget we had determined to spend.  Tom, Jan, Jim and I spent evenings with the LeBoat brochures and maps of France spread out on our kitchen table, sipping French wine, eating brie cheese and excitedly poring over the details until we settled on just the right boat and itinerary for our adventure.
We would cruise through the canals and rivers of Brittany on a boat that listed three bedroom cabins each with a bath and shower, kitchen and dining/living space and an upper deck with picnic table, chairs and umbrella for outdoor living.  Bikes could be rented for an additional fee and we quickly added them to our order.  They would be tied onto the back of the boat and we could use them for our transportation when we stopped at the villages along the canals.  This was getting so exciting!  It was going to be a very relaxing and fun filled week with no television, no distractions and no traffic. 

We began our planning a year before we actually took off and during the next several months we held the image of Le Boat and the French waterways in our minds as we went about our daily lives and responsibilities.  That image kept us going and our families joined in the fun of helping us make the dream a reality.  We planned French dinner nights to meet and discuss our plans and sipped French wines to prepare out palettes for the flavors of the country.  I pored over French tour books, identifying the best stops along the way and the sights that we would see.  And Jan brushed up on her college French, determined that she would be able to speak with the locals wherever we went.

Finally, September 1 arrived and we boarded the American flight that would take us to France.  Bon Voyage!!!

Travel Tip:  Travel books such as Fodors, Frommers and Rick Steve's are often helpful for planning vacations, but can be expensive when purchased new.  Shop on Amazon.Com and select a slightly used, year old version of the travel book you want.  You'll save money and seldom does much of the information change from last year to this.

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