Flipping through a magazine, Marion Goodman found the holiday she’d always dreamed of – a biking and barging trip through Europe called A Taste of Burgundy.
She immediately called her travel agent, Barry Gorringe and set about planning the seven-night, eight-day journey. For the first leg of the trip, Marion and husband Harvey flew to England. There they caught up with Marion’s father’s family and it was great timing. It was her aunty’s 80th birthday party and her uncle’s 84th.
Barry helped them with cars, flights, their train bookings and told them which stations they needed to go to in Paris leading up to their dream trip.
They took the Eurostar to Paris and from their Dijon motel, in the capital of Burgundy, the Goodmans went for a wander to find out which canal to go to the next day. “We had a look around Dijon and it was just gorgeous,” Marion said. “When we first laid eyes on the barge, there was a fellow having dinner out front and he turned out to be Kris, our captain, from Amsterdam.”
The next day they returned and met their fellow travellers, 15 people in all, which included four staff, Kris, the captain, Annaleise, Sarskia, who owned the boat and their guide, Hugo.
Introductions revealed who everyone was and where they were from and after dinner, they went for a “digestive walk” around town. The first day was all about trying out their bikes for size, making sure they felt good about them and learning how the gears worked. They took a ride around Dijon, making sure they stayed on the right-hand side of the road, and being France, bikes get precedence on the roads – rather different to cycling in the land Down Under.
“Everybody rides bikes in Europe. I like healthy, active holidays, and like to keep moving,” Marion said.
“Our guide was such fun. He helped us with everything. At first I was a bit wobbly as I hadn’t been on a bike for a while, but it’s just like riding a bike really … Each day would begin with breakfast on the barge and they would pack their own lunches choosing from a range of bread, cheese, fruit and salad vegetables, which they stowed in panniers on the side of their bikes. There was always plenty to see on each day’s ride – the beautiful scenery, quaint little shops and cafes and vineyards loaded with grapevines in the region named after its best known product. From the start, Hugo elected Harvey as the “sweeper” – someone to ride at the back of the pack to ensure any stragglers didn’t get too far behind the others. “He did a great job, too. We made a really good team,” Marion said.
They slept on the barge, ate on the barge and if they felt they couldn’t ride the next day, there was no pressure.
“You could stay on the barge if you wanted to,” Marion said. “There was one chap who didn’t ride. His wife rode with us.” The first four days they rode about 45km each day and on the fifth, after a 20km cycle, travelled on the barge to Seurre for the rest of the day.
Their days were filled with fantastic scenery, castles on hillsides, people hand-picking grapes and meeting friendly locals who were only too happy to show them through their chateau, explaining the history of the area and their way of life. They even met a marquis, who took them through his chateau near where the barge was moored one night. “We had a look through the rambling old chateau and he told us about the expensive upkeep of a massive place like that,” Marion said. “There was an old shed on the property that had been used in the war by the French resistance. It was pretty much back to basics and you could see little murals drawn on the walls which would have been drawn by people hiding there during the war. We visited museums, galleries, libraries and a mustard factory where we had a taste and saw mustard seeds in a tin. It really was wonderful. We were walking and cycling through history. Counting us, there were 11 Australians on the trip – three couples from Perth, a couple from Parramatta, an Australian lady travelling alone, a man from Germany and another couple from Portland, Oregon.”
Over the week on the barge and on the bikes, they got accustomed to helmet hair, healthy three-course meals and having a different theme every day on board. Of an evening, they would walk through the villages and townships, have a coffee or find a little bar to have a drink.
“It was just lovely. We were a small group – not everyone would go,” Marion said. “Some chose to go to bed early. The mornings were misty and we only had a little bit of rain, not enough to put a dampener on the trip. “It was very fine and didn’t bother us. It seemed to rain at the right times and we had gear on so it didn’t make that much difference.” At one of the museums they visited, the travellers saw the first bicycle designed by Leonardo da Vinci and the first camera ever made.
On the final day, they cycled 58km, arriving in the village of Tournus, in the Champagne-Ardenne region of France. That night the holidaymakers made a presentation to all those who had looked after them along their journey. In that week, they had cycled just over 300km, which Marion said was not all that challenging for people with average fitness.
Departing the barge at Tournes, they caught the train back to Dijon to return to the UK on the Eurostar. There in the middle of Dijon was a fountain, with pink water, to mark Breast Cancer Awareness week. It seemed to symbolise the dream Marion had always had of a holiday with a dear friend who’d lost her battle with cancer.
“It was the perfect end to a holiday we’d always wanted to take and we felt so carefree in the middle of this beautiful place, having spent a week with such lovely people,” Marion said. “Our guides took our email addresses and sent photos to all of us. It wasn’t quite the fantasy I’d planned with my beautiful friend, Annie, but it was the next best thing.”