The Search For the Perfect Honeymoon Location
by Margie Goldsmith
I am a writer who often writes experiential destinations – over the last twenty years, I have traveled to 130 countries and written about them all. The way it works for me is I decide on a country about which I want to write, pitch it, go to that place, return home and write the story. Easy. But when it came time to choose a place for our honeymoon, I was stumped – not only had my now-husband proposed in Bali, but our wedding story was featured in the New York Times "Vows. " How could we match either of those events?
I thought Paris might be the ideal place for a honeymoon in Paris – after all it IS the city of love and I could easily imagine us kissing on every bridge over the Seine; but I could also picture us walking the streets all day long from Les Tuilleries to the Isle de la Cite and back. Not only would we be exhausted, but I've lived in Paris and we both wanted a place new to us. I considered Russia – how romantic would it be to hold hands beneath the colorful onion domes of iconic St. Basil's Cathedral in St. Petersburg? But neither of us spoke Russian, so we'd need a guide/translator to get around, and that wouldn't be very romantic. I considered Scotland, whose countryside is magnificent and is full of local color, but I worried about the weather. What if it rained all week? Or was cold and foggy?
Perhaps a beach destination such as Hawaii or the Caribbean – after all, the purpose of a honeymoon is to relax. But lying on a beach sounded too boring for our tastes. So what was left? Visions of cheese with a fine French wine floated around in my head and it hit me: a small cruise. I'd heard about a six-day French Country Waterways Canal de Bourgogne luxury barge cruises on a 128-foot-long barge cruise with only six cabins and a large crew to wait on passengers hand and foot – perfect.
It was even better than perfect. We spent our days walking or biking the towpath, exploring cultural sights, and later, joining the other passengers in the salon for cocktails followed by dinner in dining room with large windows which allowed us to see the sunset paint a pink streak across the sky. Each day we cruised at turtle-speed past bright yellow canola flowers and velvety green fields of barley, past blooming wisteria and wildflowers. Herds of Charolais cattle (which come from the southern Burgundy town of the same name) stared as we floated by. Often, when we pulled up to a lock, we'd disembark and the sailor would hand us down comfortable bicycles. We'd leave the towpath and cycle past centuries-old churches and deserted castle remains before returning for a delicious 3-course lunch on the sundeck. It could be coq au vin (made with Burgundy red wine, cognac and morels), broccoli and Roquefort quiche, or a Burgundy stew and three different salads such as cauliflower with mango and apples, and always, three different French cheeses.
Lunch and dinner were served with white and red wines such as a 2007 Chateauneuf du Pape or a 2011 Chassagne Montrachet premier cru. One day, we visited a vineyard and tasted Chablis from the wine tank, then from an oak barrel, and finally, from a wine glass.
We visited a twelfth-century UNESCO World Heritage Abbey, one of the oldest Cistercian monasteries in France, and an eighteenth-century Forge where the owner invited us in for a glass of wine. We floated above the countryside on an early morning hot air balloon ride. And we took naps each afternoon, something neither of us ever did back home. In six days, we covered a little less than 30 miles, a distance we could easily have biked in a couple of hours. But who needed to? After all, that's what honeymoons are for – life in the slow lane.