Alan Ayckbourn's Heaven On Earth (2010)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for the Daily Telegraph's Heaven On Earth feature and was published on 26 April 2010.
I love nothing better than hiring a barge and going cruising with family and friends on the Burgundy Canal in France. We usually hire a fabulous, historic three-cabin canal boat called Le Papillon, which sleeps six and has a crew of four, including a cook, someone to steer and someone to clean the cabins and generally keep things shipshape.
It's like being in your own exclusive five-star hotel on water. The food is locally sourced wherever possible and we naturally wash it down with some fine French wine. And the great thing is that you wake up every morning to a different view. Of course, you can take the wheel if you want - but I'm happy to leave the jumping out and tying up the boat, and that kind of thing, to the crew.
We usually go for a couple of weeks in the summer and just sit back and enjoy ourselves, the intention obviously being to spend as much time on deck as possible, chatting, sunbathing and reading, as we travel through the glorious French countryside. Le Papillon also has bicycles on board so you can get off and do a bit of cycling if you want to, or simply walk along beside the barge for a while between the locks.
The barge travels along the Burgundy Canal at no more than a few miles an hour - just fast enough not to be bored - so we don't cover that great a distance a day, but that's no problem. The whole idea about being on a barge is to enjoy the journey.
Last year, we boarded Le Papillon at Dijon, visited some vineyards and places of historic interest en route, and just had the most marvellous time. All in all, I couldn't think of a more perfect holiday - it's guaranteed to recharge the batteries.
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.