Our adventure began with the TV cooking show, Rick Stein’s French Odyssey. There was Rick cruising on a barge on the Canal du Midi extolling the virtues of French wine and regional cooking. The scenery was stunning – a barge silently gliding along a beautifully calm canal, grassy banks lined with plane trees, and the water is dappled by the sun’s rays streaming through the leaves - an inspiration for artists, poets and foodies alike. How romantic and idyllic was that, and really, there was absolutely nothing to stop us from following in his footsteps, we said to each other. Our internet research led us to blogs of other couples who spend either months or years cruising the rivers and canals of Europe. We got a sense of what it is like to cruise long term on a boat (small and cramped) and what were the costs associated with living in France (the exchange rate is going to kill you). But our enthusiasm remained undaunted and we started seriously planning the trip and looking for a boat.
It didn’t take long (if you don’t count the number of nights Phil was on the computer until 3:00 AM) to discover that: a) the best boat to buy is a Dutch steel cruiser; and that, b) the best place to buy a Dutch steel cruiser was in Holland. Not a stretch, grant you, but that’s essentially how we ended up spending the summer in Holland. Two retired Canadians who have never driven a cruiser much less owned one were now embarked on the adventure of a life time.