We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I told her the choice was between that trip and finishing getting my teeth fixed. It's called Fun With Implants. (Of course, if Obama would pay for my teeth then I could do both. Maybe I should write a note and cc Reid and Pelosi and tell them I'm ready for my new choppers right now.)
My Mom and Dad took one of these trips a few years ago. She said their plump Chef decided to try the balloon ride one time, got about 10" in the air and leaned out to tell the Sous-chef some last minute cooking detail and fell out of the basket into the canal. Hilarity ensued.
Also on my bucket list: Sailing cruise down the coast of Turkey. Yes, I do want to visit Turkey again - with digital camera this time. I like the people, the food, the landscape, the markets, the history, the ruins, and their fruit and wines.
I'd bag them both on cost grounds. France is going to suck money out of you this summer at a rate you will not believe possible. I don't care what you think it is going to cost "at the most" add 30% to that and 15% to that total. Also Turkey can be iffy in the political sense and it can happen fast.
If you simply must Europize, check out Portugal and the Posada system. Then splurge at the Lisbon Ritz. (Hidden advantage: English is Portugal's second language.)
My wife and I did the barge thing in Provence, and it was great. The restaurants along the way are fantastic, and if you eat fairly early as we in the US tend to do, you never have any trouble getting a table.
A few years before the Provence trip, we did a narrowboat trip in the UK, starting in Cheshire and ending up in North Wales. Although the food wasn't as spectacular, I think I liked England trip better. It had lovely bucolic scenery, friendly, easygoing natives, and great beers along the way. And -- a BIG plus for me -- in England you get to operate the locks yourself. I'd say the England canal trip was my favorite vacation ever.
The boats in both countries cruise at a brisk walking pace. If you get tired of being on the boat, you can turn the tiller over to a traveling companion and have a nice stroll on the towpath.
My wife and I barged through south west france in the Midi area a few years ago. We and four other couples we know took the whole boat that was manned by a pleasant group of young Brits.
There was a bad side to the trip--We had waited till end of September because it is so hot there--Even then it was hot and the air handling in boat kept bedrooms stifling. There was a problem down below in bilge so our rooms stunk. Some nights we went up and slept on deck in chairs to escape heat and smells. The Boat goes slower than walking pace--very boring unless you read and drink a lot.
There was good stuff too-- day trips to local vineyards, castles, etc. Good food, good staff, good company. But the British canal trip sounds better