After 30 years in the computer software industry, Michelle and Paul Caffrey relinquished their careers determined to reinvent themselves. The fifty-something couple sacrificed everything they owned to buy a converted 1906 Dutch barge, Imagine, to seek a new livelihood in the boat charter business, “Barge and Breakfast.” The memoir is packed with the adventures - and misadventures -of their first year with the barge as they travel from Holland, through Belgium to France. A must-read for boaters, European travelers or would-be travelers, anyone who has reached a crossroads in life, those looking for pre-retirement inspiration, and everyone who has wondered what it would be like to live out a dream.
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By Valerie Poore
Mar 21, 2008
"A truly honest account of barging in Europe" I thoroughly enjoyed Michelle's book, particularly as I can relate to it so well, being a fifty something convert to the barge life myself. The honesty and freshness of her style is very appealing and she portrays the thrills, fears, and excitement as well as bliss of travelling on Europe's busy commercial waterways very well. Thanks for a great read Michelle!
"Just Imagine - Better than A Year in Provence or Under the Tuscan Sun" With exceptional skill the author narrates a life transition from the world of enterprise software to being an established entity providing personalized travel experiences centered on a classic barge located in historic and epicurean Burgundy. - - To state that the first half year and first fifth of the book covers learning how to pilot a barge, then purchasing and converting a barge is true, but gross understatement. Through Michelle, the reader experiences the steep one-week learning curve of steering, mooring, navigating, and keeping everyone on the barge safe. There are just hints of future problems with freight barges, hotel barges, irascible lock keepers, smaller pleasure boats and fishermen. The essence of living in Burgundy starts to unfold. - - The couple finds what may be perfect for their requirements; a private owner's living space, two guest cabins each with a private bath and toilet, a... More > home-like main salon, deck space, and classic Dutch clipper lines. Converting from the purchased barge to these essential needs drags agonizingly slow for these two Americans, slowing adapting to the pace of rural Europe. - - The maiden voyage—from the Dutch outfitting yard near the North Sea to the chosen home waters of the Saône River and Burgundy Canal—is in every sense a shakedown cruise. In spite of the leisurely pace and initial friendly guests, a problematic engine, running aground (bad information from a waterways "expert"), near collisions with both an unyielding freight barge and an overlarge hotel barge, and a few charming lockkeepers comparable to the provincial tax-collectors receptionist, the voyage continues the couples stress-filled and learn-now education. - - The reader and author start to appreciate the subtle differences between personal guests in one's home and paying customers. With nuance and detail, we realize towards the end of this memoir much more of the true beauty in the region and lifestyle. This then is a love story involving a new life and a quieter existence; the boat is a bit more than catalyst, but not much. - - Caffrey's honest, transparent, barge-diet lean prose flows similar to the Saône with ripples and eddies to the homeport and a successful transition. - - Inevitably, I must compare this book with Peter Mayle's A Year in Provence (ISBN 0679731148) and Frances Mayes' Under the Tuscan Sun (ISBN 0811808424). Just Imagine: A New Life on an Old Boat now stands as the benchmark. - - Of course, Oprah could transport 70 tons of Imagine and the author to the show in Chicago. The real story is in Burgundy and the author's soul. -- Walter Judson Moore< Less
"Just Imagine" This is a book about realising a dream, very well written by Michelle Caffrey. It is the true story of two middleaged adventurers of a romantic nature who chuck in their life for a wild idea and make it happen. It is not only inspiring but also down to earth and there is no doubt that many readers will be encouraged to follow similar adventures. This a highly enjoyable read without airs and graces. Strongly recommended. Richard Goodwin
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