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Nivernais Barge Cruises Include the Fascinating Château de Bazoches

January 18th, 2016

Home to One of the Great Military Engineers of All Time

Built in the 1700s, the 175-kilometer long Canal du Nivernais is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful French canals for Northern Burgundy barge cruises. Just a short drive from the canal is the fascinating Château de Bazoches tucked on a hill with expansive views of the surrounding fields and villages. It is a beautiful, 12th Century residence that once housed the lords of the land including one of the best military architects of all time, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, named a Maréchal of France.

Born in Burgundy during the early 1600s, Vauban started out as a minor noble but eventually became a poverty-stricken orphan and then a soldier in the Condé regiment. During his time with the regiment, he was taken prisoner and met Cardinal Jules Raymond Mazarin who became the Chief Minister of France in 1642. It was through his relationship with Mazarin that Vauban’s military career began to flourish and he became a loyal servant to King Louis XIV.

Outlining the Borders of France, the Fortifications of Vauban are UNESCO World Heritage Sites

As Vauban progressed through his career, he became well-known for his engineering talents and such inventions as the bayonet and iron barreled cannon. He used his engineering skills to help the French rulers build critical fortifications throughout the region which outlined the borders of France. Among them are the Fortifications of Vauban, a dozen buildings designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

With the funds earned in appreciation of his immense contributions to the defense of France, he purchased the Château de Bazoches and used the residence as a place to perfect his military strategies and subsequently write about them.

Today, the home has returned to the original de Sigalas family who have restored this stately home and opened it to the public to enjoy the rich period furnishings and fascinating history. It includes memorabilia connected to Maréchal de Vauban as well as items associated with other owners, such as Jean de Bazoches. To visit the Château de Bazoches and partake of a cruise on the Canal du Nivernais aboard the Luciole, L’Art de Vivre or Randle, please contact us for more information.

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Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
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Float Gently Through Turbulent Cathar History on Barge Trips in France

February 17th, 2014

Languedoc: Rich History of a Beautiful Destination

The peaceful vineyard clad countryside of Languedoc hides a turbulent history. In the thirteenth century, a bloody crusade was launched by the Catholic Church over a Christian heresy called Catharism. Castles that are now viewed as scenic were once the last defense of a minority that didn’t even speak French. At that time, southern France was a patchwork of smaller kingdoms and duchies with borders that shifted on a regular basis. One of them encompassing much of southern France was Occitania. The language of the area was known as “les langues d’oc”—which is the origin of the name for the region of Languedoc. Thus, the Cathars, in what is now France, were fighting not just for their religious freedom, but also for their independence as a cultural minority.

Visit Historical Treasures on Barge Cruise Excursions

Today you can explore this fascinating and disputed territory on the guided excursions included on our barge trips on the Canal du Midi. You will take an excursion to Minerve, the ancient hilltop village overlooking the confluence of two rivers where the peaceful Cathars were besieged by Simon de Montfort in 1210. A local museum re-creates the Cathar seige with a miniature diorama.

La Candela of Minerve

La Candela of Minerve is all that remains of the fort beseiged by Simon de Monfort in 1210.
140 Cathars perished by fire when they refused to renounce their faith.
Photograph by Beth Hanson, CanalBargeCruises.com.

Whether you make your home aboard a charter barge with your own private party or join other passengers on a hotel barge, you will visit the city of Carcassonne, which is hailed as the most complete medieval fortified city remaining in Europe today.

Cite de Carcassonne in Languedoc

Carcassonne, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is the most well preserved walled city in Europe.
Photograph by Beth Hanson, CanalBargeCruises.com

From the deck of Anjodi or Athos as it passes through Beziers, you will have the opportunity to glimpse the hilltop city where all the townspeople were massacred when they refused to renounce their faith as demanded by Pope Innocent III and the French king Philippe II Augustus.

The modern day city of Beziers

Beziers, where Simon de Montfort sacked the city and killed all the residents to eliminate the Cathars. Photo courtesy of European Waterways.

Aboard any of our Canal du Midi barges, you will have the opportunity to trace the footsteps of the Cathars as they peacefully and valiantly struggled to retain their independence.

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If you’re ready to float through history, contact us today to book a barge trip on the Canal du Midi.

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
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Carcassonne – The Jewel of Languedoc and the Canal du Midi

December 19th, 2013

Daily excursions are a highlight of a canal or river barge cruise. When cruising in the south of France on the Canal du Midi, you are immersed in a region which offers natural beauty, a rich history, and many lovely villages and small towns to explore on foot or by bike.

Carcassonne - a medieval city nestled in the Languedoc vineyards

Carcassonne- a medieval city nestled in Languedoc vineyards

Carcassonne – a Canal du Midi Barge Cruise Attraction

Carcassonne, a stunning fortified town that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a highlight of the Canal du Midi barge trips. Though people have been living on this site for millennia, since before Roman times, Carcassonne is mainly known as a prime example of a European medieval fortified town – maybe the best of its kind in all of Europe. It is amazingly well-preserved and is yours to explore with all of its ramparts and towers.

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St. Nazaire Basilica is known for its extraordinary stained glass

Carcassonne Sightseeing

What is there to see and do in Carcassonne?

  • Transport yourself to medieval times as you explore the amazing fortifications with its double walls and winding streets.
  • Find the bust of Madame Carcas at the Narbonne gate and learn about the legend of how she saved Carcassonne from a siege ending in the joyous ringing of bells (“Carcas sona”)
  • Step into the ancient and majestic Basilica of St. Nazaire. The grand organ and colorful windows can’t be missed. Simon de Montfort, leader of the crusade against the Cathars of Languedoc, was buried in the basilica before being moved by one of his sons.
  • Visit Chateau Comtal and walk the ramparts for beautiful views of the countryside.
  • Brave a visit to the Torture Museum, which displays a variety of medieval instruments of torture.
  • Try some of the local dishes, including cassoulet, which combines sausage, duck, and beans.

Be sure to bring a camera with you and take lots of photos of the architectural details. Soak in the atmosphere and get transported to another era. Your tour guide with the barge will give your visit more meaning, as you’ll better understand the historical significance of this very strategic site.

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Ancient Carcassonne overlooks the new city and the Canal du Midi

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Contact us for more details about our barge trips on the Canal du Midi. We will take you to unforgettable locales.

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
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Cruise an Engineering Marvel on the Canal du Midi

December 11th, 2013

There are almost a thousand UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and most of the cultural sites in France are buildings. However, deep in southern France is a UNESCO Heritage Site that you can enjoy in leisurely comfort from the deck of a canals of France barge – the Canal du Midi, an engineering marvel of the seventeenth century.

Canal du Midi: A Work of Art

The Canal du Midi was first envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci when he visited France in the early sixteenth century. The idea was to connect the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea via a link between the Garonne and Aude Rivers. The project, which was spearheaded by a Frenchman named Pierre-Paul Riquet, began in 1654 and ultimately completed in 1694, 13 years after his death. The total length of the waterway, including the river portions, is 360 kilometers.

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Map courtesy of Wikipedia

Thousands of workers were employed (12,000 at the peak of the project), including 600 women when there were not enough men available! Together this workforce constructed 328 elements in this industrial work of art, including locks, aqueducts, bridges, spillways, and tunnels. The total cost of the project was over 15 million livres, and the result was a functional communications and transportation waterway that symbolized the power of seventeenth-century France. Its impact extended to the development of a number of canals across Great Britain and even America, where George Washington was involved in a number of canal development projects.

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8 passenger barge Anjodi cruises on the Canal du Midi. Photo courtesy of WAVEJourney.com

Canal du Midi Barging: The Languedoc Wine Region

The designers of the Canal du Midi were very aware of the impact of this project on the local landscape, creating designs that were both monumental and elegantly simple. Today it traverses the Languedoc wine region, providing a scenic and historic backdrop for ten of our luxurious barges. While no longer used for communications or commerce, you can still enjoy the beauty of this transportation marvel. From the intimate Emma to the ultimate Enchante, you can appreciate the charm of the Canal du Midi while also sampling the delights of local winery tours, regional cuisine and stupendous sightseeing opportunities in medieval abbeys and hilltop towns.

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The 6 passenger ultra deluxe Roi Soleil s-l-o-w-l-y passes under a Canal du Midi bridge. Photo courtesy of Roi Soleil.

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For more information and to arrange your own experience of this engineering marvel, contact us today.

Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
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