CategoryThe Barges | CanalBargeCruises.com Blog
Thank you to our guest writer, Ginny Blackwell, as she tell us about her first barge cruise. I don’t think it will be her last! Ginny is the owner of International Property Shares, and provides opportunities for people to own fractional shares in charming homes in France and Italy.
As I stepped aboard the Athos barge a week ago, I looked forward to visiting the Minervois region of southern France again, but in the slower, more luxurious way that a canal barge offers, one lazy bend of the canal after another. My family always thinks of this corner of the world as “home” since our family spent a year here in 2003 so our children could really master speaking French.
You may know that life in the Languedoc very much follows the seasons. As April sunshine warms the vines and new green buds appear, the hotel barges which have been dry docked since fall, begin preparing for the summer season. All the wood work is sanded and varnished, the interiors freshly painted, and the hull gets cleaned, sorted and readied for the barging season.
With helpful travel tips from Beth Hanson, owner of CanalBargeCruises.com, I tried not to over pack but to come prepared for any kind of weather: 2-3 pairs of pants, neutral colored tops with a variety of scarves to dress things up, a dress up outfit for the captain’s dinner, and a good raincoat in case of grey skies. One good thing to remember is that the Mediterranean wind is fairly constant in southern France.
My first impressions
What a beautiful barge! The Athos is 30 metres long with 5 en-suite cabins and open dining area/salon with large windows offering plenty of light. It also has as a full kitchen, living quarters for the crew and, of course, the deck where we lounged about a good deal of time. As we entered to drop off our bags, I could appreciate all the special touches: fresh flowers greeted us in each cabin as well as specialty chocolates and toiletries, the walls were bright and freshly painted for the season, champagne was chilling on the bar with candles lit for our first meal together. “Hmm- this is going to be fun!” I thought.
So many surprises!
FOOD: Hang onto your hats here because I have NEVER had more inspired and 5-star meals, one after another. If our first day’s menu doesn’t leave you pining for more, then nothing will! Sunday, April 3rd: Scallops with sweet potato and pea puree followed by pork belly with braised red cabbage and star anise puree, a choice of two cheeses (Valencay and Cantal) followed by the most delicious lemon and almond tart ever.
Each of our meals was paired with wines from the Languedoc region and either Mariana or Joueja, our two hostesses, explained their features and why they were chosen. For the first evening, a Chateau La Voulte Gasparet was paired with the scallop entree followed by a Chateau Ollieux Romanis, Cuvee Classique 2012.
CREW: One of the barges moored right next to the Athos smiled over at us and said, “You have one of the best crews on the Canal du Midi.” I couldn’t agree with him more! Our two hostesses, Mariana and Joueja, our tour guide Mathieu, top notch cook Emma and Captain Julian, worked seamlessly together as only people can with a shared vision and purpose. It was easy to see that they genuinely enjoyed each other as well as their work.
KNOWLEDGE: I am not typically one of those people who enjoys guided tours, preferring to discover things on my own . . or to fall asleep on deck with a book in hand. That said, spending ½ day each day with our light-hearted and knowledgeable tour guide, Mathieu, was one of the Athos barge highlights. Each evening he would show up after cocktails and before dinner to let us know the program for the following day. Some of the must-see visits included Carcassonne and Minerve where we heard a graphic depiction of medieval life during the Cathar era. But we also learned about how to distinguish between Roman and Gothic architectural features, how one flood changed the course of the Aude river as well as the course of history for Capestang, a former port city. On a lighter note, we saw the secret mixing chambers of Nouilly Prat vermouth and learned some tactical moves to win a game of petanque (boules).
FELLOW TRAVELERS: I think my favorite memories in life are those where you’ve just plain had fun with those around you . . and laughed and joked a lot. This was certainly the case with our group of 5 passengers: Dan and Victoria from Sydney, Australia and Sophie and Dan from Denver, Colorado and me. We swapped travel stories and photos, played a wine board game after dinner, knocked down quite a few afternoon beers as well as enjoying the quiet and relaxing beauty of life along the canal.
THE ATHOS JOURNEY: from Argelliers to Marseillan (including the six locks of Beziers). If you are looking for a unique way to be pampered from the minute you arrive and yet still have plenty of time to quietly soak up a week of slow relaxing travel, don’t hesitate to book a French barge canal trip on the engineering marvel of the Canal du Midi, even as early as April. There’s something to be said for having the canal to yourself.
Take it from me, the Athos journey is really wonderful, an A+cruise.”
Does this whet your appetite for a barge cruise aboard Athos. Whenever you’re ready to consider a barge cruise, we would be happy to help.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Did you know that May and June are the sunniest months in Ireland? Those months would be a great time to explore Ireland by taking one of our river barge cruises on the Lower Shannon River.
Experiencing the Beauty of Ireland on a Barge Cruise
Why cruise the Shannon River in Ireland aboard our grand hotel barge? In addition to the luxurious dining and accommodations, there is all the beauty of Ireland to explore. From ancient archaeological sites to modern, bustling towns, you will experience the stunning scenery of Irish islands, lochs, and green countryside from the comfort of your floating hotel. Binoculars are available so you can enjoy the flora and fauna along the lush “Callow” landscape, rich with wildlife, through which you will be passing. With daily excursions in a comfortable coach, you will take a private tour of haunted Leap Castle with its eccentric owner, enjoy a Guinness and oyster lunch, and explore the Clonmacnoise sixth century monastic ruins. Other tour highlights include Birr Castle with its landscaped gardens, shopping for local crafts and gifts, and experiencing the Craggaunowen Iron Age Life Re-Creation Project.
Why cruise on the barge Shannon Princess? In addition to a full-length upper sundeck, the Shannon Princess has a spacious open salon and dining room with panoramic views out its large observation windows. Meals are crafted by the Ballmaloe School trained master chef, with highlights such as roast shoulder of lamb and black velvet crepes. All meals, including wines, local cheeses, and other delicacies, are included in the price. Carpeted throughout, the Shannon Princess accommodates up to ten passengers in spacious cabins with ensuite bathrooms and newly tiled large showers. The cabins also have picture windows and individual heat controls for those inevitable cloudy days. Bicycles are available upon request.
Interested in golf, walking tours, artisan visits or family cruises? Shannon Princess is happy to customize a cruise for your charter group with special interests.
Are you ready to experience Ireland at its finest? Contact us today to learn more about cruising on a deluxe river barge along the Shannon River.
We’re ready to help when you’re ready to go barging. Happy travels,
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Do you hear the word “cruise” and imagine endless buffets, infinite vistas of ocean water, and wonder if there are more exciting ways to spend a vacation? Are you the type that needs to be active in order to feel alive? If so, then you don’t need to avoid a cruise—you just need to find the right kind of cruise. With the most active of our barge theme cruises, you have the chance to explore the French countryside from the seat of a bicycle, and enjoy as much activity as you desire.
Experience France with bike and barge vacations
On barge Meanderer, Captain George, an avid biker, has designed a series of biking options for each full day of your cruise.
If you are also an avid, conditioned biker, he has created 55-85+ mile tours of medium elevation through a succession of scenic towns scattered across the French countryside. If you’re a weekend biking enthusiast, he has a lighter-elevation set of tours which cover 25-45 miles per day and also take you through picturesque villages adjacent to the Briare Canal. Casual biking along the canal and through small villages is also available.
Sightseeing options for passengers of varied interests
One of the great things about combining biking and barging is that you might want to travel with someone who likes time to relax as well as be active. Meanderer takes this into account as well, providing easier biking options along the canal itself for those who want to get off the boat in a more leisurely way. Biking and/or sightseeing – the choice is yours. There are daily tours of fascinating sites, such as the beautiful palace of Fontainebleau, home to generations of French royalty.
Or enjoy the ever-changing French countryside, like the 7 locks at Rogny. Built in the late 16th Century, these seven locks (now inactive) are at the point of division of waters between the Loire and the Seine. It is the first work of this type built in France and now classified as an “Historic Monument”.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, whether biking or relaxing on the elegant teak deck of your barging home-away-from-home, you will find the opportunity to sip a glass of French wine and dine on gourmet meals freshly-prepared with local ingredients to be the perfect ending for an active day of biking and cruising.
If you’re ready to enjoy this perfect blend of luxury and activity, contact us today to make your reservations.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Excellent dining on barge cruises is one of the highlights, usually taken on board with your own chef. The barge Savoir Vivre offers another way with its all-inclusive dinners on shore in a variety of local restaurants. You can choose from the menu and 1/2 bottle of wine per person is included in the cruise price.
To whet your appetite for this unique dining experience where you can mingle with the locals and sample six different restaurants, enjoy the restaurant dining guide provided by James Waggott, owner Savoir Vivre.
Our clients have loved the variety, authenticity and exceptional quality of the restaurants selected. Transportation is provided, too!
“L’Auberge Gourmande” in Fleurey
A friendly and warm welcome awaits you by Delphine and Christophe Faivre at the L’Auberge Gourmande. Situated in Velars-sur-Ouche.
Their goal is no less than “to satisfy all your desires and we will spare no effort in doing so. We want our guests to enjoy quality service and we strive to offer all the comfort you deserve.”
The restaurant is located on a quiet street in this typical village and has two rooms with elegant décor, air conditioning and a pleasant terrace outside.
Head Chef Christophe learned his craft at the Moulin de Saint Remy Martorey, Guy Savoy, Negresco, Girardet in Switzerland as well as spending seven years abroad (Tel Aviv, Israel, Rio, London, and on a private yacht for a billionaire Englishman). So his credentials speak volumes.
The result of all this effort? A recent restaurant critic declared that this restaurant offers a “pleasant setting for a restaurant that is going places, the food was exquisite”.
Menu Highlights – Specialities include eggplant tartare with balsamic vinegar, espuma melon lemon balm. Cromesquis fried ham with parsley, Burgundy escargot, hummus, and wild garlic. Confit of lamb shoulder in kefta stuffed with tomato reduction, rosemary and paprika.
Its no surprise that this restaurant is tipped for big things, we’ve caught it during its ascendency, we think this is the “Savoir Vivre” time to visit.
L’Abbaye De La Bussiere – Le Bistrot des Moines
To demonstrate our commitment to offering new levels of experience and value, we are offering dinner in the renowned L’Abbaye De La Bussiere for our 2014 passengers. The setting is magnificent and the head chef, Emmanuel Hébrard, is a genius.
We dine at the more relaxed Bistrot section of the restaurant – i.e. the Savoir Vivre way to dine in such a magnificent setting. Just as in the more formal gourmet restaurant, it uses the best products of the season and is of the same quality.
This is an indulgent and exciting restaurant which significantly enhances our already unique experience. We are delighted to offer it for all of our 2014 passengers.
“Chez Camille” in Arnay le Duc
It is common in France for authentic restaurants to sit within a hotel. Moreover, it is not unusual for the restaurant to be the star of the show! This is exactly the case with Chez Camille, a traditional, elegant and interesting restaurant set within the building of the modest Chez Camille Hotel located in the centre of Arnay le Duc, itself a quaint and pretty town.
Proprietor Arman Poinsot is as French as they come with the style and composure straight out of Disney’s Ratatouille!
Head chef Pascal Godillot’s kitchen works in step with Mr Poinsot – the food is traditional with occasional complex highlights to attract the eye of the sophisticated and adventurous diner.
The dining area is fabulous with traditional round tables but with decidedly untraditional features such as a tree canopy and glass viewing areas to the kitchen where a team of crisp white clad chefs are hard at work.
This restaurant offers a French dining experience at its most traditional routes. The building, décor, ambiance, proprietor, and menu all hark to an era which so many restaurants around the world strive to emulate. This is a rare example of the real thing and is an essential cast member of our dining experiences.
Menu Highlights – How about a caramelized pineapple and vanilla zabaglione with gingerbread and rum sorbet?!
Sorry we’re getting ahead of ourselves…
Other highlights include everything from traditional Burgundian favourites such as Coq au Vin and Boeuf Bourguignon to more adventurous dishes such as walnut sweetbread cutlet with juice reduction, spinach, mushrooms and parmesan crust.
“Ferme de Rolle” in Rolle
Long before her Michelin Star grade owners took residence, the site of the Ferme de Rolle experienced a fascinating history involving peasants, pig farmers, and soldiers gaining a strategic advantage.
Over a century ago sixteen households (pop. 30) lived in and around the current building – three wells assured water supply to the modest community.
In 1933 the buildings and surrounding land were converted into a pig farm. A Mr George Flacelière developed and later sold the farm to a Mr Denvin. However, during the Second World War, in addition to his pigs, Mr Denvin played host to the Canadian allies. The site held a strong position being very close to the farm of La Belle Emélia Saint-Jean-de-Boeuf, occupied by the German army.
In 1975 the entire site was given a new lease of life through its conversion into a fabulous restaurant which it has remained ever since. Since spring 2004, the Sangoy family, who previously owned the Michelin Star awarded ‘Gevrey-Chambertin’, have taken the restaurants to new gastronomic heights.
Menu Highlights – The house speciality is ham roasted over an open spit right in front of you. This hearty traditionally prepared dish compliments this wonderfully historic restaurant, don’t miss out on it!
This is a very special restaurant in the countryside of Burgundy and “the Route des Grands Crus”, it quite rightly sits at the heart of our restaurant selection.
“Le Spuller” in Sombernon
Rather like the Chez Camille (above) ‘Le Spuller’ is set within the ‘Hotel le Spuller’. It is located in Sombernon, a village of approximately 800 residents nestled in a location equidistant from Dijon, the Côte-d’Or vineyards, Chateauneuf and Beaune, talk about location location location!
On top of this are the views offered by its hillside location, they are absolutely magnificent!
However, It is the restaurant itself that really caught our attention and that of many local residents. The dining area offers panoramic views of the valley below – it is a perfect setting to enjoy a lovely dinner while afternoon turns to evening. The food is of an excellent standard with charming staff and a menu which offers something for everybody.
Our 2013 guests have universally adored Le Spuller. The combination of quality, setting and exceptionally friendly and amiable service hits all the marks.
Menu Highlights – The food at Le Spuller is unashamedly simple. Elegantly, authentically, and tastefully so. This is in contrast to some of our more avant-guard restaurants and sits nicely in our selection.
This includes Oeufs en Meurette and other Burgundian classics.
Other highlights include roast trout with Emmental and ginger cream and the ”Salade Spuller” made with an Epoisse cheese gougère pastry.
ps – the kitchen is also very flexible here, a simple child-friendly pizza can be catered if so desired!
“I’Orre du Bois” in Chateauneuf
Chateauneuf en Auxois is a rarely beautiful place. This hilltop medieval village is one of the last remaining examples of 14th century Burgundian military architecture. During the Hundred Years War, towers and curtain walls were built to defend the village and the Auxois plains. Many still stand to this day.
From the 14th-17th centuries wealthy Burgundian merchants built houses at Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. One such house is now home to “l’Oree du Bois”! This gem of a restaurant sits comfortably in this fascinating location.
Rather than focus on traditional Burgundian cuisine, “l’Oree du Bois” (roughly translated ‘Edge of the Woods’) has chosen to focus on another French culinary bastion, the ‘crêperie’.
Those unfamiliar with this type of restaurant need not worry, we’re not just talking about Nutella and Grand Marnier pancakes here! Authentic French creperies started in the Brittany region but later became widespread across France and are now considered a national dish. It would be a shame not to visit one on a culinary tour of France!
Authentic creperies offer a wide range of savoury (and sweet) crepes each made with skill care and attention using locally sourced ingredients.
The restaurant itself is barely noticeable from the outside with its ancient historic building perfectly and correctly untouched. Once inside, however you are greeted with vaulted ceiling with a very pleasant central fireplace and mezzanine dining level.
A quiet amble around Chateauneuf is the ideal way to finish off your evening. We can suggest a spectacular vantage point just one minute’s walk from l’Oree du Bois from where, weather permitting, you will have a stunning view of the green and lovely land that is Burgundy.
At times restaurants may be unavailable due to special occasion bookings, seasonal closures etc. In these instances we have several other high quality restaurants to choose from, all of them are up to our standards.
To cruising calm waters…
Savoir Vivre Owner, Author, Guest Blogger
Ready to go barging? Please contact us today to select and book your barge cruise.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Why do I like the barge Esperance so much? As well as totally admiring and respecting the owner, Captain Mathias Gilles, it is because of the rave reviews I get when my clients return from their barge trips with comments such as:
“The excursions were wonderful! A little bit of something different every day. And our guide Marion was the best!” From Monica V, September 2013
“We loved the barge and crew! The crew was totally professional and at the same time totally engaging.” From David A, October 2013
But the comment I hear the most is:
“We loved the barge and crew. We are convinced that Mathias is the best barge captain anywhere on the planet, and Joe’s cooking was to die for. We did not expect the food to be as superb as it was.” From Judy D, September 2013
And so it is my pleasure to highlight the chef, cuisine and wines of this very special barge cruise on Esperance.
One of Captain Mathias’ many talents is the table setting for each dining experience. His sense of style and joie de vivre are impeccable.
Barge Cooking Demonstrations
Chef Joe is not only a fabulous chef, his personality is warm and welcoming. Cooking demonstrations? You bet! The open kitchen on Esperance invites guests’ participation and conversation.
Canal barge cruising and local wine pairing
Local wines from Languedoc abound in grape varieties and blends making them very diverse and interesting. Pairing with the food is an art practiced on board Esperance.
For more information and to book this barge cruise which cruises on the Canal du Midi, please contact us.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
The anticipation I feel when visiting barges as a barge cruise specialist is hopeful that my first impression will be the same delight my clients feel when they step on board. So when my husband, Jack, and I stepped on board Papillon, a 6 passenger deluxe barge moored in the peaceful port of Dijon, I sighed with pleasure at the immaculate deck scattered with chic and comfortable chairs bordered by planters of lush greens and flowers. The friendly welcome by Owner Bill Higgs, Captain Cedric and Hostess Barbara set the tone for our time together aboard this exquisite gem of a floating country inn.
France Barge trips with gourmet dining
Every inch of Papillon exudes not only charm from the tasteful fabrics and décor but quality in design and timeless woodwork. From the spacious deck, a few stairs down lead to the airy salon with sink in sofas and inviting open bar. Fresh flowers and plants along with a library of books and music created a homey, lived in atmosphere. The traditional dining room lined with designer fabric and warm oak furniture provides an intimate space for gourmet dining. Chef Ollie was not on board, but her reputation as an excellent chef is renowned in the barging world. Hostess Barbara proudly showed us the cabins which she keeps spotlessly clean.
Cabins on a Barge Cruise are well planned
Down a few steps from the salon, the cabins are cozy and beautifully planned for unpacking and storing luggage. The newly renovated colorful Provencal tile bathrooms with shower and wc are top quality and pleasing to the eye. The largest of the cabins has twin beds end to end with a sink and vanity separating them. It has the feel of a large cabin even though it is quite narrow. Guests who enjoy unique, comfortable accommodations in small, elegant spaces will love Papillon’s cabins.
Papillon’s crew consists of the captain, chef, hostess and tour guide who take care of guests’ every need and desire. Accommodate special dietary needs? Absolutely! Stock your favorite liquors? Yes! Customize the activities around your interests? You bet! After a very satisfying visit on board Papillon and very positive feedback from recent clients, I recommend Papillon without reservation.
For more information and to book this exquisite barge cruise which cruises in southern Burgundy and the Canal du Midi, please contact us.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
Gosh, I love my job when I receive glowing reports from clients who return from their barge cruises.
The 12 passenger deluxe barge, L’Impressionniste, continues to get rave reviews for its cruise through the Valley of the Ouche in Southern Burgundy. Take a look at these unedited reviews:
“I’m sure no one ever celebrated a 55th wedding anniversary in a more beautiful, caring, environment. The staff became a part of “our family” for the week, and the sun smiled happily down on all our activities.”
“We returned from Paris yesterday and I wanted to send along a big “thank you” for a truly wonderful barge cruise.
“Beth – we just got back to the Westminster and have had a joyous barge trip! The crew and passengers were outstanding. Fine food, fine wine, fine service and fine people. We couldn’t have asked for better…oops! Weather could have been better. We had cold and rain but it didn’t slow anyone down. Fantastic time! Thank you!” J and D
“Barging through the Burgundy valley has always been on my bucket list. Thanks to all involved, from Beth who helped us with our reservations to the barge crew for making the experience a wonderful and memorable one for me and my wife.” Ken N.
“The service was excellent. I swear they washed the windows and port holes daily. When we asked for a napkin folding demo, they jumped at the opportunity and were always accommodating to each passenger’s needs. Unbelievably beautiful French countryside and smaller towns/winery visited.” Alice N.
“The barge cruise and vacation were absolutely superb, wine and food were on a par with a 5 star hotel and so was the Hotel Westminster. We met wonderful people and we are going to get together with two couples in July who live nearby! As a conclusion, everything was super and all the connections worked smoothly. Thank you so much for organizing this trip for us !” P and P
Contact us today to book your cabin or charter on L’Impressionniste.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988
England is steeped in history (as well as tea!), and nowhere is that more evident than when navigating the waters through which that history has flowed. We believe that one of the best ways to become steeped in that history yourself is by taking a river barge cruise aboard the Magna Carta on the Royal River Thames.
Aboard the luxurious, eight passenger Magna Carta, you will enjoy both the elegance of a bygone era and the comfort of modern conveniences. Built in 1936 of mahogany, teak and oak woods, the Magna Carta includes such modern amenities as under floor heating, a spa pool and modern, ensuite facilities in its spacious 200 sq. foot staterooms. The barge is also outfitted with amenities such as WiFi internet access and touring bikes that you can use to meander along the Thames footpaths. The upper deck includes a salon in which you can sample a wide variety of wines, as well as the dining room, where the master chef will present you with succulent local dishes including roast guinea fowl, rack of lamb, breast of duck, and traditional English cheeses.
While enjoying the lovely English countryside from the comfort of your floating country hotel, you will meander past quaint riverside villages and historic royal palaces. Your trip begins with an English cream tea to properly prepare you for your idyllic waterway excursion. In addition to river views of the fabulous waterside houses of Bray, there are carefully planned side trips to points of interest such as Hampton Court Palace, Windsor Castle and Windsor Great Park’s Saville Gardens. From the ancient village of Hurley with Ye Olde Belle, England’s oldest inn, to Cookham, which hosts the painter Sir Stanley Spencer’s gallery, to the River and Rowing Museum at Henley, you will find a wide array of sights and sounds to please all of your senses.
So come steep yourself in tea, history and idyllic English countryside.
Contact us to sign up today for your cruise on the Royal River Thames!
Bring on the crumpets!
Is it true? A barge cruise in Scotland? Aye, laddies and lassies, there is a splendid deluxe barge cruise on the 8-passenger Scottish Highlander complete with tartan decor and a warm Scottish welcome.
Scotland is certainly filled with breathtaking scenery, romantic medieval ruins and lively cities, but most tourists expect to see these while riding in a car or a tour bus when visiting Scotland. We suggest you think off-road instead, and cruise the Great Glen aboard this comfortable and inviting barge.
Scottish Highlander is equipped with all the modern amenities, including central heat, an all-weather, passenger-friendly wheelhouse, and eight touring bikes for your enjoyment of that breathtaking scenery. Your home-away-from-home also has all the atmosphere of a Scottish country house, complete with tartan furnishings and landscape paintings. You will enjoy traditional Scottish fare, including local salmon and game, unique regional cheeses and, of course, a large selection of single malt whiskeys. In addition, you will be regaled with local history, legends and sagas by the after-dinner storyteller.
Those stories will come alive as you sedately cruise four lochs (Ness, Oich, Lochy and Dochfour) and the Caledonian Canal, visiting such historic landmarks as Glencoe (of the Campbell and MacDonald clans), Eilean Donan and Urquhart castles, Cawdor Castle (home of Shakespeare’s Macbeth) and the Culloden Moor with its heather-clad hillsides. You will be intrigued with visits to local shops, where you can purchase your own woolens, tweeds and local gifts, a mountain gondola, and a tour of the Ben Nevis whiskey distillery.
As with all of our barge trips, you unpack once in your private cabin then relax for the rest of the week to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! So contact us now and let us help you book your idyllic Scottish barge cruise.
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988