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Callaloo Jan 29th, 2013 06:03 AM

Barge Trip in France: Something in Between Self-Drive and Hotel?
Old time Fodorite, but new to this forum. Hope you will indulge my questions ....

My group of 6 are planning a barge trip in France next year. We are all experienced sailors, and have many, many miles under our hulls; we are well-versed in boat-handling and are accustomed to the "camping on the water" lifestyle that can be a sailing trip. We want a little more luxury than that on this trip, but don't want either the full cost or the full-on pampering that a hotel-type barge trip would offer. While we are perfectly willing to do a self-drive trip, I was wondering if there is a happy medium -- especially since among the various languages spoken in my group, French is not included. Can we charter our own boat, and then hire a chef/guide that will help with a few meals and provide some guidance? Has anyone done such a thing? Are there any recommended companies that can provide this sort of experience?

Any advice gratefully accepted!

Sarastro Jan 29th, 2013 06:57 AM

If you have the appropriate licenses (Permit Fluvial or equivalent for inland waterways, Permit Côstier/Hauturier or equivalent for sea), you can charter a boat and captain yourself. Otherwise, it´s either a hotel barge or self driven boat from an established company which will have a license waiver for the captain.

Some of the self driven boats are very nice with internet connections and flat screen TVs. French is not required to navigate the waterways and with so many excellent restaurants available along the way, why would you want to hire a chef?

Here is a list of reliable rental companies operating in France:

Gretchen Jan 29th, 2013 07:29 AM

There are smaller barges, but they may be what you are talking about "fully pampered"--but they are not the river cruisers. We loved our trip.

Michael Jan 29th, 2013 08:58 AM

A suggestion: Pay for a RT from the States and small salary for someone willing to be a chef on your boat. S/he would be a member of your party with specific functions. Make sure that the boat is large enough. For 6 plus the chef, I would guess that the boat should accommodate at least nine--and the largest rentals I recall would accommodate 10. The rental company will probably suggest things to see along any of the itineraries chosen. Between the maps is the trip we took on the Burgundy canal (12 persons, two boats, and it was tight):

Callaloo Jan 29th, 2013 10:53 AM

It sounds like there's no equivalent to a "captained charter" that is common in the Caribbean (i.e. a bareboat saililng charter with a local skipper, with local knowledge, who gets paid a per diem rate -- as opposed to a fully-crewed boat with all of the bells and whistles). We are all competent skippers ourselves (but not licensed, as that isn't required in the US or the Caribbean), and certainly like to cook (and dine out!), but were just looking for someone to help us with the local secrets. But it seems like a self-drive trip is do-able -- just have to convince the others in my group of that.

Thanks for your help.

Patty Jan 29th, 2013 12:18 PM

Here's one option I found when I was looking for the same thing. However I have no direct experience

Michael Jan 29th, 2013 12:24 PM

As far as the self-drive barges are concerned, no experience is needed. Of our group of 12, only one had any boating experience. 5 km. is maximum speed on canals.

bilboburgler Jan 29th, 2013 12:34 PM

Why not just dine out? There are loads of restaurants along the canal, if you look out for signs you will see telephone numbers for restaurants up to 5km away who will come and pick you up.

Michael Jan 29th, 2013 01:14 PM

<i>Why not just dine out?</i>

There is the pleasure of shopping at the local market if one happens to be there on the right day. This may be an everyday market:

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