Barging in Alsace-Lorraine

Old Jun 8th, 2004, 08:57 PM
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Barging in Alsace-Lorraine

Has anyone done a bare-boat barge trip there, specifically visiting Strasbourg? It's possible using Locaboats, and looks intriguing. If you have barged in this region, what was it like?

dabodin is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 01:22 AM
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Sorry to say I am unable to help you with Strasbourg specifically.

However, we did do this trip on the Canal de la Marne using Locaboat, but going in the opposite direction, towards Nancy. It was the beginning of October and the fall foilage was something to see. We started in the post-card perfect village of Lutzelbourg, We have nothing but positive remarks about this company and their staff in Lutzelbourg. All of their vessels were new, clean and well equipped. Sounds like you have not been on a self-drive barge before so I will give my general thoughts/recommendations:
1) Several different styles are offered. We decided that for us (a semi- older couple) we preferred the "Classique" with (higher) sheltered driving cabin in the middle (affords fine viewing), with the kitchen by itself a few steps down in the back (great views thanks to lots of windows), and with bedrooms/bathroom forward and down a level leaving you a large sunning, sitting area outside on the front which does not interfere with the driver's view. This would be better for a family with children, too, because they would always be in front in your view. If you are a large group, especially the partying kind, you might want the style which has a back outside area as well (the classique doesn't). The "Flying Bridge" style which has an outside raised area with the additional (steering) wheel, was as popular as the classique. You have to pay extra I think for an umbrella, which would be essential in summer I'd imagine on these last 2 stayles. The flying bridge is least advisable for older folks as the whole boat is higher up, so harder to get on and off of when tying up. Also, the flying bridge adds more steps to go up and down (and trip down).
2) As promised, boats are well equipped but do not provide ANY foodstuffs, not even salt and pepper! Naturally we had to go out and buy salt/pepper/sugar/coffee and other "essential" items, more than we EVER could have used. We felt bad throwing out these huge amounts of items at the end (not to mention wasted money) and so left them in a box at the picnic table area at Locaboat hoping someone checking in would take it. For just a week's trip or if you plan on eating out frequently at the local restaurants that come along (yummm!) I would suggest bringing along snack or sandwich sized baggies filled with single portion mustard, ketchup, mayo, s/p etc previously saved from fast-food visits to KFC, McDs etc. The space this takes up in luggage can be used for souvenirs for the return home anyway. Same with shampoo/conditioner--save the single use bottles from hotels or buy them from your grocery store in advance.
3) Bring along a couple of pairs of good fitting leather gloves to protect your hands from the ropes.
4) Definitely rent the bikes from Locaboat. Many of our most memorable moments came during our escapades riding into/through the local villages--definitely faster and easier than the walk. Small day packs are handy to keep the hands free and carry cameras, money and other items you would need as well as toting back fresh bought supplies--nothing like still warm croissant each morning from the local boulangerie.
5) Boat delivery time doesn't start until the afternoon and they can't serve everyone at the same time. We spent the morning doing shopping at the bigger and cheaper supermarket in a town about 10km away, but Lutzelbourg has lovely local shops which have everything you need, too. We took the advice of a German who has done the Marne Canal the last 7 years in a row...spend the first night at the locaboat centre in Lutzelbourg. Everyone is in a hurry and there's a mad dash, with the possibility of delays at the locks because of congestion. In the direction of Strasbourg there are about 8 locks before the next town (Saverne, which merits a stay/visit) and you probably wouldn't get very far anyway before the locks close. Lutzelbourg is an absolutely stunning setting which you basically have to yourself. Make reservations (it's the only hotel/restaurant in town, and in the Michelin guide as well as others so much in demand) at the Auberge des Vosges for a fantastic lunch, stroll the canal at dusk to walk off some of that gastronomic meal, try out cooking dinner on your boat to make sure everything works/see what questions you have that the staff will cheerfully answer for you the next day. In the morning listen for the horn honk of a butcher-in-a-van who visits early in the morning. We bought fantastic stuffed pork cutlets and deli salads that were to die for. But watch out, he doesn't stay any time at all before heading off to the next location, so go as soon as you hear him. It was fun and great tasting.
6) If I was starting out from Lutzelbourg again, I would arrive the night before and spend the night and have dinner at des Vosges. We enjoyed 2 dinners there (1 leaving, 1 returning). Room reservations a must as it is small, and the only hotel in town.
7) Bring some of your favorite CD's to play as you glide along. I personally liked classical for the majestic scenery and love songs, since we are a lovey-dovey couple. Now everytime we listen to those CDs we think of the lovely trip/countryside.
8) Have a francetel phone card with you. Public pay phones which take coins are becoming scarcer all the time. At some of the tie up areas without restaurants there are ads for restaurants in the next town over who will come pick you up free of charge, all you do is call them..if you have a card. We didn't have one and a local housewife was kind enough to loan us the use of her cell phone--quite extraordinary, especially for the usually reserved rural French. But most kind.
9) Keeping the boat clean just isn't that hard if you keep a rag "mat" where you board to wipe your feet on. By cleaning the boat yourself at the end you can save yourself money by avoiding the cleaning fee.

That's all I can think of off hand. I'd be glad to answer any questions you might have. Hope you decide to do one of the canal trips; it was great for us!
klondike is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 12:26 PM
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Dear Klondike: Wow! What a wonderful response to my question. Thank you so much. I will definitely follow all of your advice, and look into the Classique boat. There will be 2 couples, possibly 3, so that will definitely be a factor. I've been advised to rent a boat larger than you think you'll need.

How many days was your trip? We're thinking a week would be plenty long.

Did you rent a car to get to Lutzelbourg or take a train?

Thanks again,

dabodin is offline  
Old Jun 9th, 2004, 10:12 PM
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We had wanted to do a canal trip but had been unable to find a couple willing to make the trip with us and we felt it would be too much work for just two maybe, and so had let the idea drop. Then as we drove our 5 weeks through France we kept coming across those darn canal boats...along the Charente at Cognac and Saintes and at Malicorne in the Loire Valley and we just found ourselves always going down to the quais to "check them out". Finally 3/4 of the way through our trip, at Lutzelbourg, my husband on a lark stopped in and asked them if they had a boat available for a long weekend. Luckily they did and away we went for what turned out to be one of the most memorable times of the entire 5 weeks!

When we do it again, we will do it for a week. My husband would do it for 2, but I feel 1 would be enough without getting boring. It was a nice change from driving and visiting friends, as you are very close to nature much of the time. Locaboat will let you leave your car outside or you can pay extra for an enclosed garage which is locked...we paid extra because we had a car loaded with a month's worth of stuff. I do not remember seeing a gare or train tracks, so I am not sure it is serviced by train, but I'm sure it could be reached by bus otherwise.

Lastly, the only boat available was an 1100 which had a large, comfortable master bedroom in the back with its own wash basin. As you exit that there was a closet on right and bathroom on the left. Then (in the hallway basically) was a single bed on the right and a double on the left. I would have found the double very small for anything but a thin couple, but there were windows on each side so it wasn't too claustrophobic, just not particularly private. The kitchen table could be taken down and made into a bed too. A friend of ours went with a group of 13 friends/family in 2 boats on the Midi Canal and had a wonderful time. While traveling with others has its downside, for the canal it has many positives...more people to help with ropes and typing up, some can ride the bikes along the tow path for fun/exercise as others float along in the boat. While we didn't worry about security (the boat does lock but is not totally impregnabel if somebody really wanted in bad enough-they could just break the sliding door for example) the more people, the greater the chance that somebody would always be around the boat. Just in case you are going later in the season, and after all it is in the mountains where it gets colder at night...the heating system worked great and was easy to use.

Please let us know how things work out. Best Regards
klondike is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2006, 11:26 AM
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We have rented about 10 times from Locaboat and can strongly recommend them. You should ask for the R models, ie 935R or 1107R, as these have been recently modernized, with new engines, new lights and cd players. ask for Mandy
aybendito is offline  
Old Mar 2nd, 2006, 11:40 AM
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Unless you get negative reports from one rental or another, I would choose the rental firm according to the itinerary it offers. When we rented two boats (12 people) for the Burgundy Canal, I chose the rental company according to the itinerary and the cost of a one way rental; I did not feel that we needed to see the same area twice. Others might not agree, but our experience was that the downstream lock was kept open when there was little traffic, so it is more efficient to go upstream than downstream.
Michael is offline  
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