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Joe Oct 16th, 1999 04:10 AM

Canal Trip
The Canals of France <BR> <BR>Several people have asked us to report on our recent "adventure" which involved renting a self-drive barge and cruising the canals and locks in France. Let me begin by saying that when we first did it about 5 years age on the canals in Burgundy there were very few boating companies and even fewer Americans utilizing the service. This year, however, when we did the canals of Southern France there were a good number of rental companies available and many Americans, English, Australians, New Zealanders as well as all of the Europeans on the waterways. So hearing English spoken was commonplace. <BR>To begin with, we booked our trip directly with the boating company over the internet and via Fax. We were able to save a substantial amount of money and the arrangements were as smooth as silk. The first trip we used Crown Blue lines and this trip we switched to Connoisseur Cruisers simply because we were in the south of France and wanted a boat that had a retractable top to simulate cruising in open air similar to driving in a convertible car. We were away for three weeks with two of them being aboard the boat so we opted for a somewhat larger boat than was actually necessary only so that we had room to spread out. We were only the two of us but the boat had two master cabins with double beds, 2 baths, a kitchen and a dining-living room. For those who are interested, there is no need for previous boating knowledge (they teach you all you have to know in 15 minutes), you cruise at a speed of only 5 - 8 miles per hour. For an easier more comfortable time I would suggest at least 3-4 people to share the experience and to share the handling of lines when traversing the locks. It sounds more complicated than it is; it's really simple to do. <BR>On this trip we left our base in Narbonne via the Robine Canal into the Canal du Midi. From there we cruised toward Beziers, turned around an went toward Carcassonne. Each night (afternoon) we tied up in a quaint town with great restaurants, spent the afternoon sightseeing and the evening dining on great French food. We used our kitchen to make coffee in the morning and to store our supply of local wines, croissants and French pastries for consumption during the day. The only down side is the absolute need to go on a diet when you return home!! Navigating, direction etc. is also simple in that you are given a guide to follow that provides your route kilometer by kilometer. It's an experience like you have never had before and you see the country as you never could by car or train. Since all of Frances' commerce was originally done by way of these canals (before roads were common) the beautiful canal-side towns that developed were to cater to that commerce. I would suggest that if you are interested, contact one of the rental companies on the internet and request a brochure. They will outline the various areas that can be cruised and you can make your selection depending on your desires. <BR>If you get back to me I will provide you with the site that we used. <BR>Joe <BR>

RosemaryM Oct 16th, 1999 06:21 PM

Hi Joe, your trip sounded wonderful.Thanks for sharing it. The canal systems in Britain and Europe offer lots of great prospects. Next year in September we have booked two weeks hire of a narrowboat on the Llangollen and Shropshire Union Canals in Britain. From Chirk marina in Wales we will tour to Chester and Ellesmere Port then back to Chirk and on to Llangollen via those spectacular aquaducts in the Welsh marches. Can't wait! Next time though, we will definitely consider France. As Australians we feel the only way we would like to drive through Europe is on water.

elvira Oct 18th, 1999 08:19 AM

What, you got ESP or somethin'? We're talking already about next fall's trip, and bargeing has been in discussion for a couple of months. <BR>Thanks for the personal insight; it sounds like a definite doable for us. We've already gotten a couple of brochures (there were newspaper articles a couple of years ago about self-drive barges, and I contacted the companies mentioned) so now to decide "where"!

s.fowler Oct 18th, 1999 08:53 AM

Omigawd! The travelling loons piloting a barge?? CLEAR THE CANALS!!!!

elvira Oct 18th, 1999 10:28 AM

That's right, everyone, the Loons are taking to the waterways. Water fowl are our next targets for trauma. We will have an experienced boat driver on board, who pilots her boyfriend's fishing boat with only the following instructions (from the boyfriend): <BR>LOOK OUT!!! WATCH OUT!! DON'T HIT THAT %#&$%^*@ DOCK!! WHADDYA THINK YOU'RE DOING????? We figure she'll do juuust fine...

martha python Oct 18th, 1999 10:50 AM

Time for another poll: Which Fodorite do you think is most likely to appear in an amusing wire story about vacation mishaps?

Mary Oct 25th, 1999 09:49 AM

We just got home last night from our barge trip in the south of France. We used Locaboat Plaisance (, and cruised the Camargue region. What a trip!! <BR> <BR>As Joe stated, this way of travel definitely has many pluses. We fixed breakfast and most lunches on board, thus we were able to splurge on wonderful dinners and wines. I think our most expensive dinner for six was 900FF(less than $150) and that was with four bottles of wine!! <BR> <BR>We rented bicycles so we could bike into towns off the canal, or just ride along the tow path and have the boat pick us up later. <BR> <BR>I am sure we will do this type of trip again.

elvira Oct 25th, 1999 11:25 AM

Mary: <BR>LocaBoat Plaisance is the company we're considering, so can you answer the following questions for me: <BR> <BR>1) Was the maneuvering of the boat as easy as you thought it would be, or as it was described? <BR>2) Was there anything missing in the accommodations that I need to know (like, no coffeepot, for example) <BR>3) How much did the fuel cost (and was it difficult to fill up?) <BR>4) Did the trip go too slow, too fast, or just right? <BR>5) How big was the boat, and did you think it was the right size for the number of people on board? <BR>6) Any unexpected expenses? <BR>

Mary Oct 26th, 1999 06:45 AM

Elvira: <BR> <BR>1. Fortunately we had my two brothers, who know about boats, so there was not any problems handling the boat. In fact, one day when there was only me and Bill (non-sailors) and my brother, and the three of us operated the boat. <BR> <BR>2. The cabinets are well stocked with pots and pans and dishes, etc., but nothing extra. There is a "Geant Casino" nearby (HUGE supermarket), so you can shop for food, paper products, etc. <BR> <BR>3. Since we had a problem with weather (Hurricane Irene came and visited us with gusts up to 50 mph, causing some locks and canals to be closed), so we did not see all that we had planned. We cruised for 20 hours total and gas was approx. $100. <BR> <BR>4. The trip was perfect. We hated to leave our home at the end of the week. We would definitely do this again. <BR> <BR>5. The boat was Penichette 1260 and was more than adequate for the six of us. The kitchen/dining/living area was very comfortable. The only "down" thing was the beds were a little short, but not too bad. My 6'4" brother was able to sleep. <BR> <BR>6.There were no unexpected expenses, in fact, this mode of travel is economical, in that you can prepare breakfast and most lunches on board, and splurge on dinner and wine. <BR> <BR>Also, when we initially planned this trip it was done in a hurry. We booked our flights in and out of Nice, thus we had to rent a car back and forth, since we didn't want to use the train. We should have just flown into Montpellier, but, we still got to spend a day or two in Nice and the area. <BR> <BR>Hope this helps.

cherie Oct 26th, 1999 01:42 PM

Ohmygosh,too. My husband and I have toyed with the canal-cruise lately, too. My husband lettered in sailing in college and still gives directions in automobile traffic like "hard a lee..."(no wonder my insurance is high).....just kidding. I want to do this, too....I thought I'd like the type of cruise where some other person runs the ship, and makes you those gourmet dinners while you laze on deck....Have I been reading too many English novels? I'm going to send for a brochure and check the web for more info. -Cherie

lisa Oct 27th, 1999 02:34 PM

I find this thread very interesting because some friends of mine, a husband-and-wife couple, did a barge trip in Burgundy a few years ago and did not recommend it at all. They found the locks very nervewracking and said there were far more locks than they had expected, and felt like they hardly got a chance to relax from constantly taking care of things on the boat the whole time. But I don't know what company they used or what the boat was like. They subsequently rented a car and stayed at inns throughout Burgundy and had a much better time, so maybe the barge thing just isn't for everybody. <BR>Also, David Elliot Cohen in his book "One Year Off" (which I recently read) wrote very favorably about his family's week on a barge in Burgundy, and made it sound like fun. <BR>Thanks for the food for thought.

jill Nov 2nd, 1999 07:55 AM

Last year we went on a canal boat onthe River lot from Cahors.There were 5 of us on board a 3 bedroom 2 bathroom boat with plenty of room although one of the bunkrooms was a bit cell like. Kitchen was well equipped and the boat company kept an eye on us up and down the river. The scenery was spellbinding - especially the village of St Cirque la Poupie and the vins de Cahors and food outstanding.We had a few hair raising moments entering locks as the river is controlled by the hydro electric corporation and was subject to sudden surges and currents. We survived however. I would recommend the Crown Blue Line which takes boats in convoy if you have no boating experience. We also had bicycles and rode off down country lanes through vineyards and passed chateaux and berry fields, and had a plastic table and chairs which we set up on a grassy bank every day and ate our baguettes, pate and terrine de canard. Bliss.We'd go again tomorrow.

Janet Nov 3rd, 1999 05:51 PM

We also went with Crown Blue on the Midi Canal and it was as fabulous as Joe described. They will have a Venice canal trip next year and we are planning to go in May. Everything is on board except the food and they can provide with a list and they will have the boat stocked for you. <BR> <BR>Have been dealing with other companies and Crown Blue is the most professional. <BR> <BR>Write if you would like more info. <BR> <BR>Janet

Dave Nov 6th, 1999 10:44 PM

I didn't realize that this method of traveling was available, let alone this popular! It sounds like a lot of fun... <BR>What kind of money are we talking about here? <BR>

Mary Nov 7th, 1999 07:56 AM

Dave: <BR> <BR>This mode of travel is very affordable, in that your boat is your hotel; you can fix breakfast and lunch on board (dinner if you want to), though we ate dinner out every night. The towns we visited were very small, so we were able to find inexpensive shops and restaurants. We averaged $4 a bottle for wine in the stores!! Needless to say, not too much Coca Cola was drunk. <BR> <BR>We used Locaboat Plaisance ( They can provide you with prices. The larger the boat the more it costs, but don't skimp. <BR> <BR>Hope this helps.

Janet Nov 10th, 1999 06:00 PM

Dave-- <BR> <BR>It all depends on what season of the year, how many people on the boat, who the people are on the trip (married, kids, etc)what size boat and what area you are crusing in, is the trip one way or round trip and how long the trip. We took the Midi Canal trip with another married couple, one way from Castlenaudry to Port Cassaferies in late May. So I was looking for a specific trip with a boat that had a cabin in the back with bath and cabin the front with bath. Kitchen/dining in the middle. Certain canal trips have certain size/style boats that cruise that canal so it is really very specific to your trip and needs. As I say we went with Crown Blue ( and it was great. <BR> <BR>Enjoy <BR> <BR>Janet

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