Which canal/barge co. to choose?

Old Nov 20th, 2002, 06:28 PM
  #1  
carol
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Which canal/barge co. to choose?

My husband and I are planning 5 weeks in France Sept-Oct 2003, 2 weeks of which we would like to rent a self-drive canalboat/barge. Living in Alaska, we really are leaning towards the southly warmth (Midi and Camargue), but have friends to visit in Brittany (so would consider Loire Valley or Normany/Brittany regions), but love wines (so would consider Burgundy or Alsace/Lorraine regions). Looking for reliable company. Need to know about hidden costs/responsibilities, the dos and don'ts.
Thanks for the good and the bad news.
 
Old Nov 21st, 2002, 02:25 PM
  #2  
AGM/Cape Cod
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My family booked two self-drives boats through LeBoat Inc. We were in Burgundy but I know they handle boats all over Europe. Debbie at LeBoat knew alot about what to take and what to expect. Check them out at leboat.com.
 
Old Nov 21st, 2002, 02:43 PM
  #3  
Selena
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Hi,
We used the Crown Blue Line last year in the Camargue. It was a wonderful experience. The boat was in excellent condition and the people were so friendly and nice. We plan to use this company in the future.
The Camargue is a beautiful area. A few nights we stayed out from towns, along the canal, and this was so unique to what we had experienced. It was like being in your own world with nothing out there but the wind. One of my fondest memories on the trip was when I woke up really early cuz the wind was really gusting up a good one. I went out on the deck and looked out at the sky which was bright red. It was magical. The wind blew hard all day and we stayed put and read, drink tea and just enjoyed the moment..
The towns of Aigues-Mortes and St. Giles where really nice. We will go back to that area again. The entire trip was perfect and being on the boat really gace us a chance to relax and forget about work, bills, problems... ect... Wishing you a trip as fun as ours was.....
 
Old Nov 22nd, 2002, 09:47 AM
  #4  
Michael
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We used RivedeFrance (http://www.rivedefrance.com/) on the Burgundy Canal. They also offer rentals in Alsace and on the Canal du Midi, and I believe also in the lower Loire region close to Brittany. There were no hidden costs. No problems. I recommend that you go upstream and one way. The first because the locks are normally kept open so that the boats going upstream do not have to wait for the lock to empty before entering it (when doing 50 locks in a week, that saves time), and the second because at 3 to 4 miles per hour, you get to see all you need to going one way. There is no reason to see it all over again going in the other direction. The heads and showers were not the greatest, but otherwise the boats were fully furnished, the people at the beginning took the women to the local supermarket (a couple of kilometers away) so that they could stock up on essentials. Each trip offers different interest. The Burgundy canal trip has a lot of old stones (towns, chateaux, Buffon's old forge, etc.). The Alsace itinerary goes through 30 km of forest (no locks) and also uses the barge "funicular" to change levels at one spot. If you pay your deposit before the end of February you probably will be offered a discount from the listed prices. In case you can't get into the web site, do a search for boat rentals in St. Florentin (Burgundy) in the French Yellow Pages.
 
Old Nov 22nd, 2002, 10:29 AM
  #5  
Frank
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Carol
I had a bad experience with Le Boat several years ago. We took a cruise in the Burgundy region. The boat was very moldy, the "training cruise" worthless, and we decided to change our trip from one way to out and back and were assured they would refund us the extra charge but never did despite multiple attempts to contact them.
I would vote for the southern region for better weather, ours was bad and colored our experience (sealed up in a moldy boat in a rainstorm).
As far as do's and don'ts--make sure the towpaths for bike riding are useable, ours were completely overgrown (Saone). We had trouble finding places to tie up for the night, the banks were completely overhung by trees and the moorage at the towns was full. Tip the lock operators or buy wine from them, they're much more helpful. My family found the lock experience somewhat stressful but at the time had little boating experience and the kids were young. Check the numbers of locks, they vary widely depending on the trip.
 
Old Nov 22nd, 2002, 11:05 AM
  #6  
francesca
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We had a great experience with Rives de France and an unforgettable vacation on the Canal du Midi. Have a wonderful trip.
 
Old Nov 22nd, 2002, 11:11 AM
  #7  
danb
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I'll throw in my 2 cents. We have used Rive de France twice and will be using them again in April. Their US broker is Barge Broker in Colorado. Excellent service and great boats. We did a bit of the Burgandy and then a week on Canal Midi. Great trip - one way for a week - some 60 locks. To reiterate, the lock keepers do like to be tipped.

We paid most all up front; had to pay a little more for one way - also had to pay for the bike rentals and gas at the end of the trip.
 
Old Nov 22nd, 2002, 06:16 PM
  #8  
carol
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Thanks to all above. Welcome any others' advice/comments...
 
Old Nov 24th, 2002, 11:23 AM
  #9  
Ann
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Carol, we did a one-way trip on the Burgundy canal the same time of year that you'll be traveling, and it was wonderful. The weather was perfect, the canal almost empty of other boats, fields of sunflowers in bloom, white Charolais cattle grazing in the pastures, and wine season at its peak. We rented from "Connoisseur" and had absolutely no complaints. Their info on locks, towns, markets, sightseeing opportunities, distances, etc. was quite extensive and accurate. They are a British firm, so you will also have no language problems when you pick up the boat! Their website is pretty detailed, even to floor plans of the various barges. See www.connoisseurafloat.com. Finally, one tip the company's US agent gave us which we were VERY thankful to have used: we took a rental car along the route with us, having one or two people move it ahead in the morning to a lunch stop, and then again from there to where we would tie up for the night. The designated driver could then walk, jog or bike back to rejoin the barge as it moved along, as this was never more than 2-3 kms. This gave us the option of: shopping, esp. away from the canal(and some things, like bottled water, are heavy!); driving to have dinner (like in the beautiful, nearby Chablis); sightseeing further than walking distance (such as to Fontenay Abbey); and scouting out the most picturesque, secluded or interesting spots to tie up for the night. I know taking a car on a barge trip sounds odd, but another group we ran into along the route was so jealous that they sent back for their rental car which was sitting in the company's lot at Auxerre. Our end point was just above Beaune, a spectacular city you'd want to include in such a trip. Best wishes...
 
Old Nov 26th, 2002, 11:44 AM
  #10  
carol
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Thanks Ann for the advice. Yes, I've been to Beaune and it is a jewel.
 
Old Nov 26th, 2002, 04:57 PM
  #11  
Toodie
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Carol,

In May '01, my husband & I and another couple rented a canal boat (35') from Blue Crown. We picked up the boat near Nevers & followed the Loire Lateral Canal to Rogny for 1 week. I think 2 weeks is a long time to do this, but that's just me. We absolutely loved this part of our trip! I would do this area again in a minute even though we are major into wine (live in Sonoma County, CA) & this area does not have the variety of wines that other areas afford. We were very pleased with Blue Crown--excellent book provided for navagating, clean, well layed-out boat--we will use them again for future trips. FYI, the coffee cups were very tiny--purchase some if you want a "mug" of coffee in the morning. Also, we found that using the shower on board was much better than showering at the "marinas"--some marina showers had no hot water & were not clean. Just plan on filling up with water each day so you'll have enough water to shower and wash dishes, etc.

When we left the boat at Rogny, we took a taxi to Gien train station to pick up our rental car. We then drove to Blois and stayed at the LeFleuray--a wonderful inn with a great restaurant that I would highly recommend. We drove to La Trinite-sur-Mer and stayed for 3 nights at the Le Petit Hotel des Hortensias, again a great hotel that I highly recommend. This was a great plan for us for touring Brittany. After LaTrinite-sur-Mer, we stayed 3 nights at Hotel Ty Mad in Douarnenez, a good hotel in a great location, very reasonable price, but somewhat rude staff. This little hotel also has a very good restaurant. We spent 3 more nights at the Manoir de la Rance in Pleurtuit on the Rance River in northern Brittany, a very nice B&B overlooking the river in a good central location for the area.

Have a wonderful time on the canal portion of your trip and in Brittany. If you have any further questions about our trip, please e-mail me.
 
Old Nov 27th, 2002, 10:50 AM
  #12  
desire
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tt
 
Old Nov 30th, 2002, 01:40 AM
  #13  
carol
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Thanks Toodie. Does anyone have experience with vcr battery rechargers and Crown Blue lines outlets? These boats sound less equipped than our Albin at home-no depth finder, no emergency radio etc. Do they even have electrical outlets which can be "adapted"? Thanks for any info.
 
Old Nov 30th, 2002, 08:36 AM
  #14  
Gretchen
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I'll throw in just another planning thought for you on a pretty extended trip. We took a barge trip in Burgundy--not self-drive--in October. On our small barge (18 people) we met 2 couples who were on a 2 month European trip. They broke up their trip in several ways--driving, training, and barging (not self-drive), staying in hotels and finally a house in Tuscany after the barge. I thought it a very sensible thing to do--to let someone else "take care of everything" for a week on a barge (they had also done it on the Danube). Just a thought. And 2 weeks straight sounds like too much for me--you are a bit limited by the distance from the river or canal you can go for sightseeing unless, as we did, there is a little tour bus that goes along with you. If you are interested in anything I have mentioned please just post.
 
Old Nov 30th, 2002, 10:55 PM
  #15  
Carol
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Yes, I would like more info on your impressions of your Burgandy trip in October. How did the weather hold out? Also have seem some griping about the Saone area being overgrown and stagnant. We enjoy wine, so were you able to visit vinyards? Thanks for any further info you can think of. Carol.
 
Old Dec 1st, 2002, 05:01 AM
  #16  
Gretchen
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We booked through Abercrombie&Kent and if you go to their website you will find a complete list of their cruises. We did Burgundy and it depends on the water levels for the exact itinerary you take that particular week. We were on the Saone (it was lovely) and the Burgundy canal but were supposed to be more on canals--water levels were low. Each day we either did a sightseeing tour of the town nearby or a winery/chateau.Some weeks are totally emphasizing wine tours.Weather in October was cool and cloudy--some rain.The crew of the barge could not have been nicer--ANYthing you wanted was gotten for you.The food was fabulous--2 wines with each meal.A&K was the broker but the barge was operated by Continental Waterways.HIGHLY recommend the Lafayette.It is apparently chartered for the season from CW by A&K.
 
Old Dec 1st, 2002, 12:21 PM
  #17  
Joan
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Eight of us (including 2 young girls) plan a self-drive canal boat trip in France, and are leaning towards the Midi Canal. There are so many choices of canals, boats, etc. that I'd like to ask those experienced in canal boating to give examples of things they didn't think to ask the first time, and learned from their experience so that their next trip was better.

Also, I want to mention that I got a free copy of the 2001 guidebook "Best Budget hotels in France! from Wilson Publishing. They're giving away the overstock. Saved $18.95 and only needed to send $5 for postage. Go to http://www.HelloEurope.com or call 888 663-9269. We plan to spend a week on land and this book looks quite useful to keep the costs down.
 
Old Dec 1st, 2002, 10:28 PM
  #18  
Carol
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Joan: a co-worker took 13 people in 2 boats on the Canal du Midi for a week. Their thoughts--wife thought it was easier to go DOWN the canal but husband felt he had more control going UP. Doing the "up-and-back", rather than the one-direction, they ran out of time and never got to Carcasonne! Loved it, but said to be sure and tie up well, as their boat did come un-staked once by another boat's wake. They said to be sure and have some empty water bottles to fill up with the great local wine along the way.
 
Old Dec 7th, 2002, 04:08 PM
  #19  
joan
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Carol,
Thanks for the suggestion about having handy an empty plastic bottle to fill up with wine! Which makes me wonder how the wine for sale is stored. Will we be buying form a barrel (or?) and where we we find the wine! I have a lovely image of wine masters waiting for us to tap a barrel at canal's edge! Please fill me in.
Thanks!
 
Old Dec 8th, 2002, 06:04 PM
  #20  
mary
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We used Locaboat Plaisance several years ago and had an incredible time. Don't know how far back Fodor's searches go, but I did give a lot of info. Nonetheless, whichever route you choose, should be lots of fun.

 

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