Peloton through the sunflowersHotel barge Savannah, which cruises the world famous Canal du Midi, has crafted a unique and exclusive luxury hotel barge cruise for cycling enthusiasts keen to follow the 2016 Tour de France. There’s just one cruise, for one week on offer. Highlights include:

  • Grandstand seat at the finish line on Tuesday 12 July
  • Exclusive race tour and meet the technical teams
  • Cycle the same Tuesday route, with full back-up support
  • Bastille Day celebrations on 14th July
  • Visits to Chateau de Pennautier, the Medieval Cite of Carcassonne and Roman city of Narbonne

Hotel barge Savannah and a 2CV tourThe cruise
Depart from Bram towards Homps with opportunities to visit vineyards and chateau as well as the renowned Cite of Carcassonne for the 14th July Bastille fireworks festivities. One or two of the first cruising days will be completely devoted to the Tour de France followed by an exclusive VIP welcome in the small town of Revel for the grandstand finish of the 12 July leg. From there a visit to the spectacular Chateau Pennautier and a driving tour in an original Citroen 2 CV. Bastille Day will be spent in Carcassonne for guests to immerse themselves in this most patriotic of celebrations. The final day is dedicated to exploring historic Narbonne, helping the chef select local ingredients for the evening’s supper and meandering through unique ovoid locks to the mooring in Puicheric.

Hotel Barge Savannah can accommodate up to seven passionate Tour de France fans in its cabin configuration: one double, two doubles/twins and one single cabin.

Tour de France leg routeThe cycling
If you are fit and experienced then you’ll be able to ride with a professional cyclist, full technical support team and Mercedes back-up mini-van. Or, if you’d prefer something a little less challenging that can be arranged too. All professional bicycles and BMC clothing will be provided.

Day two of the cruise is a rest day for the professional cyclists, so guests can choose between a cruise day towards Villesequelande and excursion to Mirepoix or an organized cycling day over the exact itinerary of the race.
Or, to make the most of this unique cruise, you can actually cycle the mountain range and long stretches through the sunflower filled Lauragais valley. Start with a visit to the Tour’s teams in the morning, see the tour bus, and chat to the technical teams or even some of the competitors.  For the less ambitious, a shorter cycling route can be organized for just one section of this stage.

This opportunity is absolutely limited – unique, one-off and exclusive. First come, first served.

Email Ruth for more details

 

 

 

Valentre bridge - Lot ValleyWe are delighted that Locaboat will be opening a new base in France this spring on the River Lot.  This region of France, famed for its black truffle and foie gras, is also home to some captivating countryside and delightful hilltop villages.  We are thrilled that lovers of the French waterways will now be able to add this destination to their wish lists.

Visitors can take the Locaboat Penichette out from Cahors from 30 April until 7 May for just 1,421 euro.  This new cruise is likely to book up quickly, so reserve your summer weeks as soon as you can.

The Penichette, being very easy to pilot and extremely comfortable, is the perfect boat for couples or families.  Guests can cruise along the meandering River Lot and visit the beautiful cliff top village of Saint-Cirq Lapopie, which in 2012 was crowned the most beautiful village in France during a vote on French television.  The village is perched on a steep cliff above the river and is a great spot for tourists who love medieval architecture or are seeking literary inspiration as the village was home to many writers including André Breton, who spent his summers there.

The Valentre Bridge in Cahors is another compelling reason to choose this cruise.  The remarkable six-arched bridge was built in the 14th Century and took 70 years to complete.  Legend says that the architect got behind on the construction and made a deal with the devil to trade his soul in return for the bridge’s completion.  There are many tales about what happened next but many believe that the architect came up with a way to break the contract by asking the devil to bring water for the mortar in a sieve for the last bit of work.  The devil couldn’t fulfil this and so the builder kept his soul!  In honour of this legend, when the bridge was restored in the 19th century, a statue of the devil was added to one of the three famous towers and in 1998 the bridge became a UNESCO World Heritage site.

We are so excited for you to experience the gorgeous scenery of the River Lot and what better way to toast this new route than by sampling the local Cahors wine.  We shall drink to that, cheers!

Find out more about Locaboat  or browse their fleet and make an enquiry.

 

Following our extended visit to the Dusseldorf Boat Show, the world’s biggest, David Edwards-May and we attended the 2016 VNF waterways tourism conference. David is French Waterways’ Practical Navigation section editor, a cartographer and specialist waterways consultant. This year, it was held in the Pope’s Palace, Avignon. We had been at the previous VNF event, in Strasbourg in 2014.

We came away quite impressed by improvements in emphasis and attendee numbers compared with Strasbourg. And there were some interesting discussions and developments. It wasn’t all positive, however. For the key points of interest, please keep reading!

Pope's Palace Avignon

  • The conference venue in the heart of historic Avignon was memorably different. The delegate accommodation aboard the Viking Buri and Baldur river cruise ships was first class. But there was an embarrassing lack of internet connection. (Bear in mind this was promoted as a business-related, internationally focused, 2-day event). Sadly the matter was blamed by the organisers on Viking and predictably, by Viking on the organisers. We also saw people turned away from the networking evening and Gala Dinner. Seemingly it was significantly over-subscribed and folk were turned away disappointed at the door.

Viking Buri breakfast

  • Although these events tend to be somewhat less than exciting there was a fairly good mix of participants. There was representation from all sides of our sector – boat/barge/cruise operators, particular rivers/canals, towns and regions, suppliers – and of course VNF in its various guises.
  • The post-conference newsletter boasts that 400 participants (including 80 local authorities) from 15 nationalities attended. That there were 30 stands and 2,500 one-to-one business discussions. Plus 4 plenary sessions with 22 speakers.
  • It was good to meet up there with barge owner colleagues Tim Harrold of ‘Randle’ and Olivier Baudry of ‘Alegria’, plus our friend and website colleague Carmen Momenceau of Fluvial.
  • The second plenary session, Foreign customers, how can we improve their satisfaction?, was the one we were hotly anticipating. Unfortunately it contained little (in our opinion) that advanced things other than to reinforce how very important non-French tourists are to the waterways sector. Figures cited ranged from 83% American guests on board Viking river cruises to 70% Anglophone customers hiring self-drive boats.
    Atout France, France’s national tourist promoter, spoke at both of the sessions that we attended but had almost nothing to say that was waterways relevant.
    David spoke from the floor and emphasised to the assembled 200 or so that meeting English-speaking expectations (i.e. selling to them) required understanding and communicating with both sides of the equation – the potential worldwide tourist audience and the suppliers in France (e.g. hotel barges). Many people came up to us at the conclusion of the session, to discuss further.

Pont d'Avignon

  • Amongst other meetings, David and I met with the ‘new’ combined Burgundy-Franche Comté regional initiative that Mike Gardner-Roberts had talked to us about in Dusseldorf. There is a lot of positive feeling about this effort between VNF and local operators to improve canal and river operation, and boat operator and boat user customer experience.
  • In fact, all of the ‘regional and local’ VNF and tourism authority meetings we had were very positive; people seem on the whole to be very keen to promote waterways tourism. Even if the degree to which this might translate into practicalities or hard cash is perhaps less clear.
  • We also had a long discussion with Frédéric Millet, the recently appointed head of tourism development for

So all in all, for us, it was worth the 1,300km travel there and back (by excellent Eurostar and glorious TGV). Spent two full days thinking about the waterways tourism subject, met lots of people, had a good number of worthwhile discussions.

Dusseldorf Boat Show

‘Boot’, the Dusseldorf Boat Show, the biggest in Europe if not the world. 17 huge exhibition halls and 1,800 exhibitors. Gigantic!

We were there for two full days. We attended with our close colleagues David Edwards-May and Jenny Ruff, from waterway consultants and specialist publishers, Transmanche.

Together, we manned the Inland Waterways International stand (sponsored by Linssen Boating Holidays). And we seized the opportunity to talk to interested visitors not only about France, but the wider system of canals and navigable waterways to be enjoyed throughout mainland Europe and Scandinavia. David’s large-size display map of the complete network caught many an eye and prompted many a conversation.

There were many visitors, many fantastic motor boats and sailing yachts (not to mention one complete hall devoted to diving and two to chandlery) and some very impressive stands. Our hall, Hall 13, was devoted to water based tourism, yacht charter and also canoeing (including a 100m section of artificial rivulet where kayaking could actually be tried out). Yet no hotel barge representation and only a relatively small amount about small ship river cruising.

Our friends at Linssen Boating Holidays had a significant-sized stand. It was very professionally designed and realised featuring two of their luxurious Dutch-built steel self-drive boats, one destined for the Venetian Lagoon. Linssen agents from all over Europe, including our website partners France Afloat, manned the stand. Linssen also had four fabulous ‘for sale’ boats on their other stand, 15 minutes walk away. We talked at length to Peter Linssen about their newly expanded joint alliance with Locaboat. Mike Gardner-Roberts (France Afloat, Linssen and Auxerre port) gave us some significant breaking news about the initiative he is leading with the Burgundy-Franche-Comté VNF region. The aim of the initiative is to enhance the experience that ‘plaisanciers’ receive and to tackle some of the less positive operational aspects. The initiative also has the full support of VNF Head Office at the highest levels. Great news and well done Mike.

We have a meeting booked with VNF Waterways Tourism management to follow up on that one in Avignon next week, when David and us attend the two-day 2016 VNF Conference. We’ll post a report on that, too.