Forty seven hotel barges grace the pages of French Waterways this year. We’re delighted to offer such a full fleet of hotel barge cruising holidays in France. There are plenty of familiar faces in the portfolio and a perfectly sized handful of newbies.
Here we’ll talk you through some of the trends we’re seeing in French tourism and boating holidays for 2017. We’ll also introduce you to some of our new barges.
More hotel barge cruising available by-cabin
All hotel barges can be chartered, for your private family vacation or friendship group jolly, but these days more barges are accepting cabin bookings so you can come as a couple, or alone – two hotel barges have single cabins but on other barges a single supplement applies.
Hotel barge cruising with others means that you are likely to meet more fascinating people and make new contacts. One of the great benefits of hotel barging in France is the company of fellow travellers. We have met so many new friends from the world over during our cruises in France.
Hotel barge cruising along the Canal du Midi aboard Clair de Lune
Clair de Lune with her cherry wood and African hardwood interiors is a warm and tasteful place of repose as she glides gracefully along the Canal du Midi on one of two itineraries. Let Nathalie and Yves steer you through their own intimate knowledge of the Canal du Midi and its surroundings.
In the early part of the season (March-July) Clair de Lune cruises from Le Somail to Carcassonne. The foodie fantasy begins on day two with a private wine tasting at Domaine Massamier La Mignarde, one of the finest Minervois wine producers, while day three is all about cheese. Day four’s lunch at a quintessentially French restaurant near Les Halles will tee you up nicely for another wine tasting on day five at Chateau Villemagne. Come the Captain’s farewell dinner on day six, you’ll know your Minervois from your Corbieres and be wondering how you can return to this gorgeous part of France again soon.
In the heat of summer (July-September) Clair de Lune cruises further upstream, from Trebes to Naurouze. Few Canal du Midi cruises are complete without a day’s allowance to explore the iconic hillside fortress town of Carcassonne. You won’t be disappointed and you’ll be rewarded for your rampart walking with a sumptuous dinner on board. Explore the ‘circulade’ village of Bram, savour a private tasting of Limoux sparkling wine with just the company of your fellow barge guests. Will you find the Holy Grail in Rennes-le-Chateau or will you save your exploring for the Cathar citadel at Fanjeaux? On to Mirepoix with its half timbered houses, through the triple and quadruple locks to Castelnaudary with its Grand Basin to devour some authentic cassoulet. Naurouze is the highest point on the Canal du Midi and it is here that the waterway’s creator, tax-collector Pierre Paul Riquet, is recognized for his outstanding visionary achievements.
More boating holidays for your holiday budget
With 47 luxury hotel barges to choose from there is now choice, not just the odd option, for every budget. So whether you have $3,000 or $6,000 to spend – we’ve got you and hotel barge cruising covered.
More inland cruising options across France
The Canal du Midi is the heart of the hotel barging phenomenon – the iconic UNESCO World Heritage Site being the magnet that it is – but beautiful Burgundy is where you’ll find the breadth of barges and itineraries.
Hotel barge cruising in Northern Burgundy aboard C’est la Vie
Pretty villages, serene countryside and fine wines epitomise a boating holiday in Burgundy and C’est la Vie is no exception. Add in lunch at a 2* Michelin restaurant and you’ll begin to get a feel for the opulence on offer.
Your hosts, Deborah and Olivier, pride themselves on exceptional standards and will tailor their service as best as possible to your French holiday requirements. Olivier is a borne and bred Burgundian, andalso a trained chef. Choose from their three itineraries:
The Burgundy Cruise along the Canal de Bourgogne from Ravieres to St Florentin encases history, wine and walking. Tick off a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the Cistercian Abbey of Fontenay. Take to the towpath on foot or bicycle en route to Ancy le Franc (with its 16th century chateau) to get even closer to this region’s lush countryside. Moored in Lezinnes is a short excursion to Chablis, where it would be rude not to stop for dinner – if only to soak up the wine. At Tanlay the landlubber in you will have to contend with cobbles in this medieval town with ramparts. Wrap up your excursions with a visit to Auxerre on the river Yonne for a spot of café culture and people watching while musing over the town’s famous visitors of times gone by: Joan of Arc and Napoleon.
The Upper Loire to Burgundy Cruise takes in the Canal du Loing, River Seine, River Yonne and the Canal du Bourgogne as it winds its way from Montargis to St Florentin. This is the foodie cruise: dinner on the penultimate night of the cruise is at La Cote Saint Jacques, a 2* Michelin restaurant in Joigny. Back to the beginning though where at Nemours you’ll have an extensive tour of 16th century Chateau Fontainebleau followed by cocktails and dinner on board. At Moret sur Loing visit the house of Alfred Sisley an English painter born in Paris who also spent time in Moret painting the landscapes of this area. From the River Seine you’ll discover Sens, home to one of France’s first gothic cathedrals dated to circa 1140. Onwards to the River Yonne for an excursion to the 12th century abbey of Pontigny to rustle up your appetite for that extra special dinner. From the Canal du Bourgogne, at Laroche-Migennes, step ashore for a short drive to Chablis and a private wine tasting before heading towards St Florentin.
The Upper Loire Cruise along the Canal de Briare and Canal Lateral a la Loire meanders from Sancerre to Montargis. Naturally a private wine tasting of Sancerre sets the tone for this cruise and with some sauvignon blanc in your system you’ll be grateful of the chauffeur back to the barge! En route to Ouzouer sur Treze you’ll navigate over the Pont Canal, the famous aqueduct partly designed by Gustave Eiffel to cross the River Loire. An extra reward for your experience is a trip to the 10th century Chateau of St Fargeau. In Gien visit the pottery that made this town famous for tableware before admiring the seven lock staircase at to Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluse. Day five brings you to Montbouy and 14th century fortress Chateau de Sully – a stopping place for the royals of Europe over the centuries. Finally, draw in to Montargis or ‘little Venice’ with its many tributaries and 131 bridges, not forgetting a feudal castle, ancient buildings and Pralines!
Where there’s wine, you’ll find luxury boating holidays
Most hotel barge operators will not only arrange private wine tastings, they’ll introduce you to some of France’s finest regional wines over lunch and dinner. Beyond wine, you’ll likely have access to an open bar during your cruise too. From aperitif to digestif, explore France’s finest fruit products!
Luxury hotel barging in southern Burgundy aboard Rendez-vous
A grand cruise through Burgundy will be guided by your Rendez-vous hosts, Spencer and Rejane, who bring 20 years of hotel barging experience to their hospitality and itinerary. Cruise the Canal de Bourgogne from Fleurey sur Ouche to Vandenesse-en-Auxois. Freshly refurbished for the 2017 season, you’ll charter cruise in luxurious comfort, sustained by glorious sunshine, fine wines, gourmet food and stunning scenery – the perfect recipe for a cruise of a lifetime.
First stop Gissey-sur-Ouche, which is reached via lush rolling countryside and canal-side pretty villages. It’s also the gateway to Cote de Nuits where you can stroll or cycle the Route des Grand Crus and visit Clos de Vougeot for a spot of wine making history and a soupçon or two of prestigious wines. Dotted amongst the vines of Burgundy are the fascinating cities of Dijon and Beaune. Dijon’s covered market could occupy you for hours – another of Gustave Eiffel’s creations its abuzz with the produce and wares of the locality.
A day in Beaune is only just enough and you’ll taste wines and mustards, plus enjoy lunch at one of the town’s fabulously vibrant bistrots. After all that exertion a couple of days cruising through heavenly countryside are called for. From La Bussiere-sur-Ouche to Pont d’Ouche you’ll moor to take in the fantastical chateau atop the hillside in Chateauneuf-en-Auxois. Cruising towards Vandenesse-en-Auxois stop for a cheese tasting and a little surprise ashore before a gourmet farewell supper aboard.
Hotel barge cruising off the beaten track
The glory of boating holidays in France is the alternative perspective gained from the less than crowded, gently meandering course to your destination. During peak season the waterways come alive with boats, especially the further south you are. Yet it’s a buzz rather than a jam of traffic. An excitement in the air to be doing things differently, seeing France from another perch. Most hotel barge owner-operators will tailor your itinerary, a little or a lot, depending on what you want to see and experience most on your French holiday.
Celebrate in style
Some of the hotel barges for large groups are perfect for celebratory occasions like big birthdays or anniversaries. Imagine the memories of France you’ll create as a group and the holiday of a lifetime you’ll have. Whether there’s 12 or 24 of you, believe it or not there’s a barge ready and waiting to cater for you and your party.
Luxury boating holidays in Alsace aboard Aurora
Meet Aurora. New to Alsace for 2017 and with a new host, John Baker, who brings 40 years’ luxury hospitality experience to the mix. John’s mission, aside from providing you with a luxurious hotel barge cruising holiday in France, is to uncover some of northern France’s hidden rural gems while enabling you to discover the myriad joys of Alsatian wine.
Cruise the Canal Marne du Rhin from Strasbourg to Arzviller in the refined ambience of king size staterooms and a third upper-deck for ultimate relaxation and unspoilt views. Define your itinerary by the excursions you choose along the way – we’ll just provide some examples.
Leave the architectural highlights of Strasbourg for the forests of Brumath and the prettier quarters of the city. Perhaps an excursion to Petite France, the Barrage Vauban, Strasbourg Cathedral or Fischer Brewery. Onwards to Hochfelden along what is referred to as the Wine Route. Stop in beautiful Obernai with its Alpine vibe, ancient ramparts, delightful restaurants and a deliciously eye-opening wine tasting. En route to Saverne perhaps Europe’s biggest care museum, the Schlumph Museum, will draw your attention or will it be a Benedictine Abbey and Jewish Culture Museum, or Camp de Struthof – the only concentration camp on within France’s borders.
On to Lutzelbourg – a picture postcard village – with excursions including the troglodyte village of Graufthal, the Lalique Crystal museum or the wartime fortifications of the ‘Maginot Line’. Wrap up this epic hotel barge cruise through France factoring in Marc Chagall’s chapel window and museum in Sarrebourg or renowned Faience Pottery and Lehrer Cristallerie. Not wanting to end such a cruise on anything other than a stunning note, you’ll encounter the Arzviller lift – the only side incline plane ship lift in France. If that isn’t enough, you can also add in hot air ballooning and the Spa of Sulzbad.
And so the decision is with you… Where will you go hotel barge cruising? Which itineraries take your fancy? What excursions must you see?
Need a hand? Ruth’s your hotel barge expert and is on hand to answer your questions and help guide you to a choice perfect for you. Send Ruth an email (rn©french-waterways,com)