Excellence, charm and charisma on the Canal du Midi

Luxury hotel barge Esperance offers delightful cruising for up to 6 guests looking for a real French experience on board an authentic but completely transformed and comfortable barge. She cruises the Canal du Midi, providing six guests with a glorious cruise and a fascinating introduction to the Languedoc region, its important history and delicious cuisine and wines.

Esperance is owned and captained by the charismatic and friendly Mathias Gilles (a long-time luxury yachting and barging professional), and has 4 staff dedicated to providing the highest possible standards of hospitality and personal service.

At a Glance

Style: The 'nature' of the hotel barge. Outline subjective guidance as to the quality or comfort level that might be expected on board.
Price Band: Per person. Outline guidance only, on a relative or comparative basis. The bands do not represent accurate low or high season rates.

Hotel Barge Esperance :: Key Features

  • Grand Luxe class (5*)
  • Canal du Midi, southern France
  • Charter (some occasional cabin bookings), 6 nights, 7 days, March to October
  • 2 – 6 guests / 3 cabins with ensuite bathrooms
  • Renovated in 2016
  • Individual control conditioning and heating throughout
  • Full board, three-quarter board and half board
  • Sun deck with dining area, loungers and spa tub
  • 6 all-terrain bicycles
  • Wifi (limited in some places)
  • Air-conditioned minibuses for transfers and excursions

Hotel Barge Esperance: Cruise Highlights

  • Visit Minerve, the important Cathar village in its spectacular seige-top setting
  • Delicious wine-tastings in renowned Languedoc vineyards
  • Cruise through the Malpas tunnel, the first in Europe
  • Excursion to Narbonne, its famous market and Archbishop’s palace
  • Views of the whole region from Montady
  • Tour of the spectacular medieval city of Carcassonne
  • Excellent towpath for walking and cycling

mathias-gilles-300x265Your Host
Esperance is owned and operated by Mathias Gilles. Brought up on a boat as a young boy, sailing, cruising and providing this luxury experience afloat is second nature and his raison d’etre.

What’s included:
6 nights accommodation; transfers by executive mini-bus to and from the pick up point; all meals and drinks on board; all excursions, tour guide, fees and associated transport

Not included:
Air fares to and within France; travel, medical and cancellation insurance; crew gratuities (5 – 10% suggested)

Guest comments:

“The cruise went really well. Esperance is a beautiful luxury barge with all of the amenities. It is ship-shape and in tip-top condition; I was proud to be seen sitting on it…..
We have lots of great memories and too many photos to prove it. We would particularly like to thank Mathias who made everything seem effortless.”
Bob and Janet G, Canada 2017

We cannot thank you enough for such a wonderful trip on the Canal du Midi. You, Herve, David and Stephanie made the trip so special and I feel like I left with four new friends. Your barge is lovely and the accommodations were great. We all had such a good time just slowing our pace down and enjoying the wonderful landscape as we floated by while drinking wine and eating wonderful gourmet meals. It was a trip to remember and I know I will pass on your name and the barge information to many friends and hope they will take advantage of this wonderful passage of time like we did.”
The Smith Group, TX USA 2016

” . . The barge is incredible. As we kept mentioning, you have not missed anything. Every room, bathroom, seating area, upper deck is warm and comfortable. I can’t think of one thing you haven’t provided. I am in awe of the tabletop combinations you have and how you manage to store them. The dishware and glassware (plus multiple napkin folding) make every meal special. All these are things and add to the atmosphere but mainly, your humour and easy manner and willingness to share your experiences make for a perfect host . . “

” . . The moment we boarded the Esperance we were treated like we were royalty . . “

” . . The highlight of the trip if I had to pick one was the day our tour guide, Nathalie designed a picnic and Dean, our barge chef, made a delicious lunch for us to take to a vineyard at Chateau Villemange. It was an 8th generation vineyard where we helped pick (and eat , of course) the grapes. The owner Roger prepared the table in the vineyard’s garden and poured us local wines after an elaborate tasting . . “

Hotel Barge Esperance

Beziers to Carcassonne (Homps), Canal du Midi, southern France

Day 1 Sunday: Welcome in Beziers

Hotel Barge Esperance Canal du Midi

Pick up at Beziers train station (or alternative point) and transfer to Esperance for a Champagne reception.  Meet the crew and settle in before supper on board.

Day 2 Monday: Beziers to Capestang
Cruise to Colombiers and stop to explore its 12th century church and pretty streets before lunch on board. Then cruise through the Malpas tunnel, the first ever constructed in Europe and there’s time to walk or cycle along the excellent towpath this afternoon. Moor at Capestang, with its famous tightly-fitting semi-circular bridge, and explore the village and relax with refreshments at a local cafe. Dinner on board.

Hotel Barge Esperance Canal du Midi

Day 3 Tuesday: Capestang to Pezenas
Continue to cruise westward throughout the morning and then lunch on board. Then an excursion by luxury mini-van to Pézenas. This once wealthy town is rich with fine architectural buildings and details from centuries past.  Dine on board Esperance this evening at a beautiful countryside mooring.

Day 4 Wednesday: Cruise to Le Somail

Hotel Barge Esperance Canal du Midi

Cruise to Le Somail, a small village with an extraordinary and famous 2nd-hand bookshop and many local artists in situ. Later, a guided tour of Narbonne, a major pre-Roman city – to the Archbishop’s Palace, museum and the famous covered market. Alternatively, a trip to the  Mediterranean seaside and prize-winning olive factory at l’Oulibo, for tasting and buying olive oil or tapenade.  Moor at Le Somail for the night and dinner on board.

Day 5 Thursday: Le Somail to Minerve

Hotel Barge Esperance Canal du Midi

The cruise continues with opportunities to walk, cycle and stop at villages along the way, perhaps to purchase local wines, and then lunch on board. in the afternoon an excursion to the Gorges de la Cessa and the village of Minervois perched on a spectacular rocky outcrop. This Cathar stronghold is part of the region’s tragic religious history.  Enjoy some more wine-tasting on the way back to Esperance and then moor in the countryside for dinner on board.

Day 6 Friday: To Carcassonne and Homps

Carcassonne Esperance Canal du Midi
The cruise continues towards Carcassonne, arriving at Homps. After lunch on board, a guided tour of the world famous medieval cite of Carcassonne, perhaps the highlight of the cruise. This extraordinary walled city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest, restored castle in Europe, and seen in Hollywood films such as ‘Robin Hood’. Moor in Homps for the night.

Day 7 Saturday: Departure
Depart after breakfast at 09:00 for chauffeured transport to the pre-arranged drop off point.

hotel barge canal du midi esperanceThis itinerary is a sample only and is subject to change. On alternate weeks it runs in the opposite direction.

Half-board and three-quarter board cruises are also available (for charter bookings only), providing guests with the opportunity to savour excellent local dishes in an authentic brasserie or restaurant atmosphere. Please enquire.

Winter Cruise in Provence and the Camargue

After all the summer tourists have departed, this delightfully peaceful voyage invites your party to enjoy the last quiet days of the year in southern France. Fresh sea-side air combine with fascinating excursions and top class cuisine to soothe and invigorate all your senses. No matter what the weather, the views are stunning from aboard this exquisitely snug hotel barge – a real tonic for the winter blues.

Charter, full-board only

Day 1 Sunday
Your charter party will be met at the location of your choice in Avignon, which is easily accessible by TGV train from Paris or Nice, or at a rental car return point. Upon your arrival, your guide will first take you on a visit to Avignon, to tour the largest Gothic palace in Europe, the Pope’s palace.
After a short transfer to your luxury barge, moored in the nearby port of Beaucaire, you will be welcomed aboard with a champagne toast and the first of many gourmet dinners.

Esperance Camargue Provence french-waterways.com

Day 2 Monday
Today, after breakfast a drive through beautiful tree lined roads will lead you to the famous and enchanting hilltop village of Les Beaux de Provence, one of the most beautiful villages in France, known for its gorgeous views over the Provençal landscape and its artisans colony. Being still close to Avignon, you’ll have another opportunity to tour the city or simply explore the picturesque shopping area around the palace, or relax in a café on the town square. If you prefer, a visit to the impressive Roman aqueduct Pont du Gard will be suggested. A late afternoon cruise will take you through a lock on our way to Bellegarde.

Day 3 Tuesday
A very short drive to visit Arles, where Van Gogh fell in love with the lights and colours of this fascinating countryside. Heading to the heart of town we will see Les Arenes, a Roman amphitheatre built in the first century AD and much more! For the rest of the day we will cruise on the Canal du Rhône a Sète through the stunningly beautiful Camargue National Park, home to various wildlife including black bulls and the beautiful white Camargue horses.

Day 4 Wednesday
Today’s cruise will take you to the 13th century walled town of Aigues-Mortes, famous as an embarkation port for the Crusades and also for the salt formations that are created from the evaporated water and salt marshes in the area. There are many historical sites to visit and time to climb the ramparts and shop for souvenirs.

Esperance Camargue french-waterways.com

Day 5 Thursday
Our journey continues to the most peaceful and romantic mooring of this cruise, located at the 6th century Maguelone Cathedral on a peninsula with the canal on one side and the beautiful blue of the Mediterranean on the other. A relaxing gourmet dinner will be served on board and to close a perfectly relaxing day.

Hotel Barge Esperance Canal du Midi french-waterways

Day 6 Friday
Today is a perfect day to go walking or biking – the area has so much to offer: the cathedral surrounded by vineyards and water, the flamingo and other species of wildlife, and of course the beautiful Mediterranean beaches. For those who want to do even more, Sète, the little Venice of France, is another unmissable stop.

Mediterranean beach Esperance french-waterways.com
In the afternoon we will have a gentle cruise along peaceful lakes and ponds to our last mooring close to Frontignan.
Festive Farewell Dinner on board.

Day 7 Saturday
Depart after breakfast for transfer to Montpellier, where there is a TGV train departure to Paris and Nice. If you prefer, your charter party may also be transferred to the airport, rental car office, or hotel of your choice.

On alternate week this cruise will run in the opposite direction, and is subject to change. Available from 15 November through to 28 February
Please enquire for booking information.

Hotel Barge Esperance cruises through Midi-Languedoc, southern France

Barge Cruising – Midi-Languedoc

map midi languedoc► Hotel Barges cruising in this locality

Canal du Midi – Canal de la Robine

The Canal du Midi has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in acknowledgement of the astonishing feat carried out by its 17th century architect Pierre-Paul Riquet in linking the Etang du Thau in the south east with the River Garonne in Toulouse, effectively making it possible to convey goods from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Riquet’s audacity in engineering can be seen in the flight of nine characteristically oval-shaped locks at Fonserannes, near the ancient city of Beziers which is famous not just for its 13th century cathedral, but for its bullfighting festival too. If ticking off UNESCO sites is your thing, then you get two for one in Carcassonne, where the canal passes close to the ancient citadel that forms one of the most iconic skylines in the whole country.

The 240 km length of this historic waterway is extraordinarily beautiful, meandering between the vineyards of Corbieres to the south and the Minervois to the north and a visit to the wine town of Minerve, which has been designated as one of the most beautiful in France, is a treat. A diversion along the Canal de la Robine leads to Narbonne, which dates back to Roman times when it was a strategic trading centre, and even today its covered market, supplied by local producers, is a kind of foodie heaven.

Getting There
Hotel barges often collect and return guests to a pre-agreed Toulouse or Narbonne hotel. French international airports are at Toulouse, Bordeaux – and Paris-Charles de Gaulle. There are also European-flight airports at Carcassonne and Montpellier. TGV express train stations are located at Toulouse, Carcassonne, Narbonne and Montpellier; and many other towns in the region have railway connections.

– [below] In the region: Minervois, Minerve, Canal du Midi, Beziers, Narbonne, Carcassonne –

minervois2-500x300  midi-sunflowers-500x300  minerve2-500x300

midi-lock-500x300  midi-somail2-500x300  midi-canal-500x300

beziers3-500x300  narbonne-500x300  carcassonne-musicians-500x300

Minerve ©Ian Cameron | Others ©FW, wikimedia, n/a

Hotel Barge Esperance: Details and Facilities

Hotel Barge Esperance Floorplan

  • Dimensions: 100 ft long
  • Romaniu suite (back cabin) 170 sq ft, Farigola suite 200 sq ft and Sauvia 200sq ft
  • Sauvia has a fixed queen-size double bed; Romaniu and Farigola have queen-size double or twin beds
  • En-suite bathrooms (included in the dimensions above) have all toiletries provided from brand names and local artisans
  • All cabins have TV for DVD player, small sofa and hair dryer.
    NB: please bring adaptors for other electrical appliances
  • Professional English-speaking crew of 4 – captain, hostess, deckhand and chef.
    All speak fluent English as well as other languages

Other items on board:

  • Central heating/air conditioning throughout
  • HiFi system with iPod and DVD player
  • WIFI with limited availability
  • Loungers, shaded area with dining table and chairs and hot tub on deck
  • Mercedes air-conditioned SUV vehicle for transfer and excursions
  • 6 touring bicycles and helmets provided

Hotel Barge Esperance: Cuisine

Hotel Barge Espearance french-waterways.com Canal du Midi

With some of the finest produce – delicious breads and pastries, fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh sea-food and a huge variety of local wines – on the very doorstep in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Esperance delivers superb culinary treats at every meal.

With advance notice, Esperance is delighted to cater for all dietary preferences and is happy to discuss menus and the wines on board. Chef will also provide demonstration dishes for those who’d like to gather in the open galley and learn from a master.

Hotel Barge Esperance – 2019 Rates

Charter bookings
Sunday to Saturday

April 7, 14, 21, 28
May 5, 12, 19, 26
June 2, 9, 16, 23, 30
July 7, 14, 21, 28
August 4, 11, 18, 25
September 1, 8, 15, 22, 29
October 6, 13, 20

2 guest charter: 17,500 USD
4 guest charter: 23,000 USD
6 guest charter: 29,000 USD

Dine-ashore* rate weeks:

* 4 dinners ashore (at recommended local restaurants) at guests’ own expense.

2 guest charter: 15,500 USD
4 guest charter: 21,000 USD
6 guest charter: 26,000 USD

All rates and prices will be confirmed at time of booking. Special Offers are available from time to time – contact us

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