There are about 60 boutique hotel barges that cruise along the peaceful and beautiful canals and rivers of France. They vary in size, comfort level and price – and they can be found in all the most attractive regions of France. Some can be booked by cabin (room) others are chartered complete by groups and families. Whatever the details of any particular barge, they all come complete with captain and crew who look after navigation; and professional chef and hostess to care for guests.
People often say that they feel they have been treated ‘like royalty’ and this is a very unique experience. Here is just one example of what that fabulous luxury hotel barge cruise in France is like:
Hotel Barge Anne-Marie
Provence, Rivers Rhône and Petit Rhône and the Canal Rhône à Sète: Arles to Sète
Anne-Marie is a comfortable 12 cabin barge that plies one of the most beautiful routes in the whole of France through the heart of sun-drenched Provence. Her twin bedded staterooms, though compact, each have en-suite facilities and they are bookable individually, which will provide guests with the chance to meet and mix with others who share a similar passion for French culture, cuisine and wine. Her light and bright interior is accentuated by large comfortable white sofas and crisp white tablecloths in the dining area and there is plenty of room on deck to top up your tan or cool off in the Jacuzzi.
The contrast between the mighty river Rhône, one of Europe’s major waterways, and its secluded tributary the Petit Rhône, is one of the delights of this trip. The former passes the vineyards of the Côtes du Rhône and Châteauneuf du Pape on its way to Avignon, which is renowned for its iconic bridge and Pope’s Palace, and Arles where Van Gogh created his most iconic sun-drenched paintings. Here the Petit Rhône veers off towards the Camargue, which is Europe’s largest river delta, where reed marshes are teeming with wildlife including over 350 species of water birds, flamingos, storks, egrets, wild black bulls and the famous white Camargue horses.
A typical day will see you sailing along the river in the morning – you can relax on deck and marvel at the beauty of the countryside, while for the more energetic there are bicycles available for exploring the spectacular Camargue landscape. After a sumptuous three-course lunch, most afternoons will offer diversion in the form of an interesting excursion– for example a visit to the 12th century town of Aigues-Mortes to explore the fortified walls that bear witness to its tumultuous history, and the buzzing streets within.
There is a team of chefs entirely dedicated to producing high quality dining options for your delight and delectation, both at lunchtime and in the evening too. These are prepared using locally sourced fresh ingredients and reflect the gastronomic influences of the region. Wines which complement the food are specially selected for guests to enjoy.
After spending your first night on board in Arles, known the world over for its associations with Van Gogh, you can explore the town’s Roman ruins and visit an olive oil factory before cruising on to Galicien. The following morning you can explore the timeless the beautiful Camargue before mooring for the night at the ancient crusader port of Aigues-Mortes. At Palava le Flots you can discover the delights of this spa resort, but the highlight must surely be a trip by wagon to see the local cowboys (Gardiens) herding the region’s famous black bulls. Last but not least, you will have time in Sète, said to be France’s Little Venice, where you can enjoy an excursion on the Étang de Thau, an inland salt water lake famous for its oyster beds, when there will be ample opportunity to sample some unsurpassable seafood.
These lazy days on Anne-Marie, drifting through some of the most languidly beautiful landscapes and offset with just the right amount of cultural stimulation, will surely work their magic and leave you feeling renewed and replenished. The countryside, the culture and the cuisine really are the stuff of which dreams are made and when you surface at the end of a memorable week, you will probably find yourself wanting to dream again.
► Make an enquiry to get a firm quotation for this or any other hotel barge for the time of year that interests you.
Barge Cruising Region – Camargue and Mediterranean Coast
– [below] In the region: Sete, Mediterranean, Camargue, Van Gogh/Arles, Avignon, Pont du Gard, Aigues-Mortes –
Hotel barges often collect and return guests to a pre-agreed hotel. French international airports are located at Toulouse and Paris-Charles de Gaulle and there are European-flight airports at Carcassonne, Montpellier and Lyon. There are also TGV express train stations at Avignon, Montpellier and Toulouse; and many other towns in the region have railway connections.