A Luxury Hotel Barge Cruise in France
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 Saraphina
Southern France, Midi-Languedoc: Canal du Midi
With accommodation for an exclusive four passengers in two comfortable queen-sized en-suite cabins of 66 square feet each, Saraphina has a wonderfully intimate atmosphere and the accent is very much on personal service. There are cruising options of either three or six nights at full or half board, so your holiday on this beautiful old barge can be infinitely flexible. She has an open galley so you can see the chef at work, making the interior dining and lounge area feel like a home from home, and there is plenty of space up on deck in the sunshine to top up your tan as you glide along.
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in acknowledgement of the astonishing feat carried out by its 17th century architect Pierre-Paul Riquet, the Canal du Midi links the Étang du Thau in the south east with the River Garonne in Toulouse, making it possible to convey goods (and now holiday makers) from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. Wandering between the vineyards of Corbières to the south and the Minervois to the north, Riquet’s audacity in engineering can be seen in the flight of nine characteristically oval-shaped locks at Fonserannes. 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.
Life on board consists of indolent mornings spent lounging on deck keeping up with the heron count – in this rural part of France there is an abundance of bird life and cormorants and egrets (not to mention the ducklings!) make regular appearances too. Alternatively, you can stroll down the towpath to practice your French with the lock keepers, or hop on a bicycle and explore the local villages. During the afternoons you might indulge yourself with a visit to a local attraction such as the wine town of Minerve, which has been designated as one of the most beautiful in France.
Saraphina’s talented chef prepares meals using only freshly sourced local produce and is happy to cater for specialist diets given at least eight weeks’ prior notification. It is possible to dine either under the stars on deck, or in the shelter of the wheelhouse and offshore meals are taken in local restaurants so guests can immerse themselves in the best of the region’s cuisine.
After a champagne welcome, a delicious dinner and a sound night’s sleep, your holiday will include a visit to the artists town of Pézenas, cruising through the astonishing flight of nine locks at Fonserannes, a chance to explore the Cathar history and the wines of Minerve, the olive oil farm and factory at Ouilbo and the mouth-watering foodie opportunities in the colourful market at Narbonne, a city whose origins predate Roman times. Other treats include a tour of the Cistercian abbey of Fontfroide, a wine tasting in the delightful canal side village of Homps and last, but by no means least, time to explore one of the most iconic ancient citadels in France – Carcassonne, which is your final mooring place.
These lazy days on Saraphina, 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 – Midi-Languedoc
– [below] In the region: Minervois, Minerve, Canal du Midi, Beziers, Narbonne, Carcassonne –
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.