Taking a hotel barge holiday or vacation in France is one of the most enjoyable, most relaxing ways to appreciate this beautiful country with its thousands of years of history, heritage and culture. So, what’s it all about?

Hotel barges are spacious and sedate, cruising at not much more than a fast walking pace. There is plenty of time to appreciate the passing scene – be it countryside, village, town – or to cycle ahead to the next lock or mooring. There are a few hotel barges that offer ‘budget’ accommodation but in the main hotel barges have been fitted out to meet the highest standards of appearance, comfort and facilities. You’ll be looked after by an attentive crew and an inventive chef, in the safe hands of an experienced barge skipper.

Nicols Brochure 2019

The Canal Entre Deux Mers (the combined Canal du Midi and the Canal de Garonne) is the waterway that famous chef Rick Stein travelled in his much acclaimed TV series ‘A French Odyssey’, shown world-wide many times. The fine dining on the hotel barges that travel these waterways is likewise founded on the wealth of fresh local produce and delicious local cuisine, prepared on-board or enjoyed at any one of the superb nearby restaurants.

Rick Stein’s French Odyssey series followed him as he journeyed west to east, from Bordeaux to to Toulouse to Sete to Aigues-Mortes. You too can visit many of the same places, the same markets, that Rick Stein visited.

Be captain of your own ship and experience France on your terms, from a stunningly different perspective. Self-drive hire boating is not all Chablis and relaxation – you have steer and navigate locks. But it is a probably the most relaxing self-drive holiday you’ll have. In fact, with so many hire boat bases around France, the hardest part of all is deciding where you to want to cruise from.

Hire boats come in all shapes and sizes, whether there are two of you or 10. With no prior boating experience required, this guide reaffirms what a wonderful holiday hire boating offers with just enough adventure for those looking to learn a new skill along the way too.

There is something very special about the Canal du Midi, something that simply makes people fall in love with it. Running from the city of Toulouse down to the Mediterranean port of Sète, the Canal du Midi is arguably the most beautiful and well-known stretch of inland waterway in Southern France.

These days the Canal du Midi is a haven for tourists from across the world who come to bask in its beauty and soak up the scenery. In the summer the weather is gorgeous, but the colours and its serenity make it a place for all seasons. It is easy to see why it was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. First time visitors will certainly be bowled over by its magnificence and even old hands will find new and exciting things to explore on every visit. It is truly a magical holiday destination.

Less crowded than the perennially popular Canal du Midi in the south of France, the Canal de Bourgogne is one of the best kept secrets of the French waterways.

Travelling through central eastern France from Laroche Migennes in the north where it links to the River Yonne, to St Jean de Losne in the south where it connects to the River Saone, the canal passes through some of the most historic and ravishing landscapes in the country.