5 Ways to Save Money on French and European Barge Cruises

November 20th, 2016

It’s true that canal barge cruises carrying 4-20 passengers can be more expensive than ocean cruises and some river cruises, but there are ways to save money without sacrificing one tiny bit of quality.

6-passenger barge Magnolia in Southern Burgundy

6-passenger barge Magnolia in Southern Burgundy

1. Book your barge cruise early

Most barges will honor the current year’s prices for the next year if bookings are confirmed with deposit early. For example, if you want to go barging in 2018, book your cruise in early spring of 2017. Remember that September is the most popular month for barging, so book even earlier if that is your preferred time.

2. Book your barge cruise late

If you can make plans 2-3 months prior to travel, we often have special offers with 10-20% discount for cabin or charter bookings. It’s all subject to availability at the discretion of the barge owner. Special offers apply only to new bookings and are not retroactive for bookings already confirmed. For example, take a look at spring special offers the winter before travel.

3. Charter the entire barge with friends or family

There are two types of barges:

  1. Charter barges for your own private group.
  2. Hotel barges where you can book cabins with other passengers on board.

All hotel barges are available for private charter, but not all charter barges accept cabin bookings. Typically, chartering the entire barge results in a lower price per person. For example, the 6-passenger Emma on the Canal du Midi can be chartered for $30,000 ($5000 per person), but booking an individual cabin is $5500 per person double occupancy.

4. Cruise during value season

Many barges offer value and regular season prices with value season being April, sometimes May, mid-July to mid-August and the last two weeks of October. For example, check out the 2017 rates for 12-passenger Luciole which has a lengthy value season at $4550 per person for cabin bookings rather than $4950 for regular season. It has single cabins, too, with no single supplement making this a great opportunity for solo travelers.

5. Half board cruises with some meals on shore at guests’ expense are considerably more affordable

For those who enjoy a variety of dining experiences, consider a half-board charter cruise for your group of 4-6. Independently owned and operated, the barge owners can offer a flexible meal plan which reduces the price. For example, the 6-passenger Magnolia in Southern Burgundy is very affordable at $18,400 half board for 6 ($3067 per person) rather than $23,650 full board for 6 ($3942 per person). The half board plan includes all meals except 4 meals on shore at guests’ expense. Excursions, open bar and everything else in a full board cruise are still included.

Want help navigating the barges to find the best cruise for your interests and budget? Contact us whenever you’re ready. We’re always ready to help.

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Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988

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Affordable Half Board Barge Cruises are Great for Foodies

August 29th, 2016

For the adventurous traveler who enjoys trying different restaurants and also wants the experience of dining on board their barge cruise, here is a great solution.

Often called a “half board” cruise, there are several barges which offer flexible meals plans to enable a wide variety of dining experiences. It also makes the price more affordable than the usual “all-inclusive” barge cruise. Let’s take a look at some of your options.

Savoir Vivre in Southern Burgundy

Children and Family Barge C

Savoir Vivre, an 8-passenger barge, is a favorite with breakfast and lunch on board catered by a local chef. Dinners are taken on shore in a different restaurant each night, all included in the price. This compact barge is very comfortable and highly regarded because of the fabulous crew led by French Captain Richard. Cabin or charter bookings welcome. Individual cabins or private charters available.

Magnolia in Southern Burgundy

Fun and delicious "a la plancha" grilled lunch on the deck of Magnolia

Magnolia, a 6-passenger barge, is ideal for charters of friends or family wanting a true French experience. Captain Nicolas and Tour Guide Magali are native Burgundians who love showing guests their unique style of barge cruising, complete with dinner at Magali’s parents’ farm. The half-board cruise includes all meals except 4 meals on shore at guests’ expense. Come aboard an enjoy the hot tub and “la plancha” deck top grill. Charter only.

Randle on the Nivernais Canal in Northern Burgundy

Charming 4-passenger Randle cruises the Nivernais Canal and Northern Burgundy

Randle, a 4-passenger barge, is a floating family vacation home with a double cabin and a cabin with bunk beds for the kids or agile adults. The passenger friendly wheelhouse with large dining table is great for watching the world float by. The half board cruise provides breakfast and lunch with all dinners on shore at guests’ expense. Charter only.

Caroline on the Canal du Midi

Caroline is a warm and welcoming 6-passenger barge on the Canal du Midi

Caroline, a 6-passenger barge, offers all meals except 2-3 meals on shore at guests’ expense. This is an affordable option for friends and family alike with 1 double cabin with ensuite bath and 2 twin cabins with private baths across the hall. Captain Uli and Chef Ute love sharing their barge with easygoing guests who love food, wine and local history. Individual cabins or private charters available.

Esperance  and Alegria on the Canal du Midi

The deluxe 6-passenger Esperance on the Canal du Midi delights in beautiful table settings and gourmet meals


Esperance, a 6-passenger barge, and Alegria, a 4-passenger barge, are the most deluxe of the barges offering half board cruises. This is a great way to cruise on beautiful barges with spacious accommodations making this the best of dining on board and on shore. Esperance provides all meals except 4 dinners on shore and Alegria offers a half board cruise upon request. Both owner-operated with excellent crews, we consistently receive rave reviews. Charter only.

Saraphina on the Canal du Midi

Meet the creative and whimsical 4-passenger barge Saraphina on the Canal du Midi

Saraphina, a 4-passenger barge, is new to our fleet with experienced owners Captain Finnegan and Emily bringing their skill and hospitable personalities into their creative and artistic barge. All breakfasts and dinners are included with lunches taken onshore at guests’ expense. Charter only.

Ready to go barging? It would be our pleasure to help you select and book just the right barge cruise for your interests and budget.

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Beth Hanson
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A Guest’s Adventure on the Canal du Midi aboard Athos

May 8th, 2016

Thank you to our guest writer, Ginny Blackwell, as she tell us about her first barge cruise. I don’t think it will be her last! Ginny is the owner of International Property Shares, and provides opportunities for people to own fractional shares in charming homes in France and Italy.


With Captain Julian at the helm, his able and friendly crew take care of guests’ every need.

Ginny’s Story

As I stepped aboard the Athos barge a week ago, I looked forward to visiting the Minervois region of southern France again, but in the slower, more luxurious way that a canal barge offers, one lazy bend of the canal after another. My family always thinks of this corner of the world as “home” since our family spent a year here in 2003 so our children could really master speaking French.


You may know that life in the Languedoc very much follows the seasons. As April sunshine warms the vines and new green buds appear, the hotel barges which have been dry docked since fall, begin preparing for the summer season. All the wood work is sanded and varnished, the interiors freshly painted, and the hull gets cleaned, sorted and readied for the barging season.


With helpful travel tips from Beth Hanson, owner of, I tried not to over pack but to come prepared for any kind of weather: 2-3 pairs of pants, neutral colored tops with a variety of scarves to dress things up, a dress up outfit for the captain’s dinner, and a good raincoat in case of grey skies. One good thing to remember is that the Mediterranean wind is fairly constant in southern France.

My first impressions

What a beautiful barge! The Athos is 30 metres long with 5 en-suite cabins and open dining area/salon with large windows offering plenty of light. It also has  as a full kitchen, living quarters for the crew and, of course, the deck where we lounged about a good deal of time. As we entered to drop off our bags, I could appreciate all the special touches: fresh flowers greeted us in each cabin as well as specialty chocolates and toiletries, the walls were bright and freshly painted for the season, champagne was chilling on the bar with candles lit for our first meal together. “Hmm- this is going to be fun!” I thought.


So many surprises!

FOOD: Hang onto your hats here because I have NEVER had more inspired and 5-star meals, one after another. If our first day’s menu doesn’t leave you pining for more, then nothing will! Sunday, April 3rd:  Scallops with sweet potato and pea puree followed by pork belly with braised red cabbage and star anise puree, a choice of two cheeses (Valencay and Cantal) followed by the most delicious lemon and almond tart ever.


Each of our meals was paired with wines from the Languedoc region and either Mariana or Joueja, our two hostesses, explained their features and why they were chosen. For the first evening, a Chateau La Voulte Gasparet was paired with the scallop entree followed by a Chateau Ollieux Romanis, Cuvee Classique 2012.

CREW: One of the barges moored right next to the Athos smiled over at us and said, “You have one of the best crews on the Canal du Midi.” I couldn’t agree with him more! Our two hostesses, Mariana and Joueja, our tour guide Mathieu, top notch cook Emma and Captain Julian, worked seamlessly together as only people can with a shared vision and purpose. It was easy to see that they genuinely enjoyed each other as well as their work.

KNOWLEDGE: I am not typically one of those people who enjoys guided tours, preferring to discover things on my own . . or to fall asleep on deck with a book in hand. That said, spending ½ day each day with our light-hearted and knowledgeable tour guide, Mathieu, was one of the Athos barge highlights. Each evening he would show up after cocktails and before dinner to let us know the program for the following day. Some of the must-see visits included Carcassonne and Minerve where we heard a graphic depiction of medieval life during the Cathar era. But we also learned about how to distinguish between Roman and Gothic architectural features, how one flood changed the course of the Aude river as well as the course of history for Capestang, a former port city. On a lighter note, we saw the secret mixing chambers of Nouilly Prat vermouth and learned some tactical moves to win a game of petanque (boules).


FELLOW TRAVELERS: I think my favorite memories in life are those where you’ve just plain had fun with those around you . . and laughed and joked a lot. This was certainly the case with our group of 5 passengers: Dan and Victoria from Sydney, Australia and Sophie and Dan from Denver, Colorado and me. We swapped travel stories and photos, played a wine board game after dinner, knocked down quite a few afternoon beers as well as enjoying the quiet and relaxing beauty of life along the canal.


THE ATHOS JOURNEY: from Argelliers to Marseillan (including the six locks of Beziers). If you are looking for a unique way to be pampered from the minute you arrive and yet still have plenty of time to quietly soak up a week of slow relaxing travel, don’t hesitate to book a French barge canal trip on the engineering marvel of the Canal du Midi, even as early as April. There’s something to be said for having the canal to yourself.


Take it from me, the Athos journey is really wonderful, an A+cruise.”

Written by Ginny Blackwell, owner of International Property Shares, which provides opportunities for people to own fractional shares in charming homes in France and Italy.

Does this whet your appetite for a barge cruise aboard Athos. Whenever you’re ready to consider a barge cruise, we would be happy to help.

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History of Reims Cathedral and the Kings of France

March 22nd, 2016

For over 800 years, a magnificent Gothic art masterpiece stands in the heart of the Champagne region of France – Notre Dame de Reims. Hundreds of thousands of people visit the city of Reims annually to see the cathedral and take in the splendid art and architecture of this UNESCO World Heritage Site and immerse themselves in French history.

The massive flying buttresses of the majestic Reims Catherdal

The massive flying buttresses of the majestic Reims Cathedral

Some historical facts about Reims cathedral and the kings of France

In the 5th century, a basilica was first built on this site. Later, it was replaced by a cathedral until fire destroyed it in 1210. The present cathedral began construction in 1211 and completed in 1296. Renovations, expansions and embellishments to the cathedral have continued throughout the centuries to modern day. World War I shelling took a heavy toll on the cathedral, necessitating a massive restoration project. Several stained glass windows designed by Marc Chagall were installed in the 1970s. For the 800th anniversary of the cathedral in 2011, some new stained glass windows designed by a German artist were revealed to the public. In its own unique way, this massive cathedral has accommodated various artistic and architectural influences.

The beautiful stained glass rose window in the Reims Cathedral

The beautiful stained glass rose window in the Reims Cathedral

The coronation of the kings of France

In 496, King Clovis of the Franks was baptized by Saint Remi, bishop of Reims. From this act sprang the tradition of having the king legitimized by the Church and swearing to defend it and uphold its principles. In the early 11th century, Reims became established as the city of coronations, with 25 coronations of French kings taking place in the cathedral from early 13th century to early 19th century. One of the coronations was of Charles VII, facilitated and attended by Joan of Arc.

Stained glass windows by the renowned artist Chagall

Stained glass windows by the renowned artist Chagall

Would you like to be awed by the cathedral in the city of Reims with its wondrous architecture and stained glass windows? Barge cruises on La Nouvelle Etoile, Saroche and Johanna include excursions to this important historic site. It is well worth the visit.

The smiling angel adorns the entrance to the cathedral

The smiling angel adorns the cathedral’s entrance

Thank you for letting us help you select and book your barge cruise.

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Beth Hanson
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Nivernais Barge Cruises Include the Fascinating Château de Bazoches

January 18th, 2016

Home to One of the Great Military Engineers of All Time

Built in the 1700s, the 175-kilometer long Canal du Nivernais is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful French canals for Northern Burgundy barge cruises. Just a short drive from the canal is the fascinating Château de Bazoches tucked on a hill with expansive views of the surrounding fields and villages. It is a beautiful, 12th Century residence that once housed the lords of the land including one of the best military architects of all time, Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, named a Maréchal of France.

Born in Burgundy during the early 1600s, Vauban started out as a minor noble but eventually became a poverty-stricken orphan and then a soldier in the Condé regiment. During his time with the regiment, he was taken prisoner and met Cardinal Jules Raymond Mazarin who became the Chief Minister of France in 1642. It was through his relationship with Mazarin that Vauban’s military career began to flourish and he became a loyal servant to King Louis XIV.

Outlining the Borders of France, the Fortifications of Vauban are UNESCO World Heritage Sites

As Vauban progressed through his career, he became well-known for his engineering talents and such inventions as the bayonet and iron barreled cannon. He used his engineering skills to help the French rulers build critical fortifications throughout the region which outlined the borders of France. Among them are the Fortifications of Vauban, a dozen buildings designated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.

With the funds earned in appreciation of his immense contributions to the defense of France, he purchased the Château de Bazoches and used the residence as a place to perfect his military strategies and subsequently write about them.

Today, the home has returned to the original de Sigalas family who have restored this stately home and opened it to the public to enjoy the rich period furnishings and fascinating history. It includes memorabilia connected to Maréchal de Vauban as well as items associated with other owners, such as Jean de Bazoches. To visit the Château de Bazoches and partake of a cruise on the Canal du Nivernais aboard the Luciole, L’Art de Vivre or Randle, please contact us for more information.

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Review of Saint Louis Barge Cruise in Southwest France

February 7th, 2015

Thank you Jeff and Linda Williams for your review of the barge Saint Louis

Jeff and Linda Williams enjoying their barge cruise on Saint Louis

Jeff and Linda Williams enjoying their week on Saint Louis

“We had the delightful chance to experience great weather and the wonderful scenery and hospitality of our hosts, Peter and Wendy Carrington on the deluxe barge Saint Louis in September of 2014. We had resisted booking conventional cruises or even larger river cruises because of the number of passengers and the resulting need for standardization of itineraries. When we learned about the Saint Louis we were attracted to the fact that it takes only six passengers and allows for considerable flexibility of itineraries and meals. All services are included in the fee. Every day included a few hours of gentle canal cruising and a guided tour of the local countryside. An eight passenger Mercedes van was used for the daily excursions as well as for picking passengers up at both ends of the cruise. Each day we were offered some suggestions for the excursions and we could opt to come or not or to modify it.

Cycling towpath on Saint Louis barge cruise

Cycling along the towpath in Southwest France is a highlight of barging

Beth Hanson, our booking agent, contacted us some time before the cruise began, asking for any food allergies or preferences and conveyed this information to Peter, who accommodated all our requests if at all possible. This included preferences for drinks. The open bar was available at any time and every lunch and dinner was accompanied with two different local wines chosen specifically to compliment the dishes being served.

Dining on the deck of barge Saint Louis

Breakfast, lunch and dinner on deck whenever weather permits

It is hard to describe adequately the level of service Peter and Wendy provide. Wendy is a true artist in arranging beautiful place settings for every meal, including breakfasts. I think every meal had different linens and color schemes. Peter is a talented chef, who provided a wide range of fine French cuisine using local food items. Every day he made an early morning run to a different local boulangerie for fresh croissants and bread and some time each day he or Wendy shopped for fresh food. One afternoon he climbed a hill where he knew borage flowers grew that he used to decorate the evening dessert! Nothing was left to chance in creating the gourmet meals.

Fresh breakfast croissants every day on Saint Louis

Fresh croissants and pastries daily on board Saint Louis

Speaking of special service, my camera battery charger stopped working on the first day and I was afraid that I would not be able to take any more photographs, but Wendy offered to look for a universal charger that might work. She shopped for it while we were enjoying our daily cruising and would not even accept money to reimburse her expenses! That is what I call going above and beyond.

Barge Saint Louis floating the Garonne Canal

Deluxe 6 passenger barge Saint Louis floating along the Garonne Canal

Peter and Wendy had only recently taken over hosting the barge cruise, which they had been planning on doing but they had to move their date ahead due to health problems with Barbara, the wife of the former proprietor. I am sure they were on a steep learning curve that was accelerated when Minnis, their regular pilot and tour guide also suffered a health issue. Tim, an experienced barge pilot, was brought aboard and while there were a few minor glitches with learning the specifics of the Saint Louis, Peter and Wendy calmly managed to maintain the serenity of the cruise. They even had a French TV camera crew filming a documentary for a whole day. I am sure they were like the proverbial ducks, smoothly gliding along while paddling furiously under the surface, none of which was visible to the casual observer.

They really seem to enjoy people and to providing the very best possible experience for their guests. While the price may be more than equivalent time spent on larger vessels, the value is exceptional for anyone who appreciates being treated to a slow paced glimpse of luxury in a beautiful part of France.

Book ahead because this experience is contagious.” Jeff and Linda Williams, Canada, September 2014

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Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


Discover the Birthplace of Dijon Mustard on Burgundy Barge Cruises

January 4th, 2015

Mustard produced by Burgundy's La Moutardarie FallotFor centuries, many people have been slathering it on roast beef sandwiches, whisking it into sauces and adding dollops to salads without nary a thought to its history. Yes, we are talking about Dijon mustard, one of the world’s most beloved condiments. Its birthplace is one destination travelers will discover as they cruise the canals of Southern Burgundy on a barge. The place that helped give rise to the multi-billion dollar mustard industry is Burgundy’s capital city of Dijon. Located in the Cote-d’Or wine region, it has been inhabited since France’s last Stone Age, which began in 7000 BC.




The origins of Dijon mustard

Mustard plant and flowers by La Moutardarie FallotIts oceanic climate and soil would prove to be ideal for growing mustard plants and grapes for vinegar. During the 1700s, one of the renowned families involved in both agricultural pursuits was headed up by Francois Naigeon. The patriarch had his own successful gourmet food business and often elicited the help of his family members. One of them, Jean Baptiste Naigeon, was the man responsible for combining Francois’ fine verijuices with mustard to create what the world would come to know as Dijon mustard. Travelers interested in learning more about him and the region’s other mustard masters, including the family initially behind the Grey Poupon brand, may want to read Rosamond Man and Robin Weir’s tome, The Mustard Book.

According to Rare Seeds, who provides two recipes for making your own Dijon mustard, “The most famous modern Dijon mustard brand was founded in 1777, when Maurice Grey (who had developed a recipe for a strong mustard made with white wine) formed a partnership with Antione Poupon (who supplied the financial backing to manufacture the product). They revolutionized mustard making by introducing the first machines to automate its production. Their original store still stands at 32 Rue de la Liberte in the heart of Dijon.”

Mustard cultivation in Burgundy today

Because of economic reasons, the French stopped growing mustard seed in Burgundy and were importing seeds from North American to produce their products. Since that time, Dijon mustard has become a generic term with products being made under that name in many countries. To reinstate the history and lore of mustard made in Burgundy, that has since changed thanks to the Burgundy Mustard Association and mustard-makers like La Moutarderie Fallot. Now, there are a few French farmers growing mustard seed, and France has given products made with those crops “Protected Geographical Indication” status under the name of “Moutarde de Bourgogne.”

Bmblem of authenticity and quality by La Moutardarie Fallot

The Indication Geographique Protegee emblem provided by La Moutardarie Fallot

Other culinary delights produced in Dijon

Of course, the city of Dijon has much more to offer travelers in the way of culinary history than just mustard. It’s also home to Kir Royale cocktails, blackcurrant liquor, assorted vinegars, wines and a very special gingerbread made with honey instead of molasses. All five remain popular to this very day and are often available for purchase throughout the region.

To discover more about the capital city of Dijon and cruise the canals of France on a barge in absolute comfort, please contact us today. We offer barge vacations in Southern Burgundy from April through October, all of which include a visit to Dijon.

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Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


Barge Cruises Help Foodies Taste French Cheeses Like Pros

December 22nd, 2014

Do you love exploring a country through its cuisine? Barge cruises in France offer not only gourmet cuisine and fine wines, but also plentiful opportunities to learn about cheese tasting. There’s a degree of skill and etiquette attached to it, much like tasting olive oils and wines. So we’ve assembled a few cheese tasting basics to help our valued passengers prepare.

Cheese plate on deluxe Burgundy barge Apres Tout

Deluxe 6-passenger Burgundy barge Apres Tout cheese plate


French cheese flights

French cheese flights are normally served on a platter or board. They may be accompanied by a series of cheese knives, tongs and dainty forks. The knives are traditionally used to taste all of the cheeses with the exception of those that have been marinated. The prongs on special cheese forks and knives are normally used to transfer the samples from the platter to individual tasting plates.

Sometimes the French cheeses are served with regional breads, olives, crackers, fruits and wines to help add depth and breadth to the tasting session. If that’s the case, tasters should consider sampling the cheeses alone first to get a feel for their unique flavors. Otherwise, the accompanying delights may overpower the cheese or alter its flavor. Most often, cheeses are tasted from the mildest to the strongest to savor the more delicate flavors first.

Deluxe barge Saint Louise cheese board

Deluxe 6-passenger barge Saint Louis serves a variety of French cheeses at lunch and dinner

Cheese tasting etiquette

Tasting etiquette dictates that French cheeses should be visually examined and sniffed before being placed in the mouth. Once in the mouth, the taster should make a mental note of the cheese’s texture and nuanced flavors. In serious cheese tastings, it is also vital to note that clean forks and knives should be chosen before every bite to avoid cross contamination between the cheeses.

Proper technique for cutting French cheese

On occasion, barge cruisers will be presented with whole cheeses and allowed to cut their own samples. If that happens, there is additional etiquette involved. For example, it is generally considered good form to cut from the center of the cheese out towards the rind. The center tip of the cheese’s wedge is normally the prized part whereas the area nearest to the rind is often avoided. Therefore, many professional cheese tasters recommend slicing the pointed tip off of the wedge first and sharing it with all of those at the tasting table. If that is not possible, each taster should ideally be given a chance to sample tips from the other cheeses included in the flight. We’ve been taught NOT to cut off the nose of a wedge of cheese, but rather cut at a diagonal so all tasters can sample a morsel of the soft interior.

To learn more about French cheese tasting etiquette and cheeses served with lunch and dinner on barge cruises in France, please contact us today.

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Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


When is the best time to go on a barge cruise in France?

December 9th, 2014

Good question! Is there a best time to go barging?

The barge cruising season is April through October, taking in three distinct seasons. Weather can be a big consideration and much of it is personal preference, as some travelers like cooler weather where others love basking in hot sun. As in all of Europe, it can rain at any time. That said, there are months where it is less likely. Here are some features you can expect on spring, summer and fall barge cruises in France.

What can I expect in April and May?

The Burgundy Canal in early April

The Burgundy Canal in early April

Spring has arrived all over France with trees starting to green in early April with wildflowers in full array by May. The tourist season is in full swing starting Easter weekend with museums and sites which were closed for the winter opening their doors to welcome curious visitors. Yes, there is a chance of spring rains and cool weather with the occasional canal closure due to heavy rains. In that case, the barges offer extra excursions until the water recedes allowing the locks to operate again. I was in Burgundy in early April this year and took this photo. It was gorgeous. For those bargees wanting warmer weather in early spring, cruises on the Canal du Midi in the South of France can have a drier Mediterranean climate. A bonus for those cruising in April are the value season prices which can save significantly making this a good option for value conscious travelers.

How about barge cruises in June, July and August?

Sunflowers in full bloom in July

July is the month for sunflowers in full bloom. Photo by Apres Tout guest David Hall.

Summer is emerging in June and comes into full bloom in July and August. Long days and warm nights make living and dining on deck the norm. All barges are air conditioned to provide comfort inside with warm to hot summer days outside. There still is a chance of rain, but it is generally short lived especially in July and August where exciting and torrential thunder storms cool off the temperatures. The canals tend to be busier in July and August with families renting self-drive canal boats for family fun. The atmosphere is laid back and carefree – it’s summer vacation! Here is another budget bonus as many barges offer value season prices from mid-July to mid-August. As August comes to a close, a hint of autumn is in the air making this one of my favorite times to cruise.

The partially covered sundeck of Apres Tout in Burgundy

Partially covered sundecks as on the deluxe 6-passenger Apres Tout make outdoor living scenic and comfortable.                   Photo by Apres Tout guest David Hall.

Glorious September and October on the canals of France

Autumn cruise on Luciole on the Nivernais Canal

An autumn cruise on the Nivernais Canal on the barge Luciole – bliss!

It’s true. September and early October are THE most popular months for barge cruising. Why?
Well traveled Americans are big fans of barge cruising in France. They generally are baby boomers and have spent their summers enjoying family vacations at home. Seeking quieter canals and fairly predictable warm (not hot) weather, they are ready for some adult fun wining, dining and relaxing their way through the countryside. Because of this popularity, it is high season and many barges, especially private charters, book 15-18 months before departure. Warm days with cool evenings are ideal for daytime activities and peaceful sleeping. Sightseeing and activities are still vibrant yet more tranquil without summer crowds. As we approach mid October, the weather can be gorgeous with bright autumn light or cold and rainy as autumn takes hold. On November 1, the tourist industry in the countryside goes to sleep. It’s time for the barge owners to take a well earned rest and take care of their beloved barges for the next season.When is your best time to go barging

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Whenever you’re ready to go barging, we’re ready to help. Happy travels,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988


Discover the Taste of Chablis Wine on Northern Burgundy Canal Cruises

November 30th, 2014

Nestled in Northern Burgundy’s Valley of the River Serein (the French word for “serene”) is the town of Chablis, a favorite excursion on French canal cruises. It is part of France’s Yonne Department and is known for its monastic history and viticulture. Legend has it that the monks of the Abbey of Pontigny, a Cistercian monastery on one of the pilgrim routes to Santiago de Compostela, were the first inhabitants to make a conscientious effort to grow grapes for wine making. The abbey is the largest standing abbey of its kind in Europe and celebrated its 900th birthday in 2014.

The wine town and vineyards of Chablis

The wine town of Chablis nestled in the vineyards

The origin of Chablis wine

The Chardonnay grapes planted on the abbey’s pastoral grounds are well suited to the micro-climate and soil of the Chablis wine region. They thrived and soon the monk’s highly acidic, flinty wines were quite popular with the local populations. Consequently, centuries later, Chablis wines produced in the area now hold four appellation d’origine controlee (AOC) designations.

PIcking grapes in Chablis. Photo by Barge Randle

Grapes are mostly picked by hand in Chablis

The Chablis, Grand Cru, Petit Chablis and Premier Cru appellations

Wine tasting in Chablis

A private wine tasting is included on all Northern Burgundy barge cruises

Interestingly enough, each appellation has its own levels of classification as well. They are traditionally based on two key factors. The first factor has to do with the soil composition and the second focuses on the slope where the grapevines are located. Passions run high as to which one is best and whether one should consume a bottle of Chablis from a vineyard that’s rife with Kimmeridgean soil and located close to the mouth of the Yonne River or one that’s tucked away in the outlying areas, where Portlandian soil is prominent. Personally, we think that most travelers aboard French canal cruises will find something nice to say about them all.

Barges such as the ultra-deluxe C’est La Vie, the deluxe La Belle Epoque and the first class Elisabeth include visits to Chablis and the surrounding vineyards.

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To learn more about Northern Burgundy canal cruises, please contact us today.

A votre sante,

Beth Hanson
Barge Cruise Specialist since 1988