A Barging Holiday In France
Dave and I are about to embark on our fifth barging holiday. If you are interested in a barging holiday in France then this post may be of use to you.
So, you want to go barging and you have no idea what to do? This will hopefully answer your questions and set you on the path to what is going to be the best holiday of your life. Well, that is how we felt after our first trip and still do.
Choosing a route
There are so many options to choose from so begin by choosing the region you would like to explore. We have done the following in France:
- Canal du Midi from Argens to Negra with Locaboat
The Canal Latéral à la Loire from Briare to Dompierre (we got off in Nevers) with Locaboat
This year we are going from Hesse to Boofzheim in Alsace-Lorraine with Leboat.
Choosing the time of year:
I would recommend that you don’t go in the height of summer when the canals are busy. April and May or September seem to be the quietest months. We have experienced cold temperatures in the mornings and evenings, as well as rain and I would keep that in mind when deciding on the time of year. We have done one trip over the Easter weekend which meant a lot of things were closed over the public holidays. I don’t recommend this as an option if you have far to travel.
Tip: Check out regional holidays before you leave.
What size barge do you need:
I never thought I would say it, but bigger is better. Twice we have had a two berth barge to ourselves. Both times we have used the spare berth as our storage and dressing room. When we went with 2 other couples we got a 4 berth barge and used the small berth with bunk beds to store suitcases. When we went with Mark we used the single bed in the passage for the suitcases. This year we are going on a barge that has two proper bedrooms, both en-suite with separate toilets. We have no extra space for our suitcases so will have to make clever use of the space in our berth. It is important to keep in mind that space is limited and that the standard berths are very small.
What you can expect on the barge:
Each barge we have been one has had different configurations. The beds have been comfortable and bedding, pillows and linen are provided. Ask for an extra pack of towels in case you encounter wet weather. There is limited storage space so make sure you pack conservatively. We have had barges with both manual and electric toilet flush systems. There are no septic waste collection facilities in France, so you are disposing directly into the canal. On some barges there is a basin with an extendable tap that doubles as a shower head. Water is stored on the barge and heated via the gas boilers. On others we have had proper showers. Each bathroom cubicle has a small waterproof cupboard. In some barges the entire area gets wet when you shower so remember to take the loo roll out of the bathroom before you shower.
You would do well to choose a barge with both indoor and outdoor steering. If the weather is suitable everyone on the barge will enjoy the outdoors, and the scenery is stunning. We have on very few occassions made use of the indoor steering.
We choose to shop at the local markets and cook for ourselves. Each barge has had decent fridge space. All of them have a 2 plate gas burner and some have had an oven. Not that we have ever used the oven! Everything you need is on board. Take with a decent knife and some suction hooks for the dishtowels.
Use the internet and find the closest supermarket to the barge basin. The barge comes equipped with a roll of toilet paper but you will need more. You will also need cleaning materials and bottled water. We purchase the bulk products, such as olive oil and water, on the first day. We top up with fresh produce, bread and wine each day. Many lock keepers sell goods and we like to support them where possible.
On the Canal du Midi the lock keepers were not that helpful. I jumped out before each lock and Dave threw the ropes to me. He handled the one rope from the outside steering position and I kept hold of the other rope on land. On the Canal Latéral à la Loire the lock keepers assisted us a fair bit. We were enough people to not require that much help. On the Canal du Nivernais Dave and I were alone and the lock keepers were amazing. Many of the locks were manual and I got out to help. But they worked like demons. Especially the lock keeper on the Sardy Staircase who got us down all 16 locks in one smooth go. We tip the lock keepers about €2.
Need to know more?
If by now you have read the entire post and still have questions please leave them in the comments below. I will reply to each comment and assist where I can with helping you on your first barge trip.
Inspiration published on Lavender and Lime March 22:
- 2015 – Hello From The Gillespies
- 2012 – Lemon Myrtle Panna Cotta
- 2011 – Pasta With Crayfish And Mushrooms