A Barging Holiday In France, All You Need To Know

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.

A Barging Holiday In France
A Barging Holiday In France
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:

This year we are going from Hesse to Boofzheim in Alsace-Lorraine with Leboat.

Canal du Nivernais
Canal du Nivernais
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.

Lock Keeper Cottages
Lock Keeper Cottages
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.

The Barge
The Barge
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.

The Locks
The Locks
Steering

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.

Draw Bridges
Draw Bridges
Cooking

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.

Through Tunnels and Under Bridges
Through Tunnels and Under Bridges
Shopping

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.

The Sardy Staircase
The Sardy Staircase
The Locks

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.

The French Countryside
The French Countryside
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.

An Afternoon Treat
An Afternoon Treat
Inspiration published on Lavender and Lime March 22:

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20 thoughts on “A Barging Holiday In France, All You Need To Know

  1. Very cool post I always wondered about barge travelling. Did I miss it or silly question: an anyone ‘drive’ a barge or you need a course?

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    1. I never thought about adding that! Anyone can steer a barge without a license in France and Holland 🙂

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  2. I love France and would love to go on a barging trip, what a great experience!
    All That I’m Eating sharing the blog ♥ Vegetable Singapore NoodlesMy Profile

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    1. It is really amazing.

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  3. Never been on a barging holiday – some great tips and what a lovely route!
    Miriam sharing the blog ♥ La Colombe at Silvermist Estate, Cape TownMy Profile

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    1. Thanks Miriam 🙂

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  4. That looks like so much fun! I’ve never been on a barge holiday before but you’ve sold me on it.
    Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella sharing the blog ♥ A 5 Minute Prep Meal – Caprese Chicken Tray Bake!My Profile

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    1. It is the best ever type of holiday 🙂

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  5. What a cool post! I’m not sure that barge traveling is for me, but I loved reading this and am interested to see what kinds of food you cook on the barge!
    Sues sharing the blog ♥ Jalapeño Lime Roast ChickenMy Profile

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    1. Hopefully this summer we will get lots of asparagus!

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  6. Wow, I had never thought of a barging holiday. How delightful!

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    1. It is amazing Liz and you get to see such an alternate part of the countryside 🙂

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  7. Wow! What a lovely trip. I’ve actually never heard of a barging holiday before. We live near a canal that goes through NY State and I wonder if you can do that??
    Amy (Savory Moments) sharing the blog ♥ Maple pecan popcornMy Profile

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    1. I have just read about the canals in your area and you can indeed take a holiday on them. Let me know if you ever do that 🙂

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  8. Hi Tandy, we had some friends that went barging last summer and they loved it, though it was crowded, great info!
    cheri sharing the blog ♥ Strawberry Basil Ice CreamMy Profile

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    1. Did they do the Midi? It is the most popular route from what we can gather 🙂

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  9. I have to Paris and nice a couple of times, but French countryside looks so beautiful. And your photos are stunning. I would love to go on a barging holiday sometime.
    Anu – My Ginger Garlic Kitchen sharing the blog ♥ How to Make Gajar Ka Halwa | Carrot Halwa Recipe | Video RecipeMy Profile

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    1. As much as I love Paris, the countryside always beckons 🙂

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  10. OMG! I’d love to do it! I remember wanting to do it when I was living in Amsterdam, as boats were everywhere around, but then we moved to Berlin and I totally forgot. Thank you so much for reminding me. And for the tips 😀

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    1. I will write more about barging in The Netherlands, which is totally different.

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