FRENCH BOATING GUIDE 2018 Boating Guide 2018

A barge on the Canal du Midi passes under a bridge at Quarante, in the Hérault department, just to the west of Béziers CANALS

Let us begin with a slow tempo. The still waters of France’s numerous canals accommodate barges of all shapes, sizes and budgets, from self-drive vessels to luxury tour boats. This is the option for the self-possessed traveller; the aspiring captain; the put-your-feet-up passenger. After gliding past slices of bucolic countryside and mooring at any of the towns peppering the route (there is no A to B with barging), nothing beats an evening verre de vin on deck with loved ones. One of the most popular courses is the Canal du Midi, which carves into the southern region of Occitanie from the Mediterranean to Toulouse, where it joins the River Garonne. Dating back to 1681, it was built to forge a shortcut between the Atlantic Ocean and the

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Mediterranean Sea for major trade. Originally called the Canal Royal de Languedoc, it was renamed after the Revolution and has gone on to become the only French canal with UNESCO World Heritage Site status. Beginning at Sète, it passes through the wine-growing regions of the Languedoc en route for Carcassonne, and experienced bargers will appreciate the chance to marvel at the famous Neuf Écluses (Locks) de Fonseranes at Béziers. There are some gloriously quiet rural stretches that change colour with the seasons; here you can get up close and personal with the local wildlife. Slow down enough and perhaps you’ll glimpse the blue and orange flash of a kingfisher, or a whiskery coypu emerging from its burrow.

In Brittany, the Nantes-Brest canal is another popular waterway. Split into three main segments – Loire-Vilaine, Oust-Blavet and Blavet-Hyères – it offers plenty of diverse scenery and enough navigational challenges to satisfy pilots of all abilities. Some of the main stop-off points include Redon, Pontivy and Finistère, plus medieval towns like Malestroit and Josselin in Morbihan. Swathes of canals ribbon across the country; it’s simply a case of finding your favourite. For some, the appeal of the most- travelled routes is abundantly clear; for others, hidden backwater gems provide the greatest reward.

Here we suggest the main companies offering barge hire throughout France for boaters of all abilities and inclinations.

Abercrombie & Kent +44 (0)1242 386 500

A specialist luxury travel agency offering six-night barge cruises through Burgundy aboard their vessel, L’Impressionniste.

Anjou Navigation +33 (0)2 43 95 14 42 Created in 1980, this family company provides a customer- focused experience with dedicated 24/7 service and help organising cruises.

Barge Colibri +33 (0)6 75 33 09 49

A modern floating hotel run by couple Earl and Fiona Pilatti. The Loire Valley Cruise 2017 and 2018 begins near Châtillon- Coligny and ends in Nevers.


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