BARGE IN FRANCE
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GUIDE TO BARGING OR BOAT HIRE IN FRANCE
There are three alternatives
1 Hiring a drive-yourself boat
2 Travelling on a Hotel Boat
3 Hiring a charter barge
I recommend Option 1 - (But I prefer to be an active participant rather than an onlooker).
You can decide when and where to go - given the limitation of pick up and return
You have the freedom of acting as you wish - loud parties, no other guests complaining.
Its less expensive and you can eat and drink to your chosen level - self catering, restaurants
You don’t have crew doing everything for you - except those you take with you
You get to drive and operate the boat - fun in the sun as you bump your way through the canals
Option 2. Hotel boats are slow, somewhat expensive and somewhat restrictive as you don’t get to play with them.
But if you are after a layback bit of pampering with nothing much to worry about - they could be your bag.
Option 3. OK if the boat is operated by someone who allows you to learn / drive etc but otherwise pretty much the same as Option 2.
Rental Boat Companies
http://www.connoisseurboating.co.uk No 1 recommendation if you take their top line boats
http://www.crownblueline.com No. 2 recommendation if you take their top line boats
http://www.locaboat.com o. 3 - we started with one and loved it !
They all have double and twin cabins, two showers / toilets / simple operating and frigs, oven/ cooktop / open air areas and plates, glasses etc. You pay extra for insurance, fuel, bed linen, bikes.
Choice of Boat / Travel Recommendation
Select the best boat from one of the three companies above DEPENDING on where you can pick it up and leave it. (My recommendation Nivernais - Locaboat - Joigny to Corbigny - but that is about a 10 day trip, Burgundy - Crown Blue / Connoisseur - Migennes - ?).
Request a ONE way rental depending on the time you have and if they have bases close enough to each other to get from A to B without having to hurry EG Joigny to Corbigny or reverse.]
Buy the detailed map book of the Canal - Navicarte or similar - it tells you distances, towns, restaurants, places of interest etc. Preferably get one before travelling for the area. Www.barges.org
Plan on max 2-3 hours cruising each day with one or two days not cruising. Allow an hour per 6 km plus half an hour for each lock and allow for the one hour lunch break the eclusiers take. Its better to get going early to avoid the rush of boats at locks and stop for lunch at you planned destination rather than being caught a lock or two short. Have one couple responsible for each day with the others able to take bikes and explore or stay aboard and help if they want. The responsible couple then can get up and get the boat going (that heats the water for showers that can be taken en-route) and allows the others to have breakfast but still help with locks.
Take a big boat with as many cabins as you have couples and (preferably) an extra cabin for luggage etc. DO NOT have people sleep in the saloon area !
Take bikes for everyone and chains/ locks etc to secure them - they will walk ! Lock the boat when you leave it and preferably where there are other boats and people.
Take the minimum valuables and take them with you when you go out at night - passports/money/credit cards/iPods/cameras etc. Don’t take laptops use Cyber cafes.
You will be self catering but plan to have many meals in restaurants or snacks from boulangeries for lunch with light breakfasts. Leave lots of room in the frig for wines, beers, soft drinks, cheeses, pates etc. Buy Australian, Californian or Chilean white wines at about $A 10 per bottle as most French whites are horrible or expensive and then buy occasional good French whites at about $A40 a bottle (Burgundy Chardonnays are - Montrachet, Sancerre, Chablis, Mersault, St Veran).
Buy as you go but stock in a basic ‘big’ supermarket shop at the departure point for staples like butter, milk (fresh - not available in small shops) tea, coffee, sponges, cleaning stuff, jams, spreads, mixers, spirits, wines, beers, eggs, cold cuts, meats, veg etc.
We also make each couple (not the one on boat duty that day) responsible for one dinner on board during the week, the rest of the nights at restaurants / cafes.
PLAN the trip with the Navicarte to ensure you are at places you can get into a restaurant - it’s a bugger to be caught with no food and no restaurant.
PLAN the cruise with adequate loose das and catch up days to allow you to stop somewhere for a day to explore.
Cruising Areas Recommended
Loire / Nivernais Canal Option 1 We started here and loved it
Upper Burgundy Canal Option 2 Cruised several times for chateaux / restaurants
How to Get There
By train. London - Paris - Eurostar www.eurostar.com
Burgundy is a couple of hours by train from Paris. You can book on French trains using
www.sncf.com You can book online and pick up the tickets at a station in France before travel.
So arrange to get to the nearest station to the hire base then get a cab. They are normally close.
If you can, leave all your unwanted luggage somewhere and take only a soft ‘duffel type’ bag with one ‘going out’ outfit plus 2-3 pairs of shorts, 3-5 tee shirts, undies, hat, waterproof jacket (it rains in France still). Take shorts rather than long pants even if it is wet as they dry easier. Don’t plan on washing anything but undies - your are not there to do housework - you are there to have fun.
Allow more than a week if you can. You have to get there and get back. Minimum hire period is a week as the bases are not open every day - check which days you can pick up and return boats. Allow the first day to just getting there from Paris (London as well ?) And going though the hand over procedures and shopping. The last day is hand back day so you have to back at the base the night before or early on the last morning.
Day 1 Travel from London to Paris 3 hours Depart at say 0800
Change stations Paris 1 hour depart at say 1100
Travel to hire base - train 3 hours depart at say 1200
Taxi 1 hour depart at say 1500
Arrive at base 1600
Procedures and shopping 2 hours 1800 - Locks are closed !
Day 2 The fleet departs and crowds the locks Try and get away the night before or first opportunity in the morning
Travel to destination 1
Day 3 Travel to destination 2
Day 4 Free day to explore chateaux / wineries / town or countryside on bikes / taxi
Day 5 Travel to destination 3
Day 6 Head to base, clean boat, final dinner
Day 7 Return boat to base - procedures
Travel to London 8 hours Depart 1200 - arrive 2000
We also have good hotel tips in Paris if you wanted to stage over before or after and other advice about car hire, taxis, tourism sites, food, wines, beers, spirits, shopping etc etc.
Get as much info prior to booking by using the internet - hire boat websites and general Google searches on the towns and tourist sites. A lot of the fun of this trip will be in the planning. Perhaps get each couple to be responsible for some part of the whole planning process.
61 (0) 8 6389 1690
61 (0) 438 959050
www.mcdaniell.com.au Barging through France Website
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