There’s an entire demographic of people that don’t need convincing on the so-called ‘slow travel’ experience that’s becoming more and more popular. Some of them are the lucky people who’ve already been on one or more barge trips in France. |
Cruising down tranquil waterways, visiting off-the-beaten-track parts of the country, making lifelong friends with like minded travellers, and enjoying magnificent cuisine created by international chefs is simply the most relaxing and fulfilling way to explore the country’s culture and landscape. Barge trips in France are slow in the most immersive sense of the word, and guests have the opportunity to genuinely engage in the local lifestyle.
For those who haven’t yet been won over by the delights of river cruising, below are some of the compelling reasons to consider this ‘go slow’ mode of holiday.
An Intimate Experience
Because you share the vessel with a select few guests (the largest capacity on these ‘hotel barges’ is usually 20, and often as few as 6-8) the ambience is one of a relaxed, friendly group. Your fellow travellers are generally like minded – looking for a laidback experience with plenty of downtime and a convivial atmosphere. For this very reason, the ratio of crew to passengers is very high and you can expect wonderful personal service from the captain, tour guides, hosts and chefs.
A Relaxed, Slow Pace
Generally, the best barge trips in France travel along the country’s smaller waterways – the ones larger vessels can’t navigate. While they travel more slowly and don’t cover as much distance, the pay-off is that you get the time and vantage to see much more. As a rough guide, you’ll probably travel around 70 miles on a weeklong itinerary, cruising at about 3mph for just a few hours each day. This means that there’s plenty of time to soak up the culture and ambience of the stunning areas you visit.
Lean in to Local Life
Because of this leisurely pace, there are ample opportunities to disembark at the regular stops along the canals and waterways. If you choose an established operator with a good reputation, you can be assured they’ll offer a range of carefully chosen shore excursions so you can explore the charming towns, vineyards, chateaux and rural countryside up close and personal. You can also hop off the barge and cycle alongside it on the well-kept towpaths or simply wander along under your own steam; it’s the ability to be able to enjoy experiences like this that make this such a wonderful way to be a slow traveller.
Good to know: The barges never travel at night, so you can rest assured you’ll never miss a minute of the beautiful views along the way.
Enjoy Gourmet Food and Wine
The gastronomic aspect is one of the most enjoyable things about any of the barge trips in France. The on-board chefs prepare gourmet meals focusing on seasonal local produce from the areas you visit, accompanied by fine wines. There’s simply no better way to get to know a region than by sampling its authentic traditional cuisine, and you’ll be absolutely spoiled in this department!
Enjoy Life in the Slow Lane
Those who’ve already experienced barge trips in France know that it’s a very addictive way to spend a week, and many return again and again to try a different (or even the same) itinerary. But for anyone about to embark on their very first hotel barging cruise, you’re in for a wonderful surprise…
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge trips in France. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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