France is one of the most romantic and popular holiday destinations in the world. Fine wines, great cooking, art, history and culture – everything you could ask for. Plus, the opportunity to enjoy an experience like no other – French canal holidays. Exploring France from the luxurious surroundings of an old barge, painstakingly converted into a floating hotel where the guests are pampered from morning till night is a pleasure never to be forgotten. |
Explore Every Nook and Cranny
France, much like the UK and many other European countries, is crisscrossed by a network of canals and rivers that, in the past, were the main means of transporting goods from place to place. Today, modern transportation has meant that the canals are no longer used for their original purpose, but instead they have become the background for leisure activities.
French canal holidays are a unique opportunity to explore a side of France that you would never usually see, and in a unique and totally relaxing way – from the luxury of a barge, slowly and sedately sailing from village to village, from vineyard to castle, from cheese maker to cathedral, from museum to village fete.
Barges Old and New
Canal barges come in all shapes and sizes. From small barges that you can hire and sail alone going wherever the whim takes you, to large barges that can accommodate large numbers of people. Some barges are relatively new whilst others are a lot older. The older barges were often actual working barges that once plied the canals carrying cargoes of wheat, coal, cotton and other goods. These barges were built to last and, when business fell off many were converted into floating homes or hotels.
The Rosa – A Classic Example of a Working Barge Transformed
The Rosa is just one, classic example of an old working barge that has been lovingly converted and transformed into a luxurious, floating boutique hotel where up to eight guests can enjoy a holiday like no other. She was built in Holland and worked as a commercial barge from 1907 until 1990. The barge, still in excellent condition, was converted into a passenger vessel and cruised the canals of south west France until 2010.
In 2010, it was given another makeover so that it would meet the exacting standards demanded of a luxury barge hotel and the high expectations of its guests. Today the Rosa passes through the Latéral à la Garonne Canal, a breath-taking section of the Canal des Deux Mers that connects Toulouse in the South with Castets-en-Dorthe on the Garonne, just 54 km southwest of Bordeaux.
Everywhere you Look – Pampering Luxury
In its present configuration, the Rosa maintains the charm of its original design but includes all the luxuries that you expect from any French canal holidays and vessels. The entire interior is air conditioned and has a warm and inviting wood panelled dining room and a pampering salon and bar where you can relax over a glass of wine or champagne. Altogether there are four suites for up to eight guests and each suite is named after artists from the area the Rosa sails through.
If you want to get a glimpse of what the Rosa has to offer its guests, look at the 10 part BBC television series, Rick Stein’s French Odyssey, in which Rick Stein spends six weeks on the Rosa, travelling from Bordeaux to Marseille cooking local and traditional dishes along the way.
French canal holidays don’t get any better than this!
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury French canal holidays. 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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