If you’re thinking of booking a barge trip in France, congratulations on choosing one of the most authentic, fun and relaxing ways to explore the gorgeous countryside! While of course there are many people who have already discovered what makes this kind of travel so appealing, first-timers who’ve never been on a barge trip in France may have lots of questions. |
The best way to make sure you know what to expect is to firstly book with a reputable operator and, secondly, speak with them before your scheduled departure if you have any questions about the details. There are, though, some more general questions that get asked a lot, so reading the following five questions and answers may help you prepare for a barge trip in France.
Q: What kind of vessel is a barge?
A: These vessels were originally specifically designed to be able to negotiate smaller waterways, including rivers and man made canals. They were mostly used for transporting a huge range of goods, but latterly many have been converted into what’s commonly known as ‘hotel barges’ to carry small numbers of passengers and crew (up to about 20). The accommodation and facilities on board can range from traditional and comfortable up to state-of-the-art luxury.
Q: Is there a typical day on a barge trip in France?
A: No. Because of the slow, relaxed nature of the cruises, guests can choose how they wish to spend the day: from simply lazing around on deck waiting for breakfast, lunch and dinner and taking in the passing scenery, to heading off on a range of shore excursions. Generally, though, the mornings will be more leisurely and activities (visits to towns, villages, vineyards, castles) will be towards the afternoon. Dinner is an event in itself!
Q: How fast do the vessels go and how far will we travel?
A: The slow speed is what’s so appealing about this type of travel and barges cruise along at around three miles an hour. This is ideal for those who want to stretch their legs by walking or cycling along the towpath beside the vessel. Because they’re slow, they only cover around 70 miles or so on a weeklong trip, but the bonus is passengers have quality time to explore along the way.
Q: Are there themed or special interest cruises?
A: Yes! There are plenty of options available for those looking to spend time with like-minded people and focus on special interests. Examples include golfing, walking, cycling, wine appreciation and even opera themed cruises.
Q: What are the best regions for a barge trip in France?
A: There’s a good reason France is one of the most popular places in Europe for this kind of travel, because there are so many wonderful regions to explore! Some of the best are Burgundy, Canal du Midi, Loire Valley, Alsace and Lorraine, Gascony, Bordeaux, Champagne and Picardy.
There are just so many things to love about this fantastic ‘slow travel’ experience, and exploring any of the many beautiful regions of France from the comfort of a hotel barge is becoming more and more popular with travellers looking for an authentic and memorable holiday.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of itineraries for a barge trip 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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