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Guide to French canal cruises

Experience France from the comfort of a luxury canal barge

One of celebrity chef Rick Stein’s most famous TV series saw him journey along the Canal Entre Deux Mers in a luxury barge. As you can imagine, he stopped off at numerous locations along the way, sampling local produce and cooking up some delicious local dishes. He was completely bowled over by sights he saw completely off the tourist trail, and just how relaxing it was to tour a country in a canal barge.

Barge hotel Enchante
Barge hotel Enchante

And guess what? You can do something similar by booking a canal cruise. Travelling along waterways gives a completely different perspective to sightseeing, it’s a unique way to sample the history and culture of many of France’s villages, towns and cities; floating along at just a couple of miles an hour. What could be more relaxing and more fitting to reflect France’s laidback leisurely lifestyle?

So what can you expect from a canal cruise holiday? You will be on board a luxury vessel which berths 6-12 people, with en-suite facilities and your own chef and housekeeper. Your captain and tour guide will be on hand to answer any questions about your surroundings, and you will be carried from one stop to the next at such a peaceful speed, you would hardly know you were moving.

Sounds perfect, right? So where can you travel? There are a fair few waterways to choose from that meander through the country, so we’ve put together a brief overview to help you make your decision. What a lovely decision to have to make, you’ll be spoilt for choice!

Loire Valley

What better way to travel through the Garden of France? Cruising along taking in the spectacular scenery and beautiful chateaux and vineyards, experiencing the historic architecture and local food and wine at a leisurely pace. It’s a popular option, and no wonder, there’s a reason why the whole area is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Travelling on a canal barge will ensure you don’t miss a thing.

River Seine and River Marne

Notre Dame
Notre Dame

Flowing through the heart of Paris, you can easily escape the hustle and bustle of the crowds whilst still experiencing the magnificent views of the Eiffel Tower and other famous sites France’s capital boasts. But that’s just the beginning. The beauty of the Seine is that it provides perfect access to the Champagne region via the River Marne. So why stop at Paris, when you can sample the delights of France’s champagne houses? A truly wonderful way to meander through the heart of the country.

Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne rivers

This wonderful trio of rivers are perfect for touring the Bordeaux region. Of course, you’ll be visiting some of the most famous vineyards but it’s also a region steeped in history, and there are plenty of sights to see from the stunning city of Bordeaux to the Medoc peninsula as well as the medieval village of Saint-Emilion. A fascinating insight into historical France, you will feel as though you have been transported back hundreds of years.

Canal du Midi

Here you can follow in the footsteps of Rick Stein, there was a reason why he chose this route, and it’s because there is so much to see. From the nature reserve at Bagnas where you can see the lesser spotted flamingo, Narbonne, a Roman Mediterranean capital of the Visigoth monarchs, 12th century Cathar forts and of course, you can’t leave without a visit to the stunning Carcassonne, the most complete medieval fortified city in existence.


The canals of Alsace and Lorraine

This beautiful region of eastern France plays hosts to some beautifully authentic towns and gastronomic wonders all washed down with some of the region’s fine wines (and beer too!). A perfect way to unwind as you visit sights such as Strasbourg, medieval castles and Roman forts, and did you know that there’s a stunning Rene Lalique collection with over 500 examples of unique glassware? Not one to miss.

So where to start? We told you this choice would be difficult. So how about some advice from our travel consultants who have been there and experienced these trips for themselves? You will get honest opinions and advice on which trip would be best suited to you. We want you to have a memorable holiday you’ll be talking about for years to come, that’s for sure! What are you waiting for? Either call us on +44 (0)1580 849 242, or send us an email.

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