Issue 74
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in this issue...
Scotland in the Spring
Burgundy Base Camp
Kate's Taste of Italy
Murder & Scandal on the Thames
World War One
Chefs Recipes
Cheese of the Moment

Sancerre Wine Tasting

Enjoy this video, it’s Christmas!...

Special Offers

We have some great special offers on charter and cabin bookings for Spring 2014...

New Hotel Barge in Burgundy

Absoluut2 is perfect for chartering...

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Welcome to Issue 74 of The Lock-Keeper

Hello Lock-Keeper Reader,

Welcome to the 74th issue of The Lock-Keeper and we have a wide variety of news to tell you about.

If you are a lover of spectacular scenery, wildlife and malt whisky, the Spring is a great time of year to cruise through the Great Glen in the Highlands of Scotland aboard Scottish Highlander. Find out more in our article Why Cruise in Scotland in April?’

We also have a new regular feature where we enthuse about some of the cheeses you can expect to enjoy on one of our cruises. This time we focus on Epoisses, a cheese from Burgundy that is particularly smelly!

Kate in our reservations team also gives you a round-up of her trip aboard La Bella Vita in the summer through the Po valley in Italy. She obviously had a great time, but don’t just take her word for it, read what travel writers Victor Dorff and Lisa Sonne thought of their cruise from Venice to Mantua too. They were wowed by chef Andrea’s regional Italian cuisine, so in this issue we are giving you one of his mouthwatering recipes in the first of another new feature on our talented barge chefs.

There is news of the BBC – not the renowned TV company, but our new operations base in Burgundy - 'Burgundy Base Camp' - where our team of engineers and barge craftsmen will now be able to carry out refurbishments and improvements on six of our hotel barges all in one place, making them tip-top and ready for the 2014 season.

For all you ‘Downton Abbey’ addicts, you will be pleased to hear we have three more cruises planned in April and May next year aboard Magna Carta on the Upper River Thames which will include a guided tour of the filming location, Highclere Castle. And other popular TV series are often filmed along Magna Carta’s cruise route, as our guest, travel writer Emile Harting gruesomely found out! Read her article later.

Finally, 2014 is, of course, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War One and we have a few poignant stories that came out of this ‘war to end all wars’. We will also be commemorating WW1 ourselves over the next 5 years by offering special theme cruises to history enthusiasts aboard Panache and hopefully, other barges in Belgium and Northern France. Read more later.

Our You Tube channel  continues to be really popular and we have now had over 160,000 views, so do have a look as we are always adding new video clips. And, of course, remember to visit our website for new offers, articles, videos and other barging news, or perhaps join us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook (over 20,000 likes now).
Finally, I am delighted to say that this has been another successful year for us here at European Waterways and I would like to thank you all for your continued interest and support.

With very best wishes for a peaceful Christmas and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

 Derek Banks - Managing Director












Scotland in the Spring

Amanda Green, our Reservations Manager, was asked recently “why would anyone want to cruise in the Scottish Highlands in April? Isn’t it cold and dark?”  Amanda said, “Well, you’ve obviously never been there in Springtime, when it’s my favourite time to cruise on Scottish Highlander.” 

And she’s right. The glorious, dramatic scenery that our hotel barge cruises past is set off by some of the highest snow-capped mountains and colourful displays of heather, wild flowers and cherry blossom. Flowering cherry trees, with their double blossom, were introduced long ago from Japan and they have thrived in this part of Scotland.
The many seabird colonies on the coast are at their most spectacular during the Spring nesting season and nature reserves see the start of huge flocks of migrating ducks and geese. In coastal areas near towns like Muirtown and one of the barge's departure points, seals, dolphins and porpoises can be seen almost all year round.
The warm, welcoming Scottish Highlander has central heating throughout and the feel of a Scottish country house with its traditional tartan interior.  Large picture windows in the comfortable saloon means that you can enjoy the spectacular views from inside as you cruise Loch Ness and the Caledonian Canal, perhaps whilst enjoying one of the many single malts on board! Och aye! What more could you want at this time of year? 

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BBC Comes to Burgundy

From this winter onwards, European Waterways has a new permanent operations base in Burgundy and for the time being, we are calling it 'Burgundy Base Camp'. We have taken over a derelict supermarket by the Burgundy Canal in the village of Ravieres and we are busy converting it to become the new hub for our barge operations in France. 

All six of our France-based barges will from now on make their way there at the end of each season for maintenance and refit work to be carried out. The base will be fully equipped with workshops for engineering and woodwork repairs and our refit team will be located there throughout the winter months.
The base will also hold a central stock of consumables and spare parts to supply our hotel barges throughout each season and there will be offices in the building for operations management and training. With an investment cost of more than 300,000 €uros and with the help of a grant from the regional government, this is a major project which should ensure that high standards and quality are maintained across the European Waterways fleet.
Ravieres is actually an overnight stop on La Belle Epoque’s summer cruise route so the base will never be far away from the action. Look out for an update and photos in another issue of Lockkeeper next year to see the finished result. 

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Cruise Reviews & News

Kate's Taste of Italy

Kate Gardner, our Sales & Reservations Co-Ordinator, took time out from the office to spend a few days aboard La Bella Vita, our 20 passenger vessel that cruises from Venice to Mantua in Italy. Click  here to read all about it.

Two Tours of Italy - Cultural & Culinary

Victor Dorff and Lisa Sonne, two well-travelled journalists from the USA who are big fans of Italy and indeed hotel barging – they have cruised with us before on La Belle Epoque in Burgundy - also spent a week on board La Bella Vita this summer. They obviously enjoyed the whole cultural and culinary experience. Click here to read their article.

Murder on the River Thames

Another well-known travel writer from the USA, Emilie Harting, together with her husband sampled a cruise last May aboard Magna Carta along the picturesque Upper River Thames, but were shocked to witness a murder – or did they? Click here to find out more.

'Downton Abbey' Cruises...

And talking of Magna Carta, after the popularity of our ‘Downton’ theme cruises in 2013, we are offering three more this coming Spring, departing on April 13, 20 and May 4. Each cruise will include a tour of Highclere Castle, location of the blockbuster TV series, and more similar cruises will be available later in 2014 - watch this space. Click here for Highclere’s website.

...and Sixties Scandal 

And that’s not all when it comes to places of interest near the River Thames. Moving now from glamorous TV drama fiction to political, scandalous fact, Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s new musical ‘Stephen Ward’ has just opened in London.

As the promotional blurb says, “Stephen Ward charts the rise and fall from grace of the society osteopath. Friend to film stars, spies, models, government ministers and aristocrats, his rise and ultimate disgrace coincided with the increasingly permissive lifestyle of London's elite in the early 1960's. The musical centres on Ward's involvement with the young and beautiful Christine which led to one of the biggest political scandals and trials of the 20th century”.

Christine Keeler actually met John Profumo, then Secretary of State for War, for the first time 50 years ago at a swimming pool party in the grounds of Cliveden House by the Thames. They then embarked on a 3 month affair that ultimately led to his resignation and the downfall of the Government.
And guess what? This is another historic place that Magna Carta guests will visit during their cruise – the magnificent house, the gardens and of course, a peek at the infamous swimming pool.

World War One - 100 Years On 

As we approach 2014 you cannot help but think about the outbreak of World War One, 100 years ago. It was a devastating conflict that cost so many lives, but as in so many such conflicts there are always poignant and even amusing facts and stories to tell. Here are just two.
The Danger Tree - Amazingly there is a tree, still preserved to this day, to the north of the Albert to Baupamme Road, that was nicknamed “The Danger Tree”. It was located in No Man’s Land and where wounded soldiers would seek shelter from the sun.  It was the only tree in the whole of that part of the Somme to survive the war, a remarkable fact given that 1,860 square miles of forest were destroyed in Northern France during the war.
German Soldiers Drunk on Champagne – The world famous Champagne region was at the centre of the conflict and many of the beautiful vineyards were destroyed during the major battles around Verdun in 1916.  In Reims, locals took refuge in the labyrinth of tunnels in the Tattinger Champagne cellars, where there was also a school and hospital. Eventually the German soldiers gained control of the champagne villages, but soon lost momentum when they discovered some of the cellars and refused to obey their officers because they were so drunk.
In May 2014, we are offering a World War One theme cruise – sorry, now fully booked – aboard Panache through Belgium and Northern France which will include tours of battlefields and other significant memorials as the Menin Gate in Ypres and the site of the Armistice signing in 1918 at Compiegne. Don't worry though, we will be offering more of these theme cruises in 2015 and onwards, hopefully on more than one hotel barge. More details will follow in the next issue.



Last Issue Competition

Last Issue's Competition Winners

In the last issue, to mark the introduction of a tour of Highclere Castle – or ‘Downton Abbey’ - to Magna Carta’s itinerary on specific cruises, we offered three signed copies of 'Lady Almina and The Real Downton Abbey'. Written by the 8th Countess of Carnarvon, it tells the story of her illustrious predecessor, Almina the 5th Countess and her work at Highclere Castle.
The lucky winners of this wonderful book are:

Sandra Westall from Berkeley, California
Tom Rafferty from Dunoon, Scotland
Ruth Cover from Weeping Water, Nebraska

Congratulations to you all and the books will be on their way to you very soon!

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Since the last issue, Paul Newman, our Marketing Executive and social media ‘guru’ has added a lot of short videos to our YouTube Channel which were filmed aboard several hotel barges in 2013 by a talented young cameraman called Kit Foreman. People obviously like them as the number of views has jumped 60,000 to over 160,000 since the last issue! So do take a look at our YouTube Channel regularly for new videos.

Chef's Recipe

After so many rave reviews of his regional Italian cooking on La Belle Vita , we asked chef Andrea to give us one of his recipes to share with you all. So here it is – ‘Sugo Alla Busara’ – a wonderful pasta sauce. 
Sugo Alla Busara is a well-known recipe in the Venice and Chioggia areas, but probably originated in Fruili, or perhaps in another Istrian region. It has been eaten in Venice for centuries and was introduced by Venetian sailors that traded with other lands beyond the Adriatic Sea, particularly Dalmatia and Istria.

500g fresh large prawns; 1 shallot; 1 clove of garlic, chopped, 500g chopped tomatoes; 1/2 glass of brandy, a handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil and oregano; a little chopped chilli.
  1. Clean the prawns, removing the carapace (head) and the blue vein running along the underside.
  2. In an earthenware dish, sauté the onion and garlic in a little olive oil.
  3. Add the prawns and cook quickly, adding the brandy at the end until it has evaporated.
  4. When the prawns are ready, remove and add the chopped tomato, herbs and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Allow it to cook until the sauce is reduced, then add the prawns back into the sauce for a very short time.
  6. Use this sauce with spaghetti, maltagliati, fettuccine or other long, thin types of pasta. Scrumptious!

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  Cheese of the Moment

Each issue, we will feature one of the wonderful cheeses served on our hotel barges. This time, Amanda Green talks about the cheese she adores.

I have been asked to write about my absolute favourite cheese and I did not hesitate. It has to be Epoisses de Bourgogne, made in the beautiful village Epoisses in the Côte-d'Or in France.
The story about its early manufacture starts in the early 16th century when Epoisses was home to a community of monks who began to produce cheese. Centuries later when they left the village they apparently gave the local farmers their recipe, which they developed over the next 100 years or so, before production died out just before World War Two.  In 1956, farmers Robert and Simone Berthaut decided to begin making the cheese again and in 1991 it was awarded the coveted AOC status. The business is now carried on by their son Jean at Fromagerie Berthaut and he is responsible for the manufacture of all Epoisses cheese - a long drawn out process.
Epoisses is one of last cheeses involving milk coagulation in France. The milk comes from cows which have grazed for three months in the meadows of Burgundy. The cheese is first washed with salty water, then kept in a humid cellar. After a month, it is washed again with a mix of rainwater and the traditional Marc de Bourgogne brandy two to three times a week, before being ladled into circular forms and dry-salted. Then it’s tucked into the famous little wooden boxes.
I was served Epoisses for the first time on hotel barge L’Impressionniste in Southern Burgundy, accompanied by a delicious red Burgundy.  When I came home I told everyone in the office about my new love.  Christmas came around and one of the gifts I received from my co-workers was a round parcel that smelt like smelly socks, which I was advised to keep in the fridge until Christmas Day. I wonder why!
What joy on Christmas morning when I saw my new love, Epoisses, but by Christmas day evening it was all gone as my family had discovered Epoisses for themselves!  Try it yourselves with a crusty baguette and dunk away into this wonderfully creamy concoction.



  And Finally....


It seems that New Year’s Resolutions are made to be broken. According to research by the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people, 88% of resolutions fail. Most of these are related to improving your lifestyle with drastic changes, which are often realistically unachievable. These instant goals, to start on 1st January and continue throughout the year are rather naive.
If you want to make a change, experts say to start now and to start slowly, easing yourself into it. Other tips to success are: tell others about your goal, as they will help you get there; form new habits instead of trying to break old ones; be persistent and don’t view a lapse as a reason to give up, but a reason to keep going. 
So perhaps the best New Year’s Resolution, is not to make one!
That's about it for this issue of The Lock-Keeper. We hope that you’ve enjoyed it and the next one will be out soon with some more news, so we'll see you then.


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