European Waterways The European Waterways Newsletter
Issue 77
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in this issue...  

New Video
La Bella Vita

Special Offers
We have some great Spring 2015 offers


The Many Lives of L’Art de Vivre
Travel in history on our nearly 100 year old barge L’Art de Vivre

Welcome to Issue 77 of The Lock-Keeper

Hello Lock-Keeper Reader,

The big news in this issue is that a luxurious new 8-passenger hotel barge called ‘Finesse’, currently being commissioned, will be an exciting addition to our fleet from May 2016, cruising the River Saône and Canal du Centre in Southern Burgundy.

As usual, we had a very busy winter period when our team of engineers and boat-fitters carried out an extensive programme of upgrades and refurbishment of barges at our Burgundy base in Ravières.

Our various ‘theme cruises’, such as for groups of walkers or golfers are always popular, but this year is a special year for themes. We have already had some fascinating World War One cruises this Spring in Northern France aboard La Belle Epoque, and for opera lovers we have a wonderful Opera cruise in September through ‘Renaissance Italy’ aboard La Bella Vita.

The year 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta, or ‘Great Charter’ by King John at Runnymede by the River Thames. There have been some wonderful celebrations and our hotel barge Magna Carta has been right in the thick of it as she cruised along this historic river.

We recently hosted American travel writer Judy Wells on board Renaissance in Western Burgundy and she has written several pieces about her cruise for

This issue’s ‘Cheese of the Moment’ is Dunsyre Blue, a creamy blue cheese and one of the artisan varieties we serve aboard Scottish Highlander during her cruise through the Highlands of Scotland.

We are continually updating our YouTube channel - we now have more than half a million views! - So do have a look.
Please also visit our website for new offers, articles, videos and other barging news, or perhaps follow us on Twitter, or like us on Facebook.

Derek Banks
Derek Banks - Chairman


New Hotel Barge ‘Finesse’

From May 2016, the luxurious new hotel barge ‘Finesse’ will be joining our fleet, cruising the scenic River Saône and the Canal du Centre in Southern Burgundy between St-Jean-de-Losne and Montchanin. This is exciting for us as it an area not currently offered in the European Waterways programme.

Finesse will be a 38 metre double-decker vessel with a doting crew of 5. She will have 4 very spacious cabin suites, a light and airy saloon with panoramic windows, a demo galley and all the usual facilities, such as a sun deck, spa pool, touring bikes & Wi-Fi.

Her cruise route will take her through the Burgundy vineyards and the itinerary will include visits to historic Dijon, the Roman city of Autun and Château de Gemolles, last residence of the Dukes of Burgundy. There will also be a private wine tasting at Domaine Bouchard Pere et Fils in Beaune and a Michelin chef-prepared lunch in the Bouchard Chateau Orangery.

To the left is a photo of what the barge looked like a few months ago languishing in a boatyard, and an artist’s impression of the expected final result for launching next May – what a transformation!

We are sure a cruise aboard Finesse will be a popular choice.

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Winter Upgrades

Winter is the time of year when we get to grips with barge upgrades and refurbishments, with a team of two to three engineers and boat-fitters spending, on average, 6-8 weeks on each vessel, depending on the work required. Firstly, at the end of the season, detailed inventories are made and a start made on the exteriors before the cold winter weather really sets in.
Some of the barges are put in dry-dock when hulls are inspected and repainted, and propellers and steering checked. Engines, generators, air-conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems are overhauled, upgraded or replaced, while the soft furnishings and carpets are either deep-cleaned or replaced.
Then when early Spring arrives, the final, all-important touches are made, such as varnishing the exterior teak woodwork so that each barge looks its best for the start of a new season. The winter refurbishment programme is hard work, but very rewarding and all part of ‘hotel barging life’.

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Opera Cruises in Italy

An exciting new theme cruise we are offering this year is an ‘Opera Cruise’ aboard La Bella Vita, a 20-passenger vessel that cruises from Venice across the magical Venetian Lagoon and through the Po Valley to Mantua.

The itinerary, September 5 to 12, is for 7 nights and will include 1 night’s stay in a 4 star hotel in Padua and most importantly, an evening at the opera in the magnificent Roman amphitheatre, the Arena di Verona, to watch Verdi’s “Nabucco” from the best seats in the house. That is after a tour of the fascinating Opera Museum and dinner in the atmospheric courtyard restaurant. A truly memorable night!

Then, once on board La Bella Vita, there will be visits during the cruise to wonderful baroque theatres, as well as the usual highlights such as Mantua’s Ducal Palace, wine tastings and dinner ashore at the private stately home of Villa Ca’Zen. All in all, a wonderful adventure!

There is still some availability on this cruise for opera lovers, so click here for full details.

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Historic Anniversaries in England

This year is the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta – or “Great Charter” in 1215 – and our own Magna Carta, which cruises the River Thames, found itself in the middle of one of the U.K.’s most significant commemorative events at Runnymede on her cruise route right past the site.

As well as the official commemoration ceremony on June 15, attended by HM The Queen and 4,500 dignitaries, there was also a 3-day, grand river pageant, with a flotilla of more than 200 boats, led by the magnificently ornate Gloriana, the official Royal row barge.

A new bronze statue of Queen Elizabeth II was also unveiled at Runnymede, depicting the Queen dressed in the full ceremonial attire of the Order of the Garter and sited not far from the American Bar Association memorial that was erected in 1957.

We also added a special extra visit to Magna Carta’s cruise itinerary, to see the world’s best-preserved original copy of the famous charter where it is on permanent display at Salisbury Cathedral.

This year is also a big year for another of the great landmarks alongside the Royal River Thames – Hampton Court Palace – which celebrates 500 years since Cardinal Wolsey, Henry VIII’s trusted advisor who later fell out of favour, commissioned builders to start construction of his magnificent residence.

During her cruise, Magna Carta actually moors right alongside the Palace and there is a tour of the enormous kitchens, the haunted gallery, the famous maze and the magnificent formal gardens containing the Great Vine, the oldest in England still producing grapes. Learn more here.




Cruise Reviews

Aboard Renaissance

Judy Wells, an experienced cruise travel writer was on board Renaissance in April and wrote a number of entertaining articles before, during and after her cruise for the All Things Cruise website – she is obviously a real hotel barging enthusiast! Read the article in full.

In fact, the website features articles by several other writers who have cruised with us, including Emilie Harting, who explains the differences between hotel barging and river cruising. Well worth a read for the uninitiated.


Chef’s Recipe

This time we feature a recipe by Luke Dessain, a very talented young chef who loves the barging life. He started his career as an 18-year-old, working as a sous chef in a French Alps ski resort, where he learned to cook classic French cuisine, with a Scottish chef as his mentor.

In the 8 years since then, he has refined his considerable skills and now loves nothing more than creating dishes using wonderful local ingredients as the chef aboard Renaissance in Western Burgundy.

However this recipe of Luke’s, serving 8, for Sticky Toffee Pudding, originates from his English childhood.


  • 2 cups of dates; 3 Earl Grey English Breakfast tea bags; Brewed coffee
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (don’t throw that cup away!)
  • 1 yogurt container each of sunflower oil and sugar
  • 3 yogurt containers of flour
  • 1 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 4 eggs
  • Between 1/3 and 1/2 cup of salted or unsalted butter
  • Between 1/3 and 1/2 cup soft of ight brown sugar
  • Generous 1/3 cup of cream


  1. De-seed the dates and chop finely. Put the dates in a saucepan with the coffee to almost cover, add the tea bags and cook on a medium heat until reduced.
  2. Combine the flour, sugar, oil, yogurt and eggs until smooth.
  3. Add the reduced dates, mix, then add the baking powder. (Don’t forget to take out the tea bags first!).
  4. Heat the oven to 350F/180C.
  5. Put the mixture into small buttered and floured ramekins (muffin tins could also be used) for cooking and bake for about 20 minutes or until set.
  6. For the caramel sauce, melt the butter and brown sugar together, stirring over a medium heat. Once the sugar has dissolved, add cream, stirring, and reduce to a thick sauce. Note: if you don’t care for salted caramel, use unsalted butter.
  7. To plate up, pop the pudding cakes out of their ramekins, warm through but don’t cook more and cover with the warmed caramel sauce (if there’s any left over, it will keep in the refrigerator).
    Garnish with a raspberry and serve with vanilla ice cream.
  8. Enjoy this indulgent pud!

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Cheese of the Moment

The cheese to whet your appetite this time is Lanark Blue, one of the cheeses we serve aboard Scottish Highlander dusring her cruise through the Great Glen in the Scottish Highlands.This flavoursome cheese is made by Errington Cheese, a small family-run cheese-making company in Lanarkshire.

Lanark Blue is made from unpasteurised ewes’ milk from their own flock of Lacaune ewes and is completely handmade on their farm. They pump the milk directly across from the milking parlour each morning to the vats less than 20 yards away and the cheese matures in cool and moist traditional stone buildings to produce its unique flavour.

The cheese is matured for 6 weeks in the early season and for up to 8 months for Christmas and Burns Night. And as they only milk the sheep from January to September, there are seasonal variations in the cheese’s characteristics. Spring cheese will be fresh and sweet with the blue veins running through it, providing a light blue flavour, while cheese for Christmas/ Burns Nght will be more powerful and pungent – it has even been described as a kilt-lifter!

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And Finally…

Finally, you may like to visit a website featuring paintings by Stu Herman, principal of our US public relations agency in New York. Stu is a keen artist and some of his work was painted while he and his wife Paula, who sadly passed away in 2014, enjoyed some of our hotel barge cruises.

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Well, 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.