Anjodi, cruising along the Canal du Midi, painting by Stanley Rose


Welcome to the August edition of the lock-keeper.

If you're tired of the same old tourist traps and want a vacation that not only relaxes you, but also touches your mind and heart, then you will be ready for some gentle exploration aboard one of our many luxury barges that cruise the Inland Waterways of Europe.

In this month's issue, we feature an intriguing article on Barging in Provence aboard L'Impressionniste, and reveal why there is no better way to experience the uniqueness of Southern France.

We introduce Actief chef Andrew Hurley, and share his 11 year love-affair with building relationships with food.

For those who are currently taking (or planning) a vacation in Scotland, see why Edinburgh is the capital of inspiration and find out what's going down at the world's largest festival.

If you recall in our June edition of the Lock-keeper we provided details on an important children's charity event for the Great Ormond Hospital in conjunction with GoBarging, this month we take a look into the history of the hospital.

For all those who entered our July competition, we announce the winner of the AOC Languedoc Roussillon case of wine and we have a great new August competition to win a Burgundy cruise on La Belle Epoque in October.

We complete this edition with some News items, including the much anticipated Rick Stein French Odyssey TV series, now underway on BBC2. Don't forget to tune in on Wednesday nights at 8.00pm GMT, for some onboard gastronomic gratification.

We have some special end-of-season discount offers on Magna Carta and Actief and some late availability on several other barges, so hopefully lots of interesting news for you.

I look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you at our website, where you can find out all about GoBarging and keep up to date with the latest news as it breaks....

please read on and welcome aboard,

best regards,

Derek Banks, Chairman

Derek Banks - Chairman and Barge skipper

in this issue:

Barging in Provence
Chef profile

Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Tattoo

Beaujolais Driving Challenge

French Wine competition winner


back issues:

january 05

february 05

march 05

april 05

may 05

june 05

july 05

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

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by Les Furnanz

It had been an exciting morning of discoveries in the ancient Roman town of Arles: the coliseum still used for bull fights, the theater ruins, the antiquities museum with its model of the Roman city, and explorations of locales where Vincent van Gogh painted his most famous works. An added bonus was our becoming wonderfully lost strolling narrow medieval streets. We finished the morning with a bicycle tour along the Rhone River & into the countryside.

As we returned to L'Impressionniste, our floating home for the week, we were greeted by our friendly chef Rebecca. She explained with joy and inspiration the cheeses and wines that she had selected to go with the tasty garden salad, pasta salad and quiche that she had prepared for lunch. We had looked forward to the midday repast, but this was above and beyond our expectations. As we settled down for the meal the captain and crew started our afternoon cruise down the Petit Rhone and Canal de Rhone a Sete towards the village of Aigues Morte.

This was only our second day on L'Impressionniste, but we were already fully in tune with the rhythm of barging in Provence... we were being being spoiled to the max! We conversed excitedly with the other passengers about the cuisine, the sites we had seen, and upcoming explorations into southern France's Camargue region.

Originally built in Holland in the early 1900s to haul cargo on the canals of Europe, L'Impressionniste, 126 feet long by 16 feet wide, has been retrofitted exquisitely for her cruise barge role, with six comfortable double guest cabins, a salon/dining room, and spacious outdoor decks. Her light and airy interior features picture windows and selections of prints, fabrics and wall colorings reminiscent of the turn of the century era after which she has been named. Our bilingual crew spared no effort for a first-rate guest experience.

Roger, captain and pilot, informed us of each day’s itinerary and options, ensuring that we could debark or embark independently.
Barging in Provence - a varied and unique itinerary Mieke, the tour hostess and guide, led interesting tours to wineries and other sites at our ports of call. Dean, the first mate and general deck hand was always there to help, including loading or unloading the barge’s mountain bikes. Lucy and Alfie, our capable housekeeping staff, doubled as excellent table servers and commentators on the menus. Rebecca, chef de cuisine, offered incredible interpretations of the best dishes from France's major culinary regions and Belgium where she had studied and practiced her art.

La cuisine...incroyable!
Unbelievable it was! Each meal was uniquely exquisite. An example dinner menu read: Salade de Brie en filo, Chateau Saint-Roch (white wine, a new one for each meal), Domaine de Nalys, Chateauneuf-du-Pape (red wine, a new one for each meal), magret de canard sur un lit d'epinard saute (duck filet on a bed of sauteed spinach), les fromages - St. Paulin, Lou Perac (yes, tasty cheese plate with two new selections at each meal), fraises au mousse de vanille et amandes grilles (strawberries with grilled almonds and vanilla mousse). With such a great week of culinary delights, we were thankful to have the beautiful countryside begging to be explored on foot or bike for burning off the tasty calories.

A Varied & Unique Itinerary
There could not be a better way to experience the variety of southern France than the L'Impressionniste's itinerary. While most visitors to Provence are limited to the roadways, some of the best sites that southern France has to offer are only reachable by waterway, including the vast Camargue region of marshes with huge flocks of pink flamingoes and herds of wild horses. The barge is accompanied by a van for transporting its passengers to worthwhile nearby sites, and mountain bikes are also provided for each passenger. It's the best of both worlds for exploring Provence, the Camargue and the Mediterranean reaches of the Canal du Midi region, also known as Pays d'Oc. Summarized below are some of the highlights of our cruise.

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After boarding L'Impressionniste in Avignon and getting settled we took a late afternoon tour in the van to Chateauneuf des Papes, the world renowned wine region, where we visited the wine cave Verger des Papes. The knowledgeable proprietor, Henri, poured us samples of the area's best bottles. The next morning we explored the medieval town of Avignon, touring the Palais des Papes where Roman Catholic popes resided during the 1300s. A walk up the hill to a park above the Rhone gave us a great view of the historic bridge Pont Benezet that now stretches only halfway across the river. A walk through Avignon's narrow streets rewarded us with tree-filled squares and ancient churches before we circled back up the shop-lined main boulevard to the town hall square with its clock tower and friendly cafes.

Aigues Mortes
This walled fortress town was built in the 1200s by King Louis IX as a staging place for launching the crusades into Jerusalem. Meaning "dead waters" the town is well-named, as its previous access to the Mediterranean Sea has been cut off by the ever-shifting Rhone River delta silts.

We climbed the high tower, Tour Constance, the original single structure of the fortress, for a bird's eye view of the town's tile roofs, thick fortress walls, and surrounding salt marshes. Afterwards we explored the many specialty shops filled with table cloths, pottery, and other treasures. The town's central square was a great place to relax in one of the many cafes.

Camargue National Park
We experienced the Camargue region like no auto-bound visitor could. The L'Impressionniste cruised the Canal du Rhone a Sete which runs virtually through the center of the wild Camargue salt marshes filled with flock after flock of pink flamingoes. From time to time we captured views of the white wild horses that roam freely through the region. A special treat was bicycle riding along the path which parallels the canal from the lock at St. Gilles to the small Provencal village of Gallician and a bike ride from our mooring near the Mediterranean shore to the 12th-century villages of Vic la Gardiole and Mireval.
L'impressionniste cruising in Provence from Avignon to Agde Frontignan, Sete & Marseillan
We took a tour in the van from our canal mooring to the towns of Frontignan and Sete. Frontignan's open air market was a joy of Provencal daily life with its many stalls of local produce and crafts. Sete's main draw was its busy harbor and the views from Mont St. Clair looking over the town, harbor, and Mediterranean. An afternoon cruise from Frontignan on the large saltwater lagoon Bassin de Thau with its many oyster beds brought us to beautiful Marseillan. The town's maze of medieval streets were centered around the ancient church on the central square with its covered market Halle. From Marseillan we enjoyed our favorite bike ride of the week through vineyards to the village of Pomerols with its maze of 13th century alleys. The next morning we had a private tour of Marseillan's famous Noilly Prat aperitif distillery. We were amazed by the complexity of the multi-year process for preparing the excellent-tasting blends.

The ancient city of Agde has a history dating back to Greek and Roman times. We explored the black lava church next to the River Herault which dates back to the 800s and followed the winding streets leading from the river to a central square where we enjoyed a farewell afternoon of cafe lounging with the Captain and barge passengers.

It was tough for us guests to say goodbye to L'Impressionniste, her crew, and each other after such a glorious week of pampered care, great food, and unforgettable experiences in Provence and southern France. The last night's celebration at the Captain's Dinner was a splendid feast where we expressed our joy of the barging experience and our sadness at having the week pass so quickly. There were many declarations of "I'll Be Back!" One of the guests summarized it best, "This has been the most relaxing and wonderful vacation I've ever had!" . This was our second barging cruise with European Waterways and we knew it had been the best way to experience southern France. Fortunately many additional adventurous European Waterways cruises await.

by Les Furnanz
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Andrew Hurley - Actief

GoBarging chef Andrew Hurley This is Andrew's 11th season as a sailing chef. This year, we're delighted to have him on board Actief and it seems that the feeling is mutual!

With a French mother, it's hardly surprising that from his youth Andrew would have been fond of food. At the age of 17 he went to catering college in Bournemouth, but surprisingly didn't go into catering straight away, taking instead a Graduate Commission in the Royal Marines for 5 years, where he took his degree in economics.

The catering bug started to catch up with him after he left the Marines and following two years in a job as an accountant, it got the better of him and he was off on his travels.

Andrew has worked all over the world as a chef for both the general public and for the famous elite and has some very interesting stories to tell. But Andrew's a very modest sort of chap and soon the conversation comes back to food.

The pleasure derived from working on the waterways and the grand ladies that sail on them never seems to decline for Andrew who feels that any chef who has this chance has probably got the best job in the world, and that's not a bad way to make a living.

Half of the fun comes from sourcing the ingredients, whether from a market stall, a small farmer or from a butcher of great quality. The supplier's enthusiasm is key to the creation process. The more enthusiasm from the supplier, the better the produce; this in turn triggers the taste buds and the rest is obvious.

fresh May asparagus, summer strawberries and seared scallops aboard Actief Andrew, loves working on hotel barges so much because he can see the process through from start to finish. He gets a real buzz from the whole build up, even suffering from actor's nerves prior to the debut of a platter of herb fed lamb on the table. He talks of building of a relationship with fresh May asparagus, summer strawberries and seared scallops - it's a real love-affair for him - well, that plus watching a big smile spread across the faces of the guests. He says that only food, wine and good company can provide such a look of contentment!

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Edinburgh Fringe Festival - image courtesy of
For those cruising up in Scotland at the moment, flying into Edinburgh must have been a bit of an adventure, as it’s probably the city’s busiest time of the year! Edinburgh’s tourism council has hit a double-whammy with both the Fringe Festival and the Edinburgh Tattoo going on simultaneously – the city’s teaming and not only that but the weather’s glorious.

The idea for an Edinburgh Fringe Festival was cooked up by festival gatecrashers in 1947 - this year it’s celebrating its 59th anniversary. It’s actually in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest festival in the world and has starred such names as Robin Williams, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson and Jude Law. Many of our biggest names on TV and film started their careers in the festival – for creative spirits, it’s the best place for inspiration and making those all important contacts, as amongst the 1.25 million visitors are over 1,000 talent scouts, promoters and producers and they’re all looking for the next big name.

During the whole month, there are 1,695 shows in 236 venues: theatre, comedy, music, children’s shows, dance, exhibitions and musicals. The actual Fringe website says that it would take you 5 years and 53 days to see every performance back to back! Quite often, a show you see at the Edinburgh Fringe is a World Premiere.

Besides providing wonderful entertainment, the Fringe Festival also provides employment for 2,500 people.

Edinburgh Military Tatoo
Edinburgh Fringe Festival - images courtesy of The word 'tattoo' came about in the 17th century from the Scottish barman's cry of 'Doe den tap toe' - ('turn off the taps') at closing-time. I wonder if they ever thought in those early days in the 1950s that the Edinburgh Tattoo would grow to be one of the most popular shows in the world, with an annual audience of around 217,000 and a worldwide television audience of 100 million!

The Tattoo has always been staged at Edinburgh Castle with seating around a massive arena. It has a magnificent programme including lots of rousing music from Scottish and invited military bands but it also offers a great deal of variety with motorcycle team displays, traditional Scottish dancing and a display by the Royal Marines, not to mention performances by invited foreign bands and dancers. The average number of participants is 1000 so it's a feast for the eyes! This year, the focus is on the Royal Navy and the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The Tattoo is set up and run for charitable purposes. Over the years, it has gifted some £5 million to service and civilian organisations. This year's tattoo is totally sold out. However, if you want to get tickets for next year's tattoo, you'll need to put a note in your diary on 1st November as that's how far ahead you need to book to get tickets - any time later and you're chancing it. As for the Fringe Festival, you can book tickets for shows as soon as you arrive in Edinburgh in August or else book on line on the Edinburgh Fringe website.

Of course, once you have organised all this, you'll be looking for a relaxing break from the crowds and what better place than Scottish Highlander!

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Beaujolias Driving Challenge starts in NovemberOnly a few more months to go before drivers set off on the Beaujolais Driving Challenge to raise money for the Great Ormond Street Hospital

(see the initial charity event article in the June 2005 edition of the Lock Keeper)

Being the donors of the First Prize of this magnificent event (a cabin on Anjodi on a 2006 cruise), we thought it might be an interesting exercise to look a little more into the history of the hospital.

Great Ormond Street Hospital in London has existed since Valentine's Day, 1852 and was founded as a result of the terrible number of infant deaths in London at the time due to unsanitary conditions. The hospital had a good start with the patronage of many famous people including Queen Victoria and Charles Dickens.

When Charles Dickens made a rousing speech at the Freemasons' Hall in 1858 he pulled in over £3,000, enough to buy the house next door and double the hospital's bed spaces. But strangely his name is not the first to come to mind when thinking of famous patrons. Appropriately, it was the author of a story about children whose name will be forever associated with Great Ormond Street Hospital - JM Barrie, who donated the copyright to his famous play Peter Pan to the hospital in 1929.

A couple of years ago the hospital celebrated its 150th anniversary. Although we hope not to encounter any crocodiles along the rivers and canals as we go barging, we hope that the fictional crocodile will continue to tick for a very long time yet!

If you feel like entering the Beaujolais Driving Challenge, visit the GOSH website and get an application form. You never know, if you win first prize, you could be cruising on Anjodi through fabulous French wine country, still basking in her fame from the Rick Stein French Odyssey TV series!

enter the Great Ormond Street Hospital Beaujolais run here

Enter the Great Ormond Street Hospital Beaujolais Driving Challenge here

French Wine Competition Winner

Fine wines from Languedoc Roussillon
In our July edition of the Lockkeeper we offered a case of AOC Languedoc Roussillon.

Visit our competition winners page to find out the lucky winner.

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Rick Stein's French Odyssey

new TV series every Wednesday at 8.00pm on BBC2Sticking to our promise of keeping you up to date on the Rick Stein TV programme, we watched the first of the series on BBC2 on Wednesday 17th August. By the time Wednesday came round, we were on the edge of our seats here in the Go Barging office, as the programme had been postponed from the previous Tuesday.

French Odyssey traces celebrated British chef and restaurateur Rick and his TV crew's journey from the UK into France and down to south west where they board Rosa for a culinary exploration of French cooking between the Bay of Biscay and the Mediterranean. On the first programme, we saw him cross the channel and travel down the west coast. En route, he stopped at a French transport café where he waxed lyrical about the gourmet-style food served up to French lorry-drivers, going into the kitchen to watch the chef cooking a traditional dish of eels in cider and cream. Then he went to the Island of Oleron by bridge and visited an oyster farm, sampling a few in the process and the programme couldn't be complete without a visit to a winery before eventually reaching Rosa.

We were all keen to see captain Bernard and his team on TV and to see Rick's reaction to his home from home. Rick's delight as soon as he set foot on Rosa and his enthusiasm for the whole barging experience were obvious and it seems as if we have another convert.

Hats off to Rick Stein, say we, and here's looking forward to the next edition of French Odyssey!

Special Offers on Magna Carta and Actief

20% discount on all Prices until end of October 2005We offer a 20% discount on all prices on Magna Carta (except Theatre and Golf cruises) from now until the end of October 2005. Contact us here to enquire about the Magna Carta offer.

For Weeks commencing 4th & 18th September and 16th October, we have a special discount of $500 per person on Actief. This also applies to our Antiques cruise commencing 23rd October - see the Antiques cruise itinerary. Contact us here to enquire about the Actief offer.

Late Availability

We also still have space available on Impressionniste, Belle Epoque and Scottish Highlander in late September and October, and Impressionniste has some spaces still available for the 6 week Trans Europe trip, either as a whole, or in segments of 1 week or more. Check availability for your cruise dates online.


Please note that Scottish Highlander is now open all year - including the festive season and Hogmanay. As well as the standard week cruises we also have 4 and 5 day cruises available.

If you have any suggestions, feedback or barging stories to tell us, then please e-mail us. We'll be glad to hear from you and share your inputs in the lock-keeper.

Why not email this edition on to a friend, and let them share the fun. New subscribers can sign-up here, and are very welcome. More people are joining every day, so let's keep building a great Barging community..!

That's all for this 26th edition of the Lockkeeper, and hopefully the above articles have whet your appetite for that well-earned luxury cruise..!

Please visit barge cruises and have a look around, or follow the individual links above.

The next edition of the lock-keeper will be out in September, 2005, so we'll see you then.

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