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


Hello,

welcome to the August 2007, 50th edition, of the Lock-keeper. It is with great enjoyment that I look back over the last 30 years barging and cannot help being continuously amazed at the life we lead on the inland waterways.

There is always something new going on wherever I look. The French navigation folk are investing massively in upgrading the locks and towpaths, making sure that our investment is safe for years to come and that barging will continue to reach those out of the way backwaters and waterway Cul de Sacs which make cruising so intriguing.

Because we navigate the largest vessels possible in the smallest waterways of Europe, it's always a local event when we stop and tie up of make passage of a bridge or tight corner. Locals wave, children stare in awe. As our luxury floating hotels ease their way with little fuss and virtually no noise.

This Gold leaved edition of LockKeeper is our 50th consecutive edition and continues to grow in popularity. Send it to a friend, if he or she is the kind of person who relishes a relaxing break in a fascinating environment.

This month in the lock-keeper, we cruise on Scottish Highlander with Arlene Stacey and friends, and hear some fine tales about their adventures along the Caledonian canal in Scotland.

For this month’s competition we are giving away six bottles of the finest Vosne Romanee from Domaine Jaffelin in Nuits St Georges, Burgundy. We have served this wine for decades, always grateful for the opportunity to buy Burgundy’s finest from a family run Domaine.

We announce the winners of our cruise for two on Hirondelle in Burgundy in September 2007, and we continue the GoBarging photo competition for anyone who has cruised with us before. Send a photo with your story and win another cruise for two.

We feature the French TGV super-fast train, and visit some Pubs with Australian guests on Magna Carta in England. Finally, check out our News section for more great summer offers.

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....


best regards,

Derek Banks, Chairman


Derek Banks - Chairman and Barge skipper

in this issue:

Locks and Lochs

Hirondelle Cruise Winner

Win fine Burgundy wine

GoBarging Photo Competition

Supertrain Arrives

Pubs, pints and memories

Cruise News

back issues:

Archive

April 07

May 07

June 07

July 07

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Locks and Lochs in the Scottish Highlands
Tour the Caledonian Canal on a Luxury Barge

By Arlene Stacey, first published in CARP, September 2007

Captain Dan pilots the Scottish Highlander, our luxurious home for the week, along the Caledonian CanalDon't go to Scotland expecting to have as good a time as I did. Granted, you'll probably enjoy yourself but you won't have as many laughs.

Sure, you can take the same luxury barge trip on the eight-passenger Scottish Highlander, travelling the 60 miles of the Caledonian Canal linking Lochs Dochfour, Ness, Oich and Lochy between Inverness and Fort William. Sure, you'll enjoy the spectacular scenery and the Scots' hospitality. And you'll delight in your sumptuous cabin with its tiny but perfect ensuite and relish breakfasts made to order, delectable buffet lunches and fabulous three-course dinners with great wines but you won't have as much fun - unless you have the same travelling companions as I had.

We met as strangers in the lobby bar of the Glenmoriston Town House Hotel on Ness Bank in Inverness on a Sunday. I was travelling on my own and had spent a few days in the nearby holiday resort of Nairn, which boasts the driest and sunniest climate in all of Scotland. I had walked the beaches and promenade of this 12th-century town, where I had seen the tunnel-riddled cliffs across the Firth of Moray that inspired Alistair MacLean's The Guns of Navarone. But now, I was in the lobby of the Glenmoriston as the rain I had been expecting since my arrival started bucketing down.

My taxi driver had promised "bether" weather for the rest of the week. I surreptitiously peered over my book to see who would end up being my shipmates for the next six days. By 3:30, two women have arrived, followed by a mother-and-daughter team, commiserating about the older woman's lost luggage. The Floridians, Ann and Lisa, had bought their tickets from a friend whose plans to travel with her father were derailed by her dad's poor health. Bess from San Antonio wanted to celebrate her birthday with her daughter, Cathy, who lives in Raleigh, N.C.

When we attracted the attention of the bartender and all ordered wine, we knew our week would work out well. Our van arrives promptly at 4 and, with umbrellas protecting us from the downpour, we load up our luggage and get in for a short ride to Dochgarroch where the Highlander is moored. The crew ushers us into the 117-foot river ship, which originally carried grain. Its previous use is completely hidden with its refurbishment in 2000.

Plush leather couches and wing chairs are laden with cushions. Red and blue tartan carpeting is striking and elegant. A dining table tucks in under one of the large windows next to a bar that does double-duty as a lunch counter. My luggage has already been delivered to the MacIntosh, a stateroom with a wardrobe, cupboards and drawers in an area of about 11 feet square.

The window opens inward over a comfy king-size duvet-covered bed, and the private bathroom is a small, shiny gem with a basin, toilet and glass-enclosed shower outfitted with soap, shampoo, hair dryer, plush towels and a fluffy bathrobe. If I'm wrong about my fellow travellers, I can comfortably hide away in here with my book. Davina does diuble duty as she assists at a LockBut a champagne welcome awaits.

Captain Dan Clark introduces Davina, who will be our private chef for the next week. His aunt, Kate, is helping serve for a few days.

Captain Dan outlines our itinerary: we'll be travelling the Great Glen, which cuts diagonally from Inverness (at the mouth of the River Ness) to Fort William, connecting Loch Ness with the west coast and splitting the Highlands in two.




Locks and Lochs in the Scottish Highlands continued

ROAD TRIP THROUGH TIME

Cawdor CastleThe Monday morning mist burns off as we approach the 14th century Cawdor Castle by mini-van. Our guide is Captain Dan’s father, Jimmy Clark, who transfers us from the barge to a van that he handles as confidently as his son handles the barge.

We pull into the entrance of the castle, where rowan trees shiver their fine leaves and orange berries. Beyond the wooden fences, four-horned Jacob sheep race to the far side of the lot. Seeing the sheep remind Ann and Lisa of the previous week. Walking along an English country road, they were aghast at the speed of a car passing them, worried about the flock of sheep in the curving road ahead. The “sheep” turned out to be the florescent strips of traffic cones. Plastic orange “sheep” become one of the recurring laughs of the week.

Cawdor Castle has been the home of the Thanes of Cawdor since 1370 and may have been Shakespeare’s inspiration for Mac-beth. With tapestries, paintings, books, and furniture, the castle lives up to its fairytale reputation. The Dowager Countess Cawdor opens her home to the public from April to September. We marvel at the art collection and private rooms. The gardens alone - a walled garden, wild garden and nature trails - are worth the price of admission.

From there, it's eight miles on to windswept Culloden Moor, the last major battle fought on mainland Britain in 1746. It ended the Jacobite hopes of restoring the Stuarts to the throne of Britain. In less than an hour, the parliamentary forces routed the Jacobites and sent Bonnie Prince Charlie over the sea to Skye with Flora MacDonald. It takes less than an hour to walk the site of such an historic and epic battle that ended the Scottish way of life. As the guidebook suggests, Culloden represents the costs of "one man's dreams" - and introduces my fellow travellers to the Highlands' recurring themes of treachery, death and revenge.

BARGING ON

Urquhart Castle, Loch NessBack to the barge where Davina has created an irresistible lunch with three salads, one hot and one cold entrée in the tiny galley behind the dining room. We cruise through lochs Dochfour and Ness, passing Urquhart Castle and the Nessie Museum, both of which we'll return to later by van. At 22 miles in length and up to 1.5 miles in width, Loch Ness is smaller than Rice Lake in Ontario where I cottage but 1,000 feet deep - deeper than the North Sea - and dark with peat. Although it never freezes, it maintains a frigid temperature between 5 and 7 C.

Captain Dan warns us that Loch Ness can get rough suddenly and if anyone is lost overboard, we're not to take our eyes off them but to keep pointing out their location. Today, the sun is shining, the steep slopes are green and untouched except for a single road on the north coast and one on the south. We keep our eyes open for the famed monster but it's early in the day and we haven't had enough beer. At Fort Augustus, swans are waiting for Davina's treats as we wait in line for the series of locks that will connect us to the canal leading to Loch Oich, the highest point of the canal system.

We step off the barge and stroll the shops in the village. Everyone knows we're on the Scottish Highlander, and many tell us how they know one or more of the crew. It's warm, friendly and comfortable. Then it's back to the van for the short drive to Urquhart Castle overlooking Loch Ness. Its long, bloody history stretches back to the 13th century when the area was given to the Durward family. The castle was captured by the English, reclaimed by the Scots and lost again. Robert the Bruce controlled it after he became King of Scots. Then it was raided multiple times by neighbouring clans. More mur-r-r-rder in the Scottish Highlands.

Tonight is the only time we'll have dinner off the ship, and we dress up for the Caledonian Hotel. For appetizers, we deliberate over smoked trout with mustard-chive mayonnaise, cream of broccoli and parsnip soup or haggis with whisky and toasted oatcakes. After choosing the smoked trout as a start, I select prime rib of Scottish beef in red wine marinade and Moniack horseradish, thinking that grilled Scottish salmon with smoked salmon and lemon butter would be overkill. A choice of four desserts or Orkney cheddar and Dunsyre blue cheese is followed by tea, coffee and mints served in the reception room.




Locks and Lochs in the Scottish Highlands continued

BAR NONE

As the five of us head back to the boat, one of us - I don't want to say it's Bess - remarks that we'll never be here again and we should have a nightcap. In the next two hours, we hit all three bars in the village. As I step out of the first one, a man follows me out and says, "Remember this face" as he circles his hand around it. I smile distantly and catch up with my friends. At the Loch Inn, under a trophy deer head is posted a plaque that reads:

14th Sept. 1989, Cullachy.
Shot by John Martin and Nooky Clark
150 community hours and £650 fine
and eaten by Sgt. Waugh.

When we return to the Scottish Highlander and tell the crew about our evening, Katie comments that the man I met might have been "blootered" or "bladdered" after spending so much of his time in the bars but she thinks we're all "fly drinkers." We fall over ourselves in laughter reciting the plaque posted in the restaurant. With a twinkle in his eye, Captain Dan says, "Nooky's my uncle." Now we've met three of Captain Dan's relatives. It's beginning to feel like home.

We cruise down the canal to the next set of locks at Laggan. On the other side of the canal floats the Inn on the Water, promising hand-pulled real ales. Unfortunately, the doors to the canal's only floating pub remain closed while the skies open. We fall asleep with the sound of raindrops drumming on the deck.

FAIRYTALES AND TREACHERY

Eilean Donan CastleA visit to Eilean Donan Castle reinforces our vision of treachery and death in the Highlands. This medieval castle set on a tiny island overlooks three lochs and is connected to the mainland by only a footbridge where the winds threaten to blow you over the edge. Abandoned after the Jacobite rising of 1719, the castle was restored in the early 20th century and has appeared in movies such as Highlander, Loch Ness and The World is Not Enough.

The dining hall is surrounded by a narrow corridor in which guards would hide to protect the residents from treacherous visitors. The Scottish double-handled drinking vessel also attests to the clansmen’s fear of company: in order to drink, the guests needed to use both hands, leaving them no access to their knives. Back on board, we discover that a power outage has immobilized us. The locks and swing bridges are electric, but at least our barge has its own generator.

Katie serves another spectacular dinner that Davina has conjured up in her tiny galley and fills our wine glasses. With her hands folded on top of one another and held firmly at her blackskirted waist, Katie explains the difference between the “Gar-rrlic” spoken in Scotland versus the “Gaelic” in Ireland. Captain Dan comes into the room to tell us the power loss stretches for at least 12 miles, and we won’t be able to stay on schedule. The good news is that the Inn on the Water – the only floating bar on the Caledonia Canal is open tonight – by candlelight. Its hand-pulled ales don’t rely on electricity as the pumps in town do.

The Commando monument at Spean BridgeThe next day, power restored, the Scottish Highlander moves on past Laggan, the scene of one of the bloodiest clan battles in history, where hundreds of men died. We cruise into Loch Lochy where commandos trained in the Second World War and we visit their memorial before shopping in the woollen mill at Spean Bridge. The prices for cashmere goods are reasonable, but when we compare our purchases back on the boat, I realize I’ve bought a “100% acrylic” sweater.

Ann and Lisa believe it was sheared from the plastic orange sheep they saw in England. It’s our last night on the Scottish Highlander. As darkness descends after dinner, the sound of a bagpipe grows louder. Out the window, we see a lone piper marching down the lane and on to the dock. Back and forth, he parades, his kilt flipping sharply with each turn.

The sound is incredibly mournful, a plaintive cry in the misty Scottish evening. Katie tells us it’s customary to invite a piper in for tea or a wee “drap” when he’s finished, so we do. And in steps Colin Sidley in his McGilvray tartan and, smiling at me, he says, “Remember this face?” It’s the man from our second night on the cruise. It seems so long ago.

ALL GOOD THINGS MUST END

Back in Inverness, I cross the River Ness alone for the first time in a week and walk up to the imposing castle that dominates the town. A statue of Flora MacDonald peers down the walkway at – can it be? – a traffic cone tipped over on the roadway. I smile broadly to myself and take a picture of the dead “sheep” at Inverness Castle to send to my Floridian friends. So I’m sure you’ll have a really, really grand time on your trip to Scotland, but there’s no way it can measure up to mine.

Contact us today about a cruise on Scottish Highlander back to top




July Competition Winner

Hirondelle barge cruise in BurgundyFor our July Lockkeeper competition we had a fabulous chance to win a trip for two, courtesy of owners Orient Express, who have sponsored a cabin on board the Hirondelle which cruises the canals of Burgundy.

Find out who has won the cruise for two. Hirondelle Cruise competition winner.

Cruise departs 02Sept from Paris.  back to top

 

 

Enter our August Wine competition hereAugust Competition

For this month’s competition we are giving away six bottles of the finest Vosne Romanee from Domaine Jaffelin in Nuits St Georges, Burgundy. We have served this wine for decades, always grateful for the opportunity to buy Burgundy’s finest from a family run Domaine. As usual, follow the competition link, answer the competition questions and enter. The winner will be announced in the next edition of the Lockkeeper.

Enter our August competition here

 

 

GoBarging Photo Competition

Have you spent time cruising with European Waterways? Would you like to do so again FREE ! Then Dig out your barging holiday photos featuring European Waterways and email to us, together with a short story or caption and the best photograph will win a double cabin on board L'Impressionniste or La Belle Epoque in spring or summer 2008.

The photo competition closes at end October 2007, and the winner, chosen by Derek Banks, will be announced in the November Lockkeeper. The cruise must be booked within 6 weeks prior to departure, subject to availability. Send your entry to us via this email link lockkeeper@gobarging.com  back to top




Supertrain Arrives TGV
While politicians and pundits argue about ways to bring European countries close together,
France's super-high-speed train has gone ahead and done it.
From France Today (www.francetoday.com
)

On the morning of June 10, the new TGV Est Européen started service from Paris-Gare de l'Est to 20 cities in eastern France and on to 10 destinations in Germany, Luxembourg and Switzerland.

The trains will run at 320 kilometers per hour (199 mph), 20 kph faster than the earlier generation TGVs now in service-cutting travel time to Strasbourg from four hours to 2h20. Time to Metz and Nancy will be 1h30 instead of 2h45, and, at 45 minutes away instead of 1h35,

Champagne's capital. Reims, will become virtually a Paris suburb. For Parisians, a dash to Reims for a champagne lunch will be a snap.

SNCF general director Guillaume Pepy qualifies the opening of the new eastern service as a "railway revolution." On a demonstration run in April, a specially rigged model of the new TGV smashed the speed record for conventional rail travel, hitting 574.8 kilometers an hour (357mph) -approximately the speed of a passenger jet on take-off. The previous record of 515.3kph (320mph) was set in 1990 by an earlier TGV. (The Japanese magnetic levitation train, which hovers above its rails, holds the absolute record for land travel, at 581 kph, but unlike the TGV it cannot also run on conventional rail lines.)

The extended network, although not running on high-speed track all the way, will also cut travel time significantly - Paris to Luxembourg: 2h05 instead of 3h35; Paris to Frankfurt via Sarrebruck, Kaiserslautern and Mannheim: 3h50 instead of 6h15; Paris to Zurich via Colmar, Mulhouse and Basel: 4h35 instead of 5h50. Even Paris to Munich-688 kms, 427 miles-via Karlsruhe and Stuttgart will be 6h15 instead of 8h30.

Also being tested on the April speed run was the AGV(automotrice grande vitesse), a technological advance giving each car an independent motor at its wheelbase, powered by the same high-tension lines that normally drive one or two locomotives for the whole train.

In service as early as 2009 or 2010, AGV trains are expected to have a cruising speed of 360 kilometers per hour (223 mph).

High-speed haute couture

The new TGV Est Européen trains, made by Alstom, have a spiffy, even more streamlined design than their forebears, with a still more aerodynamic nose.

Passengers will be pampered with wider reclining seats, footrests, reading lights and, in first class, electric outlets for laptops. The colorful new interiors are designed by Christian Lacroix (in conjunction with MBD Design and Compin), with blue and green seats in first class and violet and orange in second. The trains have family spaces with tables for games, and bar cars for light meals.

SNCF personnel. also dressed by Lacroix, are equipped with hand-held Accelio devices allowing them to find answers to passengers' questions, from connecting train times to tourist information and telephone.  back to top




Pubs, pints and memories

Windsor Castle, England
from The Australian on 22/06/07

It's like a permanent slide show running through the mind. Mention England to many Australians and the the show kicks in behind the eyes. You can remember where you stood and what you looked at everywhere. The Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Trafalgar Square, Windsor Castle - they all heave into view.

Problem is, while we know the images backwards. Many of us haven't really appreciated the history and stories behind them. Our slideshow in the mind is just that - a two dimensional vision. A box we ticked on a tour. Sure, most of these attractions probably figure on most of our lists of 1001 places to see before we die, but maybe we should savour them a little more closely.

There is a way. Imagine sitting in a riverside pub late at night sipping a rather pleasant pint of Old Speckled Hen. If ale doesn't appeal, try a glass of wine. A short distance away, virtually at the gates of Hampton Court Palace, lie your digs for the evening - the Magna Carta. It's an eight-berth barge of complete comfort. The Thames laps oh-so gently at its sides as it beckons you to sleep on your first evening of a seven-night cruise.

You are in the public house after enjoying a magnificent dinner with your captain and fellow travellers. Feeling rather satisfied and in need of a little post-prandial exercise, you have wandered down to the local watering hole. Inside it's warm and convivial, even though everyone is a stranger. Now this is how to begin to see England.

The following morning, after a heart-starting breakfast, you get to lazily wander the 60 acres of gardens around the palace and get lost in the maze. You investigate Henry VIII's private quarters, the Royal Chapel and marvel at the most beautiful Tudor building in the world.

Back onboard there's lunch, before the barge slowly wends its way past the riverside towns of Molesey, Sunbury and Chertsey down to Shepperton for the evening where another superlative dinner awaits. The following day it's on to Bell Weir Lock which lies adjacent to the world renowned Runnymede Spa. A quick massage or treatment is a pretty good option to work out the previous two-days worth of toxins.

The meadow at Runnymede is where King John was forced to sign the Magna Carta in 1215. Moving at such a languid pace allows you to truly appreciate the history and significance of each place of interest. You may even indulge in a friendly discussion with your fellow passengers about the American Bill of Rights (which was modelled on the Magna Carta) or even whether America's founding fathers were all that cluey. You have time to discuss these things. Maybe point out that the English don't even have a written constitution, which seems to save a lot of trouble. This is how to see England and you will notice the slide show in the mind starting to change. The memories will be deeper.

After an uninterrupted night of slumber, the following morning you cruise down to a private island near Windsor. Across the water lies the largest inhabited castle in the world. Built by William the Conqueror, CookhamWindsor Castle has been a home to Royals for nearly a millennium and remains one of the most imposing edifices in England.

During the afternoon there's a chance to poke around the state apartments and explore the Royal Chapel. From the ramparts, you get a real feel for the strength of empire the castle exudes.

Day five sees you leave the castle behind and you slowly meander up towards Cookham. The barge passes through the lock at Bray and you marvel at its perfectly pretty garden before heading towards Maidenhead past magnificent riverside homes and through the spectacular Cliveden Reach. Moor up in Cookham, which was described by artist Stanley Spencer as "heaven on earth", and you're in his studio that afternoon.

Tonight, you visit a riverside pub in Bourne End and sadly realise there's only a day and a bit to go. A visit to a boatyard the next day and a quick run down the Regatta Mile at Henley fills you with a desire to take up rowing or at least watch a regatta with something a lot harder than a Pimms in hand.

Contact us today about a cruise on Magna Carta.    back to top



News

La Belle Epoque Wayfarers walking cruise on 21st October, 2007La Belle Epoque saloon

Still available for this year, departing 21st October - 1 suite and 2 Jnr suites on La Belle Epoque.

We walk in the hills above the canal to the pretty cliff top village of Mailly-le-Chateau, finding diverse fauna and fascinating archaeology in La Reserve Naturelle de Bois du Parc. Following lunch on the barge, our walk continues along the canal. Mooring: Lucy-sur- Yonne

Cabins are now available to book for 12 or 19th October 2008, each with a professional walking guide.

Tate Britain Exhibitions - Hokney on Turner, 11 June 2007  –  3 February 2008

The Blue Rigi, Sunrise 1842 Free Entry

Dazzling, evocative and sublime, this exhibition provides a rare opportunity to see some of JMW Turner's most spectacular works. Usually outnumbered by his grand oil paintings, around 150 of Turner’s beautiful watercolours are displayed, giving a comprehensive view of the artist’s astonishing use of watercolour, his techniques and his influences.

At the heart of the exhibition another seminal British artist, David Hockney, presents his own selection of Turner's unique colour studies or 'beginnings' and also provides commentary on the artist's techniques.

The exhibition tracks Turner's watercolour work through time. From architecture to topography, ideal and historic landscape to nature studies, and finished works to private sketches, the selection reveals Turner's extraordinary range as a watercolourist. At the same time, it shows the development of the virtuoso techniques that enabled him first to paint watercolours that could compete with oil paintings, and later to transform all aspects of his art by their example.

The exhibition includes The Blue Rigi c1841–2, Turner's magnificent work which was recently acquired by Tate with the help of the most successful public appeal ever organised by The Art Fund.

While in London, why not take a luxury 6 night river Thames cruise on Actief or Magna Carta...?

Shannon Princess Charter offer for September 16th, 2007

There is a 20% discount on Shannon Princess for a whole boat Charter on September 16th, 2007.

Anyone interested, please contact us here - Shannon Princess Charter Offer

Summer Special Offers

ENGLAND - $750/£375 DISCOUNT PER CABIN

Magna Carta, River Thames in England – Available on all available departures in 2007

Early Bird booking for April & May 2008, book by 30 Nov and 2008 value pricing will apply

IRELAND - 30% DISCOUNT PER CABIN

Shannon Princess II in Republic of Ireland - Available on cruise departing 9th September 2007

Conditions: For charter departures the discount per person is applied to the charter rate. Maximum of 2 single cabins can be booked on each cruise departure. Discounts are based on 2 people sharing each cabin, unless specified. Our normal Terms & Conditions apply.

For further information and reservations please contact sales@gobarging.com

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 about it for this 50th 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 2007, so we'll see you then.

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