Dear Friend,

Welcome to the December edition of the Lock-keeper and Happy Christmas from all the team! We hope you had a good one...

This month in the lock-keeper we have a whole sackful of goodies to entertain you, whether you’re sitting by a cosy fireside or on a veranda enjoying a blazing summer barbeque!

We meet Italian Chef Eros who wants everyone to fall in love with his creations next year on La Dolce Vita, our barge which cruises around Venice and the Venetian Lagoon in Italy.

We explore Christmas traditions in France and Italy and finish our Scottish Traditions series with the story of Auld Lang Syne – so no excuses for getting the words wrong on December 31st!

We introduce the surprising small town of Vallabregues which features on the itinerary of our French barge L’Impressionniste in 2007 and extol the virtues of barge-strolling and barging for solos.

We announce November's Scottish Highlander competition winner and we have a great new competition to win a pair of limited edition signed prints (framed on handmade paper) by the prestigious Scottish Contemporary Artist - Ronnie Ford.

Finally, announcing the arrival of our 2007 brochure, we tie up the year and wish our readers a peaceful and fulfilling year to come.

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:

Chef Profile

Cruise Solo

Just Strollin along

2007 Brochure

Jewel in the Crown

Nativity Scenes

November Winner

Art Competition

Auld Lang Syne

Cruise News

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january 06

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august 06

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november 06

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Eros Libero Ameduri - La Dolce Vita La Dolce Vita in Venice

Eros Libero Ameduri joined La Dolce Vita in September '06. A young talent, Eros comes from Calabria in southern Italy, where he started learning the art of cooking from his grandmother. As a teenager he attended professional cooking school in Locri. After getting his degree in his twenties he refined his style at Pim's in Tropea and at the Rikaroka in Gioiosa Ionica, two famous restaurants of Calabria.

His relationship began with La Dolce Vita when moving north to work in Venice a couple of years ago. Seeing the barge moored near his employers' restaurant, Eros approached the boat and got to know the crew. Briefly afterwards, he was hired!

Chef ErosEros' style of cooking is truly Mediterranean and even though he likes to invent his own recipes, his dishes are always faithful to his Italian roots. The base ingredients of Eros' dishes are olive oil, capers, basil, Mediterranean herbs, fresh produce from the garden and fish from the sea and the lagoon.

While the captain leads the guests to explore Venice and the region, Eros takes them on a parallel food cruise around Italy. Cheese is also part of this culinary journey and Eros regularly serves a selection of different mozzarellas, a dozen varieties of aged cheeses, as well as a few creamy ones. Appetizers include different hams from Parma to San Daniele. The desserts range from freshly made Tiramisł to traditional Venetian pastry.

If you are planning to come on board La Dolce Vita, Eros will delight you not only with his talent in cooking, but also with his joy of explaining how the food is prepared. Remember not to ask Eros where his white chef's hat is - he only wears a black chef's hat while cooking!

Contact us today for more information about our La Dolce Vita Barge cruises.   back to top


We often have enquiries from people asking what it’s like to cruise as a solo traveler. The answer is “great!”. A barge cruise is an ideal choice for solo travelers of all ages to get away from it all, but not feel alone or out of their depth (if you’ll pardon the pun!).

You have friends straight away when you join the barge – a friendly crew invite you on board and make sure you feel at home and welcome. During a week on board the barge, the crew help you to make the best of your chosen region, taking charge of all your meals, providing all you need in the way of refreshments, so that you can enjoy the best of what the region has to offer, escorting you on tailor-made trips, at the same time appreciating your independence.

It is easy to make friends on the barge and people who are strangers at the beginning of the week quite often stay in contact for many years afterwards, with some even engineering another barge cruise to do the whole thing again. So contrary to what many may think, the barge cruise is not geared solely to families or groups.

There is room to spread out on board if you need a bit of privacy and elbow-room - in the lounge, dining room, on the sun decks or in the chart room and cabins are cosy and secure. You can even go into market with the chef to buy the ingredients for the day’s meals or watch the dinner being prepared if you like cooking. Cycles are also kept on board for those who like to take some scenic exercise.

So don’t hold back – we’re looking forward to your company in 2007!

Contact us today for more information about our European Waterways GoBarging cruises. back to top


Barge Strolling.

Strolling alongside the barge One of the greatest benefits which goes with barging is the ease and ability with which one can walk from the barge. To start with, we only barge for about 4-5 hours a day; this leaves plenty of time for a walk ashore when we moor up, be it to visit a local village, buy some postcards or just explore.

There are other highlights of cruising along the canals and small rivers which really take some beating - the locks, those fascinating engineering marvels which serve not only as a means to gently raise or lower your floating hotel up or down a few feet, but also act as a useful stepping stone.

A quick call to the Captain or crew, and at the right time, just as the barge levels with the top of the lock, off you step, usually just a matter of inches, with a reassuring hand on the hand rail or to a crew member. And the race begins - at least that's what it seems like for about 3 minutes, until you quickly realise that a gentle stroll is all it takes to keep a few feet in front of your home for the week so the feeling of it being a race is absolutely the opposite.

Our barges move at about 3 miles an hour on the canals, which really does allow all the time in the world to enjoy the walk, stretch your legs and absorb the peace and quiet of the tow path and surrounding countryside. For those that enjoy birdlife, everything from kingfishers, egrets, hawks and flamingos keep you company. For animal lovers the canals sometimes reach deep into the countryside and don't be surprised if an early morning stroll rumbles a deer or startles a pheasant.

Last season we were joined by many walkers; some folk booked dedicated walking tours with companies like The Wayfarers, where a guide would lead them off with much enthusiasm and Ordinance Survey or Michelin map work. Other folk just made their own way, easily covering a few kilometres every day and no doubt happy to walk off a few pounds. Barging and walking go hand in hand.

Contact us today for more information about our European Waterways GoBarging cruises. back to top


Our New 2007 GoBarging Brochure

As the turn of the year approaches, we are happy to announce that our new 2007 Go Barging brochure is here! Hot off the press, it will soon be winging its way all over the world.

The pages contain details of six new barges, introducing readers to several new itineraries and two new cruise countries: Belgium and Holland. Lock-keeper readers have already had a preview of the new barges and we are happy to report that the itineraries have provoked good feedback.

This means lots more places, events and people to write about in next year’s Lock-keeper, which we hope you continue to enjoy.

Order a copy of our GoBarging 2007 Brochure here.

A LITTLE JEWEL IN PROVENCE Luxury barge cruises on Impressionniste in Provence, France

Those who receive a copy of our new 2007 brochure will notice that we have made a couple of improvements to the itinerary for Impressionniste. On the list of mooring places is the little village of Vallabrègues. You may think « what is the significance of Vallabregues at this time of year ? » - well, if you are the fortunate recipient of a Christmas hamper, it may well have been made there….

Most of the time this village with a population of 1,400 chugs along on its own sweet way down life’s pathway, but once a year it becomes a Mecca for talented craftsmen and women from all over Europe with up to 12,780 visitors ! What is the magnet which attracts all these people on the second weekend of August every year ? It’s the Festival of Wickerwork and Basketry !

Vallabregues has an interesting history. Despite having being contested by different lords, counts, cardinals and generals for centuries, this village is said to date up to 3,500 years before Christ. By the side of the river Rhone, the population was always bound to the river and its moods. However, flood waters did not always spell disaster, as they spread fertile clay, enabling the growth of reeds. This was the origin of the basket-making industry, which was already firmly established by 13th century in the area around Arles.

La VannerieBasket making was officially recognised as a trade in France in 1467. At first basket makers were nomadic craftsmen who lived outside the confines of the town, but later on, they set set down roots in Vallabregues – at one time 450 out of a population of 1,818 were basket makers. In the early 19th century, it also gained much acclaim through Frédéric Mistral’s romantic poem "Mireille", where Mireille falls in love with Vincent, a basket-maker from Vallabregues.

The town was exploding with life – a theatre, an orchestra, 5 cafes, lots of festivals – the Vallabregues basket-makers were busy all the time making baskets of all shapes and sizes for domestic use and to transport goods. But with the passing of time came the appearance of plastic, cardboard and wood-based packaging. The basket-makers couldn’t compete. The reed beds disappeared, agriculture and woods took their place and cheap Eastern imports struck the final blow. This wonderful chapter in the village’s life was in danger of being blotted out.

Fortunately, though, a little nucleus of basket-makers managed to survive in the Touraine region and it was from this cooperative that the seed of this craft was able to re-germinate. Opened in 1994, a museum of basket making appeared in Vallabregues and in November 1997 basket-making started again in town.

In 1990 the people of Vallabrègues wanted to stage an event to revive this important part of their heritage, so they got together and set up a re-enactment of the 2 day festival which used to be held to celebrate the return of the reed-cutters, as they returned to town after having spent 2 weeks cutting reeds in the Camargue. Ever since then, every August Vallabrègues becomes once more the capital of basket making, with basket-makers from all over Europe converging on the village. It’s not only a festival, but also a marvellous business opportunity as relationships are cemented between buyers and sellers who meet at this unique event.

Baskets and other wickerwork objects are hung up all over town on gaily decorated stalls while these talented craftsmen demonstrate and conduct their business. Some people dress up in old-time costume and join in the Reed Cutters’ Parade as it proceeds through town with carts and carriages festooned with baskets.

On the Sunday morning a special outdoor church service is held and later on, a grand dinner, during which local dishes and wines are healthily sampled and folk old and young dance into the small hours.

Contact us today for more information about Impressionniste

Festival Photos    back to top


As a little stocking-filler, we thought you might like to read about a couple of the customs practised in our cruising areas at Christmas.

Let’s start with the Provencal tradition of making “Santons”.


Santons are the small clay-carved figurines of the three wise men, the shepherds, Joseph, Mary and the baby Jesus which appear in Christmas nativity scenes.

A santon from provenceThe word comes from the Provençal "santoùon", or “little saints”. Christmas nativity scenes started appearing in churches in Provence in the 17 th century. As well as being an integral part of the Christmas decorations in churches throughout Provence, they are sold all over the region during Advent to families for their homes. Santons nowadays depict the colourful people, traditional trades, activities and costumes of Provence and they are generally wearing 19th-century dress.

The clay is found around Marseilles and Aubagne and is moulded into the figures from two-piece plaster molds (made from original carvings), then dried, baked and hand painted.

In addition to the stable scene, Christmas cribs often depict typical Provencal villages. The largest crib in the world is on exhibition in the town of Grignan. It measures 1,136 square-meters and is laid out as a miniature Provencal village.

Today santon fairs and exhibitions are a common regional event during November and December. Arles has its well-known “Salon International des Santonniers” and Tarascon has a santon weekend at the end of November.

The Italian Tree of Light

a presepioThe “ ceppo” for many Italians is a decorated wooden pyramid shaped frame, with 3-5 tiers of shelves, stocked up with goodies, greenery, fruit, nuts and presents. This tiered tree was believed to have originated in the region of Tuscany. In essence it is a wooden Christmas tree and is known as the Tree of Light but the name “ceppo” derives from the word "Presepio" (crib or Nativity scene), as the bottom shelf is reserved for that very thing.

Small candles provide the light and are dotted around the frame and at the top is a star, angel or pineapple (representing hospitality or in some countries, fertility).

As with most traditions, the elements of the ceppo have a special meaning. The presepio represents the gift of God, the fruit and nuts are the gifts of the Earth and the presents are the gifts of man.

Present-giving continues at Epiphany when, on January 6 th, children are visited by a character called La Befana. She is a kindly old woman who brings toys to the children. According to legend, the Three Wise Men stopped at the hut of La Befana to ask how to find the Christ child. Despite being unable to help them, she was invited to go along but she refused. Later on a shepherd stopped by with the same invitation. Again she refused, but when night fell and she saw the bright star in the sky above Bethlehem she realized she should have gone. So she gathered some toys and ran off to find the kings and the shepherd. But despite hours of searching, la Befana couldn’t find them or the stable. Her only hope was to stop every child to give them a small treat in the hope that one was the Christ child. Each year on the eve of the Epiphany she sets out looking for the baby Jesus. She stops at each child's house to leave those who were good treats in their stockings and those who were bad a lump of coal! .   back to top

November competition winnerThe Scottish Highlander at Fort Augusts on Loch Ness

For our November Lockkeeper competition, we asked you to answer the 3 questions based on Scottish Highlander's Christmas and New Year cruises with the prospect of winning a voucher entitling you to a discount of $500 (£250) off the price of a cabin on a 2007 cruise aboard Scottish Highlander in April or May 2007.

Find our Scottish Highlander competition winner here. Ronnie Ford - Contemporary Scottish Artist (not actual frame)

Ronnie Ford Competition

Our December competition prize is a pair of
limited edition signed prints (framed on handmade paper)
by the prestigious Scottish Contemporary Artist - Ronnie Ford.

Gobarging promotes fine art, and two notable art studios
well connected with Gobarging are;

Callaghan Fine Art & Ronnie Ford Scottish Contemporay Artist.

Enter our Ronnie Ford Art competition here.

 back to top

The Scottish Highlander

Christmas is here and so is the last of our trilogy of articles on Scottish Christmas and New Year traditions. This month its "Auld Lang Syne". Auld Lang Syne ("Old Times") is a rousing song which is sung at the stroke of midnight between the old year and new year, with arms crossed and linked in a circle with friends, neighbours and strangers. It's a song of friendship and hope and a lovely way to cement and make new friendships. It's become possibly the most famous Scottish song, as it is sung now all over the world.

To join in a public rendition of Auld Lang Syne you have to be prepared for a bit of a bumpy ride though, as it's not just a question of linking arms and singing - during the chorus, everyone moves into the centre of the circle (arms still linked) and then out again, meaning that you can get caught in the crush. When shoulder pads were in fashion in the 70's (remember that TV show "Dallas"? otherwise known as "Battle of the shoulder pads") you could sing Auld Lang Syne without any fear of getting battered or bruised by your enthusiastic and boistrous neighbours!

The version of Auld Lang Syne which we sing today was written by Rabbie Burns (1759-96) and published soon after his death, but it existed in a different form as a folk song long before. If ever you've wondered about the words, here they are, along with a dictionary at the end to help out with any translations .

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We'll tak a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!

And surely ye'll be your pint-stowp,
And surely I'll be mine,
And we'll tak a cup o kindness yet,
For auld lang syne!


We twa hae run about the braes,
And pou'd the gowans fine,
But we've wander'd monie a weary fit,
Sin auld lang syne.


We twa hae paidl'd in the burn
Frae morning sun till dine,
But seas between us braid hae roar'd
Sin auld lang syne.


And there's a hand my trusty fiere,
And gie's a hand o thine,
And we'll tak a right guid-willie waught,
For auld lang syne

be - pay for
braes - hills
braid - broad
burn - stream
dine - dinner time
fiere - friend
fit - foot
frae - from
gie's - give me
gowans - daisies
guid-willie waught - goodwill drink
lang - long
monie - many
paidl'd - paddled
pint-stowp - bar bill
pou'd - pulled
tak - take
twa - two

Visit the Scottish Highlander here, or Contact us for more information on our Scottish Barge cruises. back to top



Are you an early bird, planning a cruise in 2008?

As a special Christmas present to all our Go Barging customers and Lock-keeper readers, we would like to present the following special offer, valid until the end of February 2007:

All customers booking a 2008 cruise and sending in their deposit by the end of February 2007 will benefit from 2007 prices being applied to their booking.

The above special offer does not apply to cruises on: Alouette, Hirondelle or La Reine Pedauque

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 42nd 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 January 2007, so we'll see you then.

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