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

welcome to the February edition of the lock-keeper.

Well, the long winter months pass by - surprisingly quickly, ...February already, and time to think of that summer holiday.

In this month's lock-keeper we have an exciting new competition for our readers. You can win a cruise for two on the luxury barge Actief, cruising the Royal river Thames in England.

We have a feature on Burgundy cruising submitted by one of our regular readers and barge aficionado - John Smith from Arizona.

We also catch-up with Don Harclerode from New Jersey, our caption competition winner, to share his reaction to the good news.

As usual, we feature some of our cruise options. This month we look at our flower show and gardens theme cruise itineraries which take-in the Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows in England, and we'll update you on our exciting new offering - the Trans Europe six week cruise, the trip of a lifetime...

You may notice that we've changed the layout of the lock-keeper this month. We've added an easy navigation feature to let you move between items and we've also added links to back issues of the newsletter.

I hope you like this new version and if you have any comments, ideas for features, your cruise story to share, or would just like to say hello, please contact me here.

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

in this issue:

Vezelay feature

L'Art de Vivre winner

Actief competition

Trans-europe cruise

Flower show cruise

back issues:

july 03

august 03

september 03

october 03

november 03

december 03

january 04

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

visit our website

Lasting Impressions of Vezelay

My name is John Smith (yes, that's really it), and I live in Scottsdale, Arizona with my wife, Anne, and our seven puppies (one Yorkie, six Chinese Crested). We have four grown children and four grandchildren.

I retired in 1998 after working at Motorola for 35 years. It was a great career during which we lived in France, Switzerland, and Germany. From this we gained a lasting interest in Europe, especially "old" Europe.

John Smith and family
that's Anne and I, third and fourth from the left...

After a couple of years in retirement, Anne and I thought it would be fun to arrange a truly memorable family reunion in Europe, one that would be unique and really special. We decided to charter a barge in France, because we had such great memories from time we cruised as guests of my sister and her family charter on the Burgundy Canal several years prior. Up until our family cruise, that was the greatest vacation Anne and I ever had. To top it, we had to really put the family's collective minds to work.

After much research and discussion, we decided to charter
L'Impressionniste for a cruise in the Burgundy region. After all was said and done, it was a winner in every respect . . . cuisine, service, comfort, tours . . . everything fell into place.

There were many highlights during the cruise, so as I think back it's difficult to isolate a single one. If I did have to select a personal favourite, it would be the tour to the historic village of Vezelay, France. Believe me, it takes a flip of the coin to put this above the many barge and tour highlights.

We knew nothing of the village prior to our visit, so we had no expectations one way or another. Boy, were we pleasantly surprised!

the hill top town of Vezelay in Burgundy, from L'Impressionniste
The village is hundreds of years old and is spread from the base to the top of a hill, making it very, very picturesque.

Wandering around the village and its numerous ancient structures was fun for all of us, and as is always the case, time passed too quickly. The visit was an exact fit for our interests, so the day was truly memorable for all of us.

inside Vezelay Cathedral in Burgundy
The cathedral at the top is an incredible structure, and you don't have to be a religious person to appreciate its history.

For example, we stood on the steps where the crusades began, and this, along with a visit to the church's crypt and its incredible artefacts, put things into perspective for me.

Talk about old Europe! There it was right in front of us.

Back to the barge, the cruise and the cuisine. I suppose the only way to describe it in a couple of words is "simply great." If you haven't cruised on a barge, you have one of life's real pleasures awaiting you

The uncrowded conditions (L'Impressionniste accommodates twelve), the gourmet cuisine, the personal tours, the beauty of the surrounding countryside . . . we could not have asked for more. You just relax and go along for the ride. And the dinner one evening at the local restaurant was one we still talk about.

And the flexibility in daily tours was a real plus. If you aren't particularly interested in the pre-planned tour for the day, no problem. Just let the crew know what and where, and if it can be done it will be done. And if you want something quite special, such as a hot air balloon trip, it's arranged with ease (son Adam and son-in-law Will exercised this option).

As if all of this wasn't enough, here we go again. In July of this year we'll be cruising the Caledonian Canal in Scotland on the Scottish Highlander. I don't know what comes after that, but the subject's already come up (my youngest daughter, JoAnne, likes to plan ahead). With all the world-class choices, how do you choose even when it's the third time around for the family? Well, we'll just have to find a way. Chances are we'll figure it out.

Maybe we'll cross paths during a future cruise with some of you who may read this. I hope so.



Derek writes:

thanks John, and we are looking forward to seeing you all again in July...

For anyone interested in a cruise in Burgundy, please visit La Belle Epoque, the sister ship of L'Impressionniste. L'Impressionniste has moved down to Provence, but La Belle Epoque still plies the canals around Burgundy and offers the same great experiences, excellent cuisine and the highest standard of accommodation.

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L'Art de Vivre caption competition winner

We spoke to Don Harclerode, the winner of the L'Art de Vivre caption competition in the December Holiday edition of the lock-keeper. Don was delighted, and gave us his reaction...

Don and Louise Harclerode from New Jersey Initial reaction - disbelief..!   I was checking my email as usual and received the GoBarging newsletter for January and saw that the contest winners had been chosen.

As suggested, I started with image number 1 and and slowly worked my way through the list looking for the "rosettes." I opened image number 12 and the first thing that I saw was the first prize rosette.

I scrolled down to see the winning entry and at that point my jaw dropped to the floor. WE WON ! !

I sat staring at the screen for several minutes, not believing what I was looking at. When reality set in, I ran to the the stairs and called down to my wife. When she came to the steps to see what I was calling about, I said, (trying to be as cool and nonchalant as possible), WE WON ! ! !

Her mouth dropped open and she ran up the steps to see for herself. At that point, we spent the next 10 minutes laughing uncontrollably. This is soooo exciting. Especially because we have been planning to take a barge cruise for the last 3 years.

It started this way. Our best friends, Art and Joan Maison, have two children the same ages as our two sons and when our last two children were in their Senior year of college we decided that we owed it to ourselves to take a very special vacation to celebrate their graduation and also the return of money to our bank accounts instead of to college tuition and expenses.

Since we are seasoned cruising addicts, primarily to the Caribbean, a cruise was the obvious choice. We happened to be watching the Travel channel on television and they ran a segment on canal cruises. We immediately decided - This is it!

We began the planning process, the brochures, web sites, etc. and as fate, life, whatever, would have it, something always came up. Little things like sons getting married, sons and daughters buying homes, home redecorating and such. The desire to take a barge cruise still burned within us but the bankroll went elsewhere.

So now to have won this cruise is unbelievably exciting. We still start laughing when we think about it. Thanks for running the contest, and thanks for choosing us! We'll see you in April. We'll be the folks with the non-stop smiles.

Don & Louise Harclerode

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Holiday Competition
Win a luxury barge cruise for two on Actief in 2004

To win a fabulous cruise for two on the luxury barge Actief, cruising the Royal river Thames, all you have to do is...

Visit the
Actief competition page and watch a short presentation which gives a real insight into cruising the Upper Thames. Answer a few simple questions and then describe what you think makes an Actief cruise so special.

Answer all questions correctly and write the best description and you will win a free cruise for two people to be taken during 2004...its that simple......

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L'Impressionniste Trans Europe 6 week cruise
Avignon to Amsterdam

Join us for this very special voyage. A thousand mile journey along Western Europe's finest inland waterways. Enjoy the intriguing and peaceful world of hotel barge cruising during this unique six week adventure along the canals and rivers of central Europe between the southern French Provencal town of Avignon across Europe to vibrant Amsterdam in northern Holland.

from Avignon in the South to Amsterdam in the North - follow the trail and experience the trip of a lifetime

Six weeks of expedition cruising through several European countries, capital cities and cultures.

Discover Europe's most famous rivers such as the Rhone, Seine and Rhine, as well as the many smaller rivers, canals and lakes as this incredible journey unfolds.

Enjoy the history and culture of France and the Lowlands from Roman times to the present day.

This absorbing cruise retraces the achievements of these historic regions from 15BC Roman amphitheatres, through the master builders of the Gothic cathedrals and Renaissance chateaux to the modern day hub of the EEC. Celebrate both the glorious and troubled past as the voyage retraces the advance of the allied forces liberating the French, Belgian and Dutch populations following the D- Day landings of exactly 60 years ago.

Your cruise is limited to just 12 discerning passengers. This enchanting voyage will be a mixture of days spent cruising, sight seeing and city stays whilst discovering the regional cuisines and wines of Provence, Beaujolais, Burgundy, Champagne, Alsace and the Moselle and Rhine valleys.

All accommodations on board, all meals, wines and bar drinks, use of all barge facilities - such as bicycles, jacuzzi and ship's library - and entry fees for shore excursions are included in the price.

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Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows
gardens theme cruise

Visit the Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows on our Magna Carta and Actief gardens theme cruise Our gardens theme cruise charters have two special itineraries this year. Our May 23rd gardens cruise visits the world famous Chelsea flower show as part of your cruise onboard luxury barges Actief and Magna Carta

Visit colour filled stands and amazing arrangements in a huge marquee outside the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.

Tour the wonderful and innovative display gardens, both traditional and contemporary, created by the brightest and best of Britain's garden designers. Months of work goes into these beautifully staged displays which only last a week. Visit the Chelsea and Hampton Court flower shows on our Actief and Magna Carta gardens theme cruise

On our July 4th cruise, the special venue is the Hampton Court flower show - also world renowned...

Organised by the Royal Horticultural Society, nurseries, societies and charities create 25 colour filled traditional and contemporary gardens in the grounds of Hampton Court Palace, including spectacular water gardens.

There are also stunning floral displays in 8 huge marquees, including the British Rose Festival, plus much, much more

To find out more, please visit our
gardens cruise website page

photos courtesy of

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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. There will also be some spot prizes for good submissions...What would you like to read about next month..??

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 second 2004 edition, and hopefully the above articles have whet your appetite for that well-earned luxury cruise..!

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

The next edition of the lock-keeper will be out in March, 2004, so we'll see you then.
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