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


welcome to the February edition of the lock-keeper.

February already, are we the only ones who think time is passing quicker these days..?

Work continues to get all the barges ready for the new season, which at this rate will be here very soon..!

In this month's lockkeeper, we are looking forward to Spring, with a great new cruise on Anjodi. We also have a new competition to win a cruise on Anjodi, sometime in 2005.

We pay further tribute to La Belle Epoque's old owner with some stories and photos of the old days, and we have a Troglodyte trip on board Nymphea in the Loire valley.

We announce our L'Art de Vivre cruise winner, tell you more about our Trans Europe 6 week cruise on L'Impressionniste from Avignon in France to Amsterdam in Holland, and round up with some news items.

As you've probably heard, we also have a Royal Wedding to celebrate in April, and since our two barges on the river Thames are closely linked with Windsor, we have a Royal Wedding week cruise which offers you the chance to be there and witness the celebrations at first hand.

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:

Spring cruise

Belle Epoque tribute

A Troglodyte trip

January cruise winner

Win a cruise

Trans Europe cruise

Royal Wedding cruise


back issues:

july 04

august 04

september 04

october 04

november 04

december 04

january 05

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

visit our website

Spring cruise 2005
Mediterranean Coastal Culinary Charters on Anjodi

Anjodi cruising in Provence, France
For those who love France and food, this is a great new themed cruise for Spring 2005. This new Anjodi cruise combines all the joys of cruising with the bonus of your own personal cookery course. At each end of the route are towns of beauty and history, their markets bursting with the fruits of land and sea and between the two we cruise along four magnificent waterways, the Canal de la Robine and the Canal du Midi and the rivers Orb and Herault. It is a versatile cruise in many ways, not only for the sights and sounds, but our senses are opened to new smells and tastes as we learn about and try the regional specialities.

Spent under the careful and expertise guidance of Captain Rupert Pitt and his crew, your cruise will be a mixture of relaxation, discovery and gastronomic enlightenment. This extraordinary cruise will not only entice your tastebuds but also teach you how to do the enticement when you get home! Master Chef Louis will be catering for your gastronomic whims during the cruise and will also be holding a cookery master class on 3 afternoons in the fully equipped granite galley on board, through which he will pass on to you tips and tricks of the trade, gained through his experience and also from the culinary academy in Marseille where he was trained. At the end of the cruise, you will know how to prepare and cook some superb culinary regional specialities from the south of France.

SUNDAY: We meet you at Le Chateau de Lignan Hotel near Beziers and bring you to your floating hotel Anjodi. After you have settled in, we take you on a walking tour of Narbonne. Narbonne was the first place to be colonised by the Romans, around 2000 years ago, becoming the 2nd largest town in Gaul and developing into an important mediaeval centre, with many buildings remaining from those times including the cathedral and bishop's palace. In the Horreum Romain is a labyrinth of underground passageways and in the Musee Lapidaire, you can see Roman artefacts along with sculptures and inscriptions. We moor up overnight in Narbonne.

MONDAY We leave the barge in the morning to visit Narbonne's market. Gastronomers can accompany our Master Chef Louis to purchase provisions. After lunch on board Anjodi, we set sail along the Canal de la Robine. During the afternoon cruise passengers can attend a fish cookery demonstration. Later on, we arrive at Argeliers, former centre of an olive growing region till 1950's and now a typical wine making village. We moor overnight in Argeliers.

TUESDAY In the morning, we visit Minerve, mediaeval village of Cathars. We return to the barge and continue our cruise along the Canal du Midi. During this afternoon, our Master Chef will give a demonstration of how to make the famous fish soup "Bouillabaise". Arriving at Poilhes we prepare for another culinary delight and good company.

WEDNESDAY In the morning, we visit Oppidum d'Enserune, 3000 year old archaeological site. It is also here that the Canal du Midi construction team had to perform an amazing feat as they carved a 165 yard long tunnel through the mountain - remember this was in the 1680's! Our captain then skilfully manoeuvres the Anjodi down the Fonserannes staircase - a series of 7 locks and masterpiece of engineering - and over the river Orb by aqueduct. During this afternoon's cruise to Villeneuf les Beziers, our master chef shows us how to make "Cassoulet". The evening mooring is at Portiragnes.

THURSDAY This morning we leave the Canal du Midi and enter the salt water Thau Basin. We then cruise towards Marseillan, a charming fishing village and home of the famous vermouth Noilly Prat. This afternoon we visit a Noilly Pratt producer to learn all about its production and later on our master chef shows us how to cook with vermouth. The Thau Basin is famous for its oyster beds - in fact it is the largest oyster production lake in the area. This is a perfect place to spend the night.

FRIDAY This morning we cruise through the oyster beds to the delightful town of Bouzigues, famous for its maritime fishing museum which has loads to tell about oyster culture and life in the Thau Basin on the edge of the Mediterranean sea. The Captain's Farewell Dinner is a lovely way end the week.

SATURDAY Departure 10am to TGV or Montpellier.

Anjodi Spring cruise enquiry

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A piece of barging history
Tribute to Leendert Pieter Kruijt - Bargee and old Owner of Savornin Lohmann
- now La Belle Epoque

La Belle Epoque cruising in Burgundy, France
We continue our tribute to Leendert Kruijt, the original Owner of La Belle Epoque who sadly died in November. He had a remarkable water born life and was probably one of the last Europeans to have spent virtually his whole life of 76 years on a log barge travelling Europe's inland waterways. - This tribute is taken in large from the family's records together with a few pictures from the family photo album. This allows a rare insight into a life afloat.

early life onboard Leendert Pieter Kruijt was born on 16th March 1929 at Wemeldinge, Holland, the oldest son of a family of bargees with 5 children. Growing up on his father's boat he couldn't really go to school like a normal child, excepting for the years when he lived with the family of the lock-keeper Kruijt. After this early land based schooling Leendert went from school to school, travelling with his parents aboard the barge and often spending only a few hours in one school before moving on and going to another the following day!

After school, he worked as a sailor on the barge. It was a difficult time when war was declared and they had to escape with the barge to France.

Times were hard for bargees because everything had to be bought by ration coupons. It was at the Gilmert family's grocery shop that they got most of their provisions. Here, there were always things in stock for bargees, and by good fortune the family Gilmert not only had provisions but were also blessed with a pretty daughter Antoinette, who became his wife - they married in Paris, in 1951.

timber hauling After their marriage they went on his father's boat to live and work. Leendert transported wood by boat and sold the wood to lumber yards for cutting.

Clamecy on the Nivernais canal had an active wood yard in those days, taking pine from the Morvan hills which had been swept down in flottages (wood rafts) down the upper reaches of the Yonne river before being trimmed and made ready for transport to Paris and beyond.

Savornin Lohmann - now La Belle EpoqueThe Kruijt family grew to six, three daughters and one son, and after a while Leendert and Antoinette realised it was necessary to find a base on shore, so they found a house at La-Neuville-aux-Larris in France. Someone else was put in charge of the boat and Leendert pursued the timber business but this time with transport by lorry for some of the time.
At the end of 10 years on land, with their children having flown the family nest, they decided to return to the barge, Savornin Lohmann (named after a Belgium general). This time, it was only for transport, the timber business having folded.

In 1990 they decided to sell the barge and return to land to retire. It took 3 years before they could find a buyer, but Leendert didn't want the boat on which he had grown up, the mainstay of his family life, to finish up as wooden planks and re-cycled iron. Fortunately his wish came true and that is where we came in, so to speak.

La Belle Epoque todayBelle Epoque (as we renamed her) was perfect, she had a good main engine (still purring away today) good strong hull and an especially lengthened hold for those long Morvan hills logs. This meant we did not have to alter the basic dimensions of the lower deck hold where today, we house 6 luxury cabins and a sauna as well as a technical room and bike store.

La Belle Epoque's luxurious saloonAnd that's how today, this boat, transformed into a luxury hotel barge, is again sailing on the Nivernais canal between Auxerre and Clamecy under the name "La Belle Epoque". (Its always fascinating to think that La Belle Epoque survived for 60 years and is now cruising in her old "back yard".)

Having sold the boat, the Kruijts ended up living in the house at Ravelijn where Antoinette still lives today.

During the initial years, Leendert was able to get on with things inside and outside - a bit of do-it-yourself here and a bit of painting there, but otherwise, he had nothing to do. He had always worked hard in his life and had never had time for hobbies. His work was his favourite pastime and he devoted himself to it entirely. Now, all of a sudden, there was time for a little walk along the water to look at the boats and even have a good old chat with a sailor.

Sadly, he passed away early in the morning on 16th November 2004, with his wife and children around him, shortly after Belle Epoque had passed his window and returned for her 10 year refit in Zelzate.

The spirit of the Kruijt family lives on in La Belle Epoque - a fine vessel with a sympathetic line, welcome wherever she goes and still today recognised by the lock keepers and bargees of one of the old school of barges, a barge which earned her living in trade and which was always well respected - a fine reputation which we hope to continue.

Belle Epoque cruise enquiry

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A troglodyte trip
Nymphea at her Nitry base
As the Nymphea rises to the top of Vallagon lock on the River Cher, the hillside of Bourré appears to the left, and once the gangplank is down our little group crosses the road and starts the steep but thankfully short climb to "La Magnagnerie".

The flower lined alley gives onto an oasis of semi- tropical vegetation, with banana and mulberry trees growing in profusion on this rocky terrace , overlooking the calm waters of the Cher, flowing westwards to meet with the Loire, sixty miles downstream. We are greeted by the owner, Laurent Coquillat, who has just started to realise the interest that his extraordinary residence holds for visitors who are used to living in houses, and explains that the word troglodyte is derived from the greek, 'troglo' or dwellers in the hill.

toglodyte hill dwellingThe whole hillside of the village of Bourré is a four kilometre long limestone cliff, honeycombed with openings, and smoking chimneys emerging from the hillsides while the living stone walls are regularly punctuated with plate glass windows and lace curtains. From the 12th to the 17th Century , locals quarried blocks of the creamy white 'tuffeau' stone to build the public buildings and churches , and later the chateaux of the Loire Valley.

Once opened , the hillsides were quickly colonised, often on all three levels of gallery. At ground level , the temperature is coolest, 12 degrees C all year round; and at the back of the high ceilinged cellar , the 17th century, human powered wine press dominates the room, its cast iron workings bear the name of Montrichard, 3 kilometres away and the slatted grape container runs the juice directly into vats carved out of the rock, including a bowl shaped depression in the base of the trough which was used to receive the ladle which took the final litres of a pressing, habitually reserved for the local curé. Shallow steps lead us past several other caverns where Laurent grows mushrooms on the mixture of white quarry dust and manure, and we emerge into the quarry itself, its high ceiling shows that two vertical five foot blocks have been cut over the whole surface, and while cutting proceeded in the rear half, the front 'room' was used as a grain store and stables for the donkeys which used to transport the cut stones down to the waiting barges for onward transportation.

Numerous stone eyes in the corners of the rooms show where the animals were tied while waiting for their next load, and various bored quarrymen's children have carved good representations of the 17th century 'gabarres', or Loire sailing barges ,easily distinguished by their enormous 'piautres' or rudders appearing on this early graffiti.

Nymphea cruise enquiry
stone cutting in the cavesLaurent has a good collection of the original stonecutters tools, the foremost being three different types of axe to cut the top, sides or bottom of the wall to release the block, and an acetylene lamp which used in conjunction with a stick, cast a vertical shadow in order to cut a straight block.

Once the cuts have been made on the edges, boxwood wedges are driven in and a few hours later the stone breaks free, to fall flat on its face on a bed of sacrificial 'bougies', triangular shaped 'candles' of the same rock , arranged to absorb the shock. The massive stones are then cut into seven blocks , and if destined for a chateau, will then spend up to ten years on the bed of the river, while the rust coloured impurities leach from the stone, leaving a block fit for a kings mansion.

a natural suntrapThe rooms are airy and dry, due to the impervious layer of clay soil above, and as we rise to the third floor we realise that it's a natural sun trap, with a constant summer temperature of 17 degrees C. Its ideal for raising silkworms , a thriving industry in the 17th and 18th C when the nobles of the land needed an endless supply for their robes.

There's a small factory still weaving in Tours and they are proud of the fact that Pope John Paul II ordered a chasuble from the area. One hundred and thirty one niches carved in the walls hold thousands of the green caterpillars, this is the nursery or Magnanerie after which the dwelling is named. The silkworms on their diet of mulberry leaves increase their weight a thousandfold in a month, before nesting on broom branches and spinning a cocoon, two kilometres long made from a single thread of saliva. Just before hatching the cocoons are placed in a bucket of warm water and unravelled onto a devidoir or unwinder. One thread is one denier, the measure used habitually to gauge the sheerness of silk stockings. Nothing is lost, the corpse of the silkworm goes to be crushed and bottled as the main ingredient of a household fashion product, one never buys a bottle of shampoo again without checking whether 'made with silk protein' is on the back of the bottle ! The barge blows its horn below and we have to wend our way back to our floating home so that it can move on to its nights stop before the locks close, and we have to say our adieus to Laurent, perched precariously on his old wooden ladder, gathering armfuls of mulberry leaves , destined for his hungry charges above.

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For the first competition of 2005, we offered a cruise for two on L'Art de Vivre.

All you had to do was visit our competition page, answer a few simple questions in our fun competition and submit your entry....

To find out who the winner is....visit our
cruise winners page

This month, to help us celebrate the coming of Spring and our new Anjodi Culinary Spring cruise, we have a competition to win a cruise for two in 2005 on Anjodi.

As usual, visit our
competition page, read the instructions, enter our fun quiz and you could be the luck winner.

Trans Europe six week cruise
Avignon to Amsterdam Aboard Impressionniste
13th November to 23rd December 2005

the trip of a life timeJoin 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.

Six weeks of expedition cruising through several European countries, capital cities and cultures along Europe's most famous rivers such as the Rhone, Seine and Rhine as well as enjoying the many smaller canals and rivers and lakes as this incredible journey unfolds.

This voyage also follows the advance of the American, British and allied forces liberating the French, Belgium and Dutch populations and passes through regions held by the French resistance, liberated by General Patton and fought over by the airborne forces codenamed operation Market Garden in September 1944 to try and cross the Rhine at Arnhem. For those interested in the historical importance of this period the voyage is an extraordinary opportunity to absorb the importance and value of the Second World War following the D-day landings of June 1944 and the 60th anniversary in 2004.

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

The majority of meals are taken aboard ship but every week at least once we dine ashore. Impressionniste generally cruises only when all the passengers are aboard, but daily excursions are programmed and on occasion the vessel may make up ground whilst passengers are ashore. All accommodations on board, all meals, entry fees on shore excursions, wines and bar drinks are included in the price.

We are also offering 2 week and 3 week cruise options along the full six week cruise route. Two week cruises from Avignon - Dijon, Dijon- Epernay or Epernay to Amsterdam, 14 days each, at 35% of the 6 week price. Three week cruises from Avignon - Fontainbleu or Fontainbleu to Amsterdam at 60% of the 6 week cruise price per 3 week segment.  Trans Europe cruise enquiry

Since the British Royal Wedding of Prince Charles and Camilla Parker-Bowles has been announced this week, hotels in Windsor and the surrounding area, where the wedding is being held, are now almost fully booked. For this reason we would like to offer a unique Royal Wedding cruise on our two luxury hotel barges on the River Thames moored in Windsor, departing 3rd April to 9th April 2005.

Actief is for Charter only that week and Magna Carta is offering Charter or Individual Cabin bookings. Both barges will be moored in Windsor, within sight of Windsor Castle, on the run up to the wedding on the 6th and 7th of April and for the day of the wedding on the 8th April. so clients have one of the best locations possible for this memorable occasion.

Royal Wedding cruise enquiry.

2006 Cruise - early booking offer: We are pleased to advise that all 2006 bookings that are deposited by 31st March 2005 can have the 2005 pricing applied to them.

This offer applies to all of our vessels in our current brochure, excluding Meanderer in the Upper Loire. 2006 cruise enquiry

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 twentieth 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 March, 2005, so we'll see you then.

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