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


Hello,

welcome to the February edition of the Lock-keeper. As usual this is a very busy time in the pre season run up to our traditional April start. As well as the usual maintenance tasks such as painting and varnishing we are busy with some serious makeovers, particularly aboard La Belle Epoque and L'Impressionniste where each vessel has undergone a complete interior refit with new carpets, curtains, cabin and bathroom upgrades, saloon seating and galley refurbishments. Behind the scenes we have been overhauling those mechanical items such as air- conditioning, heating, plumbing and generators, all vitally important to keep our fleet top of their class.

We are delighted to appoint Jean Pierre Poizat as our new vessel's cruise director. PeterJohn, or PJ as he is amicably known as, comes from a hospitality and french naval background and has spent some time working in Texas as well as voyaging courtesy of the French tax payers around the world. He has a great sense of overall calm and capacity to manage our Renaissance operation. Ably assisted by returning Chef Sylvain and Pilot Eli, and two housekeepers, Renaissance will this year continue her cruises along the Upper Loire. Peter John has already taught me a thing or two.

We have always referred to the Upper Loire as the region we work in to distinguish it from the real Loire Valley further to the west. What I had never heard of, but enjoy the majestic connotation, is the region known as the "Loire Superieure" - look it up on Google, there's some great reading about fluvial formation and quality of water all of which are relevent to our barging world.

This month in the lock-keeper, we have a selection of special deals offering great value for money. Cassandra Jardine writes about her delightful cruise aboard La Dolce Vita in Venice and we highlight our flagship La Belle Epoque and her sister ship L'Impressionniste which provide an unequalled barging experience. We have an article celebrating Easter and we announce the winner of the Rick Stein French Odyssey DVD collection. We also have an article by Dave Bowers about the joys of combining barging with golf.

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:

Special Offers

Venice: a view from the water

EASTER CELEBRATIONS

La Belle Epoque and L'Impressionniste

Rick Stein competition winner

Golfing & Cruising

Cruise News

back issues:

Archive

Oct 07

Nov 07

Dec 07

Jan 08

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Latest Special Offers for 2008 Cruises

Savoir Faire

FRANCE

La Belle Epoque in Burgundy – Book one cabin departing between 30th March and 11th May inclusive and receive 50% discount on a second cabin on the same cruise or charter the whole barge and receive 20% discount on the charter price.
L’Art de Vivre in Burgundy – Book one cabin departing between 30th March and 11th May inclusive and  receive 50% discount on a second cabin on the same cruise or charter the whole barge and receive 20% discount on the charter price.
L’Impressionniste in Provence & Camargue in Southern France – Book one cabin departing between 30th March and 11th May inclusive and receive 50% discount on a second cabin on the same cruise or charter the whole barge and receive 20% discount on the charter price.

Windsor Castle,London RIVER THAMES, ENGLAND

Magna Carta in England – Book one cabin departing between 30th March and 11th May inclusive and receive 50% discount on a second cabin on the same cruise or charter the whole barge and receive 20% discount on the charter price.

The discount is applied to the lower priced cabin when booking the 2 cabin offer and no more than 2 single passengers on one cruise.

Our normal Terms & Conditions apply

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Venice: a view from the water

Venice From and article in the Telegraph by Cassandra Jardine

Been there, done that? Oh, no you haven't. Cassandra Jardine revels in a luxurious new way to see Venice, and can't believe nobody has come up with the idea before. I have come rather to dread going to Venice. In theory it should be wonderful - the canals, the palazzos, the diffused light and so on - but when you are sharing these delights with the annual visitor tally of 17 million people, even Venice loses some of its sparkle. Battling over bridges to Piazza San Marco, or filing behind thousands of lost sightseers down the alleyways to the Rialto or the Accademia brings to mind Oxford Street on the first day of the London sales. Add to that either blistering heat or pneumonia-inducing chill - features of my past two ill-fated visits - and I had come to the melancholy conclusion that a visit to Venice is bound to fall short of expectations.

La Dolce Vita

But hang on, do not despair. I have found the answer. It is 69 feet long and moves slowly down unclogged pathways. It obviates the need to queue for over-subscribed restaurants and offers the chance to escape into calm waters after forays into the clogged city centre. When the sweat is pouring down your back in the airless back streets, this solution provides a guaranteed breeze. It is (improbably, perhaps) a 19th-century Dutch barge, rechristened La Dolce Vita. Since La Serenissima is the only city in the world built entirely on water, it would seem obvious to approach it from the aquatic angle - just as John Singer Sargent did in his watercolours - but it is only recently that anyone has had the blindingly obvious idea of running a hotel boat, taking small groups of passengers on a six-night itinerary around Venice and its lagoon and up the villa-lined Brenta, a canalised river that runs from Venice to Padua. Maybe that's because the traditional gondola would scarcely adapt to such duty. Maybe it's because Leonardo da Vinci designed a tight lock at the mouth of the Brenta which means that anything longer, or four inches wider, than La Dolce Vita can't make it through.

But at least such a service now exists, so I was able to try it out with my grumpy family for a week in April. We were suffering from the hormonal stroppiness common to teenagers. "Don't you know how important my social life is to me?" howled my 13-year-old as I dragged her on to the plane. The youngest, aged eight, was fractious after a 4.30am start. The older members of the family thoughtfully brought flu with them. Even from that low starting point, from the moment we entered the surprisingly spacious world of the barge, it was impossible not to enjoy every minute. On the waters of the lagoon, the horizons open out. Venice is the jewel in the middle, always visible because of the towering campanile, but there is so much else in and around the lagoon that the been-there, done-that box-tickers never see.

La Dolce Vita interiorI had done a day trip to Murano and bathed off the Lido before, but I had never spent days lazily floating past the herons and market gardens of the lesser-known islands. With gourmet meals appearing three times a day, and a constantly full drinks fridge and fruit bowl to raid in between times, we saw it all in Doge-like, rather than the usual dog-like, level of comfort. At times we could not avoid hitting the crowds, but when the day-trippers have left Burano, the lace-making island, or retreated back to their pensiones after watching glass-blowing on Murano, we were left alone with the locals to enjoy the sights in a way that probably hasn't been possible since Ruskin or Mahler fell for the place. Even when we spent time at the heart of the city, we felt relatively serene because we returned to a boat parked bang next to San Giorgio Maggiore, with a better view across to San Marco than that available to the super-rich at the nearby Hotel Cipriani.

Please visit La Dolce Vita or contact us today about a cruise in Italy.




Venice: a view from the water (cont'd)

Venice

Relieved of all responsibility for shopping, cooking, getting from A to B and choosing the most interesting places to visit, I was able to savour the beauty of my surroundings rather more eagerly than during previous visits, when I (or someone else) was invariably footsore or hungry, boiled or indecisive. Whether lulled by the soothing thrum of the engine or the chance to sunbathe almost uninterrupted by culture (unless they fancied it) the children lapsed into remarkable good humour.

View of VeniceBarging provides a safe adventure for people with offspring young enough to need to be kept within earshot, though not under constant supervision, but it is more commonly chosen by groups of adults - or even couples - who want to relax in one another's company. The biggest danger is that, after a week of seeing Venice from this unusual perspective, I have become a crashing snob. "You don't know the carving at Malamocco! You haven't seen Attila the Hun's stone throne at Torcello!" I shall remark, stunned, to the next person who returns from admiring the better-known treasures of the Frari and the Scuola San Rocco. "I always prefer the view of the Villa Malcontenta from the water," I shall say to Palladio fans. I might add some comments about the Tiepolo ceiling and Napoleon's sunken bath at the Villa Pisani in Stra - but by then my head will probably have been beaten in.

With three members of staff - a captain, a cook and a hostly figure - such a week does not come cheap. This blissful experience cost £8,200 for six of us in low season; in high season a further £2,000 would have been added to the bill. That's a huge amount for those of us who don't earn City bonuses, but we would have spent at least that much if we had stayed in hotels, had all our meals in first-class restaurants and knocked back vast quantities of the Veneto's best wines (the record for a week's wine consumption on board stands at 100 bottles, all of it included in the price). The price also covers a water taxi up the Grand Canal - which is far from trifling - bicycles, which we took with us for excursions, tickets to everything, excellent guides and even indigestion tablets when I regretted the gusto with which I had been devouring six courses for lunch and dinner.

View of Venice

Surprisingly, barging has not yet caught on in a big way. La Dolce Vita is the latest addition to European Waterways' 17 luxury barges of varying sizes; in 30 years, owner Derek Banks has gradually extended the network to cover France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Scotland, Ireland and England. As custom builds in the Veneto, there are plans for more itineraries in Italy. There could be a boat going further up the Brenta to Padua, or one on the Po around Mantua. It might also be possible to chug from Venice to Trieste past all manner of lesser-known treasures, such as Roman Aquileia, but sadly it will never be possible to navigate from Ostia to Rome itself, because there are no locks to prevent the Tiber running dry in high summer. For the moment, though, there is only La Dolce Vita puttering around the 212-square-mile Venetian Lagoon. In years to come, the waterways could become as clogged as the walkways near San Marco, but right now it is possible to have them all to yourself.

Please visit La Dolce Vita or contact us today about a cruise in Italy.

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EASTER CELEBRATIONS

Thames in spring

Easter is always an exciting time here on the Thames, with the various holiday events, competitions and the arrival of the lighter evenings and sunnier days enticing people out onto the river and the towpaths.

Have you ever asked yourself where these traditions originated?  Here are a couple of ideas. 

easter bonnetThe wearing of Easter bonnets came about as part of the celebrations for the end of Lent, traditionally a time for dressing down.  Once Lent was over, people could let rip and put on the brightest and newest piece of clothing which in former times would include a beautiful bonnet. 

The actual word Easter derives from the name of the pagan fertility goddess Eostre (or Oestre).  Eggs have been a symbol of Easter for centuries.  The decoration of eggs with lively colours dates back around 3,000 years and represents the coming of spring and new growth. Many families still decorate eggs and suspend them from twigs around the house, but Easter egg hunts are now becoming more popular, where eggs are hidden (supposedly by the Easter Bunny) early in the day in the garden for the children to find.

It would have been disastrous for the very early Christian converts to celebrate their holy days with observances that did not coincide with celebrations that already existed. To save lives, the missionaries cleverly decided to spread their religious message slowly throughout the populations by allowing them to continue to celebrate pagan feasts, but to do so in a Christian manner. As it happened, the pagan festival of Eastre occurred at the same time of year as the Christian observance of the Resurrection of Christ. It made sense, therefore, to alter the festival itself, to make it a Christian celebration as converts were slowly won over. The early name, Eastre, was eventually changed to its modern spelling, Easter.

Basket of Easter Eggs

The chocolate Easter egg is a modern invention dating back to the 19th century and the discovery of cocoa beans in the Belgian Congo.

In many parts of the world, people hold Easter egg rolling races, where hard-boiled eggs are rolled down hills – don’t forget to mark your own egg first!  These races can be leisurely get-togethers or highly competitive rallies.  In the Umbrian hilltown of Panicale, in Italy, cheese is the star. Ruzzolone is played by rolling huge wheels of cheese, weighing about 4 kilos, around the village walls. You have to get your cheese around the course using the fewest number of strokes. Many say that these races symbolise the rolling away of the stone from Christ’s tomb.  The fact that chocolate Easter eggs are mostly hollow is another symbol of the empty tomb.

Personally, and I am some what biased I know !, I think there is nothing more spring like than sitting  watching the River Thames roll past, the spring flowers are in bloom, nights are lighter, birds are singing happily in the trees and there is an air of newness all round.

A great time for barging on the Thames on Magna Carta or Actief . Contact us today about a cruise on the Thames.

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luxury barge cruise vacations
aboard La Belle Epoque and L'Impressionniste
Impressionniste

 

THE 13 PASSENGER LA BELLE EPOQUE.... is a state-of-the-art hotel barge and the worthy flagship of our European fleet. She has been designed with both elegance and passenger comfort in mind and offers two sun-decks and a spa-pool.  The wood panelled saloon and dining room, together with other luxury facilities, are all fully air-conditioned. The spacious cabins offer a choice of twin or double beds with marble en-suite facilities as does the new single cabin. The highly experienced Captain leads a crew of five comprising Master Chef, Tour Guide and two Stewardesses whose combined knowledge and experience will ensure a voyage of a lifetime.

THE 13 PASSENGER L'IMPRESSIONNISTE.... began life as a cargo barge in Holland before undergoing a complete transformation into the powerful canal and river cruiser she is today. Her light and airy interior features picture windows and a selection of prints, fabrics and wall colorings reminiscent of the turn of the century era after which she has been named. She is crewed by a knowledgeable Captain, Master Chef and crew of three. L'Impressionniste's classic route covers some fine Provençal cruising with plenty of opportunity to cycle and stroll along the tow-path and wander into nearby villages

A new single cabin has been added in both barges for use of an additional passenger or tour guide.

Both La Belle Epoque and L'Impressionniste provide a barging experience second to none. Here are what some of our delighted clients have said:

Gourmet food We just got back from a week on the La Belle Epoque and we had to tell you that it was the most perfect holiday experience we have ever had--it was beyond all expectations. The service, the ambience, the quiet yet exciting environment, the side trips and the marvellous elegant yet healthful meals all blended into the finest totality of living indeed a modern Belle Epoque. Capt Nick, to say the least a character, ran a great ship and the crew worked like a happy, efficient team.

Regards, Gerry and Bill Goldberg

Excellent – everything was planned well, tours were very interesting and the captain was knowledgeable and competent. This barge tour was incredible. Everything was first class – the food and service were beyond compare! The excellent food and service, friendliness of the crew all of whom went out of their way to make our trip memorable.

La BelleEpoqueI highly recommend the barge for seeing Europe. We went to places that we would never have found on our own. Our days were full, there was so much to see and yet the cruise itself was leisurely and most relaxing. I have never experienced such incredible cuisine at every serving. Everyone on board was friendly and efficient. Our every need was met without being over solicitous. I will definitely do another cruise. I was absolutely delighted with every experience of my trip.

Kathryn Bregler


With early season discounts still available, now is the perfect time to experience the holiday of a lifetime on board La Belle Epoque or L'Impressionniste, please visit the gobarging special offers page page or contact us today about a cruise in Burgundy and Provence.

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Last Month Competition winnerAnjodi luxury barge cruises on the Canal du Midi, Provence, France

Win Rick Stein's French Odyssey DVD For our January Lockkeeper competition we had a copy of Rick Stein's French Odyssey DVD to give away and a C.D. of the music from his Mediterranean Escapes.

Along his gastronomic journey through the idyllic waterways of Southern France,on board our barge Anjodi, Rick Stein's French Odyssey explores French culinary tradition - perfect for aspiring cooks everywhere.

Deliciously filmed, Rick's culinary tour on an ancient barge takes him via the Canal du Midi from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. His final destination is a little restaurant near Marseilles where he had the best seafood lunch imaginable.

On his journey Rick samples regional foods from country stew in Castelsarrasin to the Montagne Noir hams of Castelnaudary. Further south he stops over in the Languedoc wine region and samples local delicacies before heading towards Marseilles via the Canal du Rhone a Sete.


Rick Stein DVD competition winner.   back to top



Golfing & Cruising-two joyous pastimes in Scotland

The Scottish Highlander

Author:- Dave Bowers Editor Chip n Pin Magazine.......

View of Urquhart CastleApparently Rick Stein travelled in a barge down the canals and rivers between Bordeaux and Marseille in the making of a TV programme. So if it's good enough for the man who masterminded Glasgow Celtic to the first British success in the European Cup, it's good enough for me. Ah, apparently I'm confusing my Steins. It was Jock who managed Celtic and Scotland, not Rick. No wonder Jock's fish recipes tasted so bad. Anyway, Jock would certainly approve of travelling through the Scottish Highlands by barge to enjoy some of the region's top golf courses - and that's just what is possible with Go Barging, a Middlesex-based company specialising in luxurious barge travel on the inland waterways of nine European countries.

It was to Go Barging to whom Stein turned when he planned his French Odyssey - he travelled on the barges Rosa and Anjodi - and it was the same company which whisked me off to the Scottish Highlands. Actually, the company offers nine golf cruises in total, in Scotland, England (two on offer), Ireland and France (a choice of five). But I felt the best place for a golf magazine to start was in the home of golf - wash your mouth out if you said The Netherlands. The six-night, seven-day Scottish Highlander's Golf Cruise travels between Dochgarroch and BanavGolf Courseie - in different directions in alternate weeks. And you'll be relieved to know it does include some whisky tasting. Not surprisingly, such splendour - the barge is described in the pamphlet as an "exclusive boutique hotel-on-the-water" and it's hard to argue with the assertion - amid a historic setting proves immensely popular with our cousins across the Atlantic, so if you're not in a party chartering the whole vessel you may find yourself teeing up alongside an 18-stone guy in capacious shorts and a loud shirt. But as I'm an 18-stone guy in capacious shorts and a loud shirt it didn't bother me.

The first full day of the cruise - you board the Scottish Highlanderon Sunday afternoon - saw us teeing off at Royal Dornoch before returning to the barge for a cruise to Fort Augustus, passing Urquhart Castle. Originally designed by Old tom Morris, the Royal Dornoch links is often cited as one of the best golf venues anywhere in the world. It is not long by modern standards - at 6,276 yards or 6,514 yards off the championship tees - but its subtly undulating greens will prove a tough test for any golfer. The following day we were given a packed lunch and travelled by car to play the championship course at Nairn. It was just like being waved off by our mums back in the days when we used to wear shorts without worrying about our legs - only the lunch was significantly nicer and Nairn Golf Course is a lot more awe inspiring than Miss Murray, my former class teacher.

View of Loch Ness near Fort Augustus

Nairn has played host to many professional and top amateur events and therefore would probably not have looked too kindly on my efforts on what is arguably Scotland's driest and windiest golf course, located as it is adjacent to the North Sea. A par-72, 6,705-yard course, it again provides a tough test - as did Miss Murray if memory serves correctly. Wednesday's round was played in the afternoon at Fort Augustus, allowing time in the morning for a bit of sight-seeing in the village - ideal if you have a penchant for antique of craft shops, but Ikea addicts need not apply.

visit Scottish Highlander or contact us today about a cruise in Scotland



Golfing & Cruising two joyous past times in Scotland (cont'd)

  View of Scottish scenery

There is also the opportunity to visit the Caledonian Canal Heritage Centre. The 29-lock Caledonian Canal – one of Scotland’s greatest 19th century engineering achievements – is more than 60 miles long, including as it does three connected lochs: Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. Fort Augustus and Great Glen. Fortunately Fort Augustus’ golf course is considerably shorter at just 5,454 yards and comprises nine holes and 18 tees in a challenging canalside setting. A thinned approach shot and you might find yourself in the soup, literally, as dinner is served back on board the Scottish Highlander as it cruises to its overnight mooring at Cullochy Lock.

Thursday was a rest day as far the golf was concerned but there is still plenty to occupy you providing you've finished totting up the shot count for the previous three days. We enjoyed a morning cruise along the tree-lined canal and across Loch Lochy, amid some stunning scenery, before mooring at the pretty hamlet of Gairlochy. I have to be honest and say I eschewed the available visit to the Spean Bridge Woollen Mill - offering "traditional knitwear and tweeds" - in favour of resting the aging limbs and saving myself for the subsequent tasting at the Glen Nevis Whisky Distillery. It's a dirty job but some poor journalist had to do it.

View of Neptunes Staircase Locks

The final full day of the cruise saw us traversing - does one traverse a lock? - Neptune's Staircase, another remarkable piece of engineering which elevates vessels 64 feet above sea-level through a series of eight locks. After an on-board lunch we headed off to Newtonmore for an afternoon tee time. Thankfully, given the previous on-course exertions and the accessibility of whisky, Newtonmore is a comparatively flat, easy walking, parkland course - a par-70, 6,041-yard effort dating from 1893 - nestling appealingly amid the Monadhliath and Grampian Mountains and on the banks of the River Spey. The transfer back to the barge allowed just enough time for me to dig out my copy of How to Break 100 from the bottom of my golf bag as I once again discovered flat does not necessarily equal 'easy'.

Back on board the Scottish Highlander we enjoyed (another) wee dram with a local piper before the captain's farewell dinner. Do you know, every piper I've ever met claims to have played on Paul McCartney's 1977 massive hit Mull of Kintyre. Anybody would think I was a tourist or something. The following morning, after a hearty breakfast sans whisky, we bade a fond farewell at Fort William to our captain and to the barge which had been our home for six nights. It had been more than just a home; it had been an exclusive restaurant where the master chef prepared for us delightful Scottish fare - including venison, Angus beef and seafood dishes - and a local snug bar where we discussed the one that lipped out and sampled even more whisky. It also had a well-stocked wine cellar - a cellar on a barge? - which thankfully held a plethora of whiskies The fully staffed Scottish Highlander afforded the sort of luxury of which the bargemen of a couple of hundred years ago could never have dreamt. All it didn't do was improve my golf game. But I'll happily swap that for the memories of this trip.

The Scottish Highlander's Golf Cruise is available from Go Barging (www.gobarging.com) and prices start from £2050.p.p based on two person sharing a double cabin. Charters available form £14,000 based on 6 passengers. Warning: Scotland can be cold in the winter
visit Scottish Highlander or contact us today about a cruise in Scotland  back to top




News

Golden barge to resurrect Venice's past
By Malcolm Moore in Milan

Canaletto's painting of the Bucintoro The Bucintoro of Venice, a glorious golden barge that symbolised the city's power, is to be rebuilt 200 years after it was destroyed by Napoleon. Canaletto's painting of the Bucintoro in its 18th century heyday returning to the Molo. The painting hangs in the Bowes Museum, County Durham More than 200 shipbuilders, woodcarvers and jewellers will enter the Arsenale, Venice's historic shipyards, on March 15 to start work. The Bucintoro, whose name possibly derives from "burcio" a type of Venetian barge and "d'oro", meaning golden, was first built in 1300. As Venice grew rich from its naval power, new versions were built, culminating in a lavish 35- metre barge from 1728 which was powered by 168 oarsmen and manned by 40 sailors. The Bucintoro was used for a special ceremony on Ascension Day, when the Doge would cast a gold ring from its deck into the Adriatic to renew the "marriage" between Venice and the sea. When Napoleon conquered the city in 1798, he ordered the Bucintoro to be destroyed, to symbolise his victory. The ship burned for three days and French soldiers had to use 400 mules to carry away its gold.

 

There will be no Newsletter next month but we will be back in April with a brand new look Lock-Keeper.

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 56th 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 April 2008, so we'll see you then.

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