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


welcome to the January 2008 edition of the Lock-keeper. Happy New Year to all our readers..!

This month in the lock-keeper, we have some fantastic special offers and we learn of Alouette's new itinerary on the Canal du Midi. We have an article on cruising on the Shannon River on board our barge Shannon Princess II and discuss the return of the Loch Ness monster to cinema screens.

We announce the winner of the Lock-Keeper December Chablis Wine Book competition and we visit spell-binding Venice at Carnival time.

Our January Competition gives you the opportunity to win a DVD of Rick Stein's French Odyssey aboard our barge Anjodi and a C.D. of the music from his latest series Mediterranean Escapes.

Finally we have our usual line up of news including the fantastic new "Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs" exhibition in London, England.

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



Nessie returns to the silver screen

Wine Book Competition winner

Rick Stein competition

Venice Carnival

Cruise News

back issues:


Sept 07

October 07

November 07

December 07

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Latest Special Offers for 2008 Cruises

Savoir Faire


Savoir Faire in France -Mid-Season CHARTER dates (departing July and August) only $38,000/£19,000 for groups of up to 12 passengers that include two or more children under age 16.
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.
Nymphea in Loire Valley in France- $200/100 discount per person, including charters
Reine Pedauque in Southern Burgundy in France- US$250/125 discount per person or US$2000/1000 discount per charter.

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.

Venice,Italy VENICE, ITALY

La Dolce Vita in Venice - $200/£100 discount per person, including charters.  

Bulb field, Holland HOLLAND

Savoir Faire – Tulip Cruise in Holland– Departing 30th March & 6th April – Charter for up to 12 passengers now only US$28,000/£14,000

Deposits must be received by 29th February 2008 for the discounts to apply 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.

On La Dolce Vita, a minimum of 2 cabins must be booked to guarantee the cruise.

Our normal Terms & Conditions apply

visit gobarging special offers page .   back to top

ALOUETTE's New Itinerary
Alouette on canal du midi

Beziers to Carcassonne

Sunday –  Béziers

You can be met at 4pm in Beziers, Carcassonne or Montpellier and transferred to Alouette moored in Beziers port.  A Champagne reception introduces you to the crew.  Later that evening, enjoy your first dining experience on board.

Monday – Beziers to Capestang

The first morning’s cruise is along the beautiful Canal du Midi to Capestang where we will moor for the night.  In the afternoon, visit Oppidum d’Enserune, a pre-Roman hill-top settlement and one of the most important archaeological sites in the region. The top of the hill affords a panoramic view of the pond of Montady drained in 1247 and transformed into a curious pattern of cultivation.  Dinner aboard.

Tuesday – Capestang to Le Somail  Coisters of L'Abbaye de Frontfroide

Take in the grandeur and beauty of the Canal du Midi, with its fine locks, buildings and aqueducts, scarcely changed from their completion over 300 years ago.  After lunch, visit l’Abbaye de Fontfroide, a Cistercian monastery founded in the 11th century. Now privately owned, the abbey has been lovingly restored with a well-kept garden and peaceful cloister. On the way back to the boat, stop at Château Auris for a wine tasting.  Dinner aboard.

Wednesday – Le Somail to Homps.

This morning, experience the wonderful covered market in Narbonne, a lively Mediterranean city playing an important role as a wine-producing centre.  The municipal, military and religious architecture, the river banks of the Robine and its shaded boulevards, all contribute to its charm.   Enjoy a lunch at a bistro just in front of the market and then return to the barge for an afternoon’s cruise.  Dinner aboard.

Thursday – Homps to Trebes

After breakfast, visit Minerve, an old village on a limestone cliff, which dominates the vineyards below.  Its now ruined castle was once a Cathar stronghold besieged and captured by Simon de Montfort.  On the way back to the boat, stop at Peyriac-Minervois for wine tasting.  Return to the barge for lunch and an afternoon cruise to Trebes.  Dinner aboard.

Friday – Trebes to Carcassonne

City of CarcassonneFinish the week with a tour of Europe’s largest medieval fortress – La Cité of Carcassonne. Explore the intricate fortifications of the two castellated walls, one inside the other, about a mile in circumference.  The views from the battlements towards the Pyrenées are stunning.  Visit the cathedral, remarkable for its stained glass rose windows, fine statues, elegant Romanesque nave and Gothic transepts.  Back on board the chef is preparing a memorable feast for your farewell dinner.

Saturday – Carcassonne

Disembark the barge after breakfast and transfer to Carcassonne TGV station, which is a 2 minutes walk from the barge, Carcassonne Airport or to Montpellier.

The day to day itinerary described above is a typical cruise. However, on any one cruise, the moorings may change and the places visited may vary depending on the season.

Visit Alouette  or contact us today about a cruise along the Canal du Midi  back to top


Shannon Princess on River Shannon, Ireland

"I miss the River Shannon and the folks at Skiberdeen, the
moorlands and the meadows and their 40 shades of green".
Johnny Cash

Shannon River

When Johnny Cash wrote these words he was flying into Ireland and they became part of the lyrics for one of his most famous songs. Paddy, our singing driver-guide, who has met us in Dublin and is driving us to our destination, entertains along the way. Forty Shades of Green is his opener and he follows up with an enthusiastic rendition of Sweet Molly Malone. It's a great introduction to the Shannon Princess II, our luxurious home for the next week. This isn't our first voyage on the Shannon. We have fond memories of sailing on the original Shannon Princess, replaced by the current vessel two years ago. "You're most welcome", says Owner-Captain Ruairi (Rory) Gibbons as he greets each guest debarking from the Mercedes bus that's brought us to Killaloe. Every week, between April and October, Capt. Gibbons pilots the barge, alternating between the ports of Killaloe and Athlone. Killaloe is the southernmost point on the Shannon for cruising and yachting and Athlone, our terminus point to the north, is just south of Lough Ree.

The Shannon River, longest in Ireland and the British Isles, flows through the country's central plain beginning on the slopes of Cuilcagh Mt. in County Cravan and ending 230 miles further as it empties into the Atlantic Ocean near Limerick. Joined by a number of lake and river systems, the Shannon extends over an area of 1262 miles. Our voyage will cover some 125 miles of bucolic scenery, pass through two lakes and two locks and under magnificent centuries-old stone arch bridges. It's a wonderful adventure that goes by all too quickly in a part of Ireland most travelers never see.Shrimp Entree
Ruairi's wife and co-owner, Olivia, is one of Ireland's most talented chefs. If the Shannon Princess were landlocked, it would have a Michelin star. She welcomes us aboard and introduces other crew members - Marina, her sister, Monica from Poland, who is pursuing a master's degree in hospitality, and Shanna, an enthusiastic Irish university student. Within minutes we have champagne glasses in hand and are joining in a toast to a successful voyage.

The passenger manifest includes a minister and his wife from Canada, executive secretary from a Fortune 500 chemical company, retired couple from Michigan, Harvard instructor-psychiatrist, and two self-employed executives. It's a typical cross-section of barge enthusiasts, though these cruises are also popular with families, some of whom charter the entire barge. Sandra Bullock brought her whole family aboard, including her mother, a trained opera singer, who wowed a pub crowd when she sang Danny Boy. Ruairi reviews safety measures and outlines our general schedule for the week, which can be amended to suit the majority of passengers. Continental breakfast is served from eight until nine; lunch is usually served at 12:30 and dinner at seven. At night we tie up, then sail during the morning and have an excursion in the afternoon, sometimes followed by a short sail to our mooring.

Visit Shannon Princess II 


Spacious Salon of Shannon Princess 11 The five cabins on the Shannon Princess are all on the main deck and each is the same size with two beds that can be combined into one, a wardrobe, vanity table and bench, drawer space and bathroom with shower. The saloon is spacious with lounge seating at one end and a dining area at the other. Large windows are on both sides. The open deck, one flight up, is furnished with tables and chairs. There are plans to cover part of this area to offer protection from the sun or a sudden shower.

Chef Olivia is a graduate of Ireland's most famous cooking school, the Ballymaloe School of Cookery, and each meal is a special treat, thoughtfully planned from her collection of over 200 recipes, though she's still prone to improvise if there's a specialty available in the Portumna market. Tonight's dinner begins with potted prawns on tomato concasse with red pepper sauce surrounded by parsley oil and decorated with a sprig of lavender followed by elderberry sorbet. For the entree we have roast lamb with ewe's butter and tarragon, beets and chick peas and for salad, herb flowers and fresh greens. Irish cheeses accompanied by chutney and walnut bread are served with port and for dessert we devour chocolate truffle torte with apricots. A stroll into the village assuages some of our after-dinner guilt, but not all, as a pub visit makes an Irish coffee nightcap almost mandatory.

Sailing into the 32,000-acre Lough (Lake) Derg we pass Holy Island with its extensive remains of five churches, and head westward towards Mountshannon, our next mooring. After lunch Paddy arrives to take us to the Craggaunowen Project, a Celtic Bronze Age settlement with a 16thcentury castle tower and two replicas of early Celtic-style dwellings from pre-historic and early Christian eras

. A highlight of the tour is seeing The Brendan (after Brendan the Navigator c. 583 A.D.). In 1976 Tim Severin built a leather-hulled boat over an ash frame, similar to one described in a ninth-century manuscript, and sailed it from Ireland across the Atlantic via Iceland and Greenland, proving that America could have been discovered in the sixth century by an Irishman.

Past the island of Illamorewe tie up at Terryglass on the shore Replica of the boat used by St Brendan of the lake. At the Derg Inn, a short walk from the barge, briny, succulent oysters, brown bread and Ardrahan cheese, washed down with a pint of Guinness, make a fine lunch. This afternoon's excursion takes us to Leap Castle, ancestral home of the O'Carrolls, forebears of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. The castle is now owned by Sean Ryan, a delightful eccentric who's a master storyteller and one of Ireland's foremost penny whistle musicians. Sean tells us stories of the castle, including its hauntings and his favorite ghost, and ends the afternoon playing several
tunes on the instrument he describes as "a poor man's flute".

.Visit Shannon Princess II  or contact us today about a cruise in Ireland


Irelands Glorious Scenery

A day of visiting Galway is preceded by a stop at the showrooms of Galway Crystal and Belleek on the city's outskirts. Galway is the largest city in the west of Ireland (51,000) with many residents speaking Gaelic as a first language. Some visitors consider Galway the best city for its attractions and ease of getting around and history buffs enjoy seeing the ruins of the 13th century Franciscan friary. Plus there are opportunities to purchase sweaters from the Aran Islands, just five miles across Galway BayThis evening we cruise during dinner and go through the Portumna Swing Bridge, opened twice a day, then enter Victoria Lock that raises the Shannon Princess up to meet the Meelick Waters. From here it's a short journey to Banagher Town on the County Offaly shore where we spend the night. Clonmacnoise is a National Heritage Site and one of Ireland's most important monastic settlements. At the visitor center an excellent film gives us an overview. Founded by St. Ciaran in 545, it was a great center of learning and a thriving religious community in medieval times. Surviving buildings include the shell of a cathedral, eight smaller churches, two towers and several large crosses spread over many acres.

Olivia is as talented and versatile at preparing wonderful lunches as she is at fixing dinner. Following our visit to Clonmacnoise we dine superbly on an array of 12 dishes served buffet style on a separate dining room table. Included are cassoulet, zucchini, eggplant, cauliflower, smoked haddock, spinach quiche, stuffed artichokes, several salads, tomato scones and nutmeg tart. Red and white wines accompany each meal and there is an open bar policy throughout the voyage as there is on most barges. Mute swans frequently follow along the barge, but they're especially curious when we tie up at piers, perhaps hoping to sample one of Olivia's homemade breads.

Sailing north into Lough Ree we pass some of the lake's 365 islands and at times are close to reed banks where fishermen position themselves with suitable provisions to ward off a chill Musicians play traditional Irish folk musicand hopefully to catch a perch or bream. As we glide by we exchange waves and the reeds bow down, "honoring us" announces Ross, Ruairi and Olivia's 7-year-old son who, though seldom seen during the week, is entertaining and has great charisma.

As a special treat following our farewell dinner, Ruairi has brought a trio of musicians on board to entertain. There's an accordion, keyboard and penny whistle and also a bodhran (bow rawn), the traditional Irish one-sided drum, on which each of us is challenged to try our skill. There are three takers..

Visit Shannon Princess II  or contact us today about a cruise in Ireland  back to top

Nessie returns to the Silver Screen

Scottish Highlander

The loch ness monsterThe Loch Ness Monster is due to make her latest film appearance in a new blockbuster movie, which could be Nessie's most successful screen outing to date. The film is titled The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep and stars Brian Cox, Ben Chaplin and Oscar-nominated Emily Watson, The new computer-generated Nessie is brought to life in her biggest incarnation by the special effects firm which responsible for Lord of the Rings, King Kong and Narnia.

Loch Ness MonsterThe 25million budget film follows the wartime adventures of small Highland lad Angus, who lives with his mum, Emily Watson, near Loch Ness. He finds an egg by the loch side which hatches to become Crusoe, a small but fast-growing and playful dinosaur-type creature, who could be The Water Horse of Scots legend, a mythical creature linked to the Nessie story. This little creature is tipped to be as big as ET !

With your own deep sea fish finder you can nessie hunt one day and visit the railway which the Hogwarts train travelled the day after, a truly amazing family orientated cruising experience. Just imagine the grand kids going back to school after half term break. The teacher asking for the essay on "What we did in the holidays", where would they begin to re tell their adventure!

To book you own Nessie & Harry Potter experience Visit Scottish Highlander or contact us today about a cruise in Scotland. back to top

Chablis Wine Book Competition winner

Belle Epoque luxury barge cruises in Burgundy
For our December Lockkeeper competition we had a copy of The Wines of Chablis and the Grand Auxerrois by Rosemary George to give away.

Find out who the lucky winner is; Chablis Wine Book competition winner,

Rick Stein DVD Competition

Win Rick Stein's French Odyssey DVD For our December Lockkeeper competition we have 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 Noire 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 competition.   back to top

Venice Carnival
a feast for all the senses


The modern Venetian Carnival runs up until the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (known as "Mardi Gras"), starting two Fridays before the Tuesday. Venice carnival dates therefore vary in step with Easter as follows:
Carnival 2008 - January 25-February 5
Carnival 2009 - February 13-24
Carnival 2010 - February 5-16

Venice Carnival in history

Carnival masks with plumesThe word carnival comes from the Latin for "Farewell, meat!". As Lent (which begins on Ash Wednesday) obliged people to fast, during the period up to Ash Wednesday all meat, butter and eggs had to be used up. This religious formality became the excuse for a party that echoed pagan festivities. In late Rome Saturnalia and Lupercalia were moments when licentiousness and wantonry were celebrated - a deliberate upturning of the usual social order. Christianity licensed a comparable period of celebration from Twelfth Night until the midnight of Shrove Tuesday. Popes Clement IX and XI and Benedict XIII were among those who tried hardest to bring Carnival back within proper religious limits, but they didn't have much influence over Venice.

The history of the Venice Carnival tradition began after 1162. The Republic defeated Ulrico, Patriarch of Aquileia in that year, and began a tradition of slaughtering a bull and 12 pigs in the Piazza San Marco around Shrove Tuesday to commemorate the victory. This celebration gradually grew and 1268 dates the first document mentioning the use of masks.

History of Venice Carnival – the 18th Century 

The eighteenth century was the heyday of Carnival. Venice's decline in power was accompanied by a conspicuous consumption of pleasure. Rich young nobles doing the European "Grand Tour" made sure these pleasures were theirs as well. The paintings of Francesco Guardi and the diaries of Giacomo Casanova (1725-1798) are the best-known symbols of the age - the languid spirit of carnival an ever-present implication.

History of Venice Carnival – Retirement and revival

Carnival's significance declined gradually through to the 1930s, when Mussolini banned it. In 1979, a group of Venetians and lovers of Venice decided to revive the tradition. Within a few years, the image of the masked reveler had become a worldwide icon of Venice in winter.

Carnival mask with ruff

Masks made the Venetian Carnival unique. If you cannot identify the wearer of the mask, you do not know his social status. In this way, Venice temporarily overturned her social order. Some of the masks depicted Commedia dell'Arte characters. Others were more sinister. The white-beaked mask so famous from photographs is that of the plague-doctor; the beak echoes a doctor's long breathing apparatus that held a sponge doused in vinegar, thought to hold the plague at bay. The Doges were frequently exercised by the dangers masks allowed, and passed laws limiting their use to within the carnival period; if you wore a mask at any other time of year, penalties were severe.

Masks are a big cottage industry in today's Venice, and sold all year round.

La Dolce Vita is a charming 6 passenger vessel with a crew of three, and she is the only hotel barge cruising the Venice Lagoon. La Dolce Vita provides the opportunity to see this breathtaking city from a unique perspective while enjoying luxurious accommodation and the finest cuisine.

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

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Honeymoon cruises

How about treating your Valentine to the most romantic present money can buy. I am of course bringing your attention to our “Honeymoon cruises” , where just two soul mates can charter an entire barge for 6 nights in an amazing choice of three destinations.Gobarging brings you this unique vacation aboard either Scottish Highlander cruising the Great Glen, Nymphea in the Loire Valley or La Dolce Vita in Venice. Go on treat your Valentine to something really special - a Honeymoon Cruise with European Waterways.

New Year, new beginnings in France

For the last 30 years Gobarging has had a no smoking policy throughout the fleet, (certainly on the inside of the barge!) we are now pleased to report that France, the last place in Europe where we cruise, is to adopt a total ban in all public places, restaurants and bars. - Great news for healthy living.

New Itinerary for Magna Carta

The new itinerary for the Magna Carta now offers visits to privateKing Tut death mask houses and until 30 August 2008 the option to visit the Tutankhamen & the Golden Age of the Pharaohs exhibition, at the Millennium Dome, Greenwich, London.

Where else will you get the opportunity to see 3,300 year old Egyptian artifacts, an English Castle built in 1066 which is still in use by the current royal family, journey to where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215 & visit private homes that have been in the same family for 13 generations!

After nearly 30 years, the treasures of Tutankhamen return to London in a dazzling, once-in-a-lifetime exhibition. Tutankhamen is now the most famous of the Egyptian pharaohs. The boy king died in his late teens and remained at rest in Egypt's Valley of the Kings for over 3,300 years, until November 1922, when Tutankhamen's tomb was discovered by the British Egyptologist Howard Carter.

The new King Tut London exhibition boasts 130 objects dedicated to the pharaoh, other tombs from the Valley of the Kings and other Egyptian artifacts. Many of these have never before been seen in London. They were not included in the 1970s exhibition, so this will be the first time Londoners will be able to get a look at the objects on display.

The death mask is not in the exhibition as it is not allowed to leave Egypt.

Please contact Sales@GoBarging to book this cruise. Or visit Magna Carta

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 January 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 February 2008, so we'll see you then.

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