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

Happy New Year to all our lock-keeper readers. Health, happiness and prosperity to you all.

I hope you all had a great time over the holiday season and that everyone is refreshed and ready for 2004.

We are looking forward to a great season in 2004, and can't wait to get going. All we have to do is get through the next few months of winter. Well, that's the picture where we are, perhaps you live somewhere warm and it's summertime..!

Whatever the season, we are really excited to reach our 30 year milestone. 1974-2004, 30 years in operation as European Waterways, Gobarging.

2004 is not only our anniversary, we share it with several others...did you know that 35 years ago, man landed on the moon, it is 100 years since the legendary Glen Miller was born..?, or that 60 years ago the D-Day landings signalled the beginning of the end of World War II..?

I'm sure there are many other notable anniversaries this year, perhaps some of our readers will reach a personal milestone too - if so, why not let us know and we can share the celebration with all our readers.

Looking forward to this year, we have the Olympic and Paralympic games in Athens, Greece in August and September. There is also another race, this time to elect a president on November 2nd, yes its election year in the US..! So plenty going on for sure.

In this first 2004 edition of the lock-keeper we'll show you where to find the winner of the L'Art de Vivre caption competition. We feature some new cruise itineraries - Antique hunting in France, Murder-mystery - follow the path of Jack the Ripper through the streets of London, and a fabulous 6 week trans Europe cruise. There's an Anjodi family cruise trip report, and we show you what our Meanderer husband and wife team get up to on their winter break.

We hope you enjoy this seventh edition of the lock-keeper, and we look forward to hearing from you, and seeing you at, where you will 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, and Happy New Year once again..

Derek Banks, Chairman

Derek Banks - Chairman

Paul Spencer writes about his Family holiday aboard Anjodi

Anjodi, Canal du Midi, South of France The prow of a magnificent blue and gold-painted barge slides through the tranquil waters of the Canal du Midi, emerging from the vaulted arch of a pretty brownstone bridge. On one side of the canal, row upon row of spent vines stretch away to the medieval walls and turrets of the fortress of Carcassonne. On the other, a weather-worn tricolour hanging from a long-retired mill house wafts flatly in the Autumn breeze.

On board, Rupert, the skipper and just one of our four-person crew, is shielding his eyes from a low October sun which flashes through the endless parade of mature plane trees. He's chatting enthusiastically about the beauty of the barge, the Anjodi, and the engineering wonders of this 300-year-old waterway, one of France's most idyllic holiday backdrops. He is unperturbed that his audience is luxuriating in the bubbling water of the giant on-deck hot tub, and we are getting increasingly enthralled with every refill of our tulip glasses of rose wine, courtesy of Sharon, our stewardess.

Meanwhile Darren, our guide, pedals on his bicycle on the towpath alongside with fresh news of our next outing - he says there's a degustation, or wine-tasting, two miles downstream, which raises a cheer. And in the tiny galley below, with his pots of herbs and pinches of saffron, Louie our personal chef is preparing a fish soup, just one of the treats on the lunch menu. Yes, that's right, lunch. A light rose really doesn't count as drinking when you're so far south.

This is life at the top end of the canal holiday market. No formica-topped narrow boats fighting for space on rush-hour canals, and none of that back-breaking winching at the lock gates - here, the boats are broad in the beam and even if you haven't the staff, the lock-keepers merely press a button and the sluices empty and fill on an effortless autopilot.

And as for the onboard accommodation - It's extraordinary Agatha Christie didn't set a whodunit on the Anjodi. After a century carrying grain around the low countries, she has been given an elegant retirement. Her silo is now a dark, hard wood-panelled dining room and saloon, her stores four cosy en-suite double cabins shining with brass. Hercules Poirot himself would be more than happy to don his moustache net and retire for the night in one of these exquisite staterooms.

As it is, we are not a scheming house party with murder in mind, but a family - myself, wife Sarah and two young boys Fred, 4, and Daniel, 12 - and two gourmand adult friends, the perfect ensemble for the treats offered by European Waterways, a small British company which specialises in magical canal cruises throughout Europe.

Each boat has been superbly renovated and its staff:guest ratio rivals any five-star hotel. It's the kind of holiday that starts the moment customs have been cleared - in this case, in Carcassonne's tiny regional airport - with Darren waiting to carry the bags onto the people-carrier which shadows the Anjodi at every stage of its passage.

Officially, the itinerary was to wind along the canal, over aqueduct and through echoing tunnel, past dusty rural towns like Homps and Capestang, Beziers and Sete, until we reached the oyster beds and vermouth plants of Marseillan miles east. But on the Anjodi, and particularly when the boat is booked to one like-minded party, the guest is in charge. So while our friends nosed around 15th Century citadels and cathedrals, Darren was happy to drive us off to the nearest safari park and dinosaur-land and, as we progressed, the Mediterranean seaside.

Back on board, Louie proved to have a repertoire well beyond merely feeding us. When we asked for a master class, he beamed at us and invited us in to his galley, where he showed us the secret of his fish soup and rouille. He worked in a fish restaurant in Marseilles for a year, perfecting bouillabaisse, and happily showed us his recipe: fish from that day's nearest dawn market thrown intact into boiling olive oil, swirled with wine and garlic and saffron, brewed for an hour on a hot ring and broken through a mill. Then, after that wine-steeped soak in the hot tub, he presented it to us - along with a dozen other dishes. That night's dinner at 9-ish seemed to come, as ever, two hours too soon.

And the children? We'd wondered how they might keep amused but, when they were not careering between imaginative sideshows, they were pleading to break out the bikes again. Eight tourers were slung across the bow and proved great fun simply for pedalling along the tow paths and through the villages; and the team had hired a couple of little bikes and helmets just for the children. Grandest prize for them, though, was driving the boat. The Anjodi is 100 feet long and has the response of an ocean-going liner.

Arriving into Marseillen and driving back to the airport, scanning automatically the estate agents' windows and working out how to make a living from a 50,000 farmhouse set in four acres, nibbling on the sandwiches prepared by Louie for our journey home, the party knew a day trip on the Regent's canal would hardly be the same. But then we also knew how to make fish soup; and perhaps most crucially, what exactly one drinks as an aperitif when in a streaming jacuzzi, on a barge, in a distant corner of France.   Find out more about Anjodi here

New itineraries for 2004

Meanderer Antiques theme cruise

Over the last three seasons many of our guests have spent a lot of time during their vacation searching antiques stores for ancient treasures. France is bursting with relics from the past, many of which are for sale at prices which seem ludicrously low to American travelers. But the greatest problems facing the would-be antique collector in France are how to find the real gems , how much to pay for them and then (probably the point which stops most from filling their homes with fantastic French furniture and artifacts), how to get them back to the US. For 2004, we can help with all of these problems.

To help anyone who has an appreciation of French antiques, included in our 2004 antiques cruises we have:
  • teamed up with French (but English speaking) Antiques dealer and expert Nicole Samara, who lives right in the heart of the Parisian antique markets to offer personalized tours of the Paris markets
  • arranged lunch and a private antiques tour at the splendid C14th Chateau de la Verrerie hosted by the owner Countess Beraud de Vogue
  • sourced an International Shipper who will arrange fully insured shipping to the US direct from Paris or any other dealer throughout France
For a detailed itinerary please visit Meanderer

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.

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 L'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. L'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.

For a detailed itinerary, please visit L'Impressionniste Trans Europe 6 week cruise

Magna Carta Murder-Mystery, Ghosts and Ghouls theme cruise

Richard Jones MMC is one of the Capital's most experienced walking tour guides with an unsurpassed pedigree when it comes to ghosts and the supernatural. He is the author of many books including the definitive guide to the darker side of the Capital, Walking Haunted London, and of the international best seller, Frommers memorable walks in London.

In 1997 he wrote and presented the acclaimed drama-documentary On the trail of Jack the Ripper, and in addition he is a full member of the prestigious Magic Circle and creator of numerous psychic illusions that have mystified audiences all over the world. Richard is our resident guide for your week aboard Magna Carta.

For the more bloodthirsty, and certainly not the faint-hearted..itinerary details here
be scared, be very scared!...

Holiday Competition
Win a luxury barge cruise for two on L'Art de Vivre in Spring 2004

Now for some fun.....remember the photograph of Derek Banks and Captain Leigh Wootton leaning over the lock gates at one of the many locks on the Nivernais canal..?

Derek Banks and Captain Leigh Wootton leaning on the lock gates, discussing what..??
The question is..... what are they saying.....??

We are giving away a week on L'Art de Vivre in Spring 2004 to the lucky person who provided us with the best caption for this photo

The only rule was that it had to make us laugh....

The prize is a cabin for two aboard L'Art de Vivre, on an all-inclusive six night cruise along the Upper Nivernais canal in Burgundy.

So, who's won..?? well, to find out why not visit the L'Art De Vivre caption competition.

We have taken a wide selection of the entries and put them in a gallery for you to peruse.
The winner's in there somewhere....and...we were so impressed that we added a second and third prize too..!!

So this is what barge owners do in the winter!!

Not so sedately on dry land..! Phill and Hannah Spurge, owners of Hotel-Barge Meanderer are currently busy at home in the UK where a winter hobby is occupying much of their time.

For many years, Phill and Hannah have competed together in rallies throughout the UK in a variety of makes of cars but this year have chosen a FORD ESCORT RS 2000 to use in the British Historic Rally Car Championship.

The car, originally built in 1974, is identical to the one in which driver Phill started his rallying career at the age of 17. Since then he has gone on to compete in many championships in the UK and abroad. Hannah joined the team as co-driver shortly after they were married 13 years ago.

Phill says 'Our commitment to running Meanderer during the summer does not leave much time for motor sport but I just cannot go through the winter without having a go! I spent 15 years managing driver sponsorship and coaching younger drivers before getting into barging so I find it very hard to give up. The speed I drive the car is also very different from the speed of barging and I love the contrast!'

Hannah applies her organisational skills to co-driving duties during the rallies, ensuring that the team (mostly!) go the right way. Whilst a lot depends upon her accuracy, the pressure is no where near as great as in the kitchen on-board Meanderer where she is Chef. She says:'It's great to do something for a hobby where there is no real pressure to perform - we spend most of our time during the summer striving to provide perfection so doing something just for fun is very relaxing.

The pace aboard Meanderer is also considerably slower and more tranquil than our rallying pace but whilst I love floating through the French countryside, the buzz from competing at high speed is great!'

This winter, Phill and Hannah are planning to compete in several rallies to gain International Licences which will allow them to compete in rallies aboard as well as the UK. 2005 may see the car being taken to France for the occasional rally: 'The atmosphere on French rallies typifies the approach to life there', says Phill. 'The only regulations which must be strictly obeyed seem to relate more to long lunch breaks and making sure you finish competing in time for a sun-down Pastis - so perhaps the whole experience is not so different to barging after all.'

The car is pictured taking part in a British Championship Rally earlier this year.

Visit Meanderer here

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 first 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 February, 2004, so we'll see you then.

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