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


Hello ,

welcome to the July edition of the lock-keeper.

Well, this is now year 2 for the lock-keeper. Edition 13, and it will certainly be lucky for some, because we have a great new cruise prize to celebrate the start of our second year.

In this month's lock-keeper, we also announce the winners of our Classic malt whisky competition and hope you all enjoyed reading about the "water of life".

We have an article on Anjodi by Cork Milner, and some great feedback from various guests on their barging experiences this year.

We talked to Tim Hamill, our French wine winner, and he was more than happy to send us some details on his reaction and anticipation. He also told us a bit about himself and the Hamill family vacation - in France naturally.

We then tell you about our latest La Belle Epoque competition, where you can visit our new Burgundy Region photo galleries and get the opportunity to win a cruise for two.

So, please read on and enjoy the July lock-keeper. 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:

Sail La Vie

French wine winner

Classic Malts

Cruise reviews

July competition


back issues:

july 03

august 03

september 03

october 03

november 03

december 03

january 04

february 04

march 04

april 04

may 04

june 04

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

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Sail La Vie
Cruise southern France's Canal du Midi in style on a luxury barge
adapted from the original by Cork Millner
Ghostly finger rustle the leaves of the sycamore trees as our luxury barge, the Anjodi, glides slowly down the canal to the next lock. 'Hear that?' I ask. 'Brushing against the leaves.' 'It's the breeze coming from the vineyards,' my wife Lynda, says. Yet she eyes the shifting branches curiously. Reflections of the warm afternoon sun, filtered through the thick foliage of the trees overhead, glitter on the surface of the water. The smell of autumn is scented and soft on the nose, like an aged wine.

'Perhaps it is the ghost of Pierre Paul Riquet' I say. He built the Canal du Midi more than 300 years ago to link, the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. The canal skirts the sun-bathed shores of the Med before curving inland and winding its way 256 kilometers (around 165 miles) through France to Bordeaux,then on to the Atlantic.

'But we don't barge that many miles,' Lynda interjects. Correct, the Anjodi travels the southernmost 70 kilometers of the canal, passing-as the brochure says-'medieval villages, cloistered abbeys, Roman fortifications, and the vineyards that sweep across the heartland between Beziers and Carcassonne.''And the trees?' she asks, gazing at the parade of sycamores lining the towpath on each side of the canal. Forty-five thousand trees-poplar, willow, elm, cypress, olive and sycamore are planted along the canal.

Anjodi'Duck! yells Mark the barge pilot, interrupting the history lesson. We turn to face the bow in time to see the arch of a stone bridge looming ahead. We bend down as the Anjodi slips quietly through the shaded channel. Mark, who told me he has piloted barges on the canal for 15 years, says the bridges aren't as much of a hazard as passing other barges in the narrow waterway.

The Anjodi, refurbished in 1994 and named for the owner's three daughters, Anne, Joanne, and Diane, is privately owned. The largest vessel navigating the Canal du Midi, the Anjodi is of classic Dutch design and measures almost 100 feet from bow to stern.

There are staterooms for 10 passengers (small but pleasant, each with a private bath) and quarters for a crew of four. The salon, where formal meals are served, is located amidships and has a fully stocked bar.
Each night before dinner Lynda and I slip down to the salon for an open-bar 'happy hour.' Breakfast and lunch are served on the sun deck, weather permitting.

There are eight passengers aboard the Anjodi on this late October barging trip, all Americans, ranging in age from 45 to 70. One couple, Sam and Lois, are from New York. Sam and I have something in common: We are both retired military pilots. Over cocktails in the salon, Sam tells tall tales about flying B-17s in 'The Big War.' In return, I brag about my exploits of derring-do landing at night on carriers in the 1960s.

Another couple, Al and Andrea, who are in their 50s and happily call themselves the "A Team," are from Hawaii, where Al grows exotic fruit.'I was watching television,'" Al relates, when asked why he decided on a barge trip, 'and saw an ad that proclaimed, 'Just do it!'The next morning I got on the phone and scheduled a barge trip on the Anjodi.''It was an invitation I couldn't turn down," Andrea says with her ever-present smile. 'I'm enjoying it because there are so many fun options: strolling along the canal, biking into canal towns, exploring medieval villages. I'm never bored.'

A mother and daughter team Ruth and Maria, are here to 'walk and talk,' Maria says. The eight of us 'walkers and talkers'" boarded the Anjodi late one afternoon after a pleasant trip from Nice. We travelled through Marseille by rail to Beziers, where the boat's captain met us at the train station with a van. 'That's our captain?' Lynda whispered in my ear. 'He looks like a child'.'Everyone looks like a child,' I countered, reminding her of our 'chronologically advantaged' status.

The "captain" was a bit of a surprise. I had expected someone wearing a gold-braided nautical cap-or at least a beret. Definitely a French-man who spoke with an accent. Our captain wore a burr haircut, pleasant smile, white T-shirt, and jeans. 'I'm Dave, your, ah, captain,' he said in perfect English. Then, almost apologetically, he added, 'I'm an American, from California. I speak pretty fair French, so I hired aboard'. Over glasses of champagne we met the rest of the crew. Besides Dave, whose job is to look after the wishes of the passengers, there are Mark, the 40 year old French pilot; Helen, the hostess, a young English woman; and the chef Christine, a vibrant French woman from Burgundy.

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That first evening Christine presents a four-course dinner in the salon: soup, duck, salad with local cheeses,and dessert, enhanced by a selection of wines from Corbieres and Minervios, local wine regions.

The next morning, after a breakfast of croissants, pastries, cereals, milk, juice and coffee, Lynda prompts me to continue the chat about the Canal du Midi.'Ah, yes, Paul Riquet. Seems he was a local boy who presented his idea of a canal to Louis XIV. Riquet convinced the king to approve the project by saying.'The canal will cause the Straits of Gibraltar to be an unnecessary passage, and the revenues of Spain will be diminished.' So, in 1681, after 23 years of concentrated work, the canal was completed. Riquet's sparkling narrow ribbon of water with its 65 locks fulfilled its commercial promise for 300 years.

By the 1970s, the canal was no longer able to meet the demands of modern transportation, and its usefulness as a commercial waterway came to an end. The barges were sold and converted to restaurants, nightclubs, or floating homes for the boatmen. Some, such as the Anjodi, were made into lovely luxury barges.

Later, we visit the walled-in medieval village of Carcassonne. This ancient city with its 52 towers, double-wall defenses, and grassy moats boasts a Camelot-like setting worthy of King Arthur. Carcassonne, which had its 2,000 year-old origins with the Romans, was restored in the late 1800s and is the most completely fortified medieval city in existence today.

We arrive back on the Anjodi for lunch and then a leisurely barge ride. Al and Andrea decide on a bike excursion through local villages, while the others walk along the canal to the next lock. Late autumn leaves drift from the sycamores, creating a carpet along the towpath. The temperature lingers at a pleasant 65 degrees. While we relax, chef Christine spends her day in the kitchen. Although not much larger than a phone booth, it is sunny and bright when viewed from the deck through the lace curtains. 'Don't look, don't look,' Christine waves happily at our inquisitive eyes. 'I can't tell you what I'm preparing for dinner. It will be a surprise.' The surprise is a delicious local fish with lobster sauce. Christine prepares food of Provence, mingled with the tastes of her home in Burgundy. 'What I prepare is a question of mood and inspiration,' Christine says.
'I plan the menu for the week, but it always changes, simply because my mood changes." She smiles. 'I try a lot of new recipes, [so] I won't be bored.'

AnjodiHelen, the hostess, places fresh flowers in the dining room each day and dresses the table with different linens and napkins for each meal. "We have a beautiful boat," she says, "a very pretty little boat, and I can make it prettier with table settings and flowers." Christine and Helen make daily forays into local towns to buy fresh produce, cheese, fish, and flowers.

The next four days are spent in leisurely walks along the canal's tow-path. (Until steam engines were invented, horses were used to tow barges along the canal.) Following the Anjodi on foot is easy because the barge stops every two or three miles to pass through a lock. The lock keeper emerges from his 17th century house to work the gate mechanisms that flush the water from the lock to lower the barge to the next level of the canal.The van mysteriously keeps up with the barge as we cruise from lock to lock. The puzzle is solved when Dave tells us he drives the van ahead, then bicycles back to the barge each day - one of his many chores.

We glide by one vineyard after another, the leaves golden, red, and yellow in the autumn sun. Dave schedules several wine tastings at privately owned vineyards. He also takes us on a tour of Minerve, a walled city that flourished in the 12th century as a stronghold of the Cathar religion.

After going through the splendid seven locks at Fonserannes (which lower us like steps on an escalator), we cross a massive aqueduct that spans the River Orb. Looking down at the cars speeding along the highway below, we feel like we are on a waterway in the sky. That afternoon the Anjodi arrives at our destination in Beziers.

We bid farewell to the Anjodi, its crew, and the Canal du Midi, which, thanks to luxury barging, remains a part of France's heritage. As Lynda and I step off the Anjodi, I hear that familiar rustling from the sycamore trees, a sound not unlike ghostly fingers parting the leaves . perhaps allowing Pierre Paul Riquet to view his beloved canal?

With a quizzical smile I look at my wife. 'Hear that?', 'Oh, it's only the breeze,' she replies.
But I can see she's not quite sure.
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Our French Wine winner

Tim and Karen Hamill enjoying market day in Ilse sur la SorgeWe spoke with Tim Hamill our French wine competition winner. Tim told us, 'Needless to say, I was delighted to learn that I was the winner of 2 cases of Rhône wine, and will enjoy it immensely once it arrives.'

Tim and wife Karen have lived in Atlanta, GA for about 16 years after moving from the nations capital Washington, DC.

Tim is a Marketing Director for a Fortune 500 high tech company (actually IBM), and Karen occupied her time rearing 2 children, having sent Courtney off to college several years ago, with Christopher still in the nest for another year before college.

According to Tim, 'We enjoy the beauty of Atlanta and the surrounding Georgia mountains, and the temperate climate allows us to take full advantage of being outdoors, particularly year round tennis. We also enjoy cooking, entertaining friends, and travelling.In fact, we just returned from France where we rented a wonderful home in Provence with our extended family.

While there we fell in love with Rhône wine, having visited and tasted at a number of small vineyards'.

As travelers, Karen's favorite city is London, while Tim favors Paris, and they are keen to see more; 'We regularly dream of an opportunity to see France or England from the luxury of a barge, and know that it will be in our plans soon.'

Enjoy the wine Tim, and we hope it reminds you of your time in France. Come back soon...

June competition - win a Classic Malt

Classic Malt whisky

For our June competition, we had another great prize for you to win - a bottle of Classic Malt whisky.

We asked you to read all about Scottish Malt whiskies on our website and then we asked you to answer some simple questions about Scottish Highlander and Malt whisky of course...

We have three bottles to give a way, and three winners, so find out who the
lucky winners are.

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Cruise reviews

Here are some cruise reviews from a range of satisfied guests who cruised with us in 2004.

We have arrived back in Australia after and extended holiday in Europe. We and 4 of our Aussie friends had an amazing week aboard the
L'Art De Vivre commencing 27th June, 2004.

The crew consisting of Julian Allsop, Dean Savage and Rebecca Chew were a pleasure to be with. Julian is very knowledgeable about his wines, Dean is a magican in both the driving and maintenance on the barge and Rebecca couldnt do enough to help us and a pleasure to be around.

The locations we went to and the restuarants they recommended were first class. We certainly would not hesitate to recommend them to anyone who asks. Should we or any of our friends choose to go barging again they will be the crew we ask for.
Hope everything goes well for them on their new route.Best Wishes, Graham and Faye Oldham.

Magna Carta Cruise date: June 27 - July 3rd 2004

We were first timers, and this was by far the best and most relaxing vacation we have ever had.
As a group we went on board with many dietary challenges, which "Beth" our chef, handled and accommodated so graciously. Food was excellent, servings thoughtful. There is and extremely pleasant atmosphere on board.We were welcomed everywhere on the barge and made to feel at home.

The daily sightseeing excursions were the best. The Thames Valley has such a rich history and our captain, Dominic Read is very well versed in his culture and history. We all wish the Magna Carta every success and a "brilliant" future, and send our sincere thanks for a great vacation. Elaine Lee, Party of 8

My wife, six friends, and I just spent six days on the L'Art de Vivre, from June 6th until the 12th. We wanted to convey to you what a magnificient experience it was for us all.

First, permit me to set the stage. The planning phase for this particular vacation began over two years ago. My wife, her best friend, and her best friend's sister-in-law all reach their milestone 50th birthdays this year. These delightful ladies were determined to celebrate together in an epic fashion. We husbands were considered fortunate to just be considered as potential invitees. The ladies, after extensive research, an exchange of point-and-counterpoint data that would make any barrister proud, and the inclusion of a sister and her husband, made the penultimate decision that said vacation would be: in France, on a barge cruise, and the L'Art de Vivre was to be the vessel of choice. This was based on both the Burgundy location and your company's favorable reputation; but, more importantly, that our party of eight (presuming the husbands made the guest list cut) could book the entire barge.

Sixty years ago, Operation Overlord elicited only slightly more planning, though conceding somewhat on import. So, as you may surmise, referring to this undertaking as merely a vacation is a vast understatement, unless all letters are capitalized, underscored several times, and perhaps backed up by a heavenly chorus.

Simply put, the Captain and crew of L'Art de Vivre nailed a perfect "10". Not even a Russian judge could fault their flawless performance. The barge itself was everything we had hoped for, the French countryside idyllic. But what truly made this event special were the warmth, consideration, and thorough professionalism of the crew. Julien, Dean, Rebecca, and Jean Sebastian provided a thousand and one personal touches and flourishes that made this a cruise for the ages. They unhesitatingly put forth any extra effort needed to add to our enjoyment. Please extend to them our deepest appreciation. As well, extend our sympathies to your other Captains who, though undoubtedly capable in their own right, must pale in comparison to Jules' masterful stewardship.

Again, thank you for providing such a delightful holiday for our merry band. Rest assured that we will highly recommend barging on L'Art de Vivre to our friends here in the colonies.Sincerely, David Woleslagle
(editors note - Dave, we can assure you that our other Captains would give Jules a run for his money...!)

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La Belle Epoque
July competition

La Belle Epoque, luxury barge cruise in BurgundyWe have a great new competition for July.

You can win a cruise for two on La Belle Epoque, cruising in Burgundy, during either late season 2004 or early season 2005.

All you have to do is visit our
La Belle Epoque competiton page, visit our latest Burgundy galleries, answer a few simple questions and enter the competition.

Our new Burgundy galleries show various views throughout the region, all taken from the air.

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This month we announce a new online Brochure download. You can now request and download a GoBarging brochure online, get one mailed as usual, or do both. The online brochure takes around 3 minutes to download via a broadband connection, or around 30 minutes on a modem connection.
brochure request

We also have some great last minute french cruise offers on La Belle Epoque, L'Impressionniste and Anjodi. Book 1 person and the second receives 50% discount.

capitaine Zoe at the wheelWe also announce our youngest Captain ever. This is Capitaine Zoe, aged 6 months. Actually the lovely daughter of Captain Roger Gronow and his charming wife Louisa. They met on board Impressionniste and, well, one thing led to another....welcome aboard Zoe..!

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 thirteenth edition, 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 August, 2004, so we'll see you then.

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