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


welcome to the July edition of the Lock-keeper.

This month in the lock-keeper, we have an article on Chateauneuf du Pape wine by our L'Impressionniste skipper Philippe Aviles, we go Swan Upping on the Royal river Thames, and I give my suggestions on the best barges for an intimate Family charter cruise.

We announce the winners of our Rick Stein book competition, and this month we have two prize competitions. The first one is a great chance to win a cruise for two on Hirondelle in Burgundy in September 2007, and we kick-off a GoBarging photo competition for anyone who has cruised with us before. Send a photo with your story and win another cruise for two.

Check out our News section for some great summer offers, including a late availability on the Fiorita Regatta cruise on La Dolce Vita in Italy, a Shannon Princess charter offer and our summer special discounts for July and August on various barges in our fleet.

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:


Swan Upping on the Thames

Stein Book Winners

Win a cruise on Hirondelle

GoBarging Photo Competition

Family charters

Cruise News

back issues:


April 07

May 07

June 07

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Chateauneuf-du-Pape & L'Impressionniste
By Philippe Aviles, Operations Manager

Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine emanates from a region called the Rhone Valley. This mighty European river which originates above the Swiss Alps runs its course down to the Mediterranean. The town, which can literally be translated as the “Popes Nest” is situated on the undulating banks of the river and produces mainly red wines, as well as a small percentage of whites. The unique quality of the wine produced is due to the thirteen different grape varieties used to produce Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine.

The name Chateauneuf-du-Pape dates from the time of the dual Papacy in the 14th century. It was Bertrand de Goth, former archbishop of Bordeaux and owner of Chateau Pope-Clément in Graves, who upon taking up the papacy in 1309 decided to reside in Avignon rather than in Rome, due to the strained Franco – Italian relationships of the time.

It was his successor Pope John XXII who first started to enlarge what was a relatively modest set of buildings in Avignon itself. The result of this, whilst being extensively renovated, is the magnificent papal palace that we know today. His thoughts turned to strengthening his defences in the surrounding countryside and building himself a residence where he could escape from the oppressive summer heat and stench of busy medieval Avignon. A castle at Chateauneuf already existed but was in ruins and between 1318 and 1333 a “new castle” was constructed. For a summer palace it was huge, it also formed part of a defensive circle of fortifications surrounding Avignon.

Art print by Pamela GladdingChateauneuf was already an important wine area. In the 14th Century it is estimated that 1000 hectares were under cultivation. The modern era for the wine began in the 18th century with the rise of a number of individual estates such as La Nerthe and La Neste it is doubtful of course, that the present wine of Chateauneuf-du-Pape bears much resemblance to the wine of 600 years ago, which a good thing is probably!

The soil in Chateauneuf-du-Pape is varied; it consists of gravel, clay, sand and limestone. The Rhone valley is some 50km wide at this point and the vines are planted on undulating mounds and valley hillsides. The river has changed its course many times over recent millennia and the river has deposited stones and debris on the valley floor.

The stones or “galets” are very important, these pebbles act as an insulator, retaining the heat of the day and reflecting the heat back over night thus retaining moisture in the soil. Because of this, the vintner does not have to prune the leaves of the vines. This then protects the vines from the wind and scorching sun. The Rhone valley is well known for the strong mistral wind that blows, and the area is very exposed.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape wineThe wines of this area are blended from up to 13 different grape varieties; the foremost among these grapes is Grenache which was brought over by the Spanish. In the hot climate of the Southern Rhone, Grenache thrives and ripens with an absolutely dramatic effect - huge cherry – raspberry fruitiness & high alcohol vintages. Syrah is important in the wines of Chateauneuf-du-Pape; it provides good colour and peppery spiciness, floral aroma and a pleasing blackberry / blueberry fruitiness and tannins; although the trend in the region today is to eliminate the percentage of Syrah and replace it with the Mourvedre variety.

The Mourvedre grape imparts colour, power and texture, as well as gamey, truffle-ish complexity and the taste of ripe black plums. The other permitted grapes are Cinsault giving warmth and mellowness, Marscardin, Vaccarèse and the white grapes Cournoise and Picpoul which give vinosity charm, freshness and bouquet, finally Clairette and Bourboulenc give fire and brilliance. With such a multiplicity of grapes, soils and new growing methods, it is not surprising that there is no such thing as a typical Chateauneuf-du-Pape: All wines will be full of colour and full in body: somewhat fiery and robustly peppery, with a warm rich southern flavour.

There is additionally a small amount of white wine, made from a number of grapes; Bourboulenc, Clairette, Roussanne, Picardin, Picpoul, Grenache Blanc and Tarret Blanc. Like the reds, that can vary enormously in character and are decidedly fragrant with a hint of peaches and nectarines, particularly if drunk young. The white is an assertive, full, uncompromising wine.

Our barge Impressionniste is based in Avignon and starts its cruise on the mighty river on its way to the Canal du Midi: It passes places such as Arles, the Roman capital of French Gaul, which is where Vincent Van Gogh produced most of his masterpieces during the Impressionist movement. Following the Rhone to its delta in the Camargue, which is a protected natural park with its fragile environment between salt and fresh water. In amongst these lakes, is the fortified town of Aigues Mortes from where in the 13th century St Louis departed for the Crusades. The end of the cruise is a truly Mediterranean experience, cruising the Etang de Thau which is a 20km salt water lake with the largest oyster estuary in Europe and our final destination is Agde on the banks of the Canal of the Two Seas better known as the Canal du Midi. back to top

Swan Upping

Actief, cruising the Upper Thames, England
onboard Actief and Magna Carta on the Upper Thames, England

One of our oldest traditions on the Thames is bound to be seen by those travelling on Actief and Magna Carta.

It is called Swan Upping and is a swan census which dates back to mediaeval times, when swans were a delicacy on the royal banqueting table. In those days, only the regent feasted on swans and consequently it was important to keep a track of stocks. It is said that if you had been a guest at one of Henry 8th’s banquets, you could have experienced the master chef carving into the breast of a roast swan.

As time progressed regents allowed certain trade guilds to have some of their Thames swans. Nowadays, only the Worshipful Company of Vintners and the Worshipful Company of Dyers have retained this privilege, however, you will be pleased to hear that swans are no longer eaten!

The Queen's marker conuslts his notebookNowadays, swans are staunchly protected and the man in charge is the Queen’s Swan Marker. He is involved all year round in maintaining the safety and health of swans and promoting conservation, but he hits the spotlight every year during the 3rd week of July when he leads the yearly Swan Upping journey.

The term “Swan Upping” means “bringing swans up out of the water” and happens specifically on a section of the Thames west of London between Sunningdale and Abingdon.

Rounding up the swans at Datchet 2004The Queen’s Swan Marker heads up a team of 18, which comprises 6 men from the Dyers, 6 men from the Vintners and 5 men plus himself representing the Queen. Here the cygnets have been caught and are weighed in a red bag before being marked and returned to the riverThe job of the swan uppers is to find the newly born cygnets, weigh them, record their state of health and that of their parents and take any necessary action if the health of the swans is in doubt. At the same time, the ownership of the cygnets is identified: swans with a ring around their legs belong to either the Vinters or Dyers and so their cygnets are also marked as such; swans with no ring around their legs belong to the Queen and so their cygnets remain ring-less. In years gone by, swans used to be identified by making nick-marks on their beaks with a knife – not so pleasant for the swans.

The Royal Toast in Romney LockThe cygnets vital statistics are recordedThe swan uppers row up the Thames together in 3 skiffs, dressed traditionally, followed by a flotilla of attendant friends and supporters including the veterinary expert who gives the birds their health check. When they arrive at Romney lock at Windsor, they can see their first glimpse of Windsor Castle. Once the water has finished flowing into the lock and the water is calm, the Queen’s Swan Marker gives the signal to stand and drink a toast to the Queen.

An adult swan is ringedSwans are very well looked after on the Thames – however, during Henley Regatta in June, the regatta racecourse passes numerous swans nests and could endanger the birds – so, the Queen’s Swan Marker organises the removal of the swans to Swan Lifeline, a swan rescue charity on Cuckoo Weir Island in Windsor, where they are taken care of during Henley Regatta and as soon as the regatta is over, they are taken back to their nests again!

Our thanks to Joy Girvin for the taken at Datchet during the 2004 Swan Upping. Contact us today about Swan Upping on the Thames

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June Competition Winner

Rick Stein Mediterranean EscapesPublished to accompany Rick Stein’s new TV series for the BBC, his new book starts where French Odyssey left off – After jumping ship ( well barge actually) the Anjodi has been moored up in favour of public ferries crisscrossing the Mediterranean and the result is wonderful new book.... Mediterranean Escapes.

We offered two lucky lock keeper competition winners a copy of Mediterranean Escape (out in August 2007). Find out who's won the prizes here Rick Stein Book competition winners .   


July Competition - Win a cruise on Hirondelle

Hirondelle barge cruise in BurgundyFor our July Lockkeeper competition we have a fabulous chance to win a trip for two, courtesy of owners Orient Express, who have sponsored a cabin on board the Hirondelle which cruises the canals of Burgundy. As usual, visit our competition page, answer some easy multiple choice questions and you could win a cruise for two.

Hirondelle Cruise competition.

Cruise departs 02Sept from Paris.



GoBarging Photo Competition

Have you spent time cruising with European Waterways? Would you like to do so again FREE ! Then Dig out your barging holiday photos featuring European Waterways and email to us, together with a short story or caption and the best photograph will win a double cabin on board L'Impressionniste or La Belle Epoque in spring or summer 2008.

The photo competition closes at end October 2007, and the winner, chosen by Derek Banks, will be announced in the November Lockkeeper. The cruise must be booked within 6 weeks prior to departure, subject to availability.

Send your entry to us via this email link  back to top

   Family charters - by Derek Banks
The Scottish Highlander

Certain barges and itineraries are more suitable than others for family charters with children, content of the cruise, barge layout and crew are all factors which affect a barge’s ability to create a great family atmosphere.

So from a child’s point of view and after interrogating my own children and much thought, I believe I would give my personal recommendation to two vessels in the Go Barging fleet: Scottish Highlander and Art de Vivre.

Both are 8 passenger vessels so can accommodate two “ordinary – sized” families, I hate this phrase, but with 5 children in our family, we know we are "extra – ordinary"..

The routes these vessels cruise, the highlands of Scotland and the deepest depths of rural Burgundy, are both dramatically beautiful and will be remembered for ever.

There’s the mystery of the Loch Ness Monster and loads of Scottish Castles, settings for films such as Highlander and Harry Potter and the intrigue of crossing from one side to the other of Bonnie Scotland in a fine ship with a fish finder in the enclosed wheelhouse.

Talking of Harry Potter, there's The Loch Ness Magic Challenge at NESSFEST - Fort Augustus on 4th August 2007 - A unique event and a feast of free magical entertainment in the most magical location in the world. Magicians from all over Scotland compete for the The Loch Ness Magic Challenge Trophy and £3000 in prize Money. Throughout the day, competitors will perform in various locations around the village, alongside the Caledonian Canal and Loch Ness, seeking the votes of the public in a bid to become the Loch Ness Magic Champion.

Art De Vivre, barge cruise in BurgundyBurgundy is totally different, a chance to discover the real character of a country,

Burgundian cuisine, a vineyard tour, Vauban’s medieval castle, three tunnels, a hilltop lake and a flight of 16 locks.

Some of the best biking in barging, little villages and a cruise where time goes backwards.



So if you are considering a family charter, try one of our smaller barges and I guarantee your children will talk about it for years!

Contact us today to find out more about our Family Cruise Charters

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Nymphea Feedback

Laurie and Annette King who traveled with us on Nymphea on 8th July 2007 told us;

"We enjoyed the lack of hassle, living on a moving hotel and the variety of trips offered. One experience we would like to repeat in a different area and which we would highly recommend" Mr & Mrs King of Fyfield

La Dolce Vita Fiorita Cruise - September 9th, 2007
La Dolce Vita, Venice, Italy

We have a state room still available on La Dolce Vita for the Fiorita Cruise on 9th Sept due to a cancellation. Price is $3250 per person based on two person sharing a stateroom.

Regatta on the River Brenta - Riviera Fiorita 2007

The 9th of September sees the most important exhibition along the River Brenta, the so-called Riviera Fiorita. A regatta of historical boats will take place in all the towns along the banks of the Brenta canal every second Sunday of September. The boats are those made famous by the Venice Regatta, with people on board dressed in costumes from olden times.

The event re-enacts a happening from 1574 when Henry III, King of France, entered Venice from Padua having traveled the entire course of the Brenta, passing in front of the Venetian nobles' villas. The king received a warm welcome, with a crowd along the banks celebrating his arrival and the nobles observing his arrival from the gardens of their prestigious residences.

There are also lots of side events taking place during the occasion in different areas: art exhibitions, dance shows, classical music in the ancient villas, handcraft exhibitions and much more. You can also cycle along the entire route of the parade with an itinerary taking in the right hand bank of the Brenta, which has little traffic.

See our Venice 2008 itinerary, or Contact us today about the Fiorita Cruise.

Shannon Princess Charter offer for September 16th, 2007

There is a 20% discount on Shannon Princess for a whole boat Charter on September 16th, 2007.

Anyone interested, please contact us here - Shannon Princess Charter Offer

Summer Special Offers

L'Impressionniste in Provence - July & August -$1000/£500 discount per cabin

La Belle Epoque in Burgundy - July & August - $1000/£500 discount per cabin

L'Art de Vivre in Burgundy - July & August - $1000/£500 discount per cabin

Nymphea in Loire Valley - July & August - $500/£250 discount per cabin

The discounts apply to charter or cabin bookings and are based on 2 people sharing a cabin.
Single clients, not sharing, are entitled to 50% of the discounts above.
Discounts apply to those booking cabins between 17 July and 31st August 2007
For further information and reservations please contact Amanda Green

Palais des Papes Night Opening

August 2007 - Avignon: The magnificent Gothic Palais des Papes (Popes' Palace) in Avignon opens its doors to the public during August. The nocturnal experience is an intimate one - only 30 members of the public are allowed per night - so it's essential to book early. As the sun sets on the warm Avignon stone, visitors can enjoy an in-depth guided tour of the palace, taking in rooms that are normally closed to the public and appreciating stunning views of the surrounding Provence countryside. After working up an appetite, a feast is laid out on the terrace of the Great Dignitaries. With live classical music, the food and the setting, it's an all-round feast for the senses and easy to imagine yourself in a fairy tale.

Fee: from €30 per person, Info: +33 (0) 4 90 27 50 00 or visit Cabins are still available on L'Impressionniste ( at the time of print) 05 and 12 th Aug 07, Contact us for latest availability.

No-Smoking Policy

GoBarging would like to reinforce our policy of no-smoking in any of the cabins, communal areas and corridors on our fleet of luxury river barges. This policy has been in place on our barges since 1999. Listening to our clients and observing trends always keeps GoBarging one step a head. The changes in the UK law now prohibits smoking in all public areas.

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 49th 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 August 2007, so we'll see you then.

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