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


Hello,

welcome to the June edition of the lock-keeper.

This month, we celebrate this 36th edition of the lock-keeper. We never envisaged when we started back in July 2003 that the newsletter would still be going strong and be so popular 3 years later.

Thanks to all our readers and to our regular contributors for making the lock-keeper such a success. We have built a lock-keeper archive and added it to the www.gobarging.com website, so that everyone can have a look back and browse previous editions. It's interesting to see how it has developed over the years.

In this month's edition, we feature a new member of staff - Honey Purkait, we focus on La Dolce Vita cruising in Venice and the Venetian Lagoon, with details of some short 3 day cruises. We go Swan Upping on the Thames, and we have some great remaining 2006 season offers on many of our barges.

We announce our June Scottish cookbook competition winners, and we have a new competition for June, where you can win a 10% discount on a cruise for two on the barge of your choice for 2006/2007. We also have some great feedback from several clients.

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:

Meet Honey

Anjodi Sold out

La Dolce Vita

3 Night cruise

River Fiorita

2006 Cruise offers

Swan Upping

Cookbook Winners

June Competition

Anyone for Oysters..?

Cruise News

back issues:

archive

january 06

february 06

march 06

april 06

may 06

visit our website
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barge cruise at
www.gobarging.com



Staff profile - Honey Purkait

Honey Purkait

How long have you worked for Go Barging?

I have now worked for Go Barging for six weeks exactly today and enjoying every minute. Still lots to learn but that keeps me motivated.

What did you do before coming to Go Barging?

I worked as a telemarketing rep marketing pure h2o water and health benefits to customers and companies all over the country. Whilst doing this I completed a diploma in homeopathy which I love because it's a new approach to natural healing and prior to this I worked in the admin telesales side of homeopathy and health. I am currently completing a PHD in homeopathy. Having spent so much time in the field of health, joining Go Barging was a way of getting involved in a fresh sphere of work, especially as I love travelling and boats. I used to have a small outboard microplus which my father and I would enjoy sailing in on the Thames. I'm now able to bring my boating hobby to everyday life and couple that with helping introduce people all over the world to barge cruising.

What would a typical day for you entail?

A typical day for me involves all types of sales coordination. I make sure that if any of our customers want a brochure or need to know cruise availability then they receive this as priority. Then the best part follows - to contact all customers interested in cruising with us. A natural approach is the best and customers soon feel at ease to discuss their requirements for a most enjoyable barge trip. I also keep up with all the customers who have contacted us, just to see if they would like to barge cruise again or if they need more information.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Talking to all our customers! I mostly find customers welcome the personal help and guidance because it goes beyond the well designed brochure. It gives me a lot of pleasure to talk customers through our portfolio - about theme cruises, wine cruises, food on board, the fine wine selections - with the emphasis on customer satisfaction on board. It's so much more than just a hotel on water. It's got the X Factor!

What is your favourite European Waterways destination?

Mine has to be Burgundy. If I had to choose a cruise it would be on La Belle Epoque as a member of a charter group with hot air ballooning involved. I would love to see chateaux and medieval towns by balloon and then go on a wine tasting with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in a 12th century cellar. My all-round favourite wine is a Chablis and to have Chablis with foie gras would complement my trip to Burgundy well.

What was your most embarrassing/funny moment with European Waterways?

Shortly after joining Go Barging, I visited one of the barges on the River Thames - the Magna Carta. I thought I would speak to the captain to get more of a feel for the vessel. So I went up to the barge and there he was watering the flowers on board. I asked all sorts of questions and took copious notes for when I got back to the office - only to discover I was speaking to the housekeeper! Oh! Well, he certainly knew a lot and was so helpful - it goes to show how really knowledgeable and helpful the staff are on board - but it was funny at the time!   
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ANJODI SOLD OUT FOR 2006 SUMMER SEASON! Luxury barge cruises on Anjodi

If you wish to travel on Anjodi this year, the only remaining space we can offer for 2006 is in November. She is booking fast for 2007, so to be sure of getting the cruise week you require, please ring or e-mail sales@gobarging.com

For 2007 cruises on Anjodi, we are pleased to announce a more convenient pick-up point - Hotel Metropole in Montpellier. Montpellier is easily reached by air and the TGV network and we are sure this will come as good news to all customers.

For those still looking to cruise the "Rick Stein Route" in 2006, Anjodi's big sister,
Impressionniste, is offering cruises between Avignon and Agde at Anjodi prices for the rest of the 2006 season - this equates to a saving of up to 350 per person or $640 per person on normal L'Impressionniste prices. For further information, contact sales@gobarging.com or telephone +44 1784 482439 or toll free: from the USA 1800 394 8630 ; from Canada 1 888 342 1917

La Dolce Vita
No Sweeter Way to Enjoy the Venetian Lagoon
La Dolce Vita in Venice by Les Furnanz

Ferries, gondolas, and water taxis zipped up and down the Grand Canal and docked briefly near the Doge's Palace before continuing their journeys. From our angle the busy boats looked as if they would collide before they slipped past each other. We were moored on the small isle of San Giorgio, just across the channel from Venice's San Marco quarter. Sipping cool drinks on deck in warm spring sunshine and taking in the sights on the Venetian lagoon was our idea of heaven. "Today is definitely a TEN!" raved my wife, "And this is the perfect cap to it!" We toasted with the other barge guests to her jubilant exclamation.

That morning we awoke on our cruise barge at peaceful Murano Island to the aroma of fresh espresso wafting from the salon. After breakfast we explored the island's canals and friendly neighborhoods, viewed glass-factory artisans creating masterpieces, and then shopped the galleries to find the perfect Murano souvenir. We jetted to nearby Venice via water taxi and then motored slowly down its Grand Canal, past the marketplace and palaces, under the Rialto and Accademia bridges, then across the channel to again meet our floating hotel at San Giorgio's marina. After a sumptuous on-deck Veneto lunch of tagliatelle and swordfish, we toured San Giorgio's church and then ascended its high tower for the best views of all Venice. Now, our deck lounging afforded us the perfect opportunity to revel in the day's activities and "la dolce vita." Adding to the joy was realizing that we were but two days into our weeklong cruise.

Italian Barging and the Venetian Lagoon

Originally built in Holland in the early 1900s to haul cargo, 65-feet-long La Dolce Vita has been retrofitted exquisitely for her cruise barge role. Accommodations include three comfortable double guest cabins, a salon/dining room, and a spacious outdoor deck. Bicycles are provided for all the guests. Our crew of three long-time residents of the Veneto region included captain Paulo, gourmet chef Davide, and our English-speaking steward Leo. He well represented the region: its culture, history, sites, and cuisine. High-spirited Leo gladly described the Veneto lifestyle, including the annual Venice Carnavale when the city decks itself out and goes wild for days, including a floating bridge to Guidecca Island, neighborhood dining parties, and firework spectacles.




La Dolce Vita continued
La Dolce Vita in Venice

It didn't take long to become spoiled by life aboard La Dolce Vita. Each morning after breakfast we would take an arranged tour, then cruise to a new mooring for lunch. We usually had the afternoon to ourselves for explorations, cycling, or lounging before sailing in the late afternoon to a new nighttime mooring. Here we again enjoyed explorations or pre-dinner relaxing before the evening's incredible meal.

La Dolce Vita is the only hotel barge in all of Italy and its itinerary is truly unique: the Venetian Lagoon with the islands of Venice, Burano, Murano, Torcello, Lido, Pellestrina, and San Giorgio. The cruise includes a journey from the lagoon up the River Brenta with its small countryside towns and centuries old Venetian villas. Averaging only about one meter in depth, the lagoon is scattered with many marshy wilderness areas.

Navigation is done via a series of natural and dredged interconnecting channels. The marine climate includes a beautiful mixture of conditions: fogs rising and lowering, wind and sun, sudden thunder storms, clearing skies, rainbows, and beautiful sunsets. The history of man's interaction with the lagoon is equally fascinating: the rerouting of the Po River to inhibit silt buildup, the dredging of channels, the installation of locks and dams on the Brenta River, the embedding of thousands of vertical tree trunks in Venice to support its large buildings, the exploitation of shell fishing, and the formation of protected fishing basins. Man's attempt to control the lagoon continues today, as the government is considering installing gates to the Adriatic Sea to prevent the tidal flooding that plagues Venice in the winter.

The Cuisine - "Molto Buono"

A major highlight of life aboard La Dolce Vita was the excellent Veneto cuisine. An example dinner menu offered by chef Davide reflected the palate splendors: melon and prosciutto (antipasto), polenta with shrimp (primo), rabbit (secondo), and panecotta (dolce). All these courses were served with an excellent sequence of wines such as Prosecco di Cardizzo (sparkling wine), Riparosso di Montepulciano (red), and Ramandolo di Zuccolo (dessert). The ending selection of cheeses included Taleggio, Fontina, Assiago, Piccorino, and goat cheese with wild honey. Thank goodness our active days of walking and cycling enabled us to burn off the tasty calories.

Wonders of Venice

Venice is the core of the Venetian lagoon and the center of its amazing history. We stayed in the city for a couple of days prior to boarding the cruise, exploring countless canals, bridges, squares and churches in Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, Dorsoduro, Castello, and San Marco neighborhoods. Our cruise provided the highlight of our Venice explorations with a private tour of St. Mark's Square, the Basilica, and the Doge's Palace. Elisabetta, a Venetian, strikingly explained the sites and their history.

Particularly stunning was the gold and gems altarpiece, the Pala d'Oro. Originally two separate 12th-century Byzantine panels, one sculpted with the story of Saint Mark and images of Christ, the other with Archangel Michael and the apostles, this ultimate Byzantine masterpiece was joined together in 1343 with the addition of 1,927 gems in a Gothic framework. Elisabetta provided an excellent recount of how the Venetian empire was administered by a network of special councils, all operating under the figurehead ruler, the doge. The tour of the palace's prison demonstrated that the doges and their councils held a firm upper hand at the height of the empire.



La Dolce Vita continued
La Dolce Vita in Venice

Quiet Islands

The most unique and enjoyable aspect of our cruise was mooring at the serene islands of Burano, Murano, and Lido. Burano exuded a special aura with its small canals lined with colorful, two-story homes of its fishing families. Friendly residents, chatting and sharing the local news, filled the main square. St. Martin's leaning church tower reminded us of Pisa's, as it was a full meter off of perpendicular at its 82-meter high point. The church proudly displayed a large canvas of the Crucifixion by Venetian artist Tiepolo.

Our visit to the museum of merletto, Venetian lace, was fascinating as we marveled at current day masters creating their wares. Murano was an equally interesting island with its richly decorated churches full of Veneto-Byzantine mosaics, its lively open-air markets, and its glasswork galleries. Our glass factory visit increased our admiration for the artistry that has brought fame to the island for five centuries. Today's masters train in apprenticeships for 15-30 years and lead teams of workers to produce a beautiful variety of glass jewelry, dinnerware, and sculptures.

Our stay at Lido allowed us to cycle the full length of this slender isle that forms one of the barriers of the lagoon. Beaches that overfill with summer sunbathers stretched for miles on the Adriatic Sea coast. Lido became famous in the 1900s as the favored Venetian beach destination and for its historical hotels, Excelsior and Des Bains, where today movie stars stay during the Venice Film Festival. Other small islands we visited included Torcello, the first lagoon island colonized by the Romans 2,000 years ago.

We discovered the Veneto-Byzantine church Santa Maria Assunta and climbed its 12th-century tower, rising from Roman foundations. The views of the surrounding artichoke farms and the northern lagoon were well worth the effort. We also stopped at San Francesco del Deserto to visit the ancient monastery, now home to only three monks. Saint Francis of Assisi rested here during his return from Palestine in 1220. On Pellestrina, another narrow island that is part of the lagoon's barrier from the Adriatic, we strolled through the small fishing village of San Pietro in Volta. Here we enjoyed the hustle of fishermen clearing their boats after a long day of shell fishing in the southern lagoon.

River Brenta: Villas and Countryside

Our itinerary included two days cruising the River Brenta past the lush countryside and Venetian villas dating from the 1600s. We toured Widman Villa and the grandest of them all, Villa Pisani, with its Versailles-like gardens and huge rooms with Tiepolo frescoes. The villas were fascinating for their excessive luxuriousness and their history as vacation residences for Venice's upper class. They were "overdone" for the era, as their landlords built them when Venice had started its long slide from its prime as a trading powerhouse.

The River Brenta offered the perfect opportunity for biking along the canal and through farmland, as well as exploring colorful river towns. Doro was our favorite town with its island and ancient waterwheel mill. Our steward Leo took us here to a great nearby enoteca, or wine bar, with an excellent sampling of wine and antipasti. On our last evening we were treated to dinner by the barge owners, Nicola and Andrea, who met us aboard the barge and brought us to Villa Goetzen, a fantastic family-run restaurant in Doro. They recounted the adventurous experience of finding and outfitting La Dolce Vita for its new role as the only cruising hotel barge in Italy. It couldn't have been a better cap to the incredible week.

Hard to Say Goodbye

The next morning each guest was provided with transportation to the most convenient point for continuing his or her travels. It was a sad farewell to Paulo, Davide, Leo and the sweet life on La Dolce Vita. One of the guests, Birgit, a vacationer from Germany, summarized it well when she said, "This has been the most interesting, relaxing, and unique vacation I've ever experienced!" La Dolce Vita!

Article by Les Furnanz, Photos by Rita Furnanz

Contact us today about our La Dolce Vita cruise     back to top



THREE NIGHT CRUISE OFFERS IN VENICE ON BOARD
LA DOLCE VITA
Casone Zappa in the Veneto Lagoon

In response to a number of demands for long weekend breaks in Venice, we are happy to offer our customers, for the first time, the possibility to spend a luxurious three nights aboard the charming barge "La Dolce Vita", gaining a fulfilling experience of Venetian lifestyle.

Three Night Cruise Itinerary:

Sunday, Venice-Burano From Venice to the Fishermen's Island

Guests are met at 5 PM at Villa Laguna Hotel in Venice Lido, where the barge is moored and the crew is ready to serve you a welcome drink of Prosecco. Sailing past the Fort of Sant'Andrea, the ancient Venetian artillery defence base, La Dolce Vita hugs the coast of Sant'Erasmo, Venice orchard and vegetable garden and then arrives in Burano, a fishermen's island in the northern lagoon, where we moor for a superb fish dinner.

Monday, Burano-Murano The Still Waters of the Smaller Islands

In the morning we walk through the colourful streets of Burano and visit the Lace Museum. Later we sail on to Torcello, the first island of the lagoon to be colonised 2000 years ago. We see the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a beautiful example of Veneto-Byzantine style. We have lunch moored in front of Torcello and in the afternoon we take a leisurely cruise to San Francesco Island for a visit to the monastery and then enjoy tea on the still waters around the island. We finally cruise to Murano to moor on the Grand Canal of the island of glass and have dinner on board.

Tuesday, Murano - Venice - Valle Zappa Cruising the Grand Canal and the Wild Lagoon

We visit Murano, its glass museum and a glass-blowing workshop, which made the island famous worldwide. We move on for a tour of the Grand Canal in Venice aboard a water taxi. Later in the afternoon we sail to the peaceful southern Venetian lagoon where we enjoy dinner in front of Casone Zappa, a masterpiece of early 20th century Italian Liberty style architecture. In case of bad weather we cruise to the city of Chioggia at the very end of the southern lagoon. Dinner on board.

Wednesday, Valle Zappa - Chioggia - Venice

After breakfast we arrange your transfer by water taxi to a hotel in Venice or to Marco Polo airport. By that time you will be able to say if you truly appreciated the Venetian style of living and. of barging!<

Prices per person (based on two people sharing a cabin):

16th July 20068th October 2006
Stateroom per person $1420/ 825 $1545/ 900
Suite per person $1645/ 950 $1795/ 1050
Single supplement $525/ 325 $650/400


Contact us today about our
La Dolce Vita 3 day cruise     back to top



Riviera Fiorita 3 Night Cruise
Sunday 10th September 2006 to Wednesday 13th September 2006
La Dolce Vita moored on the River Brenta before Villa Pisani

GoBarging is also offering a 3 night break during the Riviera Fiorita festival."

THREE NIGHT CRUISE ITINERARY - REGATTA FIORITA 2006

Sunday, Day 1 Venice - Burano: From Venice to the Fishermen's Island for Dinner

Guests are met at 11.30 AM at Villa Laguna Hotel in Venice Lido from where we arrange a taxi boat transfer to Fusina at the end of Brenta River. We then drive you to Mira, where the barge is moored and the crew is ready to serve a welcome drink of Prosecco and lunch. In the early afternoon you will enjoy the boat parade from La Dolce Vita's sundeck. Later we will cruise down the river to enter the Venetian lagoon. Sailing past Venice and the coast of Sant'Erasmo, we head to our mooring in Burano, the fishermen's island in the northern lagoon, where we serve your a superb fish dinner.

Monday, Day 2 Torcello - Burano - San Francesco: The Still Waters of the Smaller Islands

In the morning we walk through the colourful streets of Burano and visit the Lace Museum. Then we sail on to Torcello, the first island of the lagoon to be colonised 2000 years ago. We see the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a beautiful example of Veneto-Byzantine style. We have lunch moored in front of Torcello and in the afternoon we slowly sail on to San Francesco Island for a visit to the monastery and a tea on the still waters around the island. We finally cruise to Murano to moor on the Grand Canal of the island of glass and have dinner.

Tuesday, Day 3 Murano - Venice - Valle Zappa: Cruising the Grand Canal and Dinner in the Wild Lagoon

We visit Murano, the museum of glass, and eventually a workshop of glass blowing, which made the island famous worldwide. We move on for a tour of the Grand Canal in Venice aboard a taxi boat. Later in the afternoon we sail to the peaceful southern Venetian lagoon to take you for dinner in front of Casone Zappa, a masterpiece of early 20th century Italian Liberty style architecture. In case of bad weather we cruise to the city of Chioggia at the very end of the southern lagoon.

Wednesday, Day 4 Casone Zappa to Venice: Farewell day

After breakfast we arrange a water taxi to take you back to Venice or Marco Polo Airport.

Stateroom per person$1620 / 950
Suite per person $1870 / 1100
Single supplement$ $675 / 425


Contact us today about our
La Dolce Vita Fiorita cruise     back to top



Reduced prices for 2006 cruises on cabins still available

FOR GROUPS OF 4-12 PASSENGERS

    Book 1 Cabin and get the 2nd cabin, on same barge and departure date, at 50% reduction on the following cruises;
  • La Belle Epoque, Burgundy, France - 30th July, 13th August, 27th August, 1st October
  • L'Impressionniste, Provence, France - 23rd July, 30th July, 13th August, 20th August, 27th August, 3rd September
  • L'Art de Vivre, Burgundy, France - 2nd July, 6th August, 27th August, 8th October
  • Nymphea, Loire Valley, France - 23rd July, 6th August
  • Actief, England - 23rd July, 6th August
  • Scottish Highlander, Scotland 16th, 23rd July, 27th August, 24th September, 1st October, 15th October
  • Magna Carta, England 2nd, 9th, 16th July, 13th, 27th August
  • La Dolce Vita, Venice, Italy 16th July, 10th September

    20% discount on per person or charter price on the following barges and departures;
  • Savoir Faire, Chablis, France departing 2nd July
  • La Dolce Vita, Venice, Italy departing 16th July, 10th September & 8th October
FOR 2 PASSENGERS SHARING A CABIN

    20% discount on per person or charter price on the following barges and departures
  • Savoir Faire, Chablis, France departing 2nd July
  • La Dolce Vita, Venice, Italy departing 16th July, 10th September & 8th October
  • Impressionniste in Provence in Sth France 2nd July, 23rd July, 20th August, 27th August, 3rd September
  • La Belle Epoque, Burgundy, France - 30th July, 27th August
  • L'Art de Vivre, Burgundy, France - 2nd July, 6th August, 27th August
  • Scottish Highlander, Scotland 2nd July, 16th July, 27th August
Meanderer in the Upper Loire, France

US$5890/3774 per suite for 2 people Applies to departure date: 9th July (Usual price is $8660/5550 per suite for 2 people sharing)

Magna Carta, River Thames in England

$1000/500 discount per person. Discount is based on 2 people sharing a suite where one cabin remains unsold- departure dates on 9th July, 16th July

L'Impressionniste, Provence, France

$650/350 discount per person. Discount is based on 2 people sharing a suite where one cabin remains unsold- departure date 27th August 2006

FOR SINGLE PASSENGERS

No single Supplement on June, July & Aug cruises. Applies to a majority of vessels. Please ask for more information of specific departures and barges
  • The above offers are subject to availability at time of booking
  • Usual European Waterways Ltd Terms & Condition apply
  • Book 1 cabin and get a 2nd cabin half price does not apply to bookings with single occupancy and discount applies to lower priced cabin
  • One offer can not be used in conjunction with any other offers
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Swan Upping
onboard Actief and Magna Carta on the Upper Thames, England
Actief, cruising the Upper Thames, England

In around a month's time, 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.

The 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. The 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 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.

Swans 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!

Contact us today about Swan Upping on the Thames     back to top



May Competition winner

Win Scottish Heritage Food and CookingFor our May competition, we had 3 copies of Scottish Heritage Food and Cooking by Carol Wilson & Christopher Trotter to give away. Find the three lucky winners here
Scottish Heritage Food and Cooking Winners

June Competition

Our June competition features Impressioniste and Oysters (see below). The prize will be a 10% discount on the cruise price for two people travelling together to go on any of our entire fleet in 2006 or 2007 on any available date. The competitors who win must book direct with us here at Go Barging. Enter the competition
here.

Calling all oyster lovers!

If you want to indulge your passion for oysters in France, look no further than L'Impressionniste to transport you into realms of delight through the gastronomic cooking of our master chef. Couple this with a visit to the oyster festivals in Meze and Bouzigues (both on the route of L'Impressionniste) before or after the cruise and you'll be in 7th heaven!

Oyster festival - 1st Aug in Meze - oyster tasting and evening dance
Oyster festival - 2nd weekend in August in Bouzigues

The French are the biggest oyster eaters in the world with an average consumption of more than 2 kg per annum. Not only that but the industry employs more than 20,000 people.

We know that the ancient Greeks and Romans were fond of their oysters. No Roman banquet was complete without oysters. That's why they made sure they brought them with them to ancient Gaul. Sergius Orata (140-91BC) was the first to organise their cultivation. By the 17th century oysters were sign of a good menu on the tables of the nobles but their popularity was going to lead to their disappearance unless something drastic happened. None other than Napoleon 3rd gave the order for studies into fish stocks and it was during his time that oyster culture was organised with the creation of the first beds in 1866. Napoleon's government went further by encouraging the import of foreign oysters which included the Portuguese oyster and more recently another variety called the Japanese oyster was introduced.

The oyster is a hermaphrodite - it's a fickle creature, changing its sex each season, except for the first year, where they are all female. The oyster reproduces one or more times during the summer. It's during this time that the oyster is milky. Each laying season produces between 500,000 to 1,500,000 eggs (I wouldn't fancy being the midwife!). However, only one in 12 becomes a fertilized oyster. The miniscule larvae measure a tenth of a millimetre and float off in the current until they find a surface on which to attach themselves. The oyster's valves pump sea water through and food and oxygen are filtred out.

Oysters are classified in a similar way to wines, with "appellations" and "crus". The cooking of oysters is a very delicate affair - best to cook them in the water they came out of. Simmer them for just a short time - 10-20 seconds - then take them straight out of the water. They can be served raw, cold, hot and sometimes combined with other luxury products: poached in Champagne, with cream and caviar, with truffles, with smoked salmon, remoulade, oysters with finely grated cheese and mushrooms, oyster soup..

Oysters are a complete food - rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals and light - only 70 calories per 8 oysters! You heard it first here - the GOBARGING OYSTER DIET! They contain iron, magnesium, potassium, copper, manganese, calcium, phosphorous, sodium and fluorine.

A visit to the oyster beds in the Thau Basin is one of the highlights of a cruise on board
Impressionniste.

Oysters Gratinees a la Creme

Open the oysters, detach from the shell. Put a dessertspoon of cream in each, dust with parrnesan, sprinkle with melted butter, then grill under a hot grill for 3-4 minutes.

Oysters Gratinees

Cook a clove of garlic, crushed with salt, for a minute or two in butter. Add 4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs, salt and pepper, and brown slightly. Drain 12 oysters and put them in a shallow fireproof dish. Cover with the bread-crumbs. Cut 2 rashers of bacon in strips and lay on top. Put in a hot oven until bacon is crisp and brown. Serve very hot.

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News

A happy customer tell us...

Here's some great feedback we recently received. We are very happy that Lynda got on so well with the team;

I just wanted to tell you what a great experience I have had working with your staff. My husband and I have chartered the L'Art de Vivre to celebrate my 60th birthday next summer and the two people I have worked with on your staff have been superb. I would especially like to praise Amanda Green. She has been prompt, polite and fully informative regarding my inquiries. Yesterday I spoke with Honey. She was very helpful and took my booking information when the booking person was busy with another client. I believe the quality of the team is a reflection of the quality of the leader, so I commend you on your excellence!

Best regards, Lynda Mann

Praise for the Shannon Princess

Hi there, We have recently returned from our first barge holiday, on the river Shannon with Raurie and Olivia. We had a fantastic time, never so relaxed and cared for on any previous holiday. Never have we been so cosseted and well fed on a holiday.

The food was exquisite, the service unbelievable, and the comfort on board was great. Have been singing the praises of barging on the Shannon to all we meet. Thanks for your informative newsletter, we do plan to go barging again, just a matter of when.

Regards, Alva & Laurie Macey

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..!

Thats about it for this 36th 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 July 2006, so we'll see you then.

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