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


welcome to the March edition of the lock-keeper.

The season is almost upon us, and we are ready to go.

In this month's lock-keeper, we take you on a trip down the Shannon river aboard the Shannon Princess II. Discover the culinary delights and warm Irish welcome that awaits you. We also have a cruise competition this month to win a cruise for two on the Shannon Princess, so next time it could be your dream trip.

We cruise in Provence with Heather McGlone and family aboard L'Impressionniste. Read about their exploits and the marvellous places visited along the way.

We announce our February competition winner - a cruise for two on Anjodi, and we finish off with some news. Our Trans Europe 6 week cruise can now be booked in two and three week sections, so read on for more details of this wonderful opportunity to cruise across Europe.

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 and Barge skipper

in this issue:

Shannon cruise

L'Impressionniste in Provence

February cruise winner

Win a cruise


back issues:

july 04

august 04

september 04

october 04

november 04

december 04

january 05

february 05

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

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A cruise on the Shannon Princess in Ireland
Shannon Princess II cruising the river Shannon in Ireland
We gathered on deck for pre dinner cocktails in the warm evening sunshine. How we talked. Well! It had been quite a day, and all aboard the Shannon Princess had an adventure or story to contribute to our barging log. All old friends, we are a charter party of 10 - a mix of first timers and old hands. We are onboard the elegant Irish Hotel barge M.V. Shannon Princess II.

Each morning onboard our skipper greets us with the days itinerary and invites us to breakfast with slow food for the soul! Light and fresh or as indulgent & decadent as a guest may wish. Showcasing Irish Organic & Artisan foods all prepared & served by our chef Olivia on pretty local porcelain's and potteries.

Our typical midsummer breakfast consisted of bowls of fresh berries - Raspberries, loganberries, boysenberries, strawberries, blueberries and cherries all from the walled kitchen gardens of Portumna Castle. Platters of Farmhouse cheese - a softly oozing Carrigburn, a nutty Carrigaline or a salty Cashel Blue. Charchuteries of spiced local sausages and cured meats, bought in country markets. Smoked fishes from Lough Derg and the river Shannon, smoked eel, trout & salmon served with a rich tomato relish. Poached free range eggs or low fat organic yogurts and cottage cheeses were a success, as were poached Damsons, warm compots of gooseberries, rhubarb or maybe elderberries - lovely when sprinkled with muesli or even wholesome Irish porridge splashed with Bailey's Irish Cream. Fresh from our galley oven came sweet buttermilk scones, coconut & bran muffins & sinless honey & oat biscuits (made with real honeycomb) eaten hot with homemade jams and jellies or salty Irish Butter. A firm favourite was Lemon Curd and cheese baked in buttery flaky pastry, washed down with leaf or infusion teas or a frothy cappuccino. But wait! - Soon its morning coffee & strawberry shortcake.

After Morning coffee while cruising up river in a flotilla of pretty little heritage sailing dinghies, my gal pal Sally and I had treated ourselves to a cookery lesson. The others joined our Guide Paddy on deck for a mid morning talk on Irish Poets and their women! Back in the Galley we chatted and busied ourselves with ingredients as Olivia skilfully prepared lunch for us. We smoked Shannon Pike with Jasmine tea and herbs. Sally's husband Jack had caught the pike that very morning, or so Jack claims, we think the Gilly may have donated the Pike, to avoid Jack loosing face in front of us harsh critics!

We lunched on our smoked pike with rockets leaves and salsa verde, confit rabbit legs with bean and sour tomato cassoulet, mussel & artichoke risotto, tartlets of nanny goats cheese and honeyed onions, salads of pea and lettuce hearts, basil and aubergine, sweet chillies and roast peppers, followed by farmhouse cheeses, and summer pudding with clotted cream.

The men competed with the female crew as we entered Meelick Waters, busying themselves with ropes and warps to lock through the barge and tie up quayside.

Visit the Shannon Princess photo gallery
The Dillons, - Clinton and his pretty new wife Penny spent the afternoon horse riding and some how ended having afternoon tea with a retired Parish Priest and a Master of fox hounds and had arrived back to the Barge with Wild Orchids, Honey Comb.and a horse! Clinton had treated his new wife to an "Irish Draught" - not as it sounds, a pint of Irish Stout but a blood horse bred in Ireland and used around the world as a show horse. The Colt now renamed River Shannon was to be Air freighted to the US!

The Snyders, Art and Jeanie, a darling couple from Florida, had been to the Arts festival up in the village, and had spent the afternoon looking at various art installations and had fallen in love with a tiny Templers Chapel riverside. At a sand-sculpturing exhibition in the village the Snyders had met an Irish couple with a traditional "Guinness Canal Barge" berthed here in the marina. They'd visited with the couple and Art a keen Engine buff spent a couple of happy hours investigating the 1920's engine room with its original single cylinder Bollinger engine. Jeanie claims she saw the Couples resident Ships Ghost but Art put it down to too much Connemara Wine or "Moonshine" she had enjoyed while visiting!

Molly and Lee from Maryland had spent a few relaxed hours visiting the Shannon side Portumna Castle with its walled Organic Victorian Gardens with Lorna, one of Shannon Princess three Stewardess. At the Garden they had gathered bunches of fragrant Sweet Peas in pinks, whites. Ivory and purple, blood red heritage Roses and bunches of flowerings herbs, nasturtiums, tansy, sky-blue borage, verbenas and burnette. Velvet furred berries, courgettes and gourds. Molly had much enjoyed haggling at the farmers market. And while walking back to the barge had insisted on helping the bridge keeper collect his tolls! Cruisers and Yachts wait along the bank for the bridge to open and let them through. No sailor dared refuse Molly and a few impressed captains even tipped! Molly and Lee had seen some lovely old traditional barges, and while investigating met new friends and became honory members of a waterway cruising club. The club were on route to a rally near Banagher, where we cruise to tonight. We are all invited to celebrate the eve of Summer Solstice with fireworks and tradition music Riverside tonight.

Jill our Stewardess refreshes our drinks and passes around hot nibbles from the Galley. Our log is put aside till tomorrow as the Shannon Princess' engines start up. Slipping out from our mooring we wave and call farewell to our new friends and head up the lazy river for a sunset dinner cruise to a new village and more adventures.

But Wait! Where was my husband - had we left him behind, where & when had I seen him last? Was it really one hour ago in the old church craft shop talking to the potter. I jumped to my feet and scanned the Quayside. A toot toot from the Shannon Princess horn brought my attention to the wheelhouse - "Cheers" - the Skipper had a new mate! Husband found!

Enter our March competition and win a cruise on the Shannon Princess

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L'Impressionniste in Provence
excerpts from an article by Heather McGlone
L'Impressionniste cruising in Provence, France
Inspired by the statistics that say that one in 20 British holidays booked is now a cruise I was researching a TV series about different aspects of cruising when I personally chose to try barging through Europe on the canal waterways which criss cross the continent. Taking family and friends along for the ride we would have our own 128 foot, six-suite, refurbished barge,and glide along the picturesque waterways of southern France, our own crew of six catering for our every whim and fancy.

Having one's own crew is quite the most luxurious thing that has ever happened to me. We arrived at Nimes airport by Ryanair on 69.99 return flights from Stansted. We were transported by mini bus through the luminous evening of the Languedoc heading for the little fishing town of Agde where our boat, L'Impressionniste, was moored on the Canal du Midi, beneath the arching branches of two rows of sycamore trees.

We stood on the polished deck and sipped a welcoming glass of champagne and as the golden sun slowly sank out of a clear blue sky, the only sound should have come from the chatter of starlings circling the cathedral and the odd bark from a dog bounding along the tow path. Instead it came in whoops and cheers from the younger members of our party of twelve who were frantically bagging their cabins, noisily claiming Renoir and Monet, Sisley or Pissarro for their own while checking out the sauna, exercise bike and treadmill below deck, the jacuzzi built into the prow, and the mountain bikes neatly lined up between row upon row of geranium filled window boxes along the deck rails.

First impressions are all-important - especially when you arrive at your destination filled with anticipation. Disappointment before the cases are hardly unpacked casts a dampener over the whole of the holiday. But there was only one word for our first impression of L'Impressionniste and that was sensationelle!
It was hard to believe that L'Impressionniste began life as a humble cargo boat in Holland. Now it has been transformed into a powerful cruiser, its very comfortable, spacious air conditioned suites, all named after famous French impressionist painters. Some have port holes, some picture windows, but all have en suite marble bathrooms and are decorated with prints from the Impressionniste era at the turn of the last century. At 128ft long, L'Impressionniste has a huge saloon area, with a table for all of us to sit and eat comfortably, a long, fully-stocked bar, (all meals and drink are inclusive in the charter price) and two sundecks, one shaded, one to bask on, while we cruised along the fabled canals from Languedoc through the Camargue, with its famous white horses and black bulls, to Provence.

From the moment you step onto the boat there is something very different about this sort of holiday and even this sort of cruise. Was my quick adjustment to do with the womb like feeling of safety that the boat brought with it, particularly when we were moored and the saloon doors carefully locked for the night? Or the contentment, being lulled into a trance of relaxation as we progressed, often at walking pace, along the different canals, watching as the scenery changed from half-timbered storybook village to the great expanse of the L'Etang de Thau, the salt water lake separated by the thinnest strip of land from the Med?

Perhaps it was more to do with having our very own chef who managed to produce such divine concoctions at lunch and dinner that my mouth still waters at the memory of it all. The sight of John in his chef's whites arriving shortly after noon brandishing deep bowls filled with the most extraordinary salads all drizzled in totally different dressings, with platters of prawns and slabs of pates is one that shall remain forever. The sight of the Grenache rose gathered by Captain Jules on his forays to nearby vineyards in his quest to see which might make the best outing for the next day's little tasting tour is almost as indelible.

The story continues after the Photo Gallery....

L'Impressionniste Photo Gallery
L'Impressionniste cruising in Provence, France
L'Impressionniste's spacious sunlit saloon L'Impressionniste's warm & comfortable cabins Le Pont d'Avignon on the mighty Rhone river
L'Impressionniste's Mountain bikes, ready for use L'Etang de Thau The impressive Palais des Papes at Avignon
Flamingos on the Camargue The Roman amphitheatre
 at Arles Haute cuisine aboard L'Impressionniste
The waterfront at Marseillan The Camargue The port of Agde

L'Impressionniste in Provence - continued
L'Impressionniste cruising in Provence, France
That first night we dined on sole, steak and local cheeses, followed by a waistline-challenging gateau. It was a very satisfying start to our voyage. But we weren't just going to eat our way through the South of France. There would be many excursions planned by our crew which consisted along with Brits John and Julian, of Dean, the pilot who steered the boat effortlessly (actually extremely effortlessly as we discovered when were allowed a go across the vast salt water lake, and experienced at first hand just how hard it is to steer a flat-bottomed 128 footer), Xav the crazy french man who had a passion for reggae artist Eek-a-mouse and danced the way only a Frenchman can, and Aussie hostesses Lauren and Almira who served drinks and dinner and acted as on board housekeepers.

You can join a barging cruise like ours as a couple meeting up with others on board, in much the way as you join a ski chalet. You don't know who you are going to meet and you often make great friends. However the joy of taking over your own boat with friends with children of similar ages, or to celebrate a special anniversary is obvious. From the start you can set the tone of the way you want the cruise to progress, decide the meal times, the level of formality, divide up the excursions, and not feel too guilty if you prefer to stay on board.

On our first morning we sail for Marseillan, a little town on the huge saltwater lake. As we passed along the Canal du Midi, going through a tiny lock, passengers on boats going the other way shouted admiringly at the size of out barge. When we docked, the adults in our party were driven between fields that rioted in sunflowers to an old Roman villa, where the owner, who had clearly been lying for far too long underneath one of the vast vats with the tap on, allowed us to taste his finest wines, and Jules did his best to translate. The children crowded into the mini bus and went off instead with Xav to the nearby Aqua Park.

From Marseillan we crossed the L'Etang, much like being at open sea, towards the little hamlet of Maguelonne, at Frontignan, gliding smoothly across the oyster beds of the inland lagoon and watching clouds of pink flamingos picking their way through the water, the odd one actually wheeling up across the sky.

Lunching on board - cuttlefish stuffed with shrimp - with a spectacular view of the water, it was clear that not for nothing is area this known as the Venice of the Languedoc. That evening we took a dip in the sea just a few yards across the marshlands from where L'Impressionniste had moored for the night. By now, fully in holiday mode, having ducked our shoulders in the Med and learned how you can tell the alcoholic content of a local wine by the size of its surface 'disc' in the glass, we were sniffing and tasting reds and whites like old masters. Lauren explained that one of the local cheeses had confused her at the local market because every time the women went to examine it they poked it then touched their eye. To be utterly ripe the cheese had to be of the exact same firmness to the touch as the eyelid, she explained.
And so the days went on, the children cycling along the towpath as we cruised along beside the fishermen's cottages at the Canal du Rhone a Sete where we could quite easily have been in the American deep south with the abundance of fishing rods, porches and swing seats. We might have been cruising Old Man River. In fact the canal system in France is far vaster and more intricate than our British one and they are worked far more densely. Nor are the English narrowboats anything like as majestic as L'Impressionniste.

As half of us set off to gallop the famous white horses of the Camargue, descended from arab steeds believed to have been brought over at the time of Mary Magdelene, the rest curled up on one of the deck's striped sunloungers and swatted up on the medieval town of Aigues Mortes where we would moor for the night beneath the Tour de Constance, built in 1248 as a lighthouse for the returning 13th century Crusaders. Mary Magdalene is said to have lived here for a time, and from its ramparts you can see three different canals stretching into the distance. Here Julian took us on shore for dinner to an excellent restaurant along the shiny worn cobbled streets.

Because the scenery is constantly changing as you cruise along, and you spend so much time in the open air you feel healthy and invigorated, as if you have been exercising like crazy. In reality, the first day's anxiety about being able to manage another major meal in the evening after one of John's lunches, vanishes as the bewitching cocktail hour approaches. Amazingly we were all there in the saloon, out of swimsuits, booted and suited and ravenously looking forward to dinner.

Jules has warned us that as we swung into the rivers, those in the slightly lower level should make sure their portholes were fastened shut and it was easy to see why as the canals gave way to the deep blue waters of the Petit Rhone, and then the mighty Rhone itself. Arles, the old capital of the Camargue, was home to Vincent Van Gogh, so the History of Art students on board were out in force here, searching for his Maison Jaune, pointing out famous scenes from his paintings. The rest bought up yards of the yellow and blue Provencal fabrics, sat in the little mini Coliseum, and clicked forever on the memory of sunlight flooding the aisle of St Trophim's Basilica.

On our last day, even as we cruised between two majestic chateaux and caught sight of the sun picking out the huge gold bauble on top of the Papal palace at Avignon we couldn't believe how quickly the time had gone by. As we passed le pont d'Avignon, a gaggle of teenage girls waving to the tourists from the hot tub, the week had worked wonders. We were as chilled as Jules' latest discovery awaiting us in the wine bucket. Some went to dance on the bridge at Avignon just to fulfil the words of the song, others - hysterically - learned to bop with Xavier as only the French can. When I got back to England I found my TV idea already taken. Later this year a famous chef has a TV series barging through the culinary and scenic delights of rural France. I cannot wait to watch it.

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Anjodi cruising in Provence, France
the trip of a life time
We are now offering our Trans Europe cruise in 2 and 3 week sections.

You can choose to join us for the first, middle and last 2 week sections of the full 6 week cruise, or for the first and second 3 week sections as detailed below.

Places are limited, so contact us soon to book your place on this memorable adventure across Europe.

The Trans Europe two week cruise is available from:

Sunday 13th November to Saturday 26th November, 2005 - Avignon to Northern Burgundy, or
Saturday 26th November to Friday 9th December, 2005 - Burgundy and Champagne, or
Saturday 10th December to Friday 23rd December, 2005 - Champagne Region to Amsterdam

Trans Europe 2 Week Cruise Rates
Per person$7350 (based on 2 people sharing a cabin)
Single Supplement$3,150

The Trans Europe 3 Week Cruise is available from:

Sunday 13th November to Saturday 2nd December, 2005 - Avignon to Paris, or
Saturday 2nd December to Friday 23rd December, 2005 - Paris TO Amsterdam

Trans Europe 3 Week Cruise Rates
12 passenger charter$150,000
11 passenger charter$144,000
10 passenger charter$138,000
Per person$12,600 (based on 2 people sharing a cabin)
Single Supplement$5,400

Contact us with your Trans Europe cruise enquiry

Anjodi Wine cruise: We are pleased to announce that we have opened up departure date 9th October 2005 cruising between Carcassonne and Beziers. 2 Stateroom are already booked by 2 couples, which means there are 2 staterooms still available for this departure.

Emphasis for the whole week will be on local vineyards, wines and wine tastings. Contact us and we'll send you a Wine cruise itinerary

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 twenty first 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 April, 2005, so we'll see you then.

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