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


Hello,

welcome to the March edition of the lock-keeper.

Well, the winter is (almost) finally over here in the UK, and summer time officially begins this coming Sunday, 26th March.

The spring flowers are coming out, the birds are busy building nests and the air of anticipation for the new season is also building here at European Waterways headquarters on the Thames.

We are busy organising crews and making sure the barge fleet is ready to go in early April. It's a hectic period but everyone is raring to go.

In this month's lockkeeper we feature our Marketing and Press relations contact - Bobbie Latter, we explore the Canal du Midi with Richard Hill and announce three lucky winners of our February Dutch Cheese competition.

We have a great new competition for March, where you can win a cruise for two on L'Impressionniste in Provence in August, there's a feature on the Wine Adventure Magazine who kindly allowed us to re-print their Belle Epoque article in last month's Lockkeeper, and we tell you about Blue Flagging in our Hands-on Barging feature.

We finish up with an Irish recipe to mark St Patrick's Day, and we have several cruise offers in our Cruise News section.

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 Bobbie

Lost in France

February Competition winner

March competition

Wine Adventure magazine

Blue Flagging

St Patrick's Day

Cruise News

back issues:

july 05

august 05

september 05

october 05

november 05

december 05

january 06

february 06

visit our website
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barge cruise at
www.gobarging.com



GOBARGING CENTRAL

  Bobbie Latter, Marketing manager For the new year, we thought it might be fun to introduce a new feature on the jolly team of people who look after the administration side of the GoBarging operation. We'll continue the series with Bobbie Latter, our Marketing Manager.

How long have you worked for Go Barging?

I'm fairly new to the fold, clocking up 1 ½ years here at the end of March.

What did you do before coming to Go Barging?

My career has always been in tourism. I started learning French from the age of 5, continued with German and Spanish in my teens and things sort of developed in that vein. After taking a business diploma at the French Institute in London, I got the travelling bug and was fortunate to be trained by a coach tour operator as a tour guide/manager. I spent the next 15 joyful years travelling around Western Europe with British and American tourists, becoming a student of European history and culture, brushing up on my languages and learning another two along the way - Italian and Dutch. This bohemian life-style finally came to an end when I got married and took my English Tourist Board Blue Badge qualification, enabling me to guide in southern England, which I still do. When an invitation was offered to write a book about Windsor, I became a published author in November 2004 - "Windsor, A History And Celebration" .

What would a typical day for you entail?

My main focus is marketing and PR for the company - getting exposure of our barges in the media, internet magazines, travel agencies' websites and creating marketing and advertising material. It involves fair amount of correspondence and creative writing - press releases, flyers, adverts and advertorials. Together with Mike Flanagan, I work on promotions through tourist offices and wider channels. When I'm not doing this, I'm creating a press clippings library, checking the accuracy of our barge fact sheets and itineraries, packing up brochures and passengers' final documents packs and franking the mail - it's a varied job but we're all very versatile!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

The compilation of "The Lock-keeper" is an enjoyable part of my job. It's fun to research and write and the opportunity to be creative in a more frivolous way is refreshing.

What is your favourite European Waterways destination?

Although the British Isles are my home, Holland is my favourite holiday destination from our Go Barging repertoire - it's one of those countries which sometimes tends to get overlooked in favour of the warmer, more romantic palm tree and vineyard-clad destinations, but it has such an fascinating history and culture, such fabulous architecture, man-made wonders and surprises that you wish you'd known about Holland years ago - plus we've got the same sense of humour and I love the language!

What was your most funny moment with European Waterways?

We're always having funny moments here - I can't pick one specific moment out, as they all roll into each other! The banter from the captains as they phone in, combined with the merry disposition of we three "girls" keeps the atmosphere buoyant - which is just as well for a barge company! But one of these days I will carry out my threat to turn up to work dressed in my pantomime horse costume.   
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Lost in France
by Richard Hill

Luxury Barge Anjodi, cruising the Canal Du Midi, France
"Of all the methods of travelling I have ever tried, this is the pleasantest"
Thomas Jefferson, Canal du Midi - 1787

Six days aboard a luxury hotel barge on the Canal du Midi is unquestionably expensive. But it's a unique holiday, especially for that exceptional occasion in life. It is the finest way to luxuriate in and cherish the culture, cuisine and customs of France along one of the worlds most fascinating and extraordinary inland waterways.

This celebration commemorates twenty five years since the waterways writer LTC Rolt wrote From Sea to Sea, an account of the history and architecture of die Canal du Midi. From the port of Sete to the city of Toulouse, the Canal du Midi is 240km in length containing 65 locks. Construction began in 1667. In his book, Rolt quotes the Royal decree signed by Louis XIV in October 1666 ordering that: "the construction proceed without delay of a canal for navigation and communication between the two seas, ocean and Mediterranean ".

The canal was designed by, and built under the supervision of Pierre-Paul Riquet. Born in 1604, Riquet was over 60 years old when construction began, and died shortly before completion. Constructing the canal was an immense scheme involving over 12,000 workers. It contains some of the most splendid canal structures in the world. The canal was officially opened on 15th May 1681.

Today, one of the hotel boats cruising the Canal du Midi is the
Anjodi. She is a 98-foot long converted Dutch barge that spent much of her early existence transporting merchandise along Holland's trading canals. In 1997 the vessel was thoroughly renovated and fully air-conditioned. Anjodi carries eight guests and four crew. Routes may vary according to conditions and guests requests.

The canal between Agde and Carcassone embraces most of the remarkable engineering architecture of the entire canal. On this cruise our journey begins at Agde, a port on the estuary of the Herault on the Mediterranean. Agde is a city abundant in antiquity and culture. The Greeks founded it 25 centuries ago, at the foot of an old volcano. Several of its historic monuments are built out of black volcanic rock. The most striking of these is perhaps the riverside church. This and many other black buildings gave rise to Agde becoming known as the 'Black pearl of the Mediterranean'.

At Agde is the extraordinary Écluse ronde d'Agde, a three entranced round lock. The lock separates the canal from the two levels (above and below a weir) of the river Herault. For vessels travelling straight through the lock, the water level has to be raised or lowered depending on the height of the Herault. For this reason, one entrance to the lock has two sets of gates, mitred and opening in opposite directions. Boats travelling toward or from Agde must swing through 90 degrees to align with the canal. Portions of arc of the lock have been extended, so that it is no longer a proper circle. Nevertheless, it remains, as Rolt described it in 1973; "an outstanding example of the boundless ingenuity of Piquet and his engineers."

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Lost in France - continued
Beziers

"For the westbound traveller," wrote Rolt, "it is at Béziers that the Canal du Midi becomes exciting, both visually and from an engineering point of view." This remains true today. At Béziers, the canal crosses the River Orb. Riquet's original canal crossed by entering the river. By an assortment of weirs and sluices, the height of the river was sustained. During times of flood, the sluices were opened and the river became un-navigable. According to Rolt: "In 1779, for example, owing to an exceptional flood, boats waited to cross for 17 days on end." Such floods also caused considerable silting of the river, and it was for these reasons that in 1854 an aqueduct was built across the river.

Nowadays, the locks at Béziers elevate the canal to the level of the Orb aqueduct. The original course of Riquet's canal bends toward the river at the approach to the first set of locks, the Écluses de Béziers. These locks are automatically and remotely controlled by the lock keeper at the Écluses de l'Orb at the top end of the harbour, Port Neuf. The lock keeper monitors the lower locks by means of closed circuit cameras.

The harbour here is home to Anjodi, and will be either departure or arrival point for many of her cruises.

Béziers is also the birthplace of Pierre-Paul Riquet on 29th June 1604. He was educated at the Jesuit College here and is now honoured around the city in many ways. The 'high-street' of Beziers is Avenue Paul Riquet, a tree-lined, pedestrianised avenue with a statue of Riquet at its centre. The avenue is full of restaurants and cafe's and is deserving of an extensive visit.

Fonserrannes locks at BeziersBack in the harbour to continue the journey westward, going by many moored boats including an intriguing floating cat museum. After ascending the Écluses de l'Orb, the canal sweeps around and over the seven-span Orb aqueduct, built in 1854 to replace the river crossing described earlier.

What comes next is truly phenomenal. The lock staircase of Fomerannes. On the approach to the flight is a water slope, built in 1984 to bypass the lock staircase. It is a magnificent monument to modern canal engineering, but unused. It endured a succession of serious faults. Subsequent commercial trends made the project impossible to rectify and maintain.

The lock flight is entered at right angles into the second chamber, the first having become superfluous after the completion of the Orb aqueduct at a higher level. The journey time through the staircase is quite quick and during the ascent the panorama looking back towards Béziers grows more magnificent with every lock ascended.

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Lost in France - continued
The Medieval walled city of Carcassonne,  Canal Du Midi, France

It is true that all this could similarly be experienced aboard any of the many self-hire craft accessible on the Canal du Midi. What makes rime aboard a craft like the Anjodi distinctly different is something only a hosted holiday can offer. The captain and crew make sure that their guests experience the finest of not just the countryside, but also the culture and cuisine of each district. Every meal is representative of the region and every course is accompanied by an explanation of the produce, preparation and cooking process used.

Guests will become appreciative of the source of every delicate taste and bouquet unique to each dish or wine. A certain goat's cheese for example may have a characteristic quality because of the earth in which the grass fodder is grown and perhaps a distinctive maturation process. The captain will select each wine with care and clarify the contributing factors in taste and aroma; the climate, cultivation, constituents and casks used for ageing for example.

The result for guests is a discriminating palate and awareness of some of France's finest cuisine. Regional dishes served include; Noisette d'agneau en croute de sel avec sauce romarin, Ragout de Calamars "Provencale" Troncons de Sole au Yin Rouge poireaux et goujonnettes. Regional wines: Minervois - Domaine de Guery, Corbieres - Chateau de Nouvelles, Roussillion - Chateau la Condamine Bertrand. Cheeses: Le Saint-Remois, Fromage de Chevre au Poivre et au Thyme, Tomme de Yaldeblore.

Though we have cruised less than one eighth of the 240km Canal du Midi, we have passed some of the most important canal architecture in the world. Rolt made the entire journey from Sete to Toulouse. On this voyage, Anjodi continued to the remarkable citadel of Carcassonne, and so should any traveller.

On the final evening, following Captains dinner, the journey concludes with a floodlit cruise under the canopy of plane trees towards Carcassone. The experience is almost spiritual and in contemplating the experience of the last six days we turn, for the final time, to Rolt:

"Thanks to the unique privileges granted by Louis XIV to Riquet and his heirs, the canal was to be the Riquet estate and he lost no opportunity to beautify it. Consequently no financial stringency, no engineering problem however intractable it might appear, was permitted to override aesthetic judgement on matters of landscaping or architecture. Hence Riquet's great canal has become an eloquent memorial of an age when the marriage of the arts and sciences, of beauty with utility, was taken for granted and their divorce inconceivable. "
Contact us for more information on Anjodi.

Find our who's won our fine Dutch Gouda cheese in the February competition

Dutch Cheese competition

Our February competition offered our Lockkeeper readers the chance to win some fine Dutch Cheese. The
Dutch Cheese competition winners are announced here.

March Competition

Impressionniste cruising the magnificent river Rhone at Avignon

Here's a great new competition to celebrate the start of Summer time..you can win a cruise for two on L'Impressionniste in Provence in August. All you have to do is read and answer the fun questions - all mutliple choice, and enter before the closing date on 20th April.
Impressionniste cruise competition

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Wine Adventure Magazine www.wamagazine.com

  wine adventure magazineIn last month's Lock-keeper we were delighted to feature an article written by Irvina Lew all about her barge holiday in Burgundy, which appeared in a recent edition of
Wine Adventure Magazine. Wine Adventure Magazine is a bimonthly wine magazine for women - a sort of cross between Wine Spectator, Condé Nast Traveler, Gourmet and Oprah, offering a lively mix of features merging food, travel and culture through the universal connection of wine. We were delighted to see a story about La Belle Epoque in this magazine.

womens wine adventure magazineThe nice thing about Wine Adventure Magazine is that it's a good read for everyone - not just the connoisseurs. It's also a good source of ideas to introduce into your own kitchen and its pages give you all sorts of tips and hints on everything from wine storage to parties to picnics.

This delightful list of ingredients is complemented with personality profiles, features on culinary schools, new books, wine-related gadgets and a few glasses of good old-fashioned humour. Just the sort of things we barge enthusiasts love!

Hands On Barging - Blue Flagging
by Derek Banks

In traditional international navigation, both on the high seas and inland waterways, it has, since bygone days, always been tradition and in more recent times, law, for powered vessels that pass each other to navigate "port to port". That is to say, port side to port side.

That way, whenever an approaching vessel comes up over the horizon or around the corner, we all know what to do......... That is, until the skippers that deliver cargo all over the European waterways started to use the river's current to its best advantage to increase speed...(!) and basically navigate whichever side of the river they thought the most efficient for the upstream or downstream passage of their cargo vessel.

My first encounter with a Blue Flag was back in the 80's on the River Rhine in Germany when I had just bought
Anjodi in Amsterdam. Gently plodding up river near Cologne against about a 4 knot current, I was suddenly confronted with 10,000 tons of coal piled high on 4 laden barges with a German pusher barge bearing downriver on comparatively little Anjodi's 200 tons at about 15 knots on "my" side of the river!

There was neither time nor option to argue! I just got out of his way and gained a few grey hairs! He was of course completely in the right and being a German bargee didn't even bat an eyelid at my erratic course change. When the German Pilot who was with me reappeared with his hot cup of tea, he quickly explained what Blue Flagging was all about.

In order to maximise speed, a knowledgable bargee stays with the current whilst navigating downstream and out of the current whilst navigating upstream. During a day's navigation this can save fuel, time and general wear and tear and, most importantly, get the cargo delivered quicker. All that good practise and legislation requires is that the "blue flag" be put out to indicate a "changing of sides of the river".

The flag is often represented by a blue metal square panel attached to the captain's wheelhouse, which he can tilt up and down on a little pulley. At night, when cargo ships sometimes navigate, the blue flag is substituted with a white quick flashing light.

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ST PATRICK'S DAY AND THE GLORIES OF IRISH FOOD
by Bobbie Latter

Shannon Princess cruising the river Shannon in Ireland

Last Friday I was woken up by the bell-like tones of Petula Clark accompanied by Fred Astaire singing (in a rather bad Irish accent) "look to the rainbow" from the film Finnian's Rainbow and realised it was St Patrick's Day. Popping into town for the groceries, I spied people dressed in green tee shirts with Guinness printed on the front or shamrocks emblazoned on them. A group of young folk wearing great floppy green hats went by laughing and joking and a cold Friday in March seemed a lot brighter.

Saints days are a great excuse for getting together with your friends for a good meal. As Saint Patrick chased all the snakes out of Ireland the nearest you're going to get to seeing a snake is when you have "snake and Guinness pie" (recipe below).

STEAK & GUINNESS PIE

Ingredients
  • 12 inch Pie pastry
  • 1 tablespoon of Flour
  • 1 tablespoon of Brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Raisins
  • 5 medium size onions
  • 1 bottle of Guinness stout (not the 'draught' variety)
  • 8 slices of bacon
  • 3 tablespoon of shortening/butter
  • Some chopped parsley
Method

1. Dice the steak, cover with flour and brown, with the bacon, on a medium heat using the butter.
2. Peel and chop the onions and brown over a good heat. Add to the meat in a casserole dish. Add raisins, brown sugar and Guinness.
3. Cover the dish, simmer and cook over a lowish heat for 2.5 hours. Add water if the gravy mixture starts to thicken excessively.
4. Coat a pie dish with half of the pastry and bake. Add the meat and gravy mix when cooked and place the remaining pastry on top and bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with potatoes and vegetables.

The Galway International Oyster FestivalTalking of Irish food and drink, Guinness also sponsors Galway's internationally famous Oyster Festival. Ireland is renowned for its high quality oysters. This year's festival will be the 52nd and starts immediately after the Ryder Cup is over, on 28th September. If you love oysters and Ireland, then Galway International Oyster Festival must be the place for you! Galway is but hop, skip and a jump from the delightful
Shannon Princess II so why not combine your visit to the oyster festival with a cruise on Shannon Princess II!

Here's the story of how the oyster festival came about. In September 1953 the manager of the Great Southern Hotel was worried about his visitor numbers. After talking to his head chef, they decided that as the oyster season had just started, they should celebrate it with a festival. The following year, with help from local businesses and Guinness, the oyster festival started with a banquet for 34 guests. It has been running now for 51 years and thousands of visitors from all over the world converge on Galway to participate in the fun and frolics which include good food, music, the selection of the Galway Pearl (festival queen) and oyster opening championships.

If you want to relax aboard the Shannon Princess after the Oyster Festival is over and enjoy top notch Irish fare prepared by her skilled chef, we still have 4 cabins available on 1st October. Contact us today to book your cruise   back to top



News
Impressionniste, Aix en Provence

PAUL CEZANNE EXHIBITION - AIX-EN-PROVENCE - 9/6/06 TO 17/9/06

For art enthusiasts and fans of the south of France, here's an interesting piece of news: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the death of Paul Cezanne, the great French Impressionist painter. To commemorate this event, the Granet Museum in Aix-en-Provence will be holding an exhibition of over 100 of his paintings between June and September this year.

Cezanne's prolific representation of his homeland turned out to be responsible to a large degree for the transformation of the image of Provence in the eyes of the world and exemplified his love-affair with this beautiful part of the country.

If you are aiming to take a trip down to Provence to enjoy the exhibition, how about coupling it up with a cruise on board
Impressionniste, sailing between Avignon and Agde. She's a picture of good health and happy times and still has a few cabins available between the dates of the Paul Cezanne exhibition!

Contact us here for more information.

Cruise special offers

Magna Carta

Go Barging is pleased to offer guests booking a cruise commencing on the following dates a reduction of £550 ($1,000) per passenger. Passengers booking a cabin for single occupancy will be pleased to know that for these cruise dates, the single supplement is being waived.

The weeks currently involved are as follow:

April 16th 2006 - was: £2,100 / $3,590 - now: £1,550 / $2,590
April 23rd 2006 - was: £2,100 / $3,590 - now: £1,550 / $2,590
June 25th 2006 - was: £2,300 / $3,890 - now: £1,750 / $2,890
July 9th 2006 - was: £2,300 / $3,890 - now: £1,750 / $2,890
August 6th 2006 - was: £2,100 / $3,590 - now: £1,550 / $2,590

Contact us about our Magna Carta cruise offers here

Savoir Faire

Go Barging is pleased to offer guests booking a cruise commencing on the following dates a discount of 20%

The weeks currently involved are as follow:

April 2 - Tulip Cruise - was: £2,175 / $3,045 - now £1,740 / $2,436
April 9 - Tulip Cruise - was: £2,675 / $3,745 - now £2,140 / $2,996
April 23 * - Tulip Cruise - was: £2,675 / $3,745 - now £2,140 / $2,996
May 28 - Chablis Cruise - was: £2,675 / $3,745 - now £2,140 / $2,996
June 11 - Chablis Cruise - was: £2,675 / $3,745 - now £2,140 / $2,996
July 2 - 8 - Chablis Cruise - was: £2,675 / $3,745 - now £2,140 / $2,996

* April 23 - 29 is regarded by the Dutch as being the BEST week to visit Keukenhof Gardens for the tulips. The blooms are at their most splendid this week.

Contact us about our Savoir Faire cruise offers here

HOT NEWS!

There is one suite remaining on the Magna Carta Chelsea Flower Show gardens cruise departing 21st May.

There are two staterooms remaining on the La Dolce Vita Fiorita cruise departing on 10th September.
Please contact us at Cruise offers for more details or ring (+44) 1784 482439 (or toll free from the USA 1 800 394 8630 or Canada 1 888 342 1917)


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 33rd 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 2006, so we'll see you then.

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