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


Hello,

welcome to the May 2007 edition of the Lock-keeper.

This edition of the lock-keeper, marks 30 years of Luxury Hotel Barging, when on Friday 13th of May 1977 to be exact, I started this Barging in France at the tender age of 24. Well, there’s a lot of water gone under the bridge since then and much has changed of course, but the deeply relaxing feeling which barging bestows on you, really hasn’t altered at all?

Barging is a bit like walking across a grass lawn in bare feet, you just know it feels good! This month’s Lock-keeper is a bit of self indulgence, I thought it would be fun to answer a question often asked. How did I start? and also to reflect on our barging world as a whole.

We reveal various articles on Anjodi; our opening comentary from a cruise competition winner and a publication recently featured in the Daily Mail by Lisa Sewards who "Takes a route less travelled" on barge trip through the Canal du Midi.

Our featured itinerary for this month is the Dolce Vita 2008 Venetian lagoon cruise. Which is linked to this months competition to win a hard-backed book on Venice. We announce the Fromages.com winners and conclude with some Cruise News, including the latest Summer Offers, a must see Venice exhibition and new EU cash rule changes..

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:

Anjodi Winner

La Dolce Vita 2008

30 years of Luxury Hotel Barging

It floats my boat

Cheese competition winners

Venice Book Competiton

Cruise News


back issues:

Archive

January 07

Februaury 07

March 07

April 07

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Anjodi Cruise Winner - Susie Main
Anjodi luxury barge cruises on the Canal du Midi, Provence, France

My husband George and I have just returned from the Anjodi cruise which I won last September.

To say that we enjoyed ourselves immensely would be like saying that Bill Gates is comfortably off. We are both agreed that while there may be many holidays worldwide which equal our cruise on the Anjodi, there can be NONE which surpass it in excellence.

Susie and Husband George on their 2nd HoneymoonThe crew were a super team - they seemed to interact almost like a family and their enjoyment of each other's company was a delight to see in action.

Nothing was too much trouble for them; for example, on our second day aboard, Julian and Peter arranged for us to go horse riding whilst our fellow passengers went off on a wine tasting excursion. We had a terrific time ... up hill, down hill, over tiny wooden bridges that would have had our own horses fainting in horror, along the canal banks and through a river .. it was fabulous!

We sampled the on-deck jacuzzi on two afternoons ... what fun to see France from "a bath".

Susie & Goerge relaxing in the on-deck jacuzziThe Anjodi's accomodation is delightful. We felt very at home and comfortable in our cabin and were pleasantly surprised at the power of the shower and the seemingly limitless supply of hot water. Mel's little touches with flowers and potpourri were invisible in action but extremely effective after each of her housekeeping visits, and we loved the little sweets she chose for the pillows.

The saloon is very comfortable, and Mel's flower arrangements and table decorations are works of art..as for Colin's cooking, words fail me!! He is so young, yet all 8 passengers on our cruise were unanimous in believing he could get a job in any of the best hotels anywhere in the world. The man is a culinary genius.

Susie on Ansac morning picking flowersPeter is a very knowledgable and entertaining tour guide - and his and Julian's jokes had all the passengers in stitches from start to finish. (Occasionally because they were sooooo bad, but let's gloss over that!)

Add the superb wines and wonderful excursions, and frankly, I don't believe anyone in their right mind could find cause for a single complaint ... not even under their breath.

Thank you so much for giving us this fantastic holiday - we counted it as the honeymoon we were unable to take time off for when we married - which gave us many truly wonderful memories which we will always treasure.

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La Dolce Vita 2008 Itinerary
La Dolce Vita, Venice, Italy

Venice, the Islands of the Lagoon, the Brenta River, Padua

Our cruise around the Venetian lagoon and along Brenta river is as unique as Venice herself. Our itinerary combines 5 very different landscapes: from that of the picturesque islands of the northern lagoon to the charm of romantic Venice, from the beaches of Lido to the splendid architectures of the countryside villas along the Brenta and those of Padua. This mixture of culture, art and nature is unparalleled in hotel barge cruising terms.

explore the history and Venetian Lengends with a cruise aboard La Dolce VitaThe Venetians have a very special way of life, transporting everything and everybody everywhere by water. To fully appreciate this aspect, our barge cruise includes exclusively transportation on boats, it is also possible to ride bicycles.

This fairytale adventure allows time to explore the history and legend of the baroque, the renaissance, the middle ages and before. The islands of the northern Venetian lagoon, Murano, Burano and Torcello, exude a charm and intrigue of their own, surpassed only by the Old Lady of the Lagoon, who in her prime ruled much of the Mediterranean.

Delicious seafood, local culinary specialties, fine wines and attentive service complete the picture. La Dolce Vita is the only hotel barge cruising this exceptional region. The following is our standard itinerary. It is subject to changes due to weather conditions, navigation regulations, etc. On alternate weeks, cruise will be in reverse.

Venice - Padua

Sunday: Lido – Forte di Sant’Andrea
Guests are met at 5 PM at Hotel Villa Mabapa on Lido island, just in front of Venice. After a welcome drink of Prosecco, La Dolce Vita cruises to the Fort of Sant’Andrea, the ancient Venetian artillery defence base, where we moor for a superb fish dinner and for the night.

Monday: Torcello – Burano
In the morning La Dolce Vita hugs the coast of Sant’Erasmo, Venice orchard and vegetable garden and arrives in 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 while cruising on Siloncello canal and in the afternoon we visit Burano, a picturesque fishermen’s island in the northern lagoon. We walk through the colourful streets of Burano and visit the Lace Museum. We stay on the calm waters of Burano for dinner and for the night.

Tuesday: Burano – San Francesco – San Lazzaro – Murano
We start our cruise passing by San Francesco del Deserto island, where we can moor and visit the monastery. We then proceed to San Lazzaro degli Armeni where we visit one of the most interesting libraries of Venice with 150,000 volumes and more than 4,000 Armenian manuscripts, some nearly 1,300 years old. The monks of the San Lazzaro monastery have welcomed visitors for more than two centuries. In 1816, Lord Byron visited the island twice a week for six months, studying Armenian and envying the monks' comfortable academic lifestyle. A plaque quotes Byron as saying, "The visitor will be convinced that there are other and better things even in this life.” We end the day with a short cruise around Venice to reach Murano and moor on the Grand Canal of the island of glass, where we have dinner on board and spend the night.

Wednesday: Murano – Venice - San Giorgio
We visit a glass-blowing workshop in Murano. Then we move on for a tour of the Grand Canal in Venice aboard a water taxi and reach San Giorgio island for our lunch facing Saint Mark. In the afternoon we take you on a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark in Venice. Later you have some free time to visit Venice. We moor for dinner on San Giorgio island.

Thursday: San Giorgio - Brenta River to Dolo
This morning we cruise up river Brenta to Mira, passing by Villa Foscari in Malcontenta, a masterpiece of the Renaissance architect Palladio. We visit Villa Widmann, a typical Venetian luxurious villa with wonderful frescos. In the afternoon we move on for 2 more hours to Dolo, where we moor for the night. For those who like cycling, it is possible to follow the barge on a bicycle. Before dinner we take you for a glass of wine at the old water mill of Dolo.

Friday: Dolo - Stra - Padova
Further ascent of river Brenta to Stra, where we visit Villa Pisani, an 18th century masterpiece of Venetian architecture with frescos from Tiepolo. It is possible to follow the barge by bicycle along the river. The afternoon cruise brings us in Padua, where we moor at Portello gate, one of the best preserved parts of the ancient city walls. We then visit Giotto’s Chapel and take you for a walk in the centre, as full of history as Venice herself. The Farewell Dinner will be at a nice restaurant in the center of Padua.

Saturday Padua - Venice
After breakfast at 9 am you are transferred to Marco Polo airport. If you have an early flight or if you are staying at a hotel in Venice, we can make custom arrangements like booking a taxi or water taxi to your destination at your expense.

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La Dolce Vita 2008 Itinerary - continued
La Dolce Vita, Venice, Italy

Padua - Venice

Sunday: Padua and the Piovego Canal
Guests are met at 5 PM at Hotel Villa Goetzen in Dolo, just 20 minutes by taxi from Venice. We transfer you to Padua by car, where the crew is eager to welcome you onboard with a Prosecco drink. We have dinner in Padua at Portello gate, one of the best preserved gates of the ancient city walls.

Monday: Padua - Noventa
In the morning we take a tour of the Botanical Garden, the oldest in the world. In the afternoon we visit Giotto’s Chapel and take you for a walk in the centre, as full of history as Venice herself. Our afternoon cruise brings us to Noventa along river Brenta, where we moor for dinner.

Tuesday Noventa – Stra – Dolo
Further descent of river Brenta to Stra, where we visit Villa Pisani, an 18th century masterpiece of Venetian architecture with frescos from Tiepolo. In the afternoon we move on for 2 more hours to Dolo, where we moor for the night. For those who like cycling, it is possible to follow the barge on a bicycle. Before our superb fish dinner at Villa Goetzen restaurant, we take you for a glass of wine at the old water mill of Dolo.

Wednesday Dolo – Malcontenta - Venice - Murano
This morning we cruise down river Brenta into the lagoon, passing by Villa Foscari in Malcontenta, a masterpiece of the Renaissance architect Palladio. In the afternoon we take you on a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace and Saint Mark in Venice. A water taxi will then take you through the Grand Canal to Murano, where La Dolce Vita is moored for the night.

Thursday San Giorgio - Brenta River to Dolo
We visit a glass-blowing workshop in Murano. Our cruise then takes us 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 while cruising on Siloncello canal and in the afternoon we visit Burano, a picturesque fishermen’s island in the northern lagoon. We walk through the colourful streets of Burano and visit the Lace Museum. We stay on the calm waters of Burano for dinner and for the night.

Friday Burano – San Francesco – Venezia – San Giorgio
We start our cruise passing by San Francesco del Deserto island, where we can moor and visit the monastery. We then proceed to San Lazzaro degli Armeni where we visit one of the most interesting libraries of Venice with 150,000 volumes and more than 4,000 Armenian manuscripts, some nearly 1,300 years old. The monks of the San Lazzaro monastery have welcomed visitors for more than two centuries. In 1816, Lord Byron visited the island twice a week for six months, studying Armenian and envying the monks' comfortable academic lifestyle. A plaque quotes Byron as saying, "The visitor will be convinced that there are other and better things even in this life." In the late afternoon we moor in San Giorgio, just in front of Saint Mark, from where you can reach Venice in 5 minutes by boat and spend some more free time in the city until dinner.

Saturday San Giorgio - Fusina
After breakfast we cruise to Fusina, where we arrive at 11 am. You are then transferred to Marco Polo airport. If you have an early flight or if you are staying at a hotel in Venice, we can make custom arrangements like booking a water taxi to your destination at your expense.

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30 Years of Luxury Hotel Barging in Europe by Derek Banks
Luxury barge cruises on La Belle Epoque in Burgundy, France

Chairman and Skipper
European Waterways Ltd (GoBarging.com)

Derek Banks, Chairman and Skipper discusses how it all began and the last 30 years barging in Europe;

As I opened the curtains and looked out down the garden to old Father Thames on Sunday 13th May last week, it dawned on me (actually it was a bit later on) that today marked the 30th anniversary since the day I bought the company! The 10 and 20 year marks had passed without so much as a thought, but 30 years! Well I must be pass the half way mark by now!

Out on the barges, I get asked from time to time how all this boating stuff started and how did I get involved?

Derek Banks, Chairman & SkipperIt is a bit of an illness, boating, once you get the bug, there’s really not a great deal you can do about it. We’ve got 16 boats here in the garden in various states of repair; 3 dinghies, 4 single seater canoes, 2 double seater canoes, 2 sailing dinghies, 1 canadian canoe, a dory and outboard, 1 1962 Eton college rowing skull in pristine restored condition, another in pieces (but I’ve got them all) and 2 rather old cabin cruisers. er… that’s 17 – one for every barge in the Go Barging fleet, now I’m getting Déjà vu.

It doesn't help that our Thames side thatched cottage has been in the family since I was 10 and the Banks have always been notorious hoarders (particularly boats). Anyway, to answer the question above, if you are still following this, - It was all my mother’s fault. You see, at 13 she got me this school holiday job in the boatyard on the other side of the Thames about 100 yards away. Quick row across in the morning, row back for lunch and back again until around 7, when old John Crevald (who is still President of the Thames Boating Trades association) would be closing up. Typical day for Derek, paint a few boats, move a few, work the fuel pump, and help out in the chandlery shop, or wood shop, or engineering, or rope splicing. AND I GOT PAID! – It was Bliss!

I had that job for 5 years, virtually every holiday, what fun for a teenage lad. There are people around who remember John as a bit of a grumpy, rather tough man. To me he was a source of great inspiration, who led from the front and who knew his boats, I will forever be grateful for those times in the boatyard, late weekends helping with some delivery or other. I certainly made mistakes, but somehow, I never got fired.

That of course came later… the first time, I was in the middle of the bay of Biscay aboard a 52 foot sailboat called Schipol (It had been built under the flight path in Holland) I was 19, - my error? I filled the hydraulic steering with petrol from a Shell can clearly marked petrol instead of using the much thicker hydraulic oil stored in the correctly marked Shell can! Result, 52 foot sailboat with no steering 150 miles west of France. I knew that because I was also in charge of the navigation. Next event , “Derek” at this point the owner and I were still on first name terms, either you get off this boat right now or….. “ even he saw the obvious problem.

By the time we got back to France, he at least trusted my navigation and seamanship and I was asked to stay on across the shipping lanes back to Falmouth and home. Poor chap had a bad bit of luck on arrival as his pride and joy (and its owner) were impounded by Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise officers for suspicious cargo. He had to sit at anchor for three long days whilst the crew were allowed ashore and his boat searched for drugs.

Over the next five years, I worked from boat to boat, there was even a short spell with a venture called “Scrub a Tub” a sort of marine Any work Any where, it sort of petered out when the brains in that partnership, John, went off to Cambridge university to study Geography, but he appears later in this little story. In 1976 at the age of 23 I had a year in Greece sailing, all year! Job of a life time, we started the first Flotilla cruise company, ushering seven 32 foot sailboats around the Greek Islands with a 70 foot old converted Torpedo boat called PARINGA as the mother ship.

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30 Years of Luxury Hotel Barging in Europe - continued
Luxury barge cruises on La Belle Epoque in Burgundy, France

My job was to keep the show on the road. There were daily challenges even for this dedicated boat nut. Apart from a good time though, what I also learnt was boats are fine, no problem, just keep them away from people and water! We had a lot of fun but it really was all a bit hairy and I figured out by September , I needed a more stable platform to do my boating from and perhaps start my own business. Barging in France seemed perfect!

Derek in his YouthIt was 1977. There was a small classified ad in the back of Yachting Monthly. £20,000 bought a boatyard, a small cabin cruiser, moorings and a long lease on a French lock house on the Nivernais canal in Burgundy. I gave it some thought, bribed cousin Bill, also 23 and the family accountant and talked to Charles my French speaking school friend who was now a mechanic. His mum was a Belgium princess and she seemed to have cousins with chateaux across France so that all sort of was going the right way. Problem was I only had £20,000 and I needed to get the boating side going. This is where things started going a bit bizarre. First I offered £7000 , which seemed about right as that would allow me £13000 to invest in boats. The chap who was selling the business, Jacques a slightly overweight 40 year old Parisien ex taxi driver, promptly had a heart attack and died. Virtually the same day I made the offer. His girl friend and business partner, Marie Noelle inherited his shares and accepted my offer! I always felt a bit guilty about that low offer, but Marie Noelle seemed happy that someone who shared her love of water had taken on the business. Marie Noelle even decided to stay on another 6 months and teach me French and business.

The early days were pretty wild, If you can imagine two 23 year old English public school boys suddenly dropped into deepest Burgundy on a canal that had been shut for 50 years and trying to tell the world about barging. We even started a vegetable garden and planted a few flowers about the old lock house. I remember in 1978, we won the prize for the prettiest lock house in France.

Some how or other we went from strength to strength, it all just seemed to happen. I had a philosophy, taught by my original boss John Crevald, “Just get on with it, hard work never harmed anyone” We gradually expanded, altered the style of boats we were using to match the obvious change in demand and gradually started to build up the fleet. My old friend John Wood Dow, joined me in 1982, I think he was living in Singapore at the time and I always thought it was a good idea to run a travel boating company with a friend who had a degree in Geography and who could sail.

So three decades later, still here, a bit less thatch on top, and certainly a few grey hairs but the magic of all this boating fun is still there, sometimes it’s a bit like the tide , it gets low, but then there a spring tide and everything starts to happen again, I am not sure I would ever recommend any of my 5 children to get into the barge business. There’s plenty more they can put their minds to, but somehow I don’t see me changing direction now.

Just what is barging and how has it developed?.

Luxury Hotel Barging has of been around in Europe for over 30 years these days and yet today the whole industry which covers some 9 European countries and has gradually grown to less than a 1000 Barge beds! Compare that with even the Big River Boat industry and you will quickly notice that “barging” , as our niche world is generally called, is little known and still remains pretty much undiscovered by the vast majority of even the most sophisticated travellers. Perhaps that’s part of our success.

What is a barge? Or more precisely, what is a luxury hotel barge? Most hotel barges today, are old trading vessels which have been converted into floating hotels. Carrying usually 6-15 passengers, they have 4-5 crew comprising a Captain/Host, Master Chef, tour guide/deckhand and housekeeper(s). Every cabin has its own en-suite facilities, twin or double beds usually and a saloon and dining area and sundeck, most have jacuzzis. What is extraordinary is just how we navigate these vessels, which only just fit in the locks and around the corners at about walking pace, allowing plenty of time to enjoy the surrounding countryside, step on and off at the locks and perhaps bicycle along or off into nearby villages. I have often heard from our passengers that it felt like two weeks relaxation in one, barging really is a great way to relax and soak in the culture and scenery of rural Europe. All of our vessels have daily excursions, usually a small minibus and a tailored selection of visits. Barging is a slow cruise, 4-5 hours a day of daylight meandering, plenty of chance to walk ashore or just chat on the sundeck and no chance to be seasick or get cabin fever.

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30 Years of Luxury Hotel Barging in Europe - continued
Luxury barge cruises on L'Impressionniste in Burgundy, France

About 300 years ago, in Europe anyway, the hydraulic engineers of the age knew that by capturing and holding back water, they could move vessels carrying cargo on the inland waterways. A vast network, some 10,000 miles long was created linking the major rivers and seaports, towns, cities, vineyards and forests. Basically wherever there was a strong commercial requirement to move freight, a deal was struck between landowners and state, and a canal was put in. If you can lay your hands on a canal map of Europe you will see that it is possible to barge from the Mediterranean to the North Sea and from The Black sea to the Atlantic. Small is beautiful and all of our barges venture where the much larger River boats simply cannot navigate.


A few more facts.

The majority of hotel barges cruise France and mainly the backwaters and smaller canals of Burgundy and the South of France’s 300 year old Canal du Midi. That said, barging as a vacation experience, allows the perfect insight into some of the most delightful, out of the way, places in Europe which portray the local culture in a non touristy way, at a speed which is only a notch above “dead slow”. Barging is alive and well in the beautiful smaller canals and rivers of the following countries: Scotland, England, Ireland, Holland, Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic. In all fairness it really doesn't matter where you barge, the ingredients are basically the same, you are well looked after and in the 6 nights/7 days you are generally aboard, you will experience the finest the region has to offer in food and drink.

Scottish Highlander moored beneath Urquhart Castle on Loch NessGobarging.com is the only barging company which is totally vertically integrated and offers clients a unique opportunity to experience barging in these 9 countries. Imagine Scotland’s Highland scenery, castles, the Scottish Lochs including Loch Ness, single malts and fine cuisine aboard 8 passenger Scottish Highlander. In Italy, from Padua to Venice along the River Brenta, Six passenger La Dolce Vita is the only vessel there. Holland’s Tulip fields aboard 12 passenger Savoir Faire. Ireland’s river Shannon, folklore, celtic sites, country homes viewed from 10 passenger Shannon Princess which simply has rival. And of course France, The Nivernais canal bordering Chablis wine country reaches deep into Burgundy, 8 passenger L’ Art de Vivre and 12 passenger La Belle Epoque have been designed for the sophisticated traveller who understands what the word service is and which appreciates French cuisine, fine Burgundy wine and amazing daily excursions. The South of France, from Provence to the Canal du Midi aboard 12 passenger L’Impressionniste and 8 passenger Anjodi, star of a recent BBC cuisine series French Odyssey. The Loire Valley where 6 passenger Nymphea became the first vessel to navigate for 50 years below the Chateau of Chennonceau’s fabled arches across the river Cher.

I started barging in 1977, some 30 years ago, fresh from a year’s sailing in the Mediterranean and full of enthusiasm and excitement for the French canals and barging generally. What a ride! 30 years on, at the helm of one of the travel industry’s best kept secrets, I wonder if perhaps I haven't done my job properly, we are still educating the world about barging! No matter, I see barging as having proved herself, our passengers are best witness to that. It’s a pleasure to be involved and I know there are several small rivers on the map which are just waiting to be discovered by our clients, Portugal, Spain, Norway, Finland, Eastern Europe………………….. This is all part of the fun,

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"It Floats My Boat" - By Lisa Sewards
Luxury barge cruises on Anjodi, Canal du Midi, France

(article previously appeared in the Daily Mail)

Nothing is more thrilling for a child on holiday than a disaster. Nothing is more thrilling for a dad than a disaster, either, just so long as it’s someone else’s and he’s not to blame; and he can avert said disaster and turn it into a personal triumph, about which he can boast for days.

I couldn’t see what all the fuss was about at the time, but after the event it became clear to me that the boat carrying me, my two young boys, baby daughter, close friends, expensive luggage and husband has narrowly avoided an industrial cargo vessel.

We were in France and the boys, Callum and Timon, raised the alarm at 7am, shortly after a horrendous metallic grinding rang through our quarters. ‘Brilliant!’ they announced in unison, panting with excitement. ‘We’ve crashed!’

My husband was no less thrilled. They all ran above-deck (as it is called in the trade) and inspected the damage.

We had slipped our overnight mooring somewhere near Aigue Morte – literally ‘Dead Waters’ – and our beautiful luxury barge was drifting along the bank, scraping and juddering its iron gang-plank along the verge until it bucked and collapsed into the deep.

At this point, the boat arced lazily across the width of the Canal du Midi at the point where it is more shipping lane than pretty tourist beat. Everyone hummed and hawed, but didn’t hurry into action until the grain barge was spotted in the distance.

It was low in the water and moving slowly but inexorably towards us. Black smoke belched from it chimney. It parped out warning tattoo; clearly, it foresaw an imminent coming together. Alas, our boat, the Anjodi, could not be manoeuvred. One hinge of the wrecked gangplank, wedged into the muddy bed below, was still attached to the boat. The chaps sprang lustily into action.

An angle grinder emerged from a cubby hole and James, our dashing blond guide, set to work freeing us. With filmic timing, the gangplank fell fully and James pulled the boat back against the bank just as the cargo barge slipped past.

I mention all this because it is an endless source of fascination to me how favoured holiday memories differ so predictably between husband and wife.

If you ask my husband, our boys and our friend Paul what happened on our idyllic week in the finest, most five-star barge imaginable, it would be this episode – or possibly the day at the water park when my husband twisted his ankle stepping into the kiddie pool.

Paul’s other half, Sarah, and I, on the other hand, would speak to you of wood-panelled staterooms, fluffy towels, indulgent staff – four for seven guest – and old-world serenity.

The Anjodi is possibly the most beautiful boat on any waterway. Once you’ve been cosseted by her, you will never again want to share quarters with the day trippers’ fibre-glass rentals or hanker after a Russian billionaire’s seven story gin palace.

She is 100ft long, almost three times as wide as a British narrowboat and has a truly resplendent paint job – red, blue, yellow and white, with hanging basket geraniums, bicycles lashed to her bows, a fabulous deck-top whirlpool spa, steamer lounges and a Canadian flag on her stern.

The Anjodi, it transpired, once had a tradition of sporting her guests’ national colours. All caused offence at some point of her voyage to some nationality or other. The maple leaf was the only standard not to have received a passing insult proving that Canada is the most inoffensive nation on the plant. It has stayed in place ever since.

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"It Floats My Boat" - continued
Luxury barge cruises on Anjodi, Canal du Midi, France

We first clapped eyes on the Anjodi half and hour form the small airport of Carcassonne, and were introduced to her mostly British crew: wonderful Rupert, our unflappable skipper; darling James, excursion driver and official jester to the boys; chef Toni; and hostess/waitress Grace, an Oxford undergraduate with possibly the most idyllic summer job of the lot.

We toured our quarters with flutes of champagne in hand and smiles on our lips. There was the salon with its mahogany dining room and Calvados-rich bar, and the four bedrooms, impossibly cosy with their comfy beds, swish duvets, polished portholes and top-end toiletries in the en-suite shower rooms.

This was how we intended to spend the week: pottering in luxury along the magnificent Canal du Midi, while being fed and watered sumptuously on an effortlessly all-inclusive basis.

Days began idly and got lazier. A terrific spread for breakfast, procured each dawn by James from the nearest bucolic market square and served in the salon.

In the morning, a bicycle ride or passage through the odd lock, the boys having a go at the helm. Lunches of pates, salads, cheeses, breads, cakes and lashings of rose on the deck.

In the afternoon, an outing to the endless sands of a nearby beach at Narbonne, the Noilly Prat works, a wine tasting…or, of course, a snooze.

And at the day’s end, a five-course haute cuisine dinner with gastronomic notes and observations from the chef and commentaries on the wine, matched to the food, from Rupert.

Each night, the bar stayed open until we had drunk and talked enough and fallen into our staterooms, lulled asleep by nocturnal rhythms and ripples.

Hypnotised by our stately progress, the boys were happy with their noses in their Harry Potters. But when my husband came over all Apocalypse Now by blasting out the Stones on the iPod speakers and fixing approaching locks and tunnels with a 1,000-yard stare, I decided more boyish excursions were called for.

First, we packed them off to Aqualand, a vast water park where they plunged and dived and swam for an entire day. Further down river, we all drove into the mountains and had a Blytonesque day racing canoes, building dams and skimming pebbles, while James shamed my husband with the perfect barbecue – rabbit and game par cooked on the Anjodi and finished to a turn on the riverside coals. Throughout, we felt special, and never more so than when we lunched on deck while descending the spectacular staircase of nine locks at Fonseranne.

It is one of the region’s premier attractions – the flotillas of boats falling 25 yards in less than half a mile, lock gates whirring, bilges pumping, water coursing, are irresistible to passers-by. And when you’re on the Anjodi, it’s a wonderful way to show off.

Which of us had the best of it all? The boys were never happier than when pottering about with Robert, prodding engine parts, playing boules by the boat or roaring off on their bikes.

The girls got to relax, talk and sleep. But my money’s on our baby daughter. She spent most of her of her daylight hours in her playpen on deck, blinking with delight at the sun on the water, being fed fresh baguettes or bobbing happily in the hot tub.

Not all her holidays will be like this – and it will be her loss.

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April Cheese Competition

For our April Lockkeeper competition we had two Cheese selections from www.fromages.com to give away.

Burgundy and Its WinesThe Cheese selection is:

May Lock-keeper Competition

For our May Lockkeeper competition we have a hard backed copy of La Mia Venezia by the the famous photographer Fulvio Roiter to give away.

La Mia Venezia by the famous photographer Fulvio Roiter - click to enter competitionFulvio Roiter is an important and highly respected photographer of international fame. From the end of the 1950's, when his first photographic book was printed, he caught the attention of several European editors.

He is represented in most all of the Dictionaries of Photography, not only in Italy. Fifty years ago, he came out with his first black and white photographic book on Venice, published by "La Guilde du Livre" in Losanna. This was also the first photographic book by an Italian artist.

Throughout his years, he has published around seventy volumes, each with growing applause for his continual good quality images and printing.

From his association with the artistic group "La Gondola di Venezia", to the first publication of his portfolio in the prestigious Swiss magazine "Camera" in 1954, five years pass. His Sicilian reportage exposed the world to better understanding the work of Roiter.

Two years afterwards, he won the most prestigious awards given to a photographer: the Nadar award with his work, "Ombrie Terre de Saint Francois." And, this was the beginning of an important career for the man, the artist, and Italian photography.

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Special Offers

$1000/£500 DISCOUNT PER CABIN ON LA BELLE EPOQUE IN BURGUNDY OR L’IMPRESSIONNISTE IN PROVENCE

La Belle Epoque in Burgundy - All available July & August '07 departures, based on 2 people sharing a cabin
L’Impressionniste in Provence - All available July & August '07 departures, based on 2 people sharing a cabin

Scottish Open 11-15 July

Scottish Highlander availability 01-07July

SARGENT AND VENICE, in Venice

For the first time in the prominent Museo Correr, and in Venice, an entire show will be dedicated to the famed artist John Singer Sargent, one of the most important American impressionists, who had a passion for Venice and a dissimilar talent. This exhibit, dedicated to the various works of Sargent, will focus on roughly 60 pieces of art dating from 1880-1913. A friend of Monet's, Sargent was fascinated by Venice, and this allure of his is very evident in the extent of his works. Not only did he paint such famous monuments as the Doge's Palace and the Rialto Bridge, but he would also capture the traces of daily life in the Venice of that time, which showed how genuinely his heart belonged to this Italian city. This exhibition is at the Museo Correr, until 22 July.

More info at: www.museiciviciveneziani.it

Aix-en-Provence Antique Book Market

Leisurely Sunday morning prior to departure if you are a fan of literature you can can browse through old and rare books in the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville in Aix-en-Provence on the first Sunday of every month. The famous naturalist writer, Emile Zola, grew up in this town of long and rich literary legacy. The market is a must for anyone that loves to read or simply loves the look and feel of antique books. You may not find many Zola originals, but the market is a great place to find antique and second-hand books.

Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, First Sunday of every month 9am. 6.pm

EU cash rule changes

A new EU law will come into force next month, requiring travellers to declare cash in transit, to help combat money laundering. Passengers who are either entering the UK from a non-EU country, or are travelling from
the UK to a non-EU country and are carrying €10,000 or more (or the equivalent in other currencies), will be required to declare the cash to HM Revenue & Customs at the place of their departure from, or arrival in, the UK.

The obligation to declare applies to the person carrying the cash, regardless of whether that person is the owner. Forms on which to make the declaration will be available at ports and airports.

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 47th 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 June 2007, so we'll see you then.

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