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

Welcome to the November 2005, 29th edition of the lock-keeper.

Some of the more regular visitors to our Gobarging website may have had a look at our links page. One of the links is for our local Wraysbury Skiff and Punting club (WSPC) which started in 1931 on the Thames near Windsor and which has been a favourite watering hole and rowing centre for both Banks family members and Gobarging office staff for over 30 years.

WSPC is situated nearby at Runnymede on the Magna Carta route between Hampton Court and Henley, and is one of the most upstream skiffing clubs on the Thames.

This is a picture of yours truly winning the family doubles last season with son Tom at stroke and daughter Kayleigh at the helm.

We have finally raised all the money to build a brand new club house and this is being finished off by the rowing club members.

This weekend, the taller members will finish the outside painting! Rowing memorabilia will become part of the new decor and I will be restoring the original skulling blades used by Club founder Eric Haines.

In this month's edition, we have a feature on Chef Jen McStay, we introduce new early season Spring dates and three new additions to the GoBarging family.

Lynne Underhill reports on her Scottish Highlander cruise, we announce the Impressionniste Spring cruise winner and, as it's approaching the Holiday season, we have a bumper hamper to give a way in our November competition.

So, once again, lots of hopefully interesting stories for you to read.

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:

Chef profile

Spring cruises

Three newcomers

Scotland the Brave

October competition winner

November competition


back issues:

january 05

february 05

march 05

april 05

may 05

june 05

july 05

august 05

september 05

october 05

(please note that past competitions are now closed)

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Chef Profile - Jen McStay

GoBarging chef Jen McStay Jen has been working on our barges for 4 years now and has developed quite a following amongst our passengers!

She originates from South Africa, but moved to the UK in 1997.

Jen has been involved in the world of cruising world for around 7 years, having gained her sea-legs hostessing on private yachts in the Mediterranean and the Caribbean. Becoming interested in barges, she applied to be a hostess on Anjodi and l'Art de Vivre, on which she spent 4 happy seasons.

A background in hospitality, coupled with an upbringing in a family of chefs, were bound to spark off an interest in cooking. The barge offers the perfect ambiance in which to learn. Jen was able train both on the job and through other channels (her sister also worked for us as the chef on l'Impressionniste), and when she joined Nymphea this year, she became the chef and housekeeper.

Jen is very attentive to the comments of the guests, especially on the first night of the cruise. This is a great opportunity to glean information about their culinary favourites, upon which knowledge she can build when planning menus.

Jen enjoys preparing regional specialities, with a special emphasis on colour. She likes to present her dishes using colourful fruit and vegetables which come and go from the menus according to the season.

When asked where she gets her inspiration, she modestly says it comes from the sights, smells and colours of the Friday market and the friendly butcher at Montrichard who is keen to share recipes and ideas with her. Magazines and general chit chat are also good sources for ideas.

When not in the galley, Jen can be seen all over the boat, keeping it ship-shape and Bristol fashion and also driving the minibus between the moorings - so she is a good all-rounder!

Spring Cruises
in Burgundy, Southern France and Scotland

Visit Auxerre on the Yonne river, Burgundy, France onboard La Belle Epoque

We are pleased to announce that La Belle Epoque, Scottish Highlander and Anjodi will be starting their cruising season earlier in 2006, with their first departures on 5th March, giving the possibility to more avid barging enthusiasts to get out on the water in 2006!

Not only that, but La Belle Epoque is offering a change from her normal itinerary between 5th and 26th March. She will be cruising during that time between the little town of Misy sur Yonne, south east of Paris near the confluence of the Yonne and the Seine, and the beautiful town of Auxerre in Burgundy.

Highlights of the cruise will be a visit to the town of Sens, which possesses France's earliest Gothic church, the beautiful Renaissance palace of Fontainebleau, a favourite country house retreat of French royalty, the open-air produce market at Joigny, a visit to the wine town of Chablis, and the town of Auxerre itself.

See the new La Belle Epoque March 2006 itinerary here.

Although the weather is still pretty cool at that time of the year, the air is crisp and the roads and towns less populated with tourists, allowing you to move more freely. Enjoy the first signs of spring as you gently meander the waterways, with plenty of time to examine and take in the natural beauty of the countryside.

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Introducing Alouette, Hirondelle and Monarch
three new additions to GoBarging

We are pleased to announce the addition of three new barges, sailing in France, Holland and Belgium.

Alouette luxury barge cruises, Canal Du Midi, France

Alouette, part of the Afloat in France fleet,is a 6 passenger barge sailing the Canal du Midi, along the same route as Anjodi, between Beziers and Carcassonne.

She is 98 feet long and 17 feet wide and is a charming companion for Anjodi, whose diary for next year is certainly becoming full following her TV starring appearance in Rick Stein's French Odyssey programme!

Hirondelle luxury barge cruises, Burgundy, France

Hirondelle, part of the Afloat in France fleet, is an 8 passenger barge sailing in Burgundy and Franche Comte.

The addition of Hirondelle to opens our scope into the east of France and offers our passengers the opportunity to cruise along the Burgundy, Central and Rhone-Rhine Canals, and the river Saone.

Visiting Dijon, the capital of Burgundy and travelling eastwards towards the frontier between France and Switzerland, she takes you through the wooded hills and valleys of the Franche Comte, via the delightful towns of Dole and Besancon.

Monarch luxury motor yacht cruises, Amsterdam, Holland
Monarch is a splendid 12 passenger private yacht, sailing in Holland and Belgium, offering five different itineraries between Amsterdam and Antwerp.

She is 111 ft long and 23 ft wide and is a modern masterpiece. Highlights of a cruise on Monarch include the historic sea-trading canal city of Amsterdam, the charming towns of Haarlem, Leiden, and Dutch capital The Hague with their famous art museums surrounded in the spring with tulip fields, the modern industrial town of Rotterdam, a leader in modern architecture and engineering with its man-made water defences - the Delta Works - and the great European maritime port of Antwerp, city of diamonds, culture and Flemish folklore.

For more information on these three beautiful vessels, along with more detailed itineraries, follow the links above

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Scotland the brave..and beautiful!
by Lynne Underhill

We began our barge cruise in Inverness where we were met by our tour guide, Anthony. My husband, myself and five other passengers were transferred by private coach to Dochgarroch to board the Scottish Highlander for our 6 night cruise on the Caledonian Canal to Banavie.

We were greeted by our Captain, Dan, John the Chef, our delightful hostess Davina and welcomed on board with champagne and traditional Scottish hor d'oeuvres before being escorted to our cabins.

Each cabin was characteristically decorated with tartan plaids, accommodated 2 single beds that could be configured as a king bed, nightstand, 2 large functional windows, a small armoire with several shelves and drawers for additional storage under the bed.

The ensuite bathroom was a miniature version of an upscale hotel, including an enclosed shower and heated towel rack. It was very impressive in the space available. Davina would keep our cabin 'ship-shape' each day as well as providing fresh towels and replenishing the candy dish.

After unpacking, we headed back to the lounge where each evening before dinner our captain would provide a brief outline of the agenda for the following day.

It was sometimes difficult to be attentive during this time as the aromas emanating from the galley were most distracting. One could only imagine what delights would soon be served. We were never disappointed.

Chef prepared gastronomical feasts at midday and sumptuous 4 course evening meals of meat (venison, lamb, beef) or fish (haddock, salmon) , fresh vegetables and fruit all purchased at the local shops. Wines, both red and white were picked to compliment each meal and a selection of regional cheeses to finish.
Scottish Highlander We had the opportunity of taking an evening walk after dinner or relaxing in the lounge on one of the leather clad sofas or wing back chairs where we could choose to sip a brandy or taste one of the single malts available from the well stocked bar before retiring for the night.

It did not take long to fall into the routine of life on the barge. Hearty made to order breakfasts each morning as we started our journey on the canal making our way to the next loch.

The first full day on board we were escorted to Culloden, the famous 13th century battle site of the MacDonald and Campbell Clans. We had a chance to brush up on history with a movie presentation and museum before walking the battleground, where Bonny Prince Charlie was defeated.

Then it was off to visit the beautiful Cawdor Castle where exquisite tapestries and paintings adorn the walls. Afterward we had time to stroll in the typical English garden or negotiate the hedged maze.

In the following days we cruised Loch Ness, we kept a watchful eye but did not catch a glimpse of Nessie. A visit to the Nessie Museum the next day offered entertaining insight into the legend of the Loch Ness monster. Maybe on another visit she will reveal herself!

We cruised to Fort Augustus where the barge ascended the 5 locks and anchored for the night. It was still early in the day, so there was lots of time to wander around this charming village to shop, bicycle or check out the local golf course where the green keepers are sheep!! We choose to do some independent sightseeing on bicycle for the afternoon.

Visit Scottish Highlander

Scotland the brave..and beautiful! - continued

From Fort Augustus we cruised to Cullochy Loch where we took our tour coach to Eilean Donan Castle, the setting for the film Highlander. It was one of my favourite excursions. It is a beautiful castle that sits off the west coast with views of 3 sea Lochs.

Originally build about 800 years ago, it was left in ruins after an attack in the early 18th century. Between 1913 and 1932 it was rebuilt by the MacRae family who are still in residence several months a year.
Guests are allowed to tour the banqueting hall, recreated kitchen and bedrooms which have period furnishings. Once visited, one could imagine the isolation and hardship of life so long ago.

We left the Loch behind and cruised on Gairlochy where we were able to visit the Clan Cameron museum, see the World War II Commando memorial and visit the woollen mill at Spean Bridge. This was our chance to buy scarfs, sweaters, socks shortbread and Scotch (anything that begins with S) and more! Our problem was we needed another suitcase to transport it back home!

Friday arrived and brought our last day on board. We visited the Glen Nevis distillery for a tour and a dram of Scotch. We had impromptu visit to a local rock and gem museum which was surprisingly interesting and informative. We stopped at Fort William to finish some last minute shopping before heading back to the barge to change for the Captains dinner.

The dinner hour was signaled by the arrival of a local piper. As on our arrival, we had our farewell champagne, toasted our wonderful crew who had made our holiday most enjoyable, relaxing and interesting.
Scottish Highlander Our appetizer was Haggis - prepared by a local master butcher, it was delicious - I was told. I opted for the less adventurous vegetarian version and was not disappointed. It was also delicious!

We had a main course of duck and fresh vegetables. The most exquisite dessert called Cranachan was served followed by cheese and crackers.

The captain provided the after dinner entertainment - and I am sworn to secrecy so as not to spoil it for future guests. I will,however, say that it was truly a pleasant surprise!

This was an ideal way of experiencing the history, cuisine, scenery, culture and camaraderie of Scotland. We were at liberty to join the excursions offered, stay on board and relax, bicycle on the canal pathways between lochs or wander through the villages on our own.

After breakfast on Saturday as we prepared to leave 'our' barge, there was a touch of sadness. We said goodbye to the crew, boarded our coach to head back to Inverness.

As the barge faded in the distance we watched the green hills, tranquil water and, on this particular day, cloudless blue sky from the van window. We. remembered the cool crisp mornings, sunny afternoons and the sun setting over the hillside.

We took home wonderful memories of the history, landscape and friendship of Scotland.

Visit Scottish Highlander

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October Competition winner

Spring Cruise for two on L'Impressionniste in Provence

Last month you could win a cruise for two next Spring in Provence, aboard L'Impressionniste. Find out who's won

November Competition

Win the Ultimate Christmas Hamper

Win a bumper Christmas hamperTo celebrate this 29th November edition of our monthly newsletter we are running a new competition with a bumper prize. To win, all you have to do is answer a few simple questions. Answer all questions correctly and you could be selected at random to win the Ultimate Christmas Chocolate and Champage hamper...packed to the gunnels with essential Christmas luxuries:

Enter the competition


2005 in Upper Loire - busy summers are back!

On Hotel-Barge
Meanderer, our best season ever draws to a close. 2005 has been Meanderer's most successful yet with 23 weeks of operation, great guests, brilliant crew, typically French weather, flowers galore and a bumper grape crop for the wine makers - and that's just what we thought of it!

Here are some typical guest comments from the season;

"A SUPERB week thanks to Phill, Hannah, Ben and Stuart! Outstanding service, delicious food, beautiful scenery, charming villages - above and beyond our expectations."

"The most glorious and relaxing week that we have ever had. Thank you all so much!"

"We drove, walked, ate, laughed, talked, dreamed, bathed, shopped, met, sipped, slept, listened, felt, read, relaxed, breathed, loved, left, CRIED! Merci!! !"

"A wonderful relaxing week. Great food and wine, wonderful company and great hospitality. We will remember this trip for a long time."

MeandererAnd so, onto the winter...more improvements aboard Meanderer! The winter months will see us introducing yet more improvements to ensure Meanderer looks absolutely perfect for next season's guests.

The kitchen and bathrooms are being renovated, all interior and exterior paintwork will be redone and we are upgrading the air conditioning system to take advantage of the new breed of neat, efficient AC units available.

The work is being carried out in a shipyard at Migennes on the River Yonne about a week's cruising from The Canal de Briare. Meanderer's winter crew (Phill, Hannah and Ben, our excellent steward) will all be working hard at completing work before the winter weather really closes in.

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 all for this 29th 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 December, 2005, so we'll see you then.

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