If you’ve ever traveled to France or even considered traveling to France, I bet at some point you thought about taking a barge cruise. You know, where you sit stretched out on a deck chair, sipping a crisp white from the Loire while gliding quietly along one of the tree-lined canals somewhere in southern France, getting up only when the barge pulls alongside some small village, to let you off and bike to a nearby vineyard or perhaps just to pace the barge as it cruises to its next stopping point, and where your only worry is what will the on-board chef prepare for for dinner tonight.
Well, that’s not what I’m talking about.
Oh, sure, we thought about this in years past – but the cost is usually steep ($3,000 per person on up for a week), and frankly I don’t want to find myself trapped for a week with 8 people from Crawford, Texas who want to constantly regal me with tales of the Bush Presidency when I’m in France and want to focus on something entirely more amusing.
No, I’m talking about the do-it-yourself barging, what the British call “self-drive,” where you cruise at your own pace, driven only by the whim of the moment and where the only requirement is that you eventually return to the boat to where you got it – but even that is negotiable. In fact, some companies allow one-way cruises for a small additional charge. So for less than the cost of one person on one of the luxury barges, you can have your own boat sleeping 4 or even 6 -- and no license required.
This is what we’re thinking about for our return to France, sometime in August or September of 2012.
Over the coming months I hope to post some of the things I learn as we plan our own little barge trip. I’ll talk about the different companies that offer such trips, not just in France but also in the England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands (of course), Belgium, and now even in Italy. I’ll also look at some of the places, or rather canals, we’re considering. And I hope to review a couple of the more well-known books in English, such as Roger Van Dyken's Barging in Europe and Hugh McKnight's Cruising French Waterways.
So if you’ve ever barged and you’d like to share your experiences, please post it right here!