Sunday, September 04, 2011

Two ways to go barging in France

To go “barging” in France is really a fancy way of saying boat rental, also referred to as “selfdrive.” With the exception of Locaboat’s unique penichette design, modeled after the traditional French commercial peniche (photos below), nearly all of the “self-drive” barge programs are really powerboats.

Locaboat's Penichette

There are really only two ways to “barge” in France. You can either pay someone to do it for you or you can do it yourself. That’s it.

If you go with letting someone else motor you around the canals, what you’re really doing is renting a floating hotel room complete with 24-hour service, food, wine and even escorted to trips through the countryside. All for a price, of course: costs per person on the small exclusive “luxury hotel barges” catering to 6-20 people begin at $2,000 but are typically much, much higher (the fewer the berths or cabins the higher the price per person). For example, cruising for six days on the Canal du Midi with European Waterways will cost anywhere from $4,300 to more than $6,000 per person (September 2012 pricing online).

But, if you want to be pampered and not worry about canal locks, mooring lines, where to go next or what to fix for dinner, and if you have the cash, this is the way to go.

If you’d rather do things yourself, if you’d prefer a more hands-on experience traveling French canals and rivers, then the self-drive approach is right up your alley. Renting a boat that sleeps 4-6 people for a week will cost about anywhere from $1,500-3,000, not including food. And you have to drive the boat yourself, of course.

We intend to drive ourselves, so if you’re interested in hotel barging I suggest you jump into the Google bar and head straight for “barging in France.” If your interests lie in self-drive canal cruises in France, then stick with us – over the next coming weeks and months I will post details of my research and, hopefully end with a great experience to share with the rest of you.

I figure the worst that can happen is we will want to buy our own barge . . .

So, here’s the plan so far: a week cruising the Canal du Midi in southern France, possibly in August but probably in early September of 2012. OK, that much we know.

Next: Just who is crazy enough to rent a boat costing €100,000 to a guy who doesn’t know how to drive one?

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