Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Barging in France - two views
A quick search on Google for barging in France will turn up more than 200,000 results -- but the same search on Amazon will return just 17 results. The top hit is Hugh McNight's Cruising French Waterways. Although the latest edition was published in 2005, McNight provides an exhaustive amount of information on each and every canal in the French waterway system. Broken down by canal, each entry also includes a bit of historical background as well as a thorough guide of what to look for along the way.
McKnight provides the boating traveler with a good foundation in deciding which canal to travel and what one can reasonably expect to see and discover along the way -- and no unpleasant lock surprises since he provides all the necessary information here as well for each canal.
When I first started looking into barging in France, earlier this year, after eliminating the many hotel barge cruises offered, I found myself gravitating to those websites often maintained by expats living aboard a converted barge in France. One of those sites, Bill and Nancy's turned me on to the Dutch Barging Association -- as I had become somewhat curious about this whole subculture -- and I soon found myself swimming amidst a sea of fascinating characters from around the world, men and women who had sought to find themselves or peace of mind or whatever by living abroad a long boat on a canal in France. Fascinating.
And one name that kept popping up -- particularly on the DBA website, was Roger Van Dyken's book Barging in Europe. Although he now resides in the American Northwest, Van Dyken and his family lived aboard their own barge and motored thousands of kilometers on the canals and rivers of Europe.
While McKnight provides a good, all-purpose guide to the French canal system, Van Dyken explains the details of owning and operating your own converted barge. His approach is therefore geared toward potential barge owners as opposed to canal travelers. But whether or not you're in the market to settle aboard a boat on a French canal in your golden years, this is a handy little guide to how to drive a boat on a French waterway.
Both books are well-written, lucid and easy to understand -- and chock full of well-resented and probably necessary information. I bought both and intend to use them both.
Two big thumbs up for me.
Next up: So exactly where, when and how?