Cruising the French Canals

Has anyone else done this?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7976 posts

Lots of people have. I among them. Is there a follow-up question?

Posted by Eileen
Texan in CA
3582 posts

Linda, please delete this thread and repost under To The West; you'll get many more responses. This section is for Trip Reports of trips already taken; no questions. So you may be missing out on your target audience!

Posted by Linda
Parma, Michigan
11 posts

Actually, I tried to post a trip report but have been unsuccessful.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

I'm just guessing, but is the reason that you cannot post the report that it is too long? Even though we're supposed to be able to post 2000 characters per post, it's really more like 1850. So, what works is to write the whole thing on another program (like a word processor), then cut it into sections. Post one section at a time. If it still won't post, cut it in half. Post each section as a reply to your original so they stay in one thread. Yes, it's a bit of work, but we do appreciate trip reports.

Posted by Linda
Parma, Michigan
11 posts

My husband and I just returned from a fantastic week cruising the Lateral Canal of the Loire River between Briare and Nevers France. We were on a self catered boat rented from LeBoat with eight of our French "Family" members. What a fabulous and relaxing way to see France! It was a bit early (April 13-20) so not as warm as it might have been but the spring wildflowers and flowering trees and shrubs were in full bloom as we quietly, slowly cruised rural France. Many of the shops, stores and restaurants are still closed for the season.(many opening the week after we cruised)so you will have to walk into town (or ride bikes)for supplies. Market days in the little towns along the way are on consecutive days so we followed them as we went south. Nothing is more fun than buying fresh, off the farm products right from the producers. Try your French negotiation skills and bargain for that saussion, cheese and fresh veggies for your lunch! A few highlights of the trip include the Pont-canal de Briare, an amazing engineering feat by Mr. Eiffel and the hill town of Sancerre. Don't miss the self-guided walks through Sancerre and Nevers. Guides are available at the tourist office (just about every town has one) or the town hall (Maire).

Posted by Linda
Parma, Michigan
11 posts

Chatillion-sur-Loire is the home base in this area for LeBoat. It is easily accessed from Gien by train from Paris and takes under two hours to get there from the Bercy Metro stop(train station is across the street from the Metro station). The boats are relatively easy to use once you get the hang of it and are completely outfitted with towels, bedding, dishes etc. All you need is food and wine, lots of wine!
Navigating the Locks is a challenge the first time but becomes routine very quickly. As I mentioned, we did have bikes and many areas beside the canal have paths for riding and walking so you don't have to be on the boat all the time. And don't worry about sea sickness, the boat does not rock as you are on a canal. If you are the adventurous type this might be just the ticket for you. The sightseeing, food and wine is formidable! This would be a great time for families with older children or a trip with friends or extended family members. LeBoat is not the only company to rent from so a quick internet search will bring up others as well. Also watch the YouTube videos that people have posted that will give you a good idea of what you would be in for. This type of trip might be too slow for some but we found it relaxing and a fantastic way of immersing ourselves in French Culture, truly off the beaten path and very "Back Door"

Posted by Bets
Bloomington
1970 posts

Fabulous! French TV had a program on this particular canal with the pont canal and the narrow tunnel. Looked like the best of the canals.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Thanks for your report. Glad my tips were helpful!

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3205 posts

Loved your report Linda, thank you. I'd like to hear more about it actually!
Like, stories about the people you met along the way, your favorite towns and why, the food you ate.... :)

Posted by Linda
Parma, Michigan
11 posts

Susan, we have spent several vacations with our "French Family" Actually, they are the parents and relatives of my second exchange student.
As for boating on the Canals, I highly recommend it! It was a totally different way to see rural France. One is able to stop anywhere along the canal to enjoy the small towns, chateaux and wineries. We did have several bikes with us so we also rode into villages and along the canals. It was early in the season so many of the restaurants and shops were still closed. Many of these small villages depend on the tourists so there are amenities along the way. Also, places like Sancerre and Nevers have tourist offices that offer self-guided tours in English and other languages. I speak some French so I am able to get along well enough in the shops etc..

Posted by Linda
Parma, Michigan
11 posts

As far a food was concerned, our hosts are fabulous cooks and pre-made many of our meals. We also bought fresh produce, bread, sausages and cheese at the markets that the small villages hold. We were lucky and followed market days as we went south so it was great fun to "hunt and gather" along the way. Of course we did a wine tasting and bought wine in Sancerre from a small, local producer. The boat itself was not hard to operate and the locks became routine with everyone taking turns helping the lock-keepers with the gates. The keepers were very friendly and many sell fresh eggs, wine and honey or produce to make a little extra money on the side.
The best part of a trip such as this is the pace is slow and relaxing. There is something to see in every little town, a beautiful church, a grand old house or two or a charming square.

Posted by Linda
Parma, Michigan
11 posts

This slow pace might not be for everyone but if you enjoy watching the world go by and watching spring unfold before your eyes, I can't imagine that you could do better than central France on the Canals.

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Linda is sounds lovely, I look forward to doing a canal cruise one day and loved reading about yours.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
4871 posts

Thanks for your report. This is on my bucket list, so great information!!

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3205 posts

Thanks so much Linda, it sounds heavenly. Like a wonderful dream come true. I know I would love it.

Posted by Nick
Oxford, UK
1 posts

Hi - there is a huge amount of information about enjoying the French rivers and canals - self-drive hire, hotel barges and river (ship) cruises on french-waterways.com

Posted by Barb
Andover, MN, USA
110 posts

My husband and I have done a canal cruise 4 times, the last time 2 years ago. We have used the company Locaboat each time. We liked the look of the "old time barge" look of some of the smaller boats. We have done 2 sections of the Canal du Midi. We chose this canal because it is in southwest France and because there are more locks than on most other canals. The sections we went on had 66 locks - some of them doubles and a few triples. We enjoy meeting lock keepers where there are still some and also interacting with other boater while in the locks or waiting in line. We haven't seen many Americans on the canal. We also like stopping whereever we like and looking for a market or restaurant. On our 1st trip, we did it with just the 2 of us in 2002 (we were in our 60's then) but since have had another couple along to help with ropes, etc. Hope to go again someday. It is an adventure!
barb

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
564 posts

Canal du Midi...amazing! Highly recommend..

Posted by pat
victoria, Canada
7827 posts

Wow great reports on the canal cruise, would love to do that someday!Thanks for posting.

Posted by JuneLee
Corona del Mar, CA, USA
6 posts

Did a one-week roundtrip self-pilot cruise on the Canal lateral de Garonne with extension to the River Baise. This was May 14 to 21. It was the first time for all of us, and my husband and I were accompanied by two lady friends. We used LocaBoat, beginning and ending in Agen, a town SE of Bordeaux. Now we want to do it again. The boat was supposed to sleep 6, but it was roomy and more comfortable with the two of us. Husband could steer from outside on the deck or inside - luckily, since we had some rain. 30 locks! I was chef de cuisine. Best stop: the village of Nerac. We recommend the Hotel Perigord for its great restaurant and location. Rooms are so-so. It's within walking distance of LocaBoat location, also grocery stores, boulangeries, car rental agencies, and train station.