There is something a bit magical about the South of France. It conjures images of rolling hills set along the Mediterranean, vast vineyards and olive trees swaying in the breezes. The images come to life when you book a luxury barge cruise with European Waterways (EuropeanWaterways.com). It offers the perfect opportunity to experience the region’s slow pace.
Canal du Midi is a 330-year-old canal that runs from the Mediterranean coast inland through the famous Languedoc wine region. This is an opportunity for a true escape from everyday life.
What is a Barge Cruise?
Barges, originally used to shuttle goods along the inner waterways throughout Europe, are now floating hotels. European Waterways operates barges throughout Europe from April to October.
One of three boats to traverse Canal du Midi, Enchanté is an “ultra-deluxe” converted barge with four cabins for up to eight passengers. Each suite on Enchanté features an ensuite bathroom. All suites are on the lower level, while the salon, dining room, open kitchen and sun deck are above. The rooms are comfortable and quiet, the staff accommodating and the pace of the barge allows you to slow down and unwind. In fact, the barge moves slowly along the canal, giving passengers a chance to stroll along or ride one of the onboard bicycles.
The Barging Experience
The barging experience is not anything like other cruises. With only eight passengers (although some boats have the capacity for 10 or 12 passengers), it provides a quiet escape.
Each day, you cruise slowly along the canal, going a total distance of about 50 miles over one week. The day's leisurely routine begins with a sit-down breakfast and specially prepared dishes from the chef. You either cruise in the morning and take a short excursion in the afternoon, or vice versa.
Lunch is a gourmet 3-course meal paired with local wines. Dinner is a beautiful production with appetizers, main course, cheese course and dessert. Again, everything is paired with both a white and red wine.
Excursions Along the Way
Throughout the cruise, there are small stops along the way. This area of France is filled with gourmet delights and history, and you have a chance to explore both during your cruise.
You’ll visit l’Oulibo, a high-end olive oil producer growing Lucques olives. Enjoy a tasting of the oils and the olives, and pick up a few to take home. In Legrasse, you’ll taste local balsamic vinegar. This is a real treat and a unique experience sampling a variety of flavors.
During the barge cruise, you’ll have a chance to visit three of what may be the most beautiful towns in France: Minerve, Lagrasse and Carcassonne. Lagrasse is an artisan town surrounding an 8th-century Benedictine Abbey. Minerve is home to a 12th-century Cathar fort with spectacular views. Carcassonne is a medieval fortified city with 52 watchtowers and portcullis.
There is also an excursion to Narbonne, once a Roman capital. There, you’ll have a chance to wander through Les Halles de Narbonne—the indoor food market—with the chef, picking out items for him to prepare once back onboard Enchanté.
European Waterways offers the ideal escape to the South of France.