Published on September 9th, 2016 | by Ann Rickard0
Canal du Midi – It’s Smooth Sailing
Ann Rickard discovers a relaxed pace barging.
In the Southern French city of Narbonne you can stand by a section of road still intact from the day the ancient Romans built it. The Via Domitia was the first Roman road built to link Italy and Hispania. This section of the ancient road is now in a shallow pit in the town square, protected by a low wall where you can sit and take a selfie (if you are that way inclined).
The historical city of Narbonne is home to the wondrous St. Just-St Pasteur Cathedral, a massive Gothic structure you could easily spend an entire day just traversing. Then, a short walk would take you to Les Halles, the indoor market where your every French gourmet food fantasy will be satisfied.
In June, the beginning of the European summer, we sailed on board Anjodi, the same barge Rick Stein travelled on when he made his evocative television series, A French Odyssey.
You’ll be picked up in Narbonne and driven to Anjodi dockeda short distance away where you will be greeted by crew proffering Champagne. Barge cruising is perfect for seniors. The pace is so leisurely you can’t help but forget all concerns.
There are bikes on board, easy to manage along the towpaths as your barge cruises the 330 year-old World Heritage Listed Canal du Midi, slower than you can cycle. If I can cycle a towpath, then you can to.
Carrying just eight guests, cosseted in cosy yet roomy cabins with ensuite bathrooms, Anjodi is an 87-year-old barge originally designed to carry grain between Amsterdam and Paris.
Refurbished and transformed into a luxury hotel/barge in 1983, Anjodi is long and sleek, fitted-out in African dark wood and brass, her salon roomy with a bar (pleasingly full, and open 24 hours) and an eight-seater dining table, comfy lounges, large windows, a small library and CD player.
On the sun-deck, padded lounges, protective umbrellas, inviting deckchairs and a spa pool, complete the luxe story.
Chef Tom presented as a testament to the fresh produce fathered from nearby villages: lunches of zucchini and feta salad, pissaladiere tart, seared tuna nicoise, an abundant seafood platter. Dinners were leisurely five-course affairs, but nothing too heavy.
Wines were meticulously hand-picked to match the food and showcase the areas we sailed through, wines we may never be in front of again: Puech Haut Rose Prestige; Picpoul de Pinet; La Croix Belle Grillon.
The pace is agreeably slow with most seven day cruising covering about 100km. It is about fully immersing yourself in the culture, history and gastronomy of some of the fascinating regions of Europe including Burgundy, Alsace, the Cana du Midi…or the Italian Veneto.
Each day brings discovery. In Carcassonne we stood before the mighty walls of the restored medieval castle (featured in many Hollywood movies).
Barge cruising means you can access places big river ships cannot. Everything about barging is agreeable, especially the crew ratio of one to two guests.
But be warned. Once bitten by the barging bug, you’ll want more, and more…and…yet more.
More on www.gobarging.com
- Anjodi is one of European Waterways’ fleet of hotel barges, and is an all-inclusive product with an open bar available 24 hours. Premium wines are served with meals and champagne is served on special occasions.
- Bathrooms are stocked with amenities, cabins are air-conditioned.
- Charter Anjodi and other barges for groups, or if travelling alone, join other guests throughout the cruise.
- The four crew speak English and French.
- The company is offering 10% off cabin and full-boat charters in France and Italy for select departures in spring and summer 2017.
- Full itineraries, costs and dates on www.gobarging.com