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Do-It-Yourself Cruising On The Canals Of France
By Mike Thiel

For the past ten years, I have been longing to do a barge trip through France, my appetite whetted by a few short but idyllic days back then spent on a crewed private charter barge on the Canal du Midi. I considered a "hotel" barge tour, but preferred the idea of cruising with friends and with a minimum of structure. My fantasy was floating lazily through the French countryside, stopping where we pleased, exploring what we wanted, and doing it on our own schedule. So this time, I decided to experiment with captain-it-yourself barging.

The extensive canal and river system of France offers cruising in most regions of the country, and Nicols, our "outfitter" for this grand expedition, operates 16 bases throughout the country. Burgundy? Bordeaux? The Lot? Brittany? The Loire? Aquitane? Each has its appeal, so choosing wasn't easy.

We finally settled on Alsace. I'd heard good things about its food, wine, and scenery, but had never experienced this eastern-most region of the country, where the culture is as much German as French. My only concern was that in early October, when we were going, the weather might not be too great. The "we" who were looking forward to five hopefully glorious days exploring the French countryside included Gail, my partner both in Hideaways and life, and Norma and Jerry Pomerantz, friends from Philadelphia whom we'd met and had great fun with on a Renaissance cruise, some five years before.

Spring/Summer 1996

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