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A canal cruising holiday lets you take your time to explore and relax at a leisurely pace, enjoy the countryside, make excursions, or just watch the world go by...but what's involved and is it your kind of holiday?
'Greetings from Australia' the email read. 'Could you please advise the distance to be travelled if we were to sail a hired cruiser on a circular route along the Canal de Bourgogne, Canal du Nivernais and back along the Canal du Centre and the Saône. We would also appreciate your estimate regarding how many days we should allow for such a journey and how many locks we will encounter'
Time to call in the experts
This proved to be a tall order requiring many weeks cruising, so it was back to the drawing board for the Australians, but this time with the assistance of Locaboats, a Burgundy company based in Joigny, which has been specializing in self-drive cruising holidays along the canals and rivers for 36 years. There are over 400 boats in the fleet and 30 bases in Europe - in France, Germany, Holland, Italy, Ireland and Poland.
is this the holiday for you?
Manoeuvring the boat is easier than driving a car they say - you don't need a licence to take a boat on the canals but you will receive some basic training when you arrive to pick up the craft. If you want to know if this is the holiday for you, take a look at the very comprehensive 'Captain's Handbook' on the Locaboat website, covering procedures, safety, what's included on the boat and a hundred and one useful facts from hiring bicycles to getting basic supplies on board. Incidentally, pets are allowed.
Planning your trip has never been easier. Once you have decided which destination to go for, there are circuits you can follow. So for example in Burgundy choose between the Saône-Seille (three routes), or the Loire and Nivernais (four routes), which includes the Canal de Bourgogne. In Franche-Comté there's the Canal des Vosges and the Canal du Rhône au Rhin which follows the course of the River Doubs past rocky cliffs and between wooded slopes to Besançon.
Locaboat use Pénichette boats which come in three types sleeping from two to twelve and their fleet is constantly being upgraded. For the design conscious, look at the latest addition to the range, the Linssen yachts, beautifully designed craft which make the optimum use of the space available. These top of the range boats sleep four people in great comfort, or six for a bit more of a squeeze.
New for the 2015 season, a range of activities is on offer along the route, from a cooking class on board your vessel to wine tasting in a château and an archaeological workshop for the kids. The trips are available from departure points at Saint Léger sur Dheune and Mâcon and advance reservation is required.
For all information, www.locaboat.com