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France Afloat Barge and Canal cruisers Canal de Nivernais

Chester, Canada
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France Afloat Barge and Canal cruisers Canal de Nivernais

We have just returned from France where we spent a week cruising the canal de Nivernais with France Afloat. My wife and I and later with our children have spent many years touring France by car, even in our 2CV. We have often driven over and passed by the French canals and have discussed a holiday afloat. This year (my 69) we decided to do just that and rent a canal boat. I have been a sailor for many years now both here in Canada and in the UK so feel very at home on the water. Newbies should note that full instruction is given before they let you loose. It was delightful and so relaxing seeing France from a new perspective and at a much more leisurely pace. On the Nivernais it is quite acceptable to moor along the banks and so we did. Stopping to moor up have a bite of lunch or just leisurely sit by the bank side, read a book and drink a glass of wine. We passed through a number of small villages where we sometimes stopped to take coffee in a local cafe and when water was getting low we checked into a marina or a key side in town, to fill up. There is always somewhere to buy food and essentials. Our cruiser (30') had to cabins, one fore one aft with en suite washrooms whilst the fore cabin had a shower. There was a fully equipped kitchen with double gas ring and a microwave oven. Some of the vessels have an additional gas oven. The large aft deck provided a good area for al fresco dinning and the saloon below the same on the one day we had rain. The only draw back was the heat, 30+c for a couple of days and the boat had no fans and fly screens at the port holes or hatches. This was uncomfortable for the period between dusk and bed when we needed the lights on but had to shut up everything to keep out the insects. France Afloat take note please! We did a one way trip from Vermenton to St Florentin and took a side trip on our penultimate day up the Yonne to Joigne. We stayed at the marina in Auxerre for two full days which gave us access to power and water plus on shore showers. Cost 8 Euros a day. Not only did the leisurely cruise calm our souls and open our eyes but we met Brits, Aussies and Kiwis who had bought their own barges and cruised the French and Dutch canals each summer. Canal cruising can be as sociable as you wish to make it. My wife, myself and 17 year old son will certainly do this again.

I would certainly recommend France Afloat <www.franceafloat.com> and even more if they would install a fan in each cabin and screens on the portholes and hatches.

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1. Re: France Afloat Barge and Canal cruisers Canal de Nivernais

Like the previous review, we have just completed a week long trip in August heading in the opposite direction from St Florentin along the Canel du Bourgogne onto the Yonne river and then down the Canal du Nivernais to Vermenton with France Afloat on the "Guy Roux" (famous soccer player/coach - Auxerre). Our boat was one of the older steel hull boats (made in England) with 2 rooms and 2 bathrooms, kitchen, dining/lounge. The boat can be driven from the top deck or inside the cabin. We did this trip as two couples and whilst the boat was quite spacious, I would recommend for 2 couples to look at getting a slightly larger boat with 3 rooms - it gives you more space for luggage etc.

We found the boats to be in good, if a little dated condition with no problems with their operation or reliability. They were easy to operate on the water and through the canals after you get a little used to the maneuvering and lock operation. The slow pace allowed for a fairly relaxing and enjoyable sightseeing journey through canals/river across the French countryside. There is opportunity to stop at multiple places overnight and cooking can be done on board or you can eat out.

As first timers and non-boating people I can recommend this level of boat - but if I were to do this again i would be looking at the next level up - that offers a few distinct advantages, bow thruster controls and canopy covers over the steering deck.

There were a few suggestions we made to the operators at the end of the trip - the mattress in the forward bunk was too thin and the bed not really a double so this made for a less comfortable trip for the couple using this bunk; the umbrella provided for use on the top deck was pretty useless - we also had 30+ degrees and it was very hot - the umbrella is not angle adjustable and doesn't offer enough spread/cover to allow persons to sit on the top deck in such hot conditions; we spoke to the operators about fitting a canopy and they have considered this but the cost/functionality is difficult. Some of the other boats from this company and others have a full folding cover - much better. Aircon is not the best and didn't make much of an impact during the heat; similar issue with previous poster re insect invasions at night. The bikes provided whilst functional are not great - you need to look at the mountain bikes as a better option rather than the general purpose bikes we selected - but they still came in handy.

These last comments might sound a bit negative but they are not - they are only things that could have made a very enjoyable experience a little better, we had wonderful weather (virtually no rain), interesting stops and visited some nice restaurants. I would recommend this slower paced tour as a good way to enjoy and relax in the French countryside. A big rap to Steve, one of the owner/operators of the company who went out of his way to assist at the start of the tour and thanks to Chris, Mike for their help and assistance at the start and end of the trip, much appreciated.

2. Re: France Afloat Barge and Canal cruisers Canal de Nivernais

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