‘Slow tourism’ on the French Canals – Meanderings through France
Annick Dournes & Frederic de Poligny
If you often dreamed about being a bold captain sailing the seven seas but never had the chance to learn how to pilot a ship you might set your sights slightly lower and get onboard a “Penichette” to sail on quiet canals. “Penichette” means little barge and it will only take you one and an half to two hours to learn to drive it and be ready for new adventures!
Since 1977 “Locaboat” organises fluvial cruises to slowly discover a region aboard one of their 380 boats fit to welcome 2, 4… or 12 persons. These Penichettes are very comfortable with wide windows, a rear deck where you can take your meals or sunbath, an indoor lounge, a fitted kitchen and depending on the size of the boat 2 to 4 cabins with en suite bathrooms. It will soon become your travelling home. No need for a boating licence: when arriving at the departure base you will be given an introductory course to handle the boat properly. Controlling the speed, going left and right or straight under a bridge, entering or leaving a lock, making a U-turn will soon have no more secrets to you after one, two or more attempts!
Slowness clearly is the leitmotiv of the journey: it allows you to change the rhythm of your life, relax and take time to share precious moments with friends, your family and even your pet! Beautiful landscapes and villages appear along the canals and you can stop your boat to take your bikes for a drive or to go shopping in an appetizing open-air market to get local produce and cook a tasty meal on board. “Locaboat” can also set up many activities for you such as fishing trips, guided tours of villages and castles or wine tasting…
This year in Burgundy exclusive activities are available on request. From Chagny to Beaune the famous wine village, an expert guide will drive you through the vineyards discovering the “terroir” and the art of winemaking before meeting winemakers for an insightful wine tasting. In Rully, another lovely village, a “chef” awaits you for a private cooking class. He will show you how to cook a “gougère” made with choux paste and cheese, or “Oeufs Meurette” a tasty egg cooked in red wine or many other recipes from Burgundy. Of course you will be able to eat your ‘creations’ and go back home with a cookbook. In Couches they can take you to a beautiful medieval castle nestled among its vineyards where its enthusiast owner, Mrs Patricia Poelaert, will tell you the story of the castle, its chapel and beautiful gardens. A wine expert will invite you to taste local white and red wines and an unusual “extra brut” Cremant. ‘Crémant de Bourgogne’ is a sparkling white wine that often tastes too sweet when you’re not used to it, that is why Mr Poelart created this “extra brut” Cremant where no sugar is added to the wine during the wine-producing process. A perfect wine to pair smoked salmon or a trout with almonds…
Today France has the largest network of canals in Europe and Locaboat has 24 departure bases. Beside Burgundy you can sail on the Canal du Midi in southern France, in Camargue located in the Rhone Delta, in Alsace and Ardennes, in Brittany and in French Southwest. You can enjoy a spring weekend on a Penichette from 429 euro (310£) in Burgundy, Alsace or on the Canal du Midi and find out if you are ready for a longer cruise. Locaboat also provides cruises on lakes and canals in other European countries: Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, Poland and Italy where you can have a unique experience piloting your “Penichette” in the Venice lagoon!
Text © Annick Dournes
Photos Frederic de Poligny