This year has been full of amazing road trips adventures. I have always said that one of the reasons I enjoy road trips so much is because of all the things you can see that you wouldn’t otherwise were you on a plane. The road trip through the Southwest that I took with my girlfriends on an RV was a great way of turning the fun of road tripping and camping into one fun experience with friends.
While in France, and in between road trips, I took the experience to the next level with Le Boat. Le Boat are boat vacation rentals that you can sleep in, cook in, hang out in – much like an RV – except your journey takes you along the canals of the European destination of your choice. On this trip, some friends and I ventured through most of the Canal du Midi taking off near Carcassonne, for a taste of the life on a boat.
There is a bit of a learning curve for those whom have never navigated a boat before, and even for those who have, because these boats tend to be slower, heavier, and the canals can often be narrow and at some points, even crowded.
Before I go on, I think it’s important to note the immediate lessons I learned from this form of transport:
- The steering can be tricky, requiring a slow and steady pace (it’s also considerate to go slower when passing docked boats so as to not cause waves and force them to rock aggressively).
- The many river locks require patience as well, since depending on the canal and the season, the wait to get through them can be hours long.
Fun vacation idea? Heck yeah!
Research your trajectory ahead of time so you can plan your trip around the locks and the amount of time you have to wait to navigate through them. Some canals have more locks than others.
- There is work involved. In general, these boats are easy, but the truth is, you will need someone to help rope the boats when waiting to get through the lock (not easy for those not used to doing it). It requires some strength and agility as there is a lot of jumping on and off the boat.
- If going with friends or family, make sure they are all willing to pitch in. It can get tedious to be the only one driving the boat, docking and roping the boat, navigating through canals, etc. Of course, if you can always hire a captain to do all the work for you, but note, he will also be sleeping in the boat during your trip.
Like on a road trip, you are going to be sharing close quarters with whomever you travel. Make sure they are people who will help out and also be fun to be around.
All that said, I would do this with my family because it is a fun experience and because you get to see so much of the countryside from the water, which is gorgeous. We stopped in villages such as Le Somail where we spoke to wine maker Antoine Danglas and tasted wine from Chateau Paraza.
I had an amazing meal at L’eau a la Bouche, while overlooking the canal as the rain fell and the sun set.
Here is a the full adventure, captured through Instagram.
We connected with Discover France for a one day bike tour, though another option that I saw a lot of boaters take advantage of was renting bikes (a service offered from Le Boat as well) for the duration of their trip, taking them on the boat, and then just riding around which ever village they docked at. It’s a great way to explore the local area and carry groceries back to the boat. You never know what you’re going to see.
The boat was comfortable, with rooms that have fans for cooling on hotter days. More deluxe boats have an air conditioning system. There are also shower and pump or electric flush toilets, some to share and others in private rooms. Our boat had 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. We had a problem with the generator, but only because we had too many electronics on board. The boat comes with a TV, DVD, and CD player, and a fully functional and stocked kitchen with all the cooking and eating utensils you could need. The linens are included (except for beach towels).
You can rent boats that fit from 2 to 12 people and they range in price, to make it affordable to most. They rent their boats on a 1-5 grading system where you select what you want in your rental. Other rental options with your boat are BBQs (which is wonderful for those times when you’re waiting for a lock for a while and for dinners on the river during sunsets), stand up paddle boats, and Wi-Fi (which is spotty).
Extra expenses to consider are fuel costs which is purchased locally, a collision damage waiver fee, and transfers from train station or airport to dock. Le Boat reservations can help with this, but the costs are separate from your rental.
There’s a short training session before you sail off on your boat, so there’s plenty of time to ask questions and address any concern before being sent away on your adventure.
I was a little skeptical about this form of travel, but in the end I enjoyed the boat trip. We shared plenty of laughs, though I suspect there would be even more my family. I can see my boys getting a kick out of the locks and working the ropes, and my husband would love navigating the boat through the winding canals. Though there were moments where you would see a lot of boats come together, there were other times when we wouldn’t see anyone at all. It’s a unique way to see a country and get access to smaller villages you wouldn’t have easy access to otherwise. And it’s a great way to bond during your trip.
For more information visit: www.leboat.com
Disclosure: I was the media guest on Le Boat. All opinions are my own.