Barge tour in France? - Rick Steves Travel Forum (2023)

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Posted bycourtney765(Port Orchard, WA)on

I heard Rick mention a barge tour in France at last night’s Monday night travel session. Also I saw a glimpse in the very short video on the website showing the barge ‘Papillion’ (sp?). I don’t see this listed in any of the itineraries for tours in France. Did I miss it? Or would this be a ‘My Way’ type of custom tour?

Thanks much,
Silverdale, WA

Posted byBigMikeWestByGodVirginia

Almost Heaven

2861 posts

Courtney, we took a barge cruise on the Savoy Truffle a couple of years ago. It was expensive but we just put it on the credit card. Nothing beats travelling on the river.

Posted byRnR

The Hague, NL (AMS)

2207 posts

Not sure if it's the "same" barge, but these folks rent a barge named Papillon. Generally, barges have 6-8 cabins, so a much smaller audience. A very leisurely paced ride!

But as BigMike notes, they can be very expensive. Our friends did a barge buy-out (which in essence became a custom tour). Then, they sent a note to friends inviting those willing to buy-in an opportunity to cruise the river. We wanted to go, but the $12,000 price tag was far more than my wife and I wanted to spend!

Posted byFrank

Tresana, Highlands Ranch, CO, USA

22770 posts

Rick doesn't do any barge tours but barges are very popular on the canals and small rivers of France. Goggle barges and France -- you will get a lot of hits. Very wide range of types and services. And there are self drive barges where you do all the work. Our neighbor two summers ago took his small extended family on a barge with a captain and chef. Nice way to travel.

Posted byPam

Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, USA

12387 posts

One of Rick's France Tour Guides, Rebecca Berry, used to crew on barge tours. Maybe he'll do one and she'll lead it - she's fantastic!

Posted bySharYn

Berkeley CA

1272 posts

That clip of the Papillion is quite old, I think.
About 20 years ago one of Rick's guides was a part owner of that particular boat.
I remember his letting us know that renting it was very expensive.
I have no idea if this man is still connected. I did (a few years ago) google that boat out of curiosity but didn't come up with anything.

Posted bycourtney765OP

Port Orchard, WA

33 posts

Thanks all, for the replies!

I did find a number of them from a Google search and will definitely look into this. As well as signing up to be notified for some Rick Steves trips in France.


Posted byCyn

Colorado Mountains, USA

6738 posts

This wasn’t a guided boat tour, and it wasn’t more expensive than if we’d been staying in a hotel and going to French museums instead, but back in 2003, we rented a boat and cruised in the Canal du Midi, in Provence. The company actually rented out British narrowboats, designed for canals in the U.K., and ours worked OK in France. It had a galley (kitchen), shower, dining area, beds, and the 3 of us were comfortable as we navigated up and down some of the canal. There was a strike when we were there, but we never made it to any canal locks that would’ve needed to be operated. Looking up the boat rental company just now, I see they’re permanently closed. They were operating a couple years ago, so that’s too bad. There may still be other options, if you wanted to captain your own barge, and it might not cost a captain’s ransom.

Posted byKateja


537 posts

I charted with in 2015. I chose this company because they did not charge a single supplement. The barge has 2 single cabins.
It was quite a lot of fun. The food was glorious. The crew genial. Most days we had a side trip. The barge moves at a leisurely pace. There are bicycles for those that wish to ride along the canal.
These people are professionals. It was very well run.
It was not cheap. I think my tab was around $10,000 including airfare. You have to get yourself to Paris and the company picks you up there.
For anyone thinking of crewing their own boat, the Nivernais canal has a lot of locks!

Posted bythenosbigs

213 posts

I love self driving a canal boat anywhere in France. Where as my husband LOVES it. He doesn’t accompany me to Europe unless it includes a week on a canal boat. Period. Full stop. Even if you don’t know your port from starboard, they are easy to learn and a blast to explore the small towns and villages along the way. They force you to slow down as you glide past the vineyards, stopping to buy honey from the lock keeper, pull up to a restaurant in the middle of nowhere to enjoy the most marvelous seasonal menu scribbled on a chalkboard and decide if you want to moor alone along a canal under the stars or at a full service marina in the shadow of Carcassone castle for the night.

I get goosebumps just thinking about the sound of a lock gate closing, sounds of water rushing in as you jostle like a cork for a few minutes, the ancient, mossy stones of the lock slip past as you raise up. The water settles and calms. Gates clank open, a buzzer sounds, you cast off the lines and motor along to the next village.

Hands down, France is our country of choice for boating (excellent canal infrastructure, great services). We’ve rented from several companies but now insist on only using Nicols. The condition of the boats is superior, customer service exceptional and they include the boat insurance in the price. Speaking of price, I feel a self drive canal boat is very affordable. You will meet lots of other European families enjoying holiday on a canal boat. For the price of an upscale hotel room, we get our room, kitchen to cook in, transportation and entertainment wrapped into one price and can easily fit in a friend or family member or two for nothing extra. Its a lot less money than letting your husband actually buy a boat. It’s worked so far for me fingers crossed. . If your feeling adventurous this might just be in your wheelhouse. Feel free to private message me if you want more info. We are trying to sort out some plans for trying out the canals in Brittany this September ourselves.

Posted byCyn

Colorado Mountains, USA

6738 posts

Thank you, thenosbigs, for the lock experience description. That gives me goosebumps just reading that. May you see Brittany by canal, as you wish!

Posted byNigel

Northamptonshire, England

30808 posts

lots of D-I-Y hire boats of British Narrowboat shape in all sorts of fitout all over UK canals. Loads of fun, great for a family, WAY less expensive than those super posh crewed boats in France, but it is DIY, for the cooking, running and working the locks. Hard to get more local.

Posted byMary

Reno, NV, USA

2169 posts

Odysseys Unlimited has a barge tour in France called Burgundy Barging. I haven’t done this tour but they are a really good tour company.

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