Slowly Along the Canals of France

For many people a vacation is a time to relax, the chance to go somewhere different, an opportunity to soak up a different culture. There are many different ways vacationers can amuse themselves, but I reckon that one of the best is to slowly cruise the canals of France.

There are many canals scattered through Britain and Europe, but to take a slow boat, or barge, along the canals of France is one of the most romantic ways to enjoy the experience.

France has about 8,000 kilometres of inland waterways, so there is plenty of choice. Of course, canal boats and barges travel slowly, the top speed is usually about 6 kilometres per hour on canals and 10 kph on rivers, so you do get to see the countryside very well.

As far as choice of vessel is concerned, this depends on how many are travelling in your group, whether or not you prefer a crewed vessel or want to sail it yourself, and the region in which you are sailing where size of the vessel is determined by the width and length of the locks you need to navigate.

Some of the best canals for cruising are:

Burgundy Canal – This canal provides north to south access through France via the Seine and Rhone rivers. It is a very picturesque journey and lovely to cruise. Total navigable distance is 375kms and it has 192 locks, plus a 3 kilometre tunnel.

Central Canal (through Loire) – The canals Loing, Briard, Lateral to the Loire and Centre connect the river Seine to the SaĆ“ne and combine to make what is known as the Canal du Centre. It features wonderful viaduct bridge at Briard which carries barges across the river Loire. There are also other viaducts at Getain crossing the Allier River and Digion. The Rogny les Sept Ecluses is an unusual collection of seven locks built like a stair case. Navigable distance is 414kms and it has 149 locks.

The Midi Canal – Built in the 17th century by Pierre-Paul Riquet, very little has changed with regards to the lock design and function. Connecting the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and following the Pyrenees mountains. The navigation is divided into three sections; the Canal du Midi (70 locks); the Lateral canal to the Garonne (53 locks) and the Garonne (2 locks). Total navigable distance is 496kms.

Nivernais Canal – Beginning on the river Yonne near Auxerre this very charming canal crosses the country side, joining the Seine to the Loire River. It features three tunnels 212 m, 268 m, 758 m that have been carved out of the rock at la Collancelle. Navigable distance 179kms.

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