Q: We are thinking of taking a self-conducted canal cruise with another couple in France, but there are so many canals! What is a good area for a one-week trip? Also, how can we find reputable boat rental companies? Are there any special skills needed or pitfalls to watch out for when traveling this way in France?
A: There are several companies that offer canal boat rentals such as Canal Boat Holidays, France Afloat, and Barging in France. France, along with England, Ireland, the Netherlands and others European nations, has an extensive network of canals, some of which date back hundreds of years. As there are over 5,000 miles of waterways in France, and you can barge your way across much of the country.
Among the more popular destinations are the regions of Burgundy, Champagne and Lorraine. Most of the boats that are rented to independent travelers do not require a license, and piloting a river boat is said to be easy enough that a child can do it, although it probably depends on the child. Just don’t sample too much of that wonderful French wine and Champagne.
The French Tourist Office is a good resource to consult at www.francetourism.com A few companies recommended by the FTO include Bargain Boating (800-637-0782), Crown Blue Line Connoisseur (888-355-9491) and Locaboat Holidays. Your travel agent will be glad to help further.