HOTEL BARGES / SAINT LOUIS
Cruising on the Saint Louis provides a relaxed atmosphere unlike any other. Generally the rhythm of cruising consists of a half day of gliding the canal… enjoying the countryside drift by with a cool drink in your hand, walking the tow path, or biking into that picturesque town across the sunflower fields. The second half of the day is usually spent in a guided exploration of all that the region offers in historical sights, wine tasting, artisan crafts, and culture.
Our Standard Cruise is an all-inclusive experience. Transfers to and from the Saint Louis are provided in our spacious air-conditioned shuttle. All of your meals will be prepared and served on board by our resident chef. An occasional meal might be enjoyed at a nearby restaurant serving the finest regional cuisine. Our fully stocked bar, excellent wines of the region, coffee, tea, and soft drinks are always available. Daily excursions, bicycles, indoor games, a small library… it's all included. View of our route
The Saint Louis travels 2 different itineraries on the Canal de Garonne between the cities of Toulouse and Bordeaux. Please note - these daily itineraries are indicative only. In keeping with our philosophy of "custom -tailored cruising", we will always adapt a cruise to the interests and wishes of the guests on board.
Montauban to Agen
We meet around 3 pm, often in Toulouse, and we travel by car to the Saint Louis. We pass through Granade and Grisolles on the way, and admire the central market square in both villages. On arrival at Saint Louis' home port, you are greeted with a champagne reception on board. After unpacking, the options include a visit to the local Artisan Distillerie (making renowned aqua vita and liqueurs from local fruits), or a stroll around the charming town of Montech , or maybe a game of pétanque ( boules ) beside the boat.
After breakfast, we take the car for an excursion around Montauban, city of art and culture. We see statues by local artist Bourdelle, Along the Canal de Garronewe explore cobbled streets leading to the gorgeous central square, and we admire the 13th century Pont Vieux (Old Bridge) with its superb garrison building. We return to the boat, and have lunch under way as we head to Montech , passing through one lock before joining the main Canal de Garonne . At Montech , we pass down the extraordinary Montech Water Slope, an engineering marvel that is unique in the world. After cruising for the afternoon, we moor in the beautiful port of Castelsarrasin .
We head off down the canal after breakfast, and after descending four locks we cross over the River Tarn by means of an amazing brick-built aqueduct, 30 metres over the river. Aqueduct over the river TarnA few more locks and we arrive in the port of Moissac . After lunch, you are taken to one of the highlights of the trip – Moissac Abbey with its Cloisters that are said to be the finest in the world, and the 13th century church which contains a 10th century organ.
We have breakfast on deck, while passing through the swing-bridge of Moissac emerging into lovely countryside, with rolling hills to the right and the River Garonne to the left. In time for lunch we moor at the peaceful port of Pommevic – normally we expect to be the only boat in the port! During the morning we could pass numerous pilgrims making their way on Christendom’s third most important pilgrimage route, Auvillar : Tower of the Horlogeto the burial site of Saint James at Santiago di Compostella , which is still 1200 km away at this point. In the afternoon, we go in the car to nearby Auvillar , listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. This village has a history in which the manufacture and export of china and quills (for writing) were of major importance – as so often we see the influence that the River Garonne had as a trade artery in the world of commerce of yesteryear.
We head off in the morning, having breakfast on the deck under the plane trees. We pass through Valence, and moor for lunch at Lamagistere, surrounded by nothing but views and peace. In the afternoon, we go to nearby Donzac, where there is an amazing museum dedicated to the ancient trades of this corner of France – this is a world class display, put together with professionalism and humour . Later, we visit the ancient Bastide village of Dunes, with lovely half-timbered houses and historical wall-plaques.
In the morning, we go in the car to nearby Clermont-Soubiran , where we have views over the whole Valley of the Garonne , Along the Canal de Garroneand where a walk around the outside of the chateau never fails to impress. We then return to the boat, and cruise down into the provincial city of Agen , where we moor beside well-tended lawns under the houses of some of the city’s big merchants. If time permits, we visit the Museum of Fine Arts, right in the middle of old Agen , which has an amazing collection that includes a number of Goyas, and a fine Egyptian and Levant collection.
After a leisurely breakfast on the Saint Louis, you are taken by car back to your connection in Toulouse, passing through deep rural countryside with fruit orchards, sunflowers and vineyards.
Other possible visits include:
- A wine tasting at a Fronton vineyard – one of south west France’s hidden secrets.
- The Abbey de Belleperche , just beside the mighty River Garonne.
- A genuine Roman bridge – hidden away and not part of any tourist route.
- The Bastide town of Lauzerte – full of history and surprises.
- The 11th century church at Lachappelle – modified in a baroque style and unique in France.
- A working goat farm, where you can see a commercial herd of goats being milked, and the milk made into cheese.
- A museum to Lamothe-Cadillac , in the house of his birth – this is the man who founded Detroit and whose name and coat of arms appears on many cars today!
- A visit to an extraordinary winery in Cotes de Brulhois , that has been in the same family for 300 years and where innovative wines from the early 1700’s are once again being produced.
We meet around 3:00 pm, often in Toulouse or Agen , and go directly to the Saint Louis which is moored in the pretty canal basin in Agen . After a short briefing, we head off downstream. We have champagne on deck while passing over the remarkable Agen Aqueduct, which is France's longest masonry aqueduct and which takes us over the mighty River Garonne . We pass down four landscaped locks, while the table on deck is being laid for our first al fresco dinner on board. After the last lock, we enter a part of the canal the Captain calls "the Amazon" - overgrown with trees and bushes on both sides - we eat dinner surrounded by nature and birdsong . We moor for the night at the charming little port of Serignac sur Garonne .
Some of our group take an early morning walk through Serignac, a quaint Bastide village with half-timbered houses and a church with a most unusual spire. We then cast off, and head down the canal to Buzet-sur-Baise , where we moor under a canopy of plane trees for lunch. After lunch we head off in the car to visit Viannes , a remarkable bastide village with an outside fortified wall almost intact. Viannes is known for glass blowing, and we visit the last working glass blower and watch the production of world-class glass wares. Finally we visit Bruch , another fortified village dating back to the Middle Ages.
In the morning we take a short cruise from Buzet-sur-Baise to Damazan, once again having breakfast on deck. We then head in the car and drive to Nerac , where we visit the chateau of King Henri IV, and the old mediaeval town beside the River Baïse . Later in the afternoon, we visit a remarkable producer of products of the grape - wine, Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne - all housed in a former Benedictine abbey.
After breakfast, we head down the canal, stopping at Villeton where we visit a museum of farming and country trades. We have lunch on deck, and arrive mid-afternoon at Mas d'Agenais . Here we visit the old roman walls of the town, and the Romanesque wash-house, before going up to the centre of the town where we admire the spectacular market square, and where we visit the 11th century church that contains a painting by Rembrandt.
In the morning we cruise down the canal under the shade of plane trees and between fields of sunflowers. We have had lunch on deck by the time we arrive at the pretty little port of Meilhan . In the afternoon we go to a presentation called Gens de Garonne (the people of Garonne ) which in a remarkable way tells the story of the life of the people living on the side of the River Garonne .
Today, we complete our canal journey, cruising through ever-changing countryside as far as Castets-en-Dorthe, where there is a little port at the end of the canal. On the way, we stop at the matchstick museum at Fontets , and see some remarkable constructions in matchsticks including a model of the Palace of Versailles. On arrival at Castets , we take the car to Roquetaillade , where we visit an inhabited castle that has been in the hands of the same family for 700 years.
After a leisurely breakfast, we leave the Saint Louis and travel by car back to Toulouse (or Bordeaux).
Other possible visits include:
- A unique Romanesque fortified mill.
- The small town of Clairac , with one of the best examples of half-timbered houses.
- The barrel-makers at Buzet , producing oak barrels that are exported around the world.
- A wine tasting at the cave of Buzet, where you sample some of the best wines of this famous AOC region.
- A visit to one or more of the famous Bordeaux wineries.
- The town of La Reole , with its 10th century Benedictine monastery overlooking the valley.