Monday, December 28, 2015

Scottish Traditions : Hogmanay, January 1st

With the New Year nearly upon us, you may be interested to know a little more about the tradition of Hogmanay on December 31st in Scotland.
The origins of Hogmanay stretch back to the pagan practice of sun and fire worship in mid-winter.  For centuries, fire ceremonies such as torchlight processions, bonfires and fireball swinging have played an important part in the Hogmanay celebrations as fire has always been one of those positive symbols of hope and enlightenment.

When the Romans invaded Britain, this was assimilated into their Winter festival "Saturnalia and when the Vikings arrived later, their Yule celebrations became the twelve days of Christmas. Those traditions have been passed through the generations and become magnified into the celebrations we all know today.

There is no certainty as to the precise origins of  the word “Hogmanay”.  It may have come from the Gaelic “oge maiden” meaning “New Morning”, or perhaps from the Anglo Saxon “Haleg Monath” meaning “Holy Month”.  Some say it is a product of Gaelic or Norman-French origin such as the Norman French word “hoguinane” meaning “gift at New Year” or “Homme est né” ( French for “Man is born”).

Celebrations in Scotland on New Year’s Eve typically involve the partaking of a wee dram or two with friends and family, and some traditional music and dancing.  In the run-up to midnight, many Scots go “First Footing”, a night-time door-to-door tradition when custom dictates that if you receive a visit from a “tall, dark stranger”, bearing a lump of coal, a cake or a coin, you are assured of good luck and prosperity in the coming year. This tradition is believed to refer to Viking times, when the sight of a blonde stranger at your door was likely that of a Viking invading enemy instead of a well-wisher.

Hogmanay fireworks in Edinburgh

Finally, of course, events reach their peak at midnight, with the clock chiming, the bagpipes playing, and the singing of Auld Lang Syne. As to when the celebrations finish... well that’s anyone’s guess!

Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book your barge trip
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It's not how far nor how fast, it's the pleasure of the journey that keeps people coming back for more.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tasty Scottish Treat For The Holidays: Tipsy Laird


Here’s a recipe for a delicious dessert, the Tipsy Laird, a Scottish version of the classic sherry trifle which is often served on special occasions like Christmas or New Year’s Eve. 

Tipsy Laird - makes 6 servings


  • 8 sponge fingers
  • 3 tablespoons of raspberry jam
  • 6 digestive biscuits (or ratafia biscuits, or Maria cookies)
  • 1 dram of sweet sherry
  • 1 dram of whisky or Drambuie
  • A handful of fresh raspberries
  • 1 cup of double cream
  • 1 tablespoon of caster (powdered) sugar
  • Flaked almonds toasted to decorate

For the custard:

  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1.5 ounces of caster (powdered) sugar
  • 4 drops of vanilla essence
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 2/3 cup of double cream


Start by making the custard.
  • Beat together the egg yolks and sugar until pale.
  • Mix the cream, milk and vanilla in a pan and warm to just below boiling point.
  • Pour into the beaten egg mixture, blending well.
  • Return to the pan over a low heat and stir continuously until thickened.
  • Transfer to a bowl and cool.

  • Spread the sponge fingers with the raspberry jam and place in the bottom of a large glass bowl or small trifle dishes.
  • Roughly crush the biscuits and scatter over the jammed sponge.
  • Mix the sherry and whisky (or Drambuie) and pour over the biscuit and sponge.
  • Leave it to soak in.
  • Whisk the double cream and caster sugar to thick peaks and fold in more whisky if preferred.
  • Pour the cooled custard over the sponge and top with a layer of raspberries.
  • Spoon over the thickened cream and decorate with a scattering of toasted flaked almonds.


Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book your barge trip
Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:

It's not how far nor how fast, it's the pleasure of the journey that keeps people coming back for more.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

A hotel barge cruise is perfect for a family vacation

With hectic lifestyles becoming the norm these days, a vacation where several generations of the same family, perhaps for a birthday or graduation celebration, can grab that rare opportunity to all be together is becoming more and more desirable.

French Hotel Barge Anjodi - Canal du Midi, France

Hotel barge charters are a wonderful way for families to spend special time together. There is something on offer for family members of all ages. A doting crew to care for you, delicious food prepared by your very own on-board chef, your own minibus to take you where you want to go, and stopping in a different locations every day without having to pack and unpack. It’s like having your own private floating villa!

Most of our hotel barges offer family charter cruises with great activities for the children, but also plenty of time for the adults to relax, especially if they’re sipping a chilled glass of Chablis in the on-deck spa pool as they cruise gently along a meandering canal on the waterways of Europe.

A private barge charter's itinerary can be tailored to fit your personal interests. Many of our barges have sample itineraries for family cruises. Take a look at their online brochure under "Itineraries".



For example, during a cruise on the French Hotel Barge Anjodi along the Canal du Midi, there are visits to the underground Limoussis Caves, the Meze Dinosaur Park, and medieval fortified Carcassonne where the youngsters can pretend to be gallant knights, while the grown-ups can enjoy wine tastings at local vineyards and explore the wonderful food market in Narbonne. Rick Stein certainly enjoyed it when we was on board Anjodi filming his French Odyssey TV series some years ago.


Another great destination for a family cruise is the Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy, home to the French Hotel Barge L’Art de Vivre. Activities for the younger members can include tree-climbing and kayaking at local adventure parks and visiting the Parc L’Auxois zoo, while other folks in the family can indulge in a private wine tasting in Chablis and a tour of the Renaissance Château d’Ancy le Franc.


When considering taking children on a boating holiday in France, a river cruise in the Loire Valley aboard the French Hotel Barge Nymphea, is an amazing way to explore the many attractions this region has to offer There’s nothing like seeing the world through the eyes of children. Learning how locks operate, visiting castles, an aquarium and a zoo, makes this not only fun for children and adults but it’s an education in itself.


The Irish Hotel Barge Shannon Princess offers a Family Adventure charter which is a perfect casual cruise choice for families. Cruise through an area of spectacular unspoiled landscape, atmospheric ancient settlements and ruins with your friendly, professional crew. Each day can be changed and arranged to your immediate requirements. Activities may include: Walking, Zorbing, Zip Lining, Canoeing, Waterskiing, Trekking, Fishing, Cycling, Horse Riding, Water Sports, Traditional Music, Pottery & Crafts, Go-cart Racing, etc. This charming owner-operated barge has excellent modern facilities including Wii & PS3 on board (with games for all age groups) as well as DVDs and satellite TV. There's also interesting history, antiquity, folklore & music.


The family cruise holiday aboard Scottish Hotel Barge Scottish Highlander makes frequent stops on its itinerary that offer plenty of activities that are popular with children. On a typical trip, a child will have the chance to go bowling, try out some fishing, explore castles, go-karting, have a picnic, go swimming, and even join the chef in preparing a barbecue. A ride on the steam train that was used in the Harry Potter films is suitable for anyone of any age with an interest in steam locomotives, Harry Potter, or both. Remember to keep a lookout for Nessie!

Captain & The Kid --- Kids in Jacuzzi

The voyage itself is already great fun. Grandchildren may find themselves steering their 126 foot vessel along a tree-lined canal, perhaps joining their cousins in the barge jacuzzi or biking together, as their parents relax alongside on the sundeck just a few feet away.

Having your own chef makes evening meals both enjoyable and flexible on a family charter. Dinner can be enjoyed as a family, with perhaps a casual barbecue during the week for children to enjoy some alfresco dining. Or a high tea can be served for younger children with the normal recipes they enjoy. Alternatively, a combination where elder children join the adults for dinner and then a break between courses for an evening stroll before bedtime. Adults can then relax in peace and quiet with coffee and liqueurs.

Meze Dinosaur Park --- Parc L’Auxois

Ashore, as well as our traditional cultural visits, we can arrange horse riding, water sports, tennis and many other activities to keep the younger ones and young at heart, completely satisfied. As with all our charter itineraries your experience is fully customisable to suite the ages and needs of your group. Child equipment such high-chairs, car seats, child bike seats, travel cots, children’s bicycles and more are available on request at no extra cost.

"Harry Potter" Steam Train --- Château de Chenonceau

So, in the immortal words of The Ramones:

Hey Ho, Let's Go !

Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book your barge trip
Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:

It's not how far nor how fast, it's the pleasure of the journey that keeps people coming back for more.