Wednesday, March 31, 2021

FRANCE: The Canal de Garonne

Canal de Garonne
Southwest France
Canal des Deux Mers (Garonne & Midi)
Discover the Canal de Garonne aboard 8-passenger, luxury French hotel barge Rosa, as she cruises Bordeaux and Gascony in Southwest France.
The Canal de Garonne stretches over 120 miles and contains no less than 53 locks. It begins at its junction with the Canal du Midi in Toulouse, travelling west to Castets-en-Dorthe where it opens into the tidal Garonne River. The port of Castets used to be very busy with barges queuing up, waiting for high tide so they could continue with their cargo on to Bordeaux. The canal is part of a route dissecting the south of France which allows boats to pass directly between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic without circumnavigating Spain and through the Strait of Gibraltar, where Barbary Pirates were rife during the 17th century. The Canal des Deux Mers is the name now commonly used for the entire navigable route, including the Canal du Midi, which extends for nearly 370 miles from Bordeaux to Sète.
Work on the 19th century Canal de Garonne did not start until 1838, nearly 150 years after the Canal du Midi was already in use. As was the case with other parts of the French canal network, the advent of the railway soon affected its use for the commercial transport of goods. Unlike the earlier Canal du Midi, the Canal de Garonne features many straight stretches, and between Toulouse and Agen the railway is always nearby. The area around Agen is a bountiful fruit-growing region of France, with strawberries, cherries, apples, pears, plums and peaches grown in the vicinity. In early summer, the banks come alive with yellow iris which welcome passing boats. The canal also sports the world’s first “water slope,” built in 1974 at Montech to replace a flight of locks. Two other engineering marvels and impressive structures are the aqueducts over the Tarn near Moissac and over the Garonne at Agen.
Cruise the Canal de Garonne aboard Rosa 
Offering an intimate luxury experience, 8 passenger Rosa cruises Gascony in the Spring and early Summer, and Bordeaux in the late Summer and Autumn along the Canal de Garonne.

About The French Hotel Barge Rosa

French Hotel Barge Rosa

Rosa's charming accommodation for eight guests features two double and two twin-bedded staterooms, each with private ensuite bathrooms, and a saloon that gives direct access onto the spacious sundeck. A cruise on Hotel Barge Rosa is the ideal way to explore this beautiful, pastoral region of Southwest France.

Rosa's Gascony route from Agen (Boé) to Montauban on the Canal des Deux Mers, a delightful waterway that links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, features the best that the region has to offer: Armagnac, foie gras, and wine tastings, delightful French countryside, and fascinating excursions.

Covid-19 info:

Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book ROSA
View Rosa's online brochure
Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:

Monday, March 29, 2021

Experience France: Autumn Wine Harvest

Autumn Wine Harvest
Barge Cruises in France

For many visitors to France, a major draw is the country’s centuries-old legacy of winemaking, particularly during the wine harvest months. Our wine appreciation cruises travelling through such renowned regions as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne and Alsace, have long been popular with oenophiles keen on an inside look into the production behind some of the world’s finest vintages.

Though summer may be the peak barging season for many travellers, the vineyards of France offer up delights and surprises all year round. As the days shorten and the vine leaves turn golden, vintners begin the age-old tradition of harvesting grapes and start the winemaking process anew. If you choose to cruise in the off-peak season in Autumn, you’ll be well-rewarded with a glimpse into one of France’s most time-honored traditions.

La Vendange: The Harvest

In France, wine harvest time is known as "la vendange". Because the grapes ripen at different rates depending on species, la vendange spans about two months – typically from August to October. During this time, the French countryside is bustling with activity as vintners work to haul in the wine harvest. Though the process has been mechanised somewhat, most vineyards still harvest by hand, hiring temporary, seasonal help to deal with the enormous volume.
You don't need to get out into the fields and get your hands dirty to enjoy the wine harvest. In many French towns, the wine harvest season is cause for celebration and local festivals take place all across the country.

Festivals and Celebrations

Nearly every region of France produces wine, so there’s hardly a dull moment in the between August and October. One of the season’s most prestigious festivals takes place each September in Saint-Emilion in Bordeaux. Since 1199, this medieval town has held the Jurade de Saint-Emilion, during which local winemakers open their cellars to the public for two days. Similar festivals also take place in the Beaujolais region to welcome the latest Beaujolais Nouveau.

Whether big regional affairs or local celebrations, French wine festivals are an annual rite of Autumn. You can expect to see grape-pressing, taste regional foods, hear local music, and of course, drink a wide variety of local wines.

If you really need another reason to cruise in France during the Autumn, consider that the off-peak season is more relaxed than the busy summer months and value-season rates may apply. You can expect fewer crowds with summer holidays finished and children back in the classroom. What’s more, Autumn in France boasts bright, warm days and crisp nights, plus a dazzling display of yellow, orange, and red foliage across the countryside. Try Autumn cruising just once and you’ll never look back.
Covid-19 info:

Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Understanding French Wine - French barge Athos

How to Read and Understand a French Wine Label
The French Hotel Barge Athos who cruises along the canal du midi in southern France shares some insight on how to read and understand a French wine label...
Some tips on knowing what’s in the bottle…
When you’re browsing the wine shop shelves looking for the perfect trip down memory lane in a wine bottle, how can you possibly know whether anything on that shelf will resemble what you drank while you were onboard Athos?

You need to be able to understand the content on a french wine label. The best news is that fluent french is not an obligation in this case.

French wines carry considerable information on that sometimes-confusing label.  It can show where a wine comes from, how it was vinified, and which grapes were used.

Below is a great resource writtten by Total Wine & More:  a map of the Languedoc wine regions, and a diagram of what can be found and where on a typical wine label. 

It shows the areas called the AOCs – or Appellation d’Origine Controlés.  These colour-blocked areas on the map show the officially licensed french wine regions with grape-growing and vinification requirements needing to be met in order to carry the AOC mark of standard.

Following the map and label-guide below, you should be able to work out the (relative) prestige of the winery, the age of the wine, the vinification, the grape varietals.   Voilà.  How to understand a french wine label.

How to Understand a Languedoc Wine Label
(with explanations in red)

(Click image to enlarge)

(Click image to enlarge)
Thanks for the information, Athos!

About The French Hotel Barge Athos

Hotel Barge Athos on the River Orb aqueduct


Cruise Highlights:
  • Tour of the medieval city of Carcassonne
  • Private tour and tasting at a Minervois winery
  • Organic Olive Tasting at L’Oulibo
  • Cruise through the natural haven that is the “Petit Camargue”
  • Tour and tasting at the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery
  • Excellent towpath for walking and cycling

Covid-19 info:

Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book ATHOS
View Athos' online brochure
Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:


Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Book your Barge Cruise with Confidence

 Barge Cruises in our New Times

Updated March 1, 2021
For any new bookings made up to April 30, 2021 for cruises in 2021 & 2022, you may reschedule your cruise at any time up to 30 days prior to departure if certain COVID-19 related government regulations will or are likely to prevent travel to the barge.

Privacy and Seclusion on a Whole Barge Charter

How better to enjoy the very best of a destination on a post-lockdown escape, than in the comfort and seclusion of a private whole barge charter? From groups of friends to families in hopes of reconnecting and making up for lost time during lockdown, we’re seeing a high interest for charter bookings in 2021. It’s not difficult to see why, with the perks of what feels like having your very own private floating villa, equipped with a personal crew and private chef.

See Book Your Cruise With Confidence for more information.

Please visit our website for Safe Cruising Protocols being undertaken by the barges.

Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:

Friday, March 05, 2021

FRANCE: The Tastes of Gascony


Experience the Tastes of Gascony
Aboard French Hotel Barge Rosa

Gascony has some of the most delicious gastronomic traditions in France. Let the French Hotel Barge Rosa introduce you to the region’s food and wine in the most wonderful way.

Rosa cruises the areas of Gascony and Bordeaux

How better to spend a relaxed, romantic holiday than sampling some of the country’s delectable delights aboard a barge cruise? Here are a few of the specialties you should definitely try…

Confit de Canard

An iconic delicacy, confit de canard is a rich dish made from salt-cured duck legs cooked in their own fat. Traditionally, it was designed as a filling and sustainable dish for the winter months (it can be preserved up to six months once cured and cooked) and is often served with baked new potatoes and green vegetables, or used in a cassoulet.

Foie Gras

While it might be the subject of some debate, there’s no doubt this is one of the most sought after gastronomic pleasures of the area. The rich, silky smooth duck liver pâté can be enjoyed on its own or incorporated in mousses, terrines, and soups. It’s quite often served up simply sliced and quickly seared in a pan.


Readily available on most menus around Gascony, cassoulet is a thick, heavy stew made from beans, sausages, and the classic confit de canard. It’s hearty, flavorful and usually served up with huge chunks of crusty fresh bread.


Gascony’s most famous cheese is the blue-marbled sheep’s milk cheese, Roquefort, which is still produced in the limestone caves of Combalou. Aged for a minimum of three months, the nutty, buttery flavor of Roquefort goes wonderfully with fruit (figs and prunes particularly) and wine.

Wines and Other Tipples

The wines of Gascony have a reputation as being among the best in the country, and any wine aficionado will have plenty to make them happy here.

The dry, fruity wines of the Côtes de Gascogne are outstanding, and you’ll also be able to sample some lovely Sauvignon Blancs. For lovers of red, the local barrel-aged Madiran is known for its deep brown color and lingering flavor.

As well as the classic reds and whites of the region, there are two other tipples you should not miss the opportunity to try, Armagnac made from fortified wine, and Floc, a sweet aperitif that is somewhat of an acquired taste.
Authentic Armagnac

This alcoholic beverage is a signature speciality of Gascony. It is the oldest brandy distilled in France. In the past, it was consumed for its therapeutic benefits. While it does share some similarities with its counterpart cognac, Armagnac is different from because of the way it is produced. 95% of the drink is distilled only once, using a specific form of continuous still – the Armagnac alembic. It is then aged in 400-liter oak barrels and stored in cellars. It can even be matured for up to 50 years before being packaged in glass bottles.

Armagnac can be divided into two main categories: vintage and non-vintage. Vintage Armagnacs are distilled from grapes grown in a single year, with the date displayed on the bottle. Non-vintage Armagnacs can either be labelled by age, where the number of years quoted relates to the youngest component of the blend or by category: VS (minimum two years in wood), VSOP (at least four years), XO (more than six years) or Hors d’Age (10 years plus).

Armagnac is usually produced by smaller family businesses rather than large global conglomerates which makes it a true delicacy that is ideally savoured in its place of origin.
Wine from Château Bellevue la Forêt

Included in Rosa's standard itinerary is a visit to the famous vineyard Château Bellevue la Forêt. For wine lovers, this gorgeous estate is akin to a sprawling paradise of vine and vino. Spread out over 270 acres, it’s the largest single privately-owned wine estate in the southwest of France and the wines produced here have won several accolades and awards worldwide.

Château Bellevue la Forêt is produced from the following fine varieties :
  • 57 hectares of NEGRETTE (a variety specific to the Fronton Appellation and rarely encountered elsewhere)
  • 6 hectares of CABERNET FRANC
  • 16 hectares of SYRAH
  • 12.5 hectares of CABERNET SAUVIGNON
  • 7 hectares of GAMAY
  • 2.3 hectares of white grapes (Viognier, Roussanne, Petit Manseng).
This wine tasting is a wonderfully informative way to get to know a little bit more about the wine making process in an impossibly romantic surrounding!

Visit Gascony With Hotel Barge Rosa

Ready to head to Gascony to experience the fabulous food, wine, and landscape of this beautiful region? Have Paradise Connections arrange your luxury hotel barge cruise and the food, wine, and excursions are taken care of. You’ll be able to sit back, relax and enjoy one of the most memorable holidays of your life while Barge Rosa transports you to wonderful places of interest.

Each evening there's a three or four-course culinary journey that showcases the best of the regional specialties. After your meal, you are more than welcome to a digestif and a dip in the hot tub beneath the stars…

About The French Hotel Barge Rosa

Rosa's charming accommodation for eight guests features two double and two twin-bedded staterooms, each with private ensuite bathrooms, and a saloon that gives direct access onto the spacious sundeck. A cruise on Hotel Barge Rosa is the ideal way to explore this beautiful, pastoral region of Southwest France.

Rosa's Gascony route from Agen (Boé) to Montauban on the Canal des Deux Mers, a delightful waterway that links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, features the best that the region has to offer: Armagnac, foie gras, and wine tastings, delightful French countryside, and fascinating excursions.

Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book ROSA
View Rosa's online brochure
Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging:

Thursday, March 04, 2021

FRANCE: The Cuisine of Strasbourg

A Spotlight on the Cuisine of Strasbourg

Strasbourg is a highlight of any French barge cruise that takes in the stunning, and often overlooked, regions of Alsace and Lorraine. Sitting at the crossroads of western and central Europe, this city is bursting with a rich and intricate history, home to an incredible array of architecture, and proud of its strong cultural traditions.
Perhaps not the first city that comes to mind when you think of culinary delights, but Strasbourg should not be dismissed if you are a self-confessed foodie. Known as one of the most unique gastronomic destinations in Europe, it draws its influence from both France and Germany, making its recipes unlike anything you will find anywhere else in the world.
With menus made up of hearty fare and rich rustic ingredients such as doughy noodles, cream and sauerkraut, the food will definitely not leave you feeling hungry. Here’s a little look into the regional cuisine of Strasbourg on a cruise aboard Panache…


This delicious vegetable dish is really just cabbage and is very similar to sauerkraut, but it is elevated to new levels when prepared the Alsatian way. To make the deluxe version, the cabbage is pickled in wine and then stewed with fortifying vegetables and smoked meats. As the stew breaks down, the flavors melt into one another creating the most divine culinary sensation.

Coq au Riesling 

A take on the Burgundian classic, this version is much lighter and made with the local sour white wine, which provides a tangy finish to the sauce. Often presented with boiled potatoes and a simple salad, this is a lighter meal than most local dishes.

Tarte à L’Oignon 

A very versatile offering, this tasty tart can be eaten hot or cold and is often enjoyed as a snack. Pastry and onions that have been caramelised to perfection are the simple ingredients that make this delicious treat sing. The tart is much loved by the locals and served in every winstub (wine bar) in the city.


Definitely one for the bigger appetites, this casserole takes its name from the local term for ‘baker’s oven’, which was the vessel in which the dish was once cooked. In times gone by, people would collect all their meat scraps and vegetables and pop them into a big pot that they then took to a baker, who would cook it in the oven overnight and have it ready the next day. The stew is still made in the same way today but without the baker’s oven. The meat and vegetables are slow cooked with white wine and potatoes for hours until the meat is falling apart and melts in the mouth.


Another pie-style dish that was once made to feed the farmers grafting in the Alsatian countryside, is a rich-filling offering made with Riesling-marinated meat. You can grab a slice at any respectable Strasbourg bakery.

Savour the Cuisine of Strasbourg 

Hopefully, when you visit Strasbourg on a luxury barge cruise aboard Panache, you will give the delicious culinary offerings the attention they deserve. The food really is delicious and worth experiencing!

About The Hotel Barge Panache

Hotel Barge Panache

The 12-passenger Hotel Barge Panache cruises in Holland & Belgium during the springtime, then through Paris to Champagne, and finishes their season in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France.

Cruise Highlights
  • Tour the beautiful city of Strasbourg and visit its Gothic cathedral
  • Explore the Route des Vins d'Alsace and a private wine tasting
  • Visit the Meteor Brewery, founded in 1640
  • Experience an ascent or descent of the unique Arzviller boat elevator
  • Visit the spectacular René Lalique Collection
  • Tour of Sarrebourg including a visit to the Chagall chapel
  • Enjoy a candlelit meal whilst cruising through the two Arzviller tunnels
  • Excellent towpath for walking


The 128-foot Panache is a 12-passenger luxury hotel barge of classic Dutch design, fully air conditioned with spacious public areas and six en-suite stateroms, with your choice of twin or double bed configuration. En-suite bathrooms have twin sinks and oversize showers with massage jets.

Panache is traditionally furnished in an old ship style with brass and mahogany, creating a comfortable and charming ambience. The salon and dining room have large panoramic windows for viewing the passing countryside, as well as comfortable sofas, books and music, and an always open inclusive bar.

The sun deck is spacious and has a heated spa pool; a perfect place to watch the sun set after dinner.

Panache has a highly professional crew of six, comprised of Master Chef, Deck Hand, Tour guide, two Housekeepers, and led by a knowledgeable and experienced Captain, who will ensure your cruise is memorable and more.

Let's reserve your spot !

Contact Paradise Connections Yacht Charters to book PANACHE
View Panache's online brochure
Visit our website for more info on our barges and barging: