A hotel barge cruise in France makes for a unique opportunity to explore some unusual sites that wouldnt be accessible from a larger type of cruise ship. Experiencing these hidden highlights from the inland waterways allows for excellent views and the best photography opportunities.
Below is an introduction to four unusual attractions that only a barge trip can do justice.
The Arzviller Boat Elevator
The Arzviller Boat Lift is considered one of the most iconic features of the French waterways. The elevator was designed to move inland flatboats up and down an altitude of 44.45 metres. Previously, 17 locks and six to nine days were needed to complete the process; with the construction of the boat elevator, a time frame of only four minutes is needed to cross the low mountain range of the Vosges. Each year, 140,000 visitors come to experience the lift, which is a highlight of cruises between Paris and Strasbourg Point from April to October - making the Arzviller Boat Elevator the most visited technical attraction in the Lorraine region.
The Briare Aqueduct
Situated near the French commune of Chtillon-sur-Loire, the 662-metre long Briare Aqueduct is the second longest steel canal aqueduct in the world. Designed by French engineers Lonce-Abel Mazoyer and Charles Sigault, Gustave Eiffel, famous for designing the Eiffel Tower in Paris, also contributed to the construction with the completion of its masonry abutments and piers. The steel channel of the Briare Aqueduct was eventually completed by Dayd & Pill of Creil and inaugurated on September 16th, 1896. Cruising across this unique structure is experience that only holidaymakers on a barge cruise in France and passengers of smaller boats can enjoy.
The Arzviller Tunnels
The tunnels of Arzviller are thousands of metres long. Passing through them under the faint orange glow of the tunnel lights is an experience both romantic and eerie.
The Malpas Tunnel
The Malpas tunnel is included on many a barge cruise in France, specifically on itineraries that take in the Canal du Midi. Excavated in 1679, it allows the passage of the canal to travel under the hill d'Ensrune, in Hrault.
The construction of the tunnel didnt go without its troubles. Soon after commencement, it was halted by French Prime Minister Colbert, when very brittle sandstone subject to slippage was discovered after a few metres of digging in the hard rock. As this created a danger of collapse, Chevalier de Clerville (architect to monarch Louis XIV), advised that it would be safer to cross the River Aude rather than tunnel through the hill. However, Pierre-Paul Riquet, chief engineer of the project, secretly decided to ask his master mason to continue tunnelling, and less than eight days later the 165-metre long tunnel was completed with a concrete ceiling throughout. This made the construction of an extra lock unnecessary and saved barges the problems that crossing the river Aude would cause.
These and many more unusual sites can be discovered from the water on a barge cruise in France. Different canals come with different highlights, but the ones of the Canal du Midi are regarded to be among the most spectacular.
By: Paul Newman
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Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways. We can provide you with a luxury, all-inclusive barge cruise in France to enjoy the sights of the country's most picturesque waterways. Cruises are also offered in Holland, Italy and the UK.