Sample Itinerary
Please note. These itineraries are indicative only. The barge operators will always attempt to tailor a cruise to the interests and wishes of the guests on board. There will always be the opportunity to walk or cycle along the towpath, to stroll round local villages, to fish, to play petanque, or just to lie back and do nothing! Equally, they can always arrange wine tastings at selected local vineyards, or excursions to other places of interest.

Boë (near Agen) to Meilhan-sur-Garonne (near Bordeaux) or reverse

Cruise route map
(Click to enlarge)

Bordeaux or Toulouse – Agen – Boë
The Captain of the Saint Louis meets us in Toulouse (or possibly Bordeaux) at 3.00 p.m. at our pre-arranged meeting place, and we are driven to Boë which is just on the outskirts of Agen. On arrival at the boat we settle in to our comfortable cabins, then after a short safety briefing there is a champagne reception followed by the first of many sumptuous dinners.
Our excursions during our cruises between Agen and Meilhan focus on places that provide insight into the history of the area – mediaeval and earlier – on the rural community which is known for the production of fruit and grapes, on the ways in which the population copes with the severe flooding that is experienced from time to time, and on the small industries that have arisen from all this, such as the impressive barrel makers at Buzet.

Boë – Serignac
After breakfast, we cruise through the centre of the pretty city of Agen. On leaving the city, we pass over the most remarkable aqueduct which takes us over the River Garonne – this is France’s longest masonry aqueduct. We then descend a chain of four locks to arrive at a beautiful overgrown stretch of the canal which is nicknamed the “Amazon”. At the end of our day’s cruise we moor in the pretty port of Serignac-sur-Garonne. In the afternoon we are taken on an excursion to three fabulous mediaeval villages called Sainte Colombe, Bruch, and Clermont Dessous – the last village having a superb view across the Garonne valley. We arrive back at the port in time to have a stroll through the village of Serignac before aperitifs and dinner.

Serignac – Buzet – Nerac
In the morning we cruise through beautiful unspoiled countryside before arriving at the delightful port of Buzet-sur-Baïse. After lunch, we are taken on an excursion to the beautiful town of Nérac on the River Baïse, where we visit the Château of King Henry IV and the old mediaeval quarter of the town with its Roman bridge. Later, we are taken on a fabulous visit to an Armagnac producer, based in an old Benedictine monastery; here we see the old chapel, where the Armagnac is aged, and we learn of the rich history of this property and the family that looks after it.

Buzet – Villeton
After breakfast, we are taken on a visit to a barrel-makers, where the owners of the works have set up a viewing platform over the shop floor, and we are treated to an almost ballet-like performance of highly organised craftsmen using very high technology and traditional skills. This private visit is memorable, not least because of the charm and dedication to his craft of the owner who takes us round. On our way back to the boat we call in on the famous Buzet wine producing cooperative.
We have lunch on the sun-deck as we cruise down the canal, through the port of Damazan and under shady avenues of plane trees, to arrive at our port of Le Mas d’Agenais. We stop at the astounding gem stone and fossil museum at La Falotte, where the owner explains the categories of his 7,000 exhibits in a fascinating way. We then cruise further down the canal and moor for the night in the small country port of Villeton.

Villeton – Caumont-sur-Garonne
In the morning we cruise further down the canal to Le Mas d’Agenais. Here the barge is moored, and the car is waiting for us to take us for a visit up to the town which is of Roman origin, and where we can see significent parts of the original Roman wall. We admire the wooden market hall which was built in 1616, and we visit the church in which there is an original Rembrandt. Later, we cruise further down the canal to arrive at the pretty “halte” of Caumont sur Garonne. From there, we are taken by car to a presentation called “Gens de Garonne (the People of Garonne) which in a remarkable and unique way tells the story of the people living on the side of the Garonne River.

Caumont – Meilhan sur Garonne
In the morning we head down the canal, cruising once again through superb countryside and under a canopy of trees. We arrive at our destination, Meilhan sur Garonne. In the afternoon we are taken by car to Castets en Dorthe, where the canal flows back into the River Garonne. We marvel at the flood marks on the specially heightened lock house, and we admire the Chateau that overlooks the village. From there we go to Langon, where we see a phenomenon of an entirely different era. This is the Airbus loading yard where massive parts of the new A380 aircraft are collected at the end of their sea journey, before embarking on their land journey to Toulouse for final assembly. We then take a short car journey to Chateau Roquetaillade, which has been in the same family for the last seven hundred years. The guided tour reveals some astonishing facts about this outstanding historical masterpiece.

Bordeaux (or Toulouse)
After a leisurely breakfast our bags are loaded into the vehicle, we make our fond goodbyes to the crew, and we are taken back either to Toulouse or Bordeaux for the onward journey.

A cruise holiday or vacation on the luxury hotel barge Saint Louis is bespoke, tailored to the interests and wishes of our guests. In addition to the ‘usual’ places often visited and noted above, there is the possibility of visiting one or other of the following (dependent of course on the constraints of time and practicality).

Other possible visits include:
  • The mediaeval bastide town of Vianne, with its protective fortified wall.
  • Vianne is a ‘Bastide’ village (founded in 1284 during the period when Aquitaine was English) and features an almost intact fortified wall. Since the 1920s it has been a centre of glass-blowing and our visit (by car) will normally see world-class blowing skills in action.
  • The Roman bridge and the Romanesque fortified mill at Barbaste.
  • The superb Château at Cazeneuve.
  • The wine centre of Duras, together with Château Duras.
  • The Musée des Beaux Arts at Agen, home to a number of Goyas.
  • The cork museum at Mézin.
  • The Lot Valley, with pretty towns such as Clairac.
  • A producer of Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne, who for five generations has been working an estate that was built as a monastery.
  • The small town of Clairac, with one of the best examples of half-timbered houses.
  • The town of La Reole, with its 10th century Benedictine monastery overlooking the valley.
  • Bruch – a delightful Bastide village with many interesting features.
  • Chateau de Bonaguil – said to be the finest fortress in the whole of France.

Montech (near Montauban) to Boë (near Agen) or reverse

Cruise route map
(Click to enlarge)

Toulouse – Lacourt St. Pierre – Montech
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.

Montauban – Castelsarrasin
After breakfast, we take the car for an excursion around Montauban, “city of art and culture”. We see statues by local artist Bourdelle, we 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 will see the extraordinary Montech Water Slope, an engineering marvel that is unique in the world. After cruising for the afternoon through gentle and productive rural countryside 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. A few more locks and we arrive in the port of Moissac. After lunch, we 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. There are numerous art shops, including a glass blower, in this gem of a mediaeval town.
As an option, Saint Louis can leave the canal at Moissac, for a short cruise on the River Tarn and the River Garonne. This option is unique among hotel barges in France.

Pommevic – Auvillar
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 – we usually 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, to the Spanish 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.

Lamagistere – Donzac – Dunes
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 by car 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 wall-plaques that detail some astounding events in the history of this little village.
Lamagistere is an easy 15-20 minute stroll from our peaceful rural mooring place close-by. We often visit Clermont as a morning excursion by car.

Clermont Soubiran – Agen
In the morning, we go in the car to nearby Clermont-Soubiran, where we have views over the whole Valley of the Garonne, and where a walk around the outside of the chateau never fails to impress. We then return to the boat and cruise down towards the provincial city of Agen. We moor at Boë on the outskirts of Agen. The possible excursions from Boë include a visit to the Musée des Beaux Arts in Agen, where there is a fine Egyptian and Levant collection as well as number of Goyas, or perhaps a visit to the first water-lily nursery in Europe, where Monet gained his inspiration.

After a leisurely breakfast on the Saint Louis, you are taken by car back to your connection in Toulouse (or elsewhere), passing through deep rural countryside with fruit orchards, sunflowers and vineyards.
Toulouse is France’s fourth biggest and probably most go-ahead city. A centre of space research, aeronautics and science, but also the seat of one of Europe’s oldest universities (1229). You will normally fly in and out of the city’s smart modern airport, collected or returned by us in our comfortable Mercedes people-carrier. Other arrival/departure locations are equally possible – see Getting to Saint Louis.

A cruise holiday or vacation on the luxury hotel barge Saint Louis is bespoke, tailored to the interests and wishes of our guests. In addition to the ‘usual’ places often visited and noted above, there is the possibility of visiting one or other of the following (dependent of course on the constraints of time and practicality).

Other possible visits include:
  • A visit to Chateau Saint Louis, where the owner will regale us with details of how he makes his award-winning wines.
  • A visit to the astonishing viewpoint of Boudou, from where the whole Garonne valley opens up.
  • A visit to the remarkable 11th century church at Lachappelle, which has its origins with the Knights Templar – modified in a baroque style and unique in France.
  • A visit to the birthplace of Lamothe Cadillac, where a small museum tells the remarkable story of how this Frenchman had a make of automobile named after him. 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 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.
  • A working goat farm, where you can see a commercial herd of goats being milked, and the milk made into cheese.
  • 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.
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The Barge Cruise Company Ltd, 2 Allée de Castelnouvel, 31490 Léguevin