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Why a Canal Boat Vacation?
Canal du Nivernais

Our adventure started with Julie picking up a travel magazine at the gym

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The magazine had an article about taking canal boat vacations in Holland. Knowing my interest in boating and Julies desire to expose the kids to Europe, she thought that it might be a good family vacation.

We started to surf the internet to find out more about chartering canal boats in Europe. There is no shortage of attractive locations or charter companies.

We began looking at Holland because of both the article and the fact that we thought the kids would enjoy seeing real working windmills. The only thing about Holland though, was the risk of having cool and overcast or rainy weather. We have spent too many summer vacations wearing windbreakers to keep dry to take the chance on bad weather.

Then we looked at narrow boats in England and Ireland. Both countries have extensive networks of canals. (Years ago Julie and I spent an hour or so in Stratford on Avon watching boats go through the locks there.) And while I would have loved to spend time in Ireland, again the weather risk knocked those to locations out of contention.

Trying to make sure that we had warm weather, we turned our search to France. Julie and I have spent a fair amount of time in Paris, but virtually no time at all in the French countryside. France too has a large network of canals, some of which date back hundreds of years. Between the canals and rivers you can boat across much of France.

We finally selected a one-way cruise from Vermenton to Sardy on the Canal du Nivernais for several reasons. First, we found the perfect boat and charter company for our familys requirements (see below). Second, Burgundy is known for fine weather, food, and wine--not much downside there. Lastly, it was an easy two hour drive from Paris in a rent a car.

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How We Selected Our Boat

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We had selected our boat, the Madame Leslie, because it had three dedicated bedrooms, two baths with showers, and a large main salon area to relax in. Several other boats had salons that the dining table converted into a bed, but we liked the idea of having a dedicated living area.

The galley had two refrigerators, a four burner stove, and most importantly two work areas. Plenty of room to cook our meals in.

There was a large deck area towards the bow that had enough room for us to put up a small inflatable swimming pool on to keep cool in. At the stern there was a sundeck area with a patio table and umbrella, a perfect spot for an end of the day glass of wine.

There were both internal and external steering positions, but the rear external was by far the easiest to use. Being able to see the whole boat when steering through a narrow canal is a big advantage.

Burgundy Cruisers, the charter company, runs an excellent operation. Their boats are kept in fabulous condition. They were very helpful through the whole process and always available by phone if you had any questions. You can also rent barbecues and bikes through them. While we only used the barbecue once, the bikes were a must have.

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