Royal Babies & Kids
Queen Elizabeth II
WILLIAM & KATE
Kate Middleton Style
HEALTH & BEAUTY
Mother & Baby
Health & Fitness
More on Travel:
Wonders of the world
winter sun destinations
Canalboats in France: all aboard!
Somewhere between a cruiser and gypsy caravan, the houseboats that travel up and down the canals of France offer a relatively cheap holiday option, perfect for planning a family holiday or a trip with friends. And sailing one is simply child's play!
No worries about planning hotels in the next town, or whether you'll arrive in daylight or in time to find somewhere for a meal: take a week away, and take the accommodation with you,
sailing in total freedom along your chosen route around the network of canals and rivers that crisscross France
. It's perfect for gathering together a group of friends or to delight the kids with an unusual holiday: when they get back to school they'll be boasting to their friends of how they took the helm. These delightful canal boats really are that easy to handle, and the brief explanation given when you pick up the rented boat is plenty to help you overcome any fear, and master the main manoeuvres, such as mooring or negotiating a lock. After that, the trip's just plain sailing. No license or prior knowledge is needed and there's no need to hire crew.
The houseboats come in different sizes, from some that are just big enough for two, to others with space for up to a dozen people. You'll find everything you need installed on board: cabins, kitchen, dining room, bathroom and bedding; and for just a little extra, you can
rent a bike for exploratory excursions into rural France
. (Of course you'll have left the car safely in the controlled car park that the rental centres usually provide.)
As well as being fun, this type of holiday is perfect for recession times. Most of the canals are easily reached by car, prices start from around £230 per person per week, and you can save a fortune by doing your own catering on board and only eating in restaurants when you specifically choose to.
True, you won't get to travel a long way, as the vessels' top speed is around ten kilometres an hour, but it's not hard to find a route that includes some
beautiful countryside, maybe even a beach, and
lots of history
. These waterways were once crucial for trade between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, so towns and villages flourished along the banks. You can pop into a different market each morning for
baguettes and fresh croissants for breakfast
or tie up on the bank and stroll around the peaceful streets as evening falls.
There are a full
8,500 kilometres of waterways across France
, which makes it easy to find the ideal setting, from the beautiful scenery of Brittany, the Loire or Burgundy or regions closer to the Camargue, Aquitaine, and the historic Canal du Midi. The only possible downside is that bookings tend to be made well in advance, so not all options will be available at all times. If the idea appeals, don't waste time but hoist the Jolly Roger and set sail.
Tips & suggestions:
Houseboats of all sizes are available in key areas of France, as well as in Italy, Holland, Ireland, Scotland, England, Germany and Belgium. As a rough guide, a six-berth vessel will cost between £1,500 and £2,700 a week depending on the season (usually spring to autumn).
French Government Tourist Office
Want to get sharing?
Follow us on
Get the latest celebrity and royal news in your inbox.
Sign up for the HELLO! newsletter
Monaco's royal twins turn two with a surprise jungle-themed birthday party
Shania Twain is 'flattered' by Nick Jonas and Drake crushes
Kate Middleton and the Cambridge Lover's Knot Tiara: The history behind the stunning royal headpiece
Jennifer Aniston picks her top four 'Bachelor' contestants for Nick Viall
Ryan Gosling is excited for Christmas with his and Eva Mendes' two little girls
Celebrity week in photos: Karolina Kurkova, Sarah Jessica Parker and more stars get artsy in Miami
Princess Leonore gets a taste of Sweden in London and more royal highlights
Celebrity, royal, fashion news at HELLO!