If you love houseboating and want to see Europe in an unconventional way, Le Boat has a trip that will change the way you want to travel in the future. When Steve and Cheryl Fielding of Springfield, Mo., were invited to see the back country of France on a houseboat, they jumped at the chance, even though they had little houseboating experience.
"Our friends had been before and told us how much fun they had," said Steve. "So when they invited us along, we were really excited to go."
The couple joined their long-time friends, Dr. Bob and Charlotte Turnball and Nathan and Beth Davis, on a Le Boat adventure in France that started in Nort-Sur-Erdre and ended in Messac. This trip is known as The Dukes of Brittany Cruise and covers 162 miles through 18 locks in approximately 35 hours of cruising time over 7 days.
"You travel at your own pace," said Steve. "One day we happened upon a photo exhibit in la Gacilly, which is an art village. We just wandered around for the entire afternoon. It's not something we normally would have thought to make a special trip to, but it turned out to be fascinating."
That's one of the major benefits of Le Boat. You aren't just visiting tourist attractions with a million other people. These trips are an opportunity to get off the beaten path and experience life with the local people.
"We picked up pork chops from a local butcher one night and cooked them on the boat," said Steve. "They were some of the best I had ever eaten. We would never have done that if we had been staying in a hotel, yet it's the best experience."
The couple are no strangers to spending time abroad. In fact, their twin daughters, Cydney and Clare, were born while they were living in England 19 years ago. They have traveled back several times since then, yet this was a completely new adventure.
"We've always enjoyed Europe, but this experience was as good as it gets," said Steve. "The view of the bank from the water is incredibly beautiful. The flowers were in season and you were seeing country that was out of the way for most."
The boat easily accommodated the six people, with each of the three rooms coming with its own head.
"Taking a shower was a bit of a challenge with the toilet in the way," said Steve. "But really the boat was extremely spacious, which allowed all of us to spread out and enjoy time above and below the deck."
The kitchens onboard are outfitted so that guests can cook for themselves if they wish. The boat comes with a lot of cooking utensils, a fridge, gas stove and a microwave.
"In some ways it was stocked better than my kitchen at home," said Steve. "We didn't have one instance where we didn't have something we needed and we were eating at least one meal a day on the boat."
Traveling around France in July will be a relief from high temperatures that are typical in the US.
"It was typically between 68-70 degrees each day," said Steve. "The weather was rainy so when it was damp, we cruised in the houseboat. When it stopped, we got out and enjoyed France. It really was a win/win situation."
Le Boat isn't exclusive to France. The company offers trip all across Europe, including adventures in Italy, Ireland, England, Scotland, Holland, Belgium and Germany. Once you pick the country you are interested in visiting, there are several different trips in each area available. Whether you want to see the traditional Dutch windmills in Holland, shop for a kilt in Scotland or see medieval castles in Germany, Le Boat can get you with in a boat ride.
"Our most popular trip is through the Canal du Midi, which was built by Pierre-Paul Riquet in the 17th century and is an amazing feat of engineering," said Le Boat rep Brent Jenkins. "Linking the Atlantic with the Mediterranean, it takes you on a wonderful journey through the sun-drenched vineyards and pretty waterside villages of the Languedoc-France's most prolific wine producing region."
The seasoned houseboater wouldn't think twice about hopping onboard and taking off. But the great thing about Le Boat is that even if you don't have experience, you don't have to be intimidated.
"Don't worry if you have never been on a boating holiday before; our boats are so easy to handle that no previous experience is necessary. We give everyone a hands-on demonstration before they set off, as well as an in-depth briefing which covers everything from tying knots to how the oven works," said Jenkins. "We want you to set off feeling confident and relaxed, so you can enjoy this great holiday adventure."
Plus the team is available to answer any questions once you set out, even if you just need help making a dinner reservation. If you happen to experience technical difficulties, engineers can be with you quickly, so truly, no experience is required to take off on a European houseboat adventure.
"The Le Boat experience differs from other European holidays because you can stop whenever and wherever you want, and for as long as you want all from the unique perspective of your sundeck," said Jenkins. "Along your journey, make the most of colorful markets for shopping and join in with summer festivals to celebrate a more traditional way of life. At the end of the day, watch the sun set over reed beds, fields and vineyards and moor under the stars, along the quayside or in a marina."
Next time you feel like getting out of the country, consider seeing Europe aboard a houseboat. It will be an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. Just ask the Fieldings.
For more information on Le Boat Vacations visit www.leboat.com.