Sailing alongside the Great Barrier reef? Yes, I’ve done it, but with help of an experienced captain of course. Cruising across a river in France WITHOUT any navigation experience or having a boat license? Yep, done that too! How? Read on..
Last week I sailed across the Saône river in France with a huge boat by Nicols, a boating company that offers a variation of boats that you can rent at different locations across Europe. The cool thing is, that you don’t need a boat or sailing license to cruise along the rivers. Boating holidays like these are well known by the French, the English and the Germans, but Funny enough, many Dutch still haven’t heard of it.
Nicols invite me to try it for one week. Cruising from Dole, all the way up to Port Sur Saône by boat. Or may I say yacht. It was huge! The boat they provided for us, was the Estivale Sixto. It had 3 bedrooms, 2 toilets, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen and a living area. Oh, and I forgot to mention the large sundeck big enough for 8 people. Instead of 8 people, me, my hubby and our child Caiden opted for the challenge.
Which Route is right for you?
We cruised along the Saône river, which is located in North East France, but Nicols has 19 other route options in France, 2 in Germany and 1 in Portugal. All river cruises have one thing in common; it’s quiet, relaxing and peaceful. Don’t expect to visit big cities, with many bars or restaurants. Some villages are so tiny, they only count 82 inhabitants! (as long as they have a bakery right?)
Your confidence will grow after a few locks
154 km with a total of 23 locks. Locks?! I hear you think. Yes, that was a first for me too. When you cruise the rivers, you have locks to account for, and for this, you need your full attention. I must admit, the locks gave me some nerves a view times. You need to toss a rope, hope someone on shore will catch it, or otherwise you need to climb up a very steep stairs, while the boat manoeuvres it’s way into the lock. It was my job to do it right. The boyfriend would steer, while our little boy sat in in high chair, watching the spectacle with his lifejacket on.
ROUTE 3 : DOLE – PORT-SUR-SAÔNE
(Some of the towns & villages we passed)
- Dole: starting point and such a cute town! I advise you to stay the night here and enjoy the small streets, and smell of fresh baguettes.
- Auxonne: Church, castle, museum, a few small restaurants near the water
- Pontallier-sur-Saône: Square de la Vierge (plantsoen), kasteel van Talmay, wasplaatsen
- Heuilley-sur-Saône: La maison de l’eau, de la pêche et de la nature (museum over water, visserij en natuur)
- Essertenne-et-Cecey: Very small village
- Mantoche: Caste & Chruch
- Gray: A bigger town with a tourist office, a nice outside terrace, some restaurants and shops. TIP: I advise you to dock the boat one lock further where you have a camping with a nice restaurant, swimming pool and BBQ’s.
- Ray-sur-Saône: A big castle, other than that, not much to see
- Scey-sur-Saône: Navigate your boat through a 640 meters long tunnel, very cool!
- Port-sur-Saône: The final destination, park your boat in the harbour, visit the deer park, swimming pool
If you want a little more buzz, you should check out the south route from Port Lauragais or Le Somail where you pass Carcasonne.
In The Middle of Nowhere
You can stop whenever you want and dock almost everywhere you want. At first we docked at small harbors, located at villages, but as our confidence grew, we docked in the middle of nature a few times. Tip: buy enough water and food, because there might not be a supermarket nearby for a few miles. We took our bicycles and explored a few villages where we could only find cows, cornfields and farms. I really felt like I was in the middle of nowhere, and where wifi didn’t matter. Sometimes we stayed at campings, other times next to a cornfield, drinking vino underneath the stars. In order to get to your final docking place on time, you need to cruise about 20km a day. We did around 25 – 30 km a day, so you’ll easily make it.
Add Some Extra’s
At Nicols you have a few add on’s you can go for. You can hire bicycles for example, which are super handy if you decide to dock in the middle of nowhere and you need to get some fresh croissants for breakfast. You can also hire an inflatable pool, which is nice for those hot days. Some boats even have a small pool on board! (see photo)
Such a unique experience! Mind you, cruising a river, isn’t like cruising the open sea, with the opportunity to visit (busy) jetset islands, with many restaurants, shops or bars. If you decide to rent a boat with Nicols, you will relax, appreciate nature, and add some navigation skills to your resumé. (I learned something new everyday!) It’s perfect for couples, a group of friends or families. Dogs are allowed on deck! Cost: The boat that I had with all the add on’s and Diesel, cost around €3570,-. It was big enough to share with 3 couples.
More travel tips?