Posts Tagged ‘France’

This season we cruised again with families. Already for years we propose a special ‘children’s itinerary’ for groups up to eight on L’Etoile. A big hit, and I really enjoy to do these cruises myself. L’Etoile has a little plunge pool on deck, lot’s of games, and the atmosphere is casual. When I purchased the 20 pax barge L’Estello last year, I hoped it would be possible to cruise with families on this barge too. I imagined three-generation parties, grandparents, their children and grand children meeting on L’Estello, using the barge as their home in France for a week…

L'Estello on the River Rhone

It worked, and I hope you enjoy reading this comment:

‘In a word, it was PERFECTION! Cobie and her team were warm and welcoming from the moment we boarded the barge. The accommodations were excellent and the beds were very comfortable. The food was well prepared, beautifully presented and plentiful. Cobie prepared platters for the children so that each parent could serve their own children, taking into account their likes and dislikes and portion sizes. Adults were served individually.

The sightseeing and biking activities were perfectly tailored, taking into consideration that we had three children between the ages of three and four children ages seven to twelve. Cobie, Nico, her assistant, and Christian, the captain, were always flexible with regard to meal times and sightseeing requests. They even babysat the children for one night when we had an adult dinner at a local restaurant in Arles.

When we left this morning Cobie asked if there was anything that she could have done to make the trip any better. I’m sorry to disappoint her but our trip was 110%! And you can certainly share this email for marketing purposes).

Our family would happily and unconditionally recommend your services and L’Estello with enthusiasm. Good luck with your business and the impending new addition to your family. And a very big “thank you” for arranging this wonderful holiday for us.’


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L’Etoile collision with Bull

One of our guests reported this very special and exciting event, while cruising with us on L’Etoile.
I wish I had a picture. I don’t, you have to try to picture it yourself!

As we arrived in Aigues Mortes to moor for the night, I saw that a bull was loose and running along the park next to the canal. People were chasing and yelling and the horsemen were running up and down to try and head him off and the bull was darting in and out of traffic and down the side of the hill. The shore had small groups of onlookers cheering and yelling. I watched it with interest, meanwhile checking out our mooring spot.
Suddenly the bull plunged into the canal and began to swim towards L’Etoile. It rammed horns-first right into the side of our barge and tried to swim in front of it. I think I yelled something, because suddenly our guests left their lunch and came on deck to see what was going on. I tried to direct captain Christian to miss the bull. Really, I am born on a barge, have been around on barges for all my life, but being broadsided by a bull, that was another first-one!

This is what our guests reported:
‘The bull climbed up out of the canal into a section of the park that was gated on both ends. That meant that the chasers could not get in unless they climbed over the gate. We watched this spectacle take place over the next half hour from the safety of our barges across the canal. The bull was literally a hundred feet from us. We had a front row seat and took a ton of pics.
The boys chased and taunted the bull and scattered to the trees and up onto walls whenever the bull made to chase them. At one point the bull was taunted, bull-fighter-style, by a young man holding something like a cape. The bull fiercely bobbed its head and horns and stomp its hooves in warning to keep your distance.
The police came. They saw the situation and drove off to find tools to dismantle the gate so they could drive a livestock truck into the area and capture the bull. They finally got the gate open. The horsemen came in first riding their proud, gray Arabians. There were eight of them and another dozen or so chasers. They hemmed and hawed and waited for the truck to arrive. Meanwhile the bull was going back and forth and stomping and bobbing and the chasers were taunting and running away.
Finally the trucks came. There were two. They parked side by side right near the edge by the canal. The horses went around the bull and began to herd him towards the trucks. We took bets as to whom would go into the canal first, the bull, the horsemen, or the chasers. Within a minute, with a lot of yelling and horses chasing, the bull came running up one of the ramps of the truck.
They quickly closed it…and that was that.’

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I am once again leaving the US again today. But before I go, I want to express my gratitude to everyone who made this visit so enjoyable and such a success. I love to talk about my barge, french cuisine and France and you were a wonderful and willing audience – from Jennifer at Belle Epoch Travel in San Diego, to all the agents at Casto Travel in San Francisco and to everyone who opened their homes to me. I enjoyed being with you so!

I would also like to thank all people from The Landings on Skidaway Island for coming to my reception. I felt honoured by your interest. After running an advertisement for several weeks in a local newsletter, the plan was made to give a reception, including wine and cheese, and provide an opportunity to meet and ask about ‘barge cruising in France’. Lots of people showed up! It was great to understand,that most of you had already looked at my web site www.hbcruises.com Thank you also for all your questions about the food, the itineraries, the crew, the en-suite cabins, private parties and more! You made it easy for me to talk about it, so far away from it!

One frequently asked question I would like to explain here: ‘What is actually a barge?’

For me, the term “barge” does not adequately describe the comfortable living quarters guests enjoy.  This former steamboat, built in the late 19th century, has been lovingly restored, keeping as much as possible, her traditional look. Guests enjoy our flat screen TV, I-pod docking station, a library of books and DVD’s and bicycles to ride along the footpaths that are part of the French country lifestyle.

I personally emphasize the fact that barge cruising on L’Etoile is customized, and catered to your needs, a personal approach, it is all about you, and for you!

I would like to thank all people helping me to make this reception possible, including the Savannah Sommelier Kevin Smith for being so kind to put up a flyer for this reception. When I walked into his shop, I was greeted with ‘Hi Cobie’, now, that feels very welcome! I was impressed by his very good selection of French wines and was excited to see wines in his shop from the Burgundy region where L’Etoile cruises! A very nice Meursault, Volnay, Santenay, Puligny-Montrachet, all places we can go touring while cruising this itinerary!

A big ‘Thank you all for coming.’ I certainly hope to receive you on my barge!

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Climbing in Sete

Climbing in Sete

Last summer we cruised several times with children on board. These cruises were delightful and very much appreciated. I so much enjoyed to cruise with these happy families, that I decided to write a special itinerary for families with children. You can check this out on our  cruise itineraries. We already booked our first family cruise 2009!

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Halfway the cruising week, two chefs decided to cook a meal for everyone, including all five crew, eightteen people in total.

I thought that was a great idea, although the idea of having all guests running around in my barge kitchen was a little scary, but why not…. 

In order to do this meal we suggested to go to the big covered market in Avignon, Les Halles. An amazing place! There are poissonieres (fish mongers), bouchers (butcheries), fruits et legumes (fruits and vegetables), spices and sweets. Also lots of boulangeries and patisseries, of course. They spent a good hour racing around the open market to find the best ingredients. Tour guide Nico had quite a job to keep track of all thirteen people, but he succeeded to come back on the barge with all of them. They even had the time to tour Avignon town, he brought cold bags to store the shopping.

The first idea of the chefs was to prepare a Salad Nicoise with lots of veggies. I think I looked a bit disappointed, because that is something we often eat ourselves for lunch. There was a lot of discussion going on and then this was their proposal:


Jay - One of our Guest-Chefs

Jay - One of our Guest-Chefs

*As a starter a leek and pear soup, followed by Ceviche (Poisson Citron) from three kinds of fresh fish including a beautiful swordfish, with crudités of assorted veggies, salad and citrus-braised Brussels sprouts.
*As the main course BBQ’d Tuscan Ribeye, on the barbeque, marinated in lots of fresh garlic and a good handful of rosemary (from the barge’s herb garden), a potato dish they had learned from a Tuscany adventure.
*As dessert two large apple and pear galette’s

The guests had to cook in both barge kitchens while cruising. That took some coordination. It was very serious cooking. They made their own chicken stock out of carcasses and a fresh stewing hen (purchased complete with feathered head and feet – luckily, they knew at least how to ask the butcher how to cut the head off!) All fish, meat and vegetables fresh and nicely cooked, the dessert was made from scratch. It took some time to convert the measurements, to find all pots and pans they needed, but it worked! It can give some funny things if you do not speak or read the French language, like trying to beat milk into whipped cream, just fun!

It was the first time guests offered us to make a meal and also the first time I’d ever sat eightteen people for dinner on L’Etoile.

It all was absolutely divine!

We were impressed, a big “thank you” to our guests!

With this group we were able to dine outside, on the sundeck of the barge, the weather was still great, although we cruised in October!

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It has been a long, long time ago I wrote something on this blog. I cannot believe, almost another cruising season ending! There are so many stories to tell, I find it difficult where to start. This season I cruised mainly in beautiful Provence and in the natural park of the Camargue and it has been great! The flamingos showed themselves each cruise and several times we were really lucky to see them flying over the barge. One of our guests succeeded to take great pictures, hopefully I will receive them one day, I cannot wait to add them on the web site.

Flamingos of the Camargue

We still have two barge cruises lined up, very special, L’Etoile will cruise in tandem with other barges. Next week we will receive a group of 22 people and the week after 13 people, I will tell you all about it after those weeks! This Sunday we will depart from Avignon and cruise towards Agde on the Canal du Midi. The next week we start our cruise in Marseillan on the Etang du Tau and cruise along the oyster beds towards Beaucaire on the Canal du Rhone a Sete.We are looking forward to these weeks, cruising, special tours on request, it is all possible!

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Happy New Year

Back in France!
Lots of things to tell you!

First of all we wish you a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!

We started the New Year with a New Look, and a New Web Address – http://www.hbcruises.com/

The New Year with friends on the barge, it was warm and cozy. Often, during the cruising season, people ask me if the open fire really works, so hard to imagine while cruising during the summer. The answer is yes, and it gives a wonderful atmosphere!

Galette des Rois

Galette des Rois

Slowly ‘La France’ started up again on January 2. And already we celebrate another tradition.

In lot of French homes, a ‘galette des rois’ is baked. It is still a very popular tradition and an opportunity for family and friends to gather around the table. The cake contains a lucky charm ‘la fève’ and comes with a golden paper crown.

The cake is served, and the person who finds the ‘fève’ becomes the king and is given the crown. The round form and golden colour reminds of the sun, the days are getting longer!

The ‘fèves’ were beans in the past. But as the tradition was, that the person who found the ‘fève’ had to buy a round of drinks for all the people joining the party, the potential King or Queen often swallowed the bean!
The lucky charm started being made of china and became often a collectionable item.

For those who are not that courageous in the kitchen, the galette des rois is sold in all French bakeries, all over France.

Here I found a recipe on the net: http://www.info-france-usa.org/atoz/galette.asp


January 6, The Feast of Epiphany or Little Christmas, is a holy festival honoring the wise men coming to the infant Jesus. This is one of the most popular eating traditions in France that takes place in January every year. A “fève” – a small china figurine – is hidden in the galette before baking. The lucky guest who gets the fève is crowned king and chooses his queen among the other guests. This takes place all over France in every family, between friends and work colleagues. The children absolutely love the game.

Recipe: Galette des Rois

(Serves eight)


1 1/4 lb frozen puff pastry
2 eggs
7 oz almond paste

Leave the puff pastry at room temperature for about 2 hours until defrosted but still cold. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet or pizza pan with baking parchment or grease the pan and lightly sift flour on it. Shake off any excess flour. Roll each sheet of pastry into a circle about 12 inches across.Place one circle on the prepared pan.Mix the egg with the almond paste until smooth and spread the mixture evenly on the prepared circle of pastry, leaving a border 1 1/2 inches wide all around. If you have a small china, insert it into the almond mixture (you may also use a bean as the fève.)  The person who gets the fève is the King or Queen. Place the second circle of pastry on top and press it down tightly around the rim. Beat lightly the remaining egg and brush it on the top of the cake. With a long-bladed knife, press lightly but firmly through the egg glaze marking a crisscross pattern. Bake for 20–25 minutes until golden and puffed. Do not check for doneness for at least 15 minutes, as the pastry may collapse. Serve slightly warm or cold.

Bon Appétit et a Bientôt!


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