Discover Ireland’s Grand Canal on a Barge Cruise

Discover Ireland’s Grand Canal on a Barge Cruise

For your next holiday, take a barge cruise down the Grand Canal and travel from Dublin to Shannon to discover all Ireland has to offer. You can admire the gorgeous green countryside and delightful little cottages that line the waterway, while diving into its interesting and intricate history as a commercial route which allowed the surrounding towns to prosper.
Length and Route

 

The Grand Canal in Ireland extends for 117 kilometres. Passing through Leinster, it flows from Ringsend in Dublin to the Shannon Harbour in County Offaly. This is the main route, built to connect the capital city with the country’s midlands. The waterway does also have another run that spreads from Lowtown in Couty Kildare to the River Barrow in Athy. There are also various branches that link up with four other towns, though it’s worth mentioning that your barge cruise will probably stick to the main route.

Along the way, you can enjoy beautiful views of Irish towns and villages with their charming little cottages, while admiring the many bridges that arch over the smooth water. The fauna and flora also remain untouched, with grassy towpaths and side roads lining the waterway and adding to the iconic Irish countryside feel.

History of the Grand Canal

Though the canal was closed to commercial traffic in the mid-twentieth century, it has since been restored to its former glory and regularly welcomes a variety of boats and barge cruises. It still features the original 43 locks, five of which are, from an engineering point of view, particularly interesting as they are double locks. Back in the day, these would have allowed the traffic to move faster as two boats can pass at once and there’s more chance of reaching a lock that’s in your favour. The lock-keepers’ cottages have also been refurbished to celebrate the history of this canal…

Relationship with The Guinness Factory

…And what a history it is! The Grand Canal played a crucial role in the creation and development of the Guinness factory. In 1759, two years after the construction of the canal began, Arthur Guinness founded his famous brewery. Thanks to the waterway, he could transport heavy loads of the raw materials he needed far more cheaply and effectively than by road. It was also an ideal way of exporting his finished product. When you pass through the eighth lock on a barge cruise, keep your eyes peeled for the Guinness filter beds which are still used by Arthur’s company today.

Impact of the Famine

In the first half of the nineteenth century, Ireland’s economy began to fail. As people lost their jobs, the Commission for Public Works set them to work on creating the canal. This was a successful scheme until the potato crops failed and the Great Famine broke out. Work had to be halted as labour became scarce. Eventually, trade and commerce on the canal declined, particularly as the construction of the railroads had just started.

By the 1980s, the Grand Canal had become something of a dumping ground. Thankfully, in 1986 it received a funding injection that sought to rejuvenate the canal and restore it to its former glory. Today boat traffic from barge cruises has increased and thousands are able to enjoy this historic waterway.

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge cruise itineraries. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.

Cruising the Canal de Briare: a Barger’s Delight

Cruising the Canal de Briare: a Barger’s Delight

The picturesque Canal de Briare, which connects the valleys of the Seine and the Loire, is notable for a number of reasons apart from the delightful scenery through which it wends its way. A popular route for both private and commercial cruising vessels, the canal is renowned as one of the loveliest places for a barge holiday in France as well as being a highly impressive feat of engineering.
A Pioneering History

 

The canal is one of the country’s oldest manmade waterways, built between 1602 and 1642 under the patronage of Henry IV. When first constructed, it linked directly into the Loire at Montargis, but later in the nineteenth century the building of the famous Briare Aqueduct created a bypass to La Cognardière, 2.6km away. Despite its name, the aqueduct actually forms part of the Canal latéral à la Loire.

An Engineering Triumph

The canal was also the first to be constructed at summit level using “pound locks”, which feature a chamber with gates at either end to control the height of the water within. (Before then locks were created with a single gate.) A summit level canal first rises and then falls along its course, and in the case of the 57km Canal de Briare, it rises through 12 locks before falling through another 24 on an 85m descent.

During construction a number of artificial lakes were created in order to feed water into the locks. At the most precipitous location, Rogny, it was necessary to build what was in effect a “staircase” of seven locks in order to navigate the fall of the canal. While it was without a doubt an outstanding feat of engineering, the design caused huge hold-ups as each vessel had to navigate all seven locks before the next was able to pass through. In the end the staircase of locks was abandoned and the canal re-routed to bypass them, but the town was later renamed Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses in their honour.

Attractions en Route

Along with the locks at Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses, the many other attractions along the course of the canal make it a popular route for the itinerary of a barge holiday in France. In Montargis, one of the most renowned local businesses to have put this pretty town on the map is the Mazet Praline Shop. The confectioner still makes its praline treats to the recipe of founder, Leon Mazet, who opened the shop in 1903. As well as a range of chocolates and other delicacies, the shop is famous for its signature caramelised almond, the Prasline Mazet de Montargis.

Situated in the commune of Saint-Fargeau, the magnificent seventeenth-century Renaissance-style Château de Saint Fargeau is the cultural centrepiece of the region, with its chequered history dating back some one thousand years. Its present distinctive pentagonal construction surrounded by six imposing towers is built on top of an original fortress commissioned by Héribert, son of King Hugh Capet. Even though it is privately owned, many parts of the castle are open for public visitation.

From Ancient Trade to Modern Leisure

For many centuries the Canal de Briare existed as an important channel to transport coal, wood, wine and other supplies from the Loire Valley to Paris. Today, this beautiful waterway serves as one of the most appealing locations to explore on a barge holiday in France.

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s most respected provider for those looking for an all-inclusive, luxury barge holiday in France or other great destinations in Europe. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.

Have a Go at Heli-skiing! A Novice’s Guide

Have a Go at Heli-skiing! A Novice’s Guide

If you’re an adrenaline junkie and skiing pro looking for a new, invigorating energy boost, then you need to get yourself booked onto a heli-skiing break. Being dropped by helicopter to tackle untouched powder runs offers an unadulterated and unforgettable thrill, and a totally immersive experience that will have you hooked! Skip the chairlifts and crowded pistes, and enjoy a vertical drop like never before.
What to Expect From Heli-Skiing

 

You might think heli-skiing is only for top athletes, but this is not so – as long as you’re willing to save up a bit of cash and have several seasons experience of skiing behind you, then you’re ready to go. Nonetheless, it does pay to do some fitness preparation beforehand, and that does involve working up some long runs down at a resort. Set yourself a tough 6-8 week plan to get yourself in the best shape possible – when heli-skiing you’re carving your own path, so getting yourself comfortable covering over 12,000 vertical feet in a day will serve you well. In particular, work on your muscle development and cardio exercise before you go – you’ll thank yourself for it when the fresh powder fights back at the end of a long day!

Another good way to prepare is to choose wisely when to go: January has great powder skiing, as the colder weather preserves the snow, but you may prefer the spring season when the lighter days allows for more time to explore. The going may also depend on where you choose to get dropped off – the grand national parks of Alaska and Canada are particular favourites among aficionados for the higher vertical drops.

Wherever and whenever you go, pack light, layer up and make sure you’re well fuelled before the trip – get in a lot of carbs at breakfast and fully hydrate yourself, as you will have a long and rewarding day ahead of you!

Precautions and Safety Tips

Make sure to check your provider closely before booking a trip. Instructors are often among the very best, but it’s always good to make sure they have proper qualifications and certification from official organisations before embarking on a trip. In particular, it pays dividends to go with an instructor who can advise you of terrain, and who can properly prepare you with avalanche safety information and how to use it. Having more than one guide in a group is also a good idea, so that one of them can act as a tail guide in case you need to slow down.

It’s worth noting that when you get dropped off by helicopter, you’re not actually jumping out, stuntman-style – you’ll dock first before you get out. Nevertheless, that’s not to say the ride itself won’t be the most intense part; many heli-skiers find it calmer when they’re out on the snow!

Of course, one of the best precautions you can take is get yourself decked out with some foolproof skiing travel insurance. Part of the thrill of heli-skiing is in the challenge, but there’s no point in facing new challenges if you don’t allow yourself to get picked back up when you don’t quite make it the first time, particularly when you’re a rookie. With comprehensive skiing travel insurance cover, you can give yourself that extra peace of mind to keep you covered for any eventuality. For the best heli-skiing travel insurance you can find, our guys at InsureMore will have the answer.

Take a Leap Into the Unknown: 4 Exciting Bungee Jump Techniques!

Take a Leap Into the Unknown: 4 Exciting Bungee Jump Techniques!

For many, a bungee jump is a once-in-a-lifetime, adrenaline-filled activity that you’ll remember forever – and you’ll forever be able to tell people about your jump! There are many ways to skin a cat, and some of these bungee jump techniques will make your jump even more memorable. Whether you’re a seasoned jumper or will only take the plunge once in your life, there is a thrilling technique out there for you.
Feel Like You Can Fly Techniques!

 

The Swallow Dive is one of the most popular jump styles in use today, and for good reason! Especially beloved by adrenaline seekers, you have to take a big running jump off the platform with your arms stretched out as wide as possible (like a swallow). This will let you soar through the sky to the ground below. There will be a huge adrenaline rush as you feel like you’re flying through the air… and as an added bonus, as the cord begins stretching you will be pointing downwards – perfect for a smooth and easy deceleration.

Be aware: if the body harness you’re kitted out with has a front cord attachment, ensure you twist 180 degrees so by the time the cord tightens out you’re facing upwards. Don’t worry, your instructor will know all this! But the more you know before your jump, the more relaxed you’ll be before the big event.

The Bat Drop is a little trickier than the swallow dive, and much more daring! For this jump style you’ll have to be positioned hanging upside down (!!!) on the edge of the platform. Someone else will need to be holding your feet, and once they release you you’ll shoot off like a bat or vampire into the darkness of the night!

The Back Dive is another jump which is considered to be a little more difficult. You’ll really need to put your all into launching off the platform so that when you’re at the end of your fall, your head will be pointing straight down. Just like the swallow dive, be sure to be facing upwards at the end of your jump if you happen to be using a front-connected body harness.

The Elevator is a technique you’ll definitely have seen somewhere before. You simply step off the platform with your feet pointing down at the ground, and when you reach the end of the bungee you’ll be automatically flipped the right way round.

Top tip: only do the Elevator if you have access to a rubber (Kiwi/ Euro) cord to avoid hurting yourself and doing your ankles some serious harm!

Jump Safely, Jump Insured

Whether you’re going for the jump of a lifetime or plan to tick off all of our suggested bungee jump techniques, make sure your travel insurance covers you. Let’s Go Insure offers cover for one or multiple jumps, and our friendly staff are on hand to help you with getting covered for all of your daredevil antics!

Introduce Students to the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Introduce Students to the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

For children of all ages, the opportunity to enter the fantasy world filled with the fun of the “happiest places on earth” is fascinating. The Disneyland® Paris school trip offers a hard-to-match experience of fun, but for teachers charged with the organization, it can be influenced by the logistical challenges of a passionate 30 youngsters at one of the busiest amusement parks in the world. Introduce Students to the Most Beautiful Places on Earth
Make Most of the magic moments

As one of the most visited tourist parks on the planet, this is not just a matter of counting the heads of students, transporting them across the Straits and directing them toward attractions. Disneyland® Paris school trips require planning and thought when things go well and every member of the group has time in their lives.

Understand the Group as Individual

Along with the standard information collected on the consent form, understanding the child as an individual is very important. This includes not only medical data on epilepsy, asthma or motion sickness, but also causes problems such as fear of darkness or altitude, and vertigo. With this knowledge, it is easier to identify rides or attractions that do not fit. Introduce Students to the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Planning is Paramount

One of the most valuable tools for those responsible for planning schedules is the interactive map, which can be downloaded from Park’s website. Its functionality allows the bird’s eye view from the layout to determine the location of the facility, and filters to narrow the attractions of age and interests accordingly to save time.

Know the layout

Understanding the basic thematic layout of the Park is very important. Each of the five areas has unique nuances, and how long is allocated to each will depend entirely on the needs and desires of the group.

• Main Street: The first meeting through a revolving door takes visitors and drops them straight to the United States of the nineteenth century. This is where the Disney Magic parade takes place and that is also the point of departure of the steam train.

• Frontierland: Wild West lives in Frontierland; from a trip of Thunder Mountain that stops by heart, to the gentle sensation of paddling around a large man-made lake.

• Adventureland: Is there a living child who is not fascinated by stories of pirates and adventurers in and off the high shore? Adventureland wait!

• Fantasyland: For the younger group, the miracle of the Princess Bedroom is the beginning of all these fantasy fantasies.

• Discoveryland: As for older pupils, discovering the world of lasers and futuristic space travels is exciting and even thrilling!

Visiting Walt Disney Studios® Park is another highlight for the group. It houses not only for the many cinematographic and animation technologies that are fascinating, but also for the fastest and most thrilling ride in the National Park: Rock-n-Roller Coaster.

The perfect accommodation is Vital

When children are involved, choosing the right accommodation is essential. Important points to look for are accessibility to this site (with a free shuttle bus to take the kids to and from the Park), and interesting themes to ensure the magic survives even after the end of the day.

There are several more popular visits than the Disneyland® Paris school trip. Committing to an early-focused action plan within the organization will ensure that the experience is the same as teacher fulfillment as well. Introduce Students to the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

John Gardiner is Managing Director of The School Travel Company, a tour operator specializing in Disneyland Paris school trips and educational tours for school and youth groups to England, Europe and beyond. As a father and avid traveler, John is keen to provide students with a valuable and exciting learning experience outside the classroom. By sharing expert advice with teachers, he allows them to inspire their students and continue their studies into life. Introduce Students to the Most Beautiful Places on Earth

Enchanted Village of Morzine Casts a Spell for Kids

Enchanted Village of Morzine Casts a Spell for Kids

Christmas is a magical time of the year, but I also know just how stressful it can be for parents – this is especially true for those with a boisterous brood! This Xmas, why not whisk the whole family off for an unforgettable vacation? This can take a great deal of pressure off the family occasion, whilst treating the little ones to plenty of adventurous fun.
Morzine is a wonderful place to spend Christmas with its two-week festival over the holi-days called “The Enchanted Village of Morzine”. A lovely and festive atmosphere sweeps across the child-friendly resort, and there are lots of great facilities and activities for kids.

 

In the unlikely event that they tire of the festival and skiing opportunities, kids can also enjoy sledding, ice skating, swimming, husky sledding and more. There is plenty for mum and dad to experience here too! Another key selling point? A quick and easy journey to get there: fly into Geneva and then jump into a pre-booked Geneva to Morzine transfer.

Check out the schedule for the brilliant two-week festival:

Illuminations – To get everybody in the festive mood, the entire Tourist Office Square is decorated with stunning illuminated decorations. This looks fantastic against the white of the snow lit up beneath the starry night sky.

Father Christmas – What is Christmas without a visit from jolly Old Saint Nick!? The little ones will be thrilled to see Santa arrive in the village with plenty of joy and gifts in tow.

Workshops – Keeping children happy and entertained can be challenging over the holidays, but not here. There are dozens of workshops to keep them busy and this is also a great way for them to make new friends. Card making, garland- and druid-making work-shops are just a few options.

Ice Sculpture – Professional ice sculptor Sebastien Cohendet is in town and watching him turn a block of ice into a piece of art is an experience that is sure to dazzle the entire family.

Fireworks – Get ready for plenty of “ooohs” and “ahhs” with Morzine’s very own fireworks displays. In the snowy mountains, this is a unique experience and even more magical than the displays you get back home.

Children’s Cookery Classes – Another great way to keep your brood busy, the children’s cooking classes will teach them how to make a range of tasty treats in a fun and safe environment. Who knows, they may enjoy it so much that they offer to cook back at home!

Street Theatre – No Christmas is complete without theatrics. Watch the superb and highly amusing street theatre parades put on over the course of the festival. These really un-ite the village and get everybody in the mood for an unforgettable Christmas.

Entry to the festival is free too, so you can benefit from all this excitement without break-ing the bank! Now that is good value for money.

The enchanting resort of Morzine is really easy to reach too. Simply book a flight to Ge-neva and arrange a Geneva to Morzine transfer in advance. There are dozens of flights made from a number of budget carriers, and the flight takes just under 1.5 hours. A Geneva to Morzine transfer will take a little over an hour, so you can sit back and enjoy the views as you are whisked away into the mountains.

Morzine is a marvellous place to spend the holidays this year as it becomes a breathtaking winter wonderland and has dozens of activities to keep the kids happy and content.

First wooden free-form houses Museum of Bread!

First wooden free-form houses Museum of Bread!

COOP HIMMELB(L)AU designed PANEUM – Wunderkammer des Brotes is the first wooden building in free form!
Meticulously planned, this customer information centre and event forum for the company Backaldrin in Asten, Austria, is an iconic structure comprising two elements: a box-shaped plinth building with foyer and event rooms that can be used for a variety of presentations, receptions or workshops for up to 120 visitors and the Wunderkammer des Brotes (Museum of Bread), a two-storey freeform exhibition area floating on top. The square base building shows a cast-in-place concrete façade while the rounded wood structure of the museum is clad with stainless steel shingles.

 

A centrally chiselled circular atrium is at once the cynosure of all eyes as it is flanked by a robust spiral staircase that invites visitors to pause awhile and take in the exhibited items from various perspectives. The stair provides access to the two exhibition levels, where the objects are displayed with the help of walls, tables, and cabinets that are integrated into the architecture. It further allows for striking vertical displays that take on a chandelier-like appearance, adding on to the visual appeal of the commanding building. The raw aesthetic of the interior is augmented by its self-supporting wood shell with its layers of cross-laminated timber and the natural light that filters in from above the atrium. This method of construction enables the realization of the free form and the high degree of prefabrication with 3D CNC technology that is precision-driven and cuts valuable construction time. It is a step into the future of construction; as Design Principal, COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, Wolf D. Prix says, “3D plotting, 3D milling and building with robots – that is the future of building.”

How to Use Yelp to Improve Your Local Search Rank

How to Use Yelp to Improve Your Local Search Rank

You know that online reviews impact on your bottom line.

No doubt you’ve heard that word of mouth is the best marketing strategy but lately, almost 80% of consumers trust online reviews as if they were a recommendation from a trusted friend.

Over the years, more people turn to them to get the final word on whether they can trust the business or not.

For local businesses, this fact is even more important – moreover, about 50% of mobile searches are local.

Make sense; When you’re out and about and you need to find a place nearby, you’ll turn on your phone and then assess where to go with its reviews.

So how can you make that work for you? One of the answers is to incorporate Yelp into your SEO strategy. How to Use Yelp to Improve Your Local Search Rank

Not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered.

Here’s how to think like a local SEO company when it comes to yelp.

Optimize Your Site For Yelp
Recently, Yelp launched a new penalty targeting websites that are not mobile-friendly.

If you want to pay attention to Yelp, you must make sure that your website is optimized for mobile search and Yelp.

Here are some tips:

No pop-ups – Make sure there are no pop ups that include content on your main page
The ad folds above – Do not get your clients looking for content
Interstitials – If your site shows interstitials that your users should refuse to go to the main page, Yelp will punish you.
Doing these things will make your site more user-friendly and keep you in good Yelp’s grace. How to Use Yelp to Improve Your Local Search Rank

Do not Request Reviews
Many good, and good reviews help your site rank; any local SEO company can tell you that.

The important thing to remember when getting a review on Yelp is to grow your review organically.

Believe it or not, Yelp will punish you if they suspect you are trying to improve your review.

For example, reviewers determine review ratings.

If the reviewer’s account is new and they barely review anything, Yelp will suspect it as a dummy account and demotivate you.

Same thing if a bunch of reviews come in at the same time.

If you send bulk emails to your subscribers to send reviews and all of a sudden, Yelp gets a ton of them at once, your views will be penalized.

Growing the reviews organically How to Use Yelp to Improve Your Local Search Rank
So how can you improve your SEO ranking by yelp organically?

A good local SEO company trick is to make sure customers know that you are using Yelp.

Put the Yelp button on your site
Add Yelp’s decal to your window
Enter the Yelp key in your email signature
Finally, his review will come in.

Learn From The Best Local SEO Company
Now you have got some yelping tricks under your belt, go and try them.

The Role of the Charles Darwin Foundation

 

The Role of the Charles Darwin Foundation

The Galapagos Islands have become a highly aspirational destination for wildlife lovers and those interested in the history and geology of our planet. Thousands of visitors arrive every year to embark on a wildlife cruise in Galapagos, for the opportunity to encounter the unique species of flora and fauna for which it has become famous.
There are few places more important than this remote archipelago in terms of evolutionary biology. It is here that British naturalist Charles Darwin arrived in 1835 (as part of his five-year voyage of discovery) to collect and study the specimens that would lead to the formulation of his theory of natural selection. In fact, it’s possible that the rest of the world would never even have heard of the region had it not been for the monumental discoveries of Darwin, which revolutionised our understanding of the natural world.

 

The Charles Darwin Foundation

In 1959, a team of conservationists established the Charles Darwin Foundation to “provide unique scientific solutions” to protect and preserve the islands. The foundation is a not-for-profit organisation working closely with the Ecuadorian government to promote and secure the conservation of the habitat and wildlife of the islands.

With the support of UNESCO, almost 60 years later the dedicated team at the foundation continues to work to raise awareness on a local and global level of the need to conserve this unique and fascinating area.

The Research Station

At some point in their itinerary, every visitor on a wildlife cruise in Galapagos will visit the Charles Darwin Research Station on Santa Cruz. Established in 1964, the station is administered by the CDF and operates as an active breeding centre for the Giant Tortoises, one of the highest-profile animals in the archipelago. Visitors can see the tortoises at every stage of their growth – from hatchlings to the massive full-grown adults.

The valuable research undertaken by scientists, naturalists and conservationists at the CDRS includes specimen collection and archival work, monitoring wild populations, breeding programmes, and developing innovations into the sustainability of the region.

The National Park Directorate

The Galapagos National Park Directorate (GNPD) began operating in 1968, working with the foundation to establish the 14 rules of sustainability and responsibility, which all visitors are expected to respect. Working together, the GNPD and the CDF discovered the last remaining Giant Tortoise on Pinta Island, who came to be known as Lonesome George.

Other Work

Some of the other important conservation projects the CDF has helped to facilitate over the past 60 years include:

? The recognition by UNESCO of the GNP as a Natural Heritage Site for Humanity and a Biosphere Reserve ? Establishment of a scholarship for Ecuadorian students, many of whom have gone on to work on local conservation projects in the archipelago ? Repatriation and breeding programme for the Land Iguana ? Launch of Project Isabela (which covered the restoration of Isabela and Pinta ? Establishment of the Environmental Education Centres on Santa Cruz, Isabela and San Cristobel ? Successful extension of the World Heritage designation to encompass the Marine Reserve

Recognition of Service

The valuable work of the CDF has been recognised by a slew of international conservation awards, including the prestigious BBVA award from Spain and the Cosmos International Award from Japan. In addition it has been bestowed with the highest honour of Distinguished Achievement in Biology from the Society of Conservation.

Support for Conservation

Those who explore the region on a wildlife cruise in Galapagos can be confident that supporting sustainable ecotourism to the region helps to raise awareness of the valuable work undertaken by the CDF and the other agencies that administer the islands. If visitors commit to travelling mindfully and respecting the rules of the GNPD throughout their stay, this “living laboratory” will survive for future generations to enjoy.

Ceramics and Châteaus: Discover Genteel Gien

Ceramics and Châteaus: Discover Genteel Gien

There’s little doubt that an essential element of all barge holidays in France is being able to dock at the myriad towns and villages that line the waterways and entice visitors in with their charms. As part of the itinerary of the hotel barge Renaissance, guests will be able to see the sights of Gien, renowned for its pottery and royal château.
Finding your Bearings

 

Prior to diving into the town, it is well worth disembarking on the south bank to take in the attractions of Gien all at once: from this vantage point, you can savour the spectacle of the river as it passes below the eighteenth-century bridge, under the watchful gaze of the sixteenth-century château.

Not even the loss of much of Gien’s historic buildings during World War II can detract from the pleasant view. Indeed, the painstaking and very convincing post-war reconstruction has done much to bury these ghosts of the past.

Marvel at Gien’s Pottery

Cultural exploration is an integral part of our barge holidays. In France, there are always abundant opportunities for the discerning traveller to discover regional produce, and Gien is no exception. The town has crafted a fine reputation for the calibre of its pottery, in particular for its Faïence pottery. Production began when Thomas Hall, an Englishman from Stoke-on-Trent who was intent on bringing high-quality English earthenware to France, established a factory in 1821.

In deciding to base his enterprise in Gien, Hall chose wisely, capitalising on the town’s physical amenities. The Sologne forest, which is in close proximity to Gien, provided a ready source of wood for the kilns. What’s more, the Loire granted access to markets throughout France (until water travel was superseded by the railways), in addition to providing sand and water for making clay.

While production continues to this day, the factory has also taken on a new guise as a museum dedicated to telling the story of the industry and shedding light on the making of these exquisite ceramics.

A Château Fit for Kings and Queens

There’s one more attraction that certainly merits a visit before you return to the hotel barge. Holidays in France are rarely complete without sojourning for a while at a château, and Gien’s has certainly welcomed its fair share of royal visitors. This elegant edifice was constructed for the use of Anne de Beaujeu, the daughter of Louis XI, in the final years of the fifteenth century. Future guests included Henri II and his wife Catherine de Médici, as well as Louis XIV, the famous ‘Sun King’.

Despite being bombed during World War II, the château was successfully restored. Since 1952, it’s housed a museum, which is dedicated to the most royal of pastimes: hunting. Through paintings, sculptures and an array of weapons and trophies from successful forays, the museum details how hunting and its depiction has developed through the centuries.

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK’s most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holidays in France. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.