Brief Trip Report:
Trip dates: March 16 - 29.
- The Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT ) barge trip of Provence was one of our most enjoyable vacations, well run but with significant independent time to explore on your own. OAT purchased the Continental Waterways’ 9 ships after the post-911 travel slowdown killed their business. OAT intends to keep the well-recognized Continental Waterways name. Our barge was the 20 passenger “Caprice”. It has 11 cabins with a crew of four. It is 17 feet wide and 128 feet long. Our cabin was about 7 feet wide and 15 feet long, including the full bathroom. The electricity was 240Volts with a French round 2-prong socket. A hair dryer and flashlight were also furnished. The room is heated and air conditioned with individual controls per room. There are eleven bicycles onboard which we chose to use in near the village of Vallabregues.
- The barge “Caprice” was much roomier than we had expected. There was room to store 4 empty rolling duffels in the compartment under my bed (we only brought two), a good-sized wardrobe with 8 hangers, and two large drawers under my wife's bed that hold all but the hanging clothes. The bathroom was larger than our last hotel in London with toilet, sink and shower. The room is quite sound proof and you never hear voices from the next room. It is quite silent at night. The exception is each morning there is a serenade of pumps as everyone showers and uses their toilets. Our room had two portholes that we could open for fresh air. There was plenty of light to read, which we did on some evenings prior to retiring for the night.
- What really made the entire barge trip wonderful was the young, energetic crew of four. They were so very friendly and accommodating - much better than any staff that we have ever had on a cruise ship. Of course the wine paired four course gourmet French meals also helped make the trip a joy, even if we did put on a few extra pounds.
- The dinner every night, was a copious and delicious four course gourmet meal with meat, fish or fowl, green salad with local cheese, a bottle of local wine per couple and typically three deserts such as crème Brule, berries and an ice cream on chocolate. Each night, at each table for four, there were two bottles of wine that was local to where we were at that time - one red and one white. At each meal our tour leader would stand and explain the origin and character of each wine, which she also did for each of the cheeses in the cheese/salad course. The chef was a classically trained French chef, very talented and accommodating. If you simply mentioned some food that you liked you would later find it on your plate, sometimes in addition to what he had prepared for everyone else.
- Our trip started with two days in a hotel in Lyon and finished with three days in a hotel in Aix en Provence. The barge sailed from Avignon to Sete via the . Along the way, we explored the towns of Avignon, St. Remy, Le Beaux, Vallebruges, Arles, Aiques-Mortes, Montpellier, Sete, Aix en Provence, Isle Sur la Sorge, Senanque, Gordes, Plateau D'Valenance, Roussillon, Lourmarin and leisurely sailed through the bird rich Camargue wetlands.
- For anyone planning this trip, I would recommend April 15th as the optimum time - warmer than March but not the sweltering heat in the Camaruge that you’ll find in the summer. However, we were never cold in March but we did need a windbreaker most mornings.