Chartering the Randle means enjoying the easy pace of life on the river with all the logistics taken care of. An expert captain to guide the vessel, a gourmet chef to prepare delicious breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, and a knowledgeable guide to reveal the secrets of rural Burgundy.
Construction of the Canal du Nivernais commenced in 1784 and it is still operated much the same way today as it was then, each lock is attended by a lock keeper whose job it is to smooth the passage of passing vessels. The locks are manually operated, with hand cranks to open and close the doors, and all locks are in communication with one another therefore once under way it is a remarkably efficient system.
Once a busy waterway life on the canal is a much more relaxed affair now that it is just a pleasure route. The canal opens at a leisurely 9 am, therefore after breakfast the Randle chugs up to the first lock of the day. The lock keeper beckons a friendly bonjour as we enter and the doors close behind. Water is either let in or let out depending on whether the boat is going up or down, and et vola! 50 tonnes of Randle lifts or descends solely by the aid of gravity.
On average we pass eight locks a day, which sets the rhythm of our cruise, our guests step off and on at the locks too, to walk or cycle along the tow path, or help with the lock doors. Before engines horses and men would manually tow barge along the path which runs the entire route.
Everything stops for Midi! The canal closes for lunch and during the morning our chef Gael has been preparing a delicious lunch from fresh local ingredients. A French lunch is a proper affair, for instance; caramelised red onion tart, red cabbage salad with Roquefort & walnuts, marinated aubergines with peppers capers & olives, plateau de fromage, paired with a premier wine of the region.
The afternoon cruise takes us to a village mooring where our car is waiting to take a tour to the local vineyards, and after either dine on-board or at a cosy restaurant nearby.