Barging in France has never been so popular. Like river cruising, you get to appreciate a diverse range of landscapes as you travel by tranquil waterways, but barging offers a much more intimate experience with a highly personalized level of service. Case in point: the French Hotel Barge Alegria, which offers exclusive luxury cruises on the canal du Midi, the 360-km network of navigable canals that links the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. Considered one of the most remarkable feats of modern civil engineering, the Canal du Midi was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. (Check out France Today’s article here to learn all about this amazing canal that was built between 1667 and 1694.) Alegria is the only luxe boutique barge on the Canal du Midi in Languedoc, and it gets rave reviews.

A wine estate owner from California says, “The Alegria is truly a five-star hotel afloat.” A couple from Fort Lauderdale praise the voyage, “There is no way we can really thank you for such a wonderful voyage and for making us feel so much at home in your beautiful barge. This was absolutely one of the most memorable trips we have ever taken.”

The Alegria is a 100-foot barge of the Freyssinet type, originally built in 1937 in a shipyard in Belgium, and converted in 1999 into a houseboat. Her shortened width means she can pass through the smaller locks of the Canal du Midi. And with two plush cabins, equipped with all the creature comforts and luxe amenities, the Alegria can accommodate up to four guests. Onboard you’ll find a heated plunge pool, wifi, and a stand-up paddleboard and four bikes for shore excursions. The Alegria is staffed with a team of four led by the Captain-owner.

The itinerary follows the Canal du Midi between Beziers and Carcassone- what the barge owner believes is the most magnificent portion. But it’s also possible to tailor your own trip. With three-four hours a day spent cruising, guests have ample time to visit the region’s exceptional sites. It’s even possible to run or cycle along the Canal at the same time- as you’ll move faster than the barge.

Rates include accommodations, all meals, open-bar drinks, shore excursions, and round-trip transfers to the train station or airport. 2016 rates (value season) start from 14500€ for an exclusive charter for two. For more information, visit www.hotelbargealegria.com. Send an email to info@hotelbargealegria.com, or call +33 (0)4 67 39 76 46.

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