Self Catering Barge Holidays on the canals of France

Self catering barge holidays in France & Belgium. JOHANNA is a Dutch river barge built in 1923 and in trade until 1990. She has now been converted to carry six self catering  passengers along the unique canals and rivers of Belgium and France. JOHANNA usually travels along at a sedate pace, allowing you to relax, absorb the surrounding beauty and observe the wild life scarcely disturbed by her passing, while the crew do all the hard work!

Barge Johanna - Self catering barge holidays in France & Belgium

Self catering barge cruise on the rivers and canals of France

Barge Johanna - Testimonials

"John was at the station to meet us and take us the short walk to "Johanna". There she was in all her glory! We fell in love with her immediately. Inside, she was more spacious than we had expected and everything was well laid out, including the things we needed to make an urgently needed cup of tea! There was a bowl of luscious peaches and, when we had settled in, a bottle of bubbly appeared while John orientated us about "Johanna", our trip and the town of Sedan. Later on we went out shopping at nearby supermarkets and then went for a wander round town ending up with a lovely meal at a restaurant that we found tucked away in a back street.

Next morning after a quick trip to the local market, we set off on what was to be a fabulous weeks cruise, small villages, Verdun and great countryside. A real variety of sights and weather too! John was always on hand to give advice and point out places of interest, usually with typical Brit humour! Otherwise he left us to get on with things, which suited us fine. (We hate pushy hosts!)

All in all it was a fantastic trip, which compared with the rest of our trip in Europe was a real bargain and left us with many happy memories. We would recommend it to anybody."

P and S G (Canberra, Australia)


"Mary and I are experienced travelers, especially in Europe, where we lived many years. For us, the cruise aboard JOHANNA was one of our best-ever vacations. We delighted in being on our own with good travelling friends. The canals are always interesting ,whether cutting through the fields, mountains and towns along the way. For overnights, we tied up at some delightful moorings. I am an early-bird and loved being up first, followed by my buddy with the coffee. We were both in fast-paced careers at the time, so we savored the serenity of the mornings. We used the bikes too—the tow paths along parts of the way were nice for pedaling while JOHANNA just putt-putted along. We enjoyed operating some of the locks or helping John in some simple way. (It was sort of like a small “family”…and John came along when we invited him for a wine and chat in “our” section of the boat.) Don’t worry about food and drink—it is easy to obtain and John will help if you plan to have meals at restaurants, when possible. Anything you think you need or want, ask him…he wants you to enjoy your cruise.

We all loved JOHANNA and John. I keep a photo of JOHANNA on my desk and yearn for a repeat trip before I hang up my cane. Those 8 days took me back a century or two, with never a care in the world !"

Ingram Philips (San Antonio, Texas)


"I've cruised twice now on "Johanna". My friends and I enjoyed the first trip so much that we came back for an encore, and we intend to do it again!

Our first cruise from Sedan to Toul: my wife and I and two other couples we had traveled with before. We had a wonderful time together. Our daily routine was to have breakfast in the main cabin as the John the captain piloted the boat to the next destination. Then, while we enjoyed the scenery and photographed the most interesting buildings, we enjoyed conversation, and we read books and worked on a jigsaw puzzle, both of which are supplied on the boat. Sometimes we were inside the cabin, sometimes up on deck, sometimes in the pilot house chatting with John. We could have used his bicycles to accompany the boat along the side of the canal and to explore away from the canal, but we were too lazy for that.

In the early afternoon, we often ate our main meal aboard. In mid-afternoon, we docked at an attractive location. John suggested alternative locations, depending on what interested us, whether we needed to shop or eat out, or visit places of interest, so it was always a place we wanted to be. Sometimes we then had our main meal ashore in a restaurant instead of on the boat. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening ashore, visiting museums, castles, churches and the nearby village or town. We usually had dessert in a local restaurant before returning to the boat at bedtime. It was totally relaxing as well as interesting. We were glad that we didn't have to drive a car and move our belongings from hotel to hotel. It was also the least expensive week of our three-week vacation in France that year.

We enjoyed it so much that we booked two weeks a couple of years later. This time we cruised from Bruges to Namur, and from Namur to Sedan. The scenery and places to visit were very different. Each week's itinerary is different enough from the others, so that it's worth doing them all. We intend to do so, and the other two couples are as enthusiastic about it as we are.

The boat, by the way, was perfectly clean when we arrived. John really takes good care of it. The beds were very comfortable. The main cabin windows are hinged at the top, so they prevent rain from entering the cabin when they're open. The portholes in the sleeping cabins open, too, so there's plenty of fresh air when you want it.

It's a delightful experience, and we intend to repeat it until we've traveled every part of John's itinerary."

Bob Gerecke (Claremont, California)


"We spent a week on "Johanna" cruising from Namur to Sedan, sharing with two other couples and had a truly wonderful time. We specifically wanted self-catering and not expensive 'hotel barging' and to get some idea what barge handling involved, which John the skipper was happy to show us. We liked it so much, we have since bought our own barge! (www.mvesme.co.uk)

The accommodation was clean and tidy, with good facilities below and on deck, not 'luxury', but again we didn't want to be treated with fine wines and food at vast expense like most of the other barges for hire. If you are planning with one other couple that is fine as the third cabin is a little less convenient, though kids love it.

John is very discrete and thoughtful and lets you get on with what you want allowing you the feeling that the barge is yours for the duration. We stopped several nights in lovely towns along the way with a variety of restaurants and other nights shopped on the bikes to cook in.

We really enjoyed our trip."

Chris and Diana Grant (Somewhere in Europe)


"Just writing to say thank you one more time for such a splendid week with you. We simply had a wonderful time on our adventure with you and, now that we are home, are having a wonderful time with our photos and reliving our fun.

Please accept our heartfelt appreciation for your kind and thoughtful attention to the success of our holiday, including your masterful handling of "Johanna" (we didn't appreciate that so much until we experienced the trials of other barge travelers!) It was a experience we will always remember and hope to repeat."

Jay and Connie Shafran (Los Angeles)


"We had a smashing time!"

Jim Peck (San Francisco)


JOHANNA is a handsome, beautifully well kept and colourful barge, and I couldn’t help but feel a little superior to other travellers on their hire boats that we passed along the way. There were many admiring glances as we glided at a leisurely pace from Sarreguemines up to Lagarde and back. (A route specially designed for us). Ten days of fun with my family and grandsons aged 14 and 11.

There was something for everyone and plenty of space for lounging about or reading either up on deck or in the living room. The boys did a lot of cycling up and down the tow paths and John our skipper stopped at places where we could swim or go fishing in the many lakes in the area. Evenings were made up of drinks on deck, followed mostly by a BBQ. Self catering was fun, it was great to cook whilst looking out at the forests and the gentle countryside slid by.

We learned a lot about barges, canals and locks and how to handle them from John, our amusing skipper, who transformed this former working barge into the fine vessel she is today.

The accommodation is well thought out, each bedroom has its own shower room and toilet, the boys had bunk beds which worked well and after a day of visiting places along the route, walking, swimming or cycling we slept like logs wherever Johanna was moored, in our case often in the silence of the middle of nowhere.

A great holiday ‘with a difference’ for all ages.

Jill Pirdas (Nice – France) - jpirdas@gmail.com


Hi John

All of us want to thank you for a wonderful week on “Johanna”. I don’t think people realise how much stress you take away doing all the work, while they can rest up and enjoy the cruise. From Sedan all the way to Toul we really enjoyed being on Johanna and the fact that you handled the boat, gave us the opportunity to relax and enjoy the French countryside more than we otherwise would. Normally it takes us more than 10 days to unwind, yet we were able to do so in 7 days.

Thank you again,

Chris van Niekerk (South Africa)


We traveled on Johanna, a self-catering barge, from Sarreguemines to Toul from Sept 27th to Oct. 4th, 2013. We were five friends from the United States, Michigan and Colorado.

We all enjoyed the enforced laid-back flow of the days. Luckily the weather, although often chilly, was mostly sunny and afforded the best of conditions to sit on the deck and watch the passing scenery or take advantage of the path along most of the route for walking or biking with the bikes provided. The barge was in tip-top condition, with ample space in the bedrooms and bathrooms, except for the bunk cabin, perfect for children, but small for even one adult. The kitchen area was large and equipped with everything we needed to prepare and eat our own meals. The self-catering added immeasurably to the pleasure of the trip; the shopping, the interaction with the local vendors, the food choices, and the preparation.

Captain John Wilson was the perfect host. He welcomed us with a bottle of champagne, explained the few guidelines (how to make the toilets work!) then went about his expert way in making the trip mechanics and handling seem easy. All along the way he offered interesting information about the barge, the route and the locks we encountered. We ate all our breakfasts and lunches on the barge but also took advantage of John’s recommended local restaurants. Besides the idyllic countryside scenery and the visits to the small villages, we also docked in Nancy for two days, affording us the chance to take in the sites in this much larger, fascinating city. Our last day, docked at the medieval city of Toul, we again had a chance to explore a very interesting city. In all, the variety of experiences all encased in a slow-paced journey was wonderful. We highly recommend taking a trip on the Barge Johanna.

Dan and Jan Reelitz, Michigan
Susie Symons, Michigan

 

 

 

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Locks, bridges, tunnels, villages, towns and other boats add interest to the journey, as do visits to places of special interest, markets and restaurants with their local and regional specialties. 

© Copyright 2007, JohannaCharters.com

We cruise in the very lovely regions of Alsace, Lorraine and the Ardennes. Our routes pass through spectacular wooded river valleys with limestone crags, sleepy pastoral uplands with isolated villages, historic towns and magnificent cathedral cities. The scenery is ever changing and there is always something new to see !

© Copyright 2007, JohannaCharters.com

Sometimes we moor near market towns, sometimes near villages and sometimes in the middle of nowhere! Let us know the sort of places you would like to stop at and we will do our best to oblige. We have bicycles on board for those who wish to explore locally or to visit attractions further a field and meet up with the boat later on. There are towpaths and cycle tracks beside some canals, ideal for young people to use up surplus energy!   

© Copyright 2007, JohannaCharters.com

Barge Johanna - Self catering barge holidays in France & Belgium

© Copyright 2007, JohannaCharters.com