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Self-driving Cruise on River Lot, South France

South France is a vast region , but the spot light is on the left and right banks of the Gironde river which are both renowned Bordeaux winemaking region. Lesser known, tributaries on the Gironde, the Lot, on the upper Dordogne region (right bank) produces fine Malbec wines and offers self-driving cruise along the lazy and scenic river. #cahors #leboatcahors


We arrived in Toulouse, rented a car and headed to north Douelle where the marina for LeBoat is situated. The briefing took about an hour and another hour for hands on training on boat maneuver and lock techniques.


The selection of boats will depend on how many people are on board. It is worth noting that the Lot River has many locks and some men power is required to men the locks and control the boat. It is also advisable that the 2 assigned person to men the locks be relatively fit as you need to hop in and out of the boat, and the locks are mostly manual and heavy. Or else, it will just take more time if you do it at a leisure pace.


Ideally 4 crew and a captain will work well!

The boat cruise follows the flow of the meandering Lot River though lush forest, filled with wildlife, hamlets, ancient bridges and limestone cliffs.

IMPORTANT CONSIDERATIONS WHEN CHOOSING A SELF DRIVING RIVER CRUISE VACATION


  • river depth

  • insurance waiver

  • extra petrol consumption

  • black water

Due to the drought in Europe, the water levels of the rivers has considerably reduced affecting many rivers especially in Southern France. Running aground can ruin your holiday and it is best to always stay alert and avoid shallow parts!


Certain sessions can be shallow at both sides and narrow!

If you are new to boating, it is very important to take the damage waiver. Accidents can happen, even when it is not your fault. I don't want to sound like an insurance agent but it is important to be stress free when on a holiday! Insure the boat against any bad weather conditions, collision or running aground!


Many boating company do not brief you on the extra cost of the petrol consumption when using the boat. How much you pay really depends on how far you go! And note that the prices of oil has increase exponentially!


PLAN THE TRIP


Every stop needs to be planned according to the availability to fill up your water, grocery (some hamlets have no stores), electricity supply. As some pontoon only offers water refill but not electric charge points. Therefore your plan to moor over the night will totally depend on your needs.

Every hamlet is unique in their own way and if you have time, I suggest renting the bicycles together on the boat so that you could explore them on wheels.


Douelle to Cahors is filled with vineyards and lush forest on both sides

We ran into some trouble on the first day, with water levels lower than usual, our boat got stuck in a rocky part and needed to be tolled back to deeper waters. It was an unpleasant experience having to wait to be rescued, the only silver lining was that thankfully our boat was not sinking!

A chateau from the 7th century, used to be the summer residence for counts and bishops from Cahors. Today, Chateau Mercues is a hotel and a Michelin restaurant. The setting on top of the hill is gorgeous and luxurious. It is really worth a visit, only if you order a taxi, which will cost about 30Euro one way.


Chateau de Mercues offering Michelin start dinners with wine pairing

Due to the delay we barely reach Cahors on our first night before dusk. We moored at a basic pontoon, right after the magnificent Pont Valentre and cycled to town to scour for food. It was getting dark and most eateries were closing or closed. Thankfully at the square, was bustling, we managed a heartful dinner!

At dawn we woke up to the stunning view of the town, rode out to the closest Boulangerie, had breakfast on the deck and started our journey!


Part 2 of the journey was through hamlets perched on cliffs, limestone backdrops and lush forest

Part 2 of the journey follows the contours of the valley, and and meanders through spectacular stretch of limestone cliff sides. The beauty so overwhelming but no time to take it all in as the were many locks upstream. Each and every lock required might to unscrew and unreel, and rope throwing was equally as energy sapping. By the end of the day, we were all tired and worn out. Don't be fooled to thinking that this is a champange cruise. Buzzed and tipsy you'll easily run aground.


Laroque-des-Arcs has watch towers embed into the limestone walls

We refilled our water supply and charged up for the next day when we moored at Bouzies.

We summoned enough energy to cycle out to explore the towpath around Ganil Lock which was carved into the steep limestone cliffs by hand, to allow boats which were once pulled long by horses, to travel along this stretch.


The drought has dried up much of the landscape, although in early September but it seem like autumn

The breathtaking scenic limestone cliffs Bouzies

It was with a heavy heart when we headed downstream leaving the surreal landscape, but the journey downstream although familiar but was equally captivating from a different point of view. We moored at Mercues, pretended to be a baron or baroness for our Michelin dinner in the castle. The dinner with the wine was scrumptious and classy and did not disappoint.


We headed back to Douelle to do the best part of the job......cleaning up! Washing everything from the toilets to the decks, although you could pay extra and get someone else to do it. #lelot #selfdrivecruise



Reflections


The experience you get from a self-drive cruise is really some great memories and amazing scenery in settings that were priceless. The extra plus of the #Occitanie region is their fine wine and gastronomy, namely truffles and foie gras.

We rented our boats from LeBoat and their service were excellent although it would help better if there was a direct phone line to the help desk. They offer self-drive cruise to many other region in France.


Date Visited: September 2022

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2 則留言


Kit Vercella
Kit Vercella
2023年12月26日

Thank you for the commentary. We are looking forward to the same trip in September 2024. Are there any particularly memorable places that you experienced along the way?

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Gypsytracker
Gypsytracker
2023年12月27日
回覆

I think you must not miss the dinner at Mercues…. Do rent a bicycle and go on wheels around Cohors to buy 🥖 for breakfast! But it might be cold? 🥶 and fry not to get stuck at shallow parts! You’ll love it !!

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