If you watched longingly as Rick Stein made his gentle journey down the waterways of France, discovering local delicacies as he went, and thought you’d like to do the same, then you’ll be thrilled to discover you actually can.
One of the cosy, comfortable boats used on the effusive chef’s ‘French Odyssey’ for the BBC, was the Hotel Barge Rosa. This very same boat is now being offered for wine tours of Gascony and Bordeaux by luxury barge company, European Waterways.
The History of Dutch Barge Rosa
Built in Dedemsvaart, Holland, in 1907, the wide Tjalk clipper-style barge would have started its life as a working vessel. By definition a ‘Dutch barge’ is a large, flat-bottomed boat used for carrying goods around the internal Dutch waterways. Originally made of wood and propelled by wind and sails, later models were made of iron and steel and featured diesel engines.
Barges were used in the Netherlands to transport goods around the country. Originally named Renaissance, barges like Rosa would have travelled up and down the Dutch waterways delivering all kinds of essential cargo to the families and businesses which lived and worked along their shores.
From Cargo Boat to Hotel
It was in 2010 that the Renaissance received a complete overhaul. Designed for cargo, she was refitted with everything she needed for her new role as a luxury barge hotel.
Where once-sweaty Dutch canal workers had huddled in the heat of her internal rooms in the summer, air conditioning was added and a dining room, saloon, bar and four impressive state rooms were hewn out of her working shell. Now an impressive hotel on water, she was renamed Rosa.
Today the Dutch canal workers have gone and in their place are a crew which includes the barge’s captain, a local tour guide, a housekeeper and even a master chef who, like Rick Stein, conjures up local delicacies for Rosa’s paying guests.
From the Dutch Waterways to France
Rosa made the journey from Holland to France and from the Dutch waterways to the sleepy canals of Gascony and Bordeaux where wine enthusiasts can spend a week on board discovering the region at a leisurely pace.
Those exploring Gascony can travel on board Rosa from Agen to Montauban, taking in sights like the eleventh-century Château de Gourdourville and the Abbaye St-Pierre de Moissac. And those gourmands who fancy themselves as budding Rick Steins can meander around the Castelsarrasin’s fresh food market, picking up local specialities and soaking up the French ambience.
For those travelling through the Bordeaux countryside on Rosa, treats include a visit to Saint-Émilion, the UNESCO World Heritage site and famous wine appellation, and to the fourteenth-century Château de Duras.
Rosa may have ended her time working as a cargo boat on the Dutch waterways behind her but her sturdy, wide berth remains the same. Cargo has been replaced by luxury accommodation, and the working bargemen by friendly tourists, but one thing is for sure: Rosa’s fascinating history goes on.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider if you're looking for an all-inclusive, luxury barge cruise along the beautiful Dutch waterways or other great destinations. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.