French Hotel Barge SAINT LOUIS
Cruising Southwest France: Canal de Garonne in Gascony
AMENITIES, ACCOMMODATIONS, LAYOUT
The Saint Louis, a 127-ton luxury cruising hotel, was originally built in Holland in 1923 as a bulk cargo carrier, mainly transporting gravel and grain within Holland. She is a Luxemotor class of boat recognisable from her size and her elegant, pleasing lines. The key requirements of such vessels when built included reliability, stability and practicality - which is why she made the perfect subject for her luxury hotel conversion.
In 1994 she was refurbished from stem to stern and expertly transformed into a floating haven of comfort and style, including the creation of three guest state rooms. This high quality foundation has been maintained and cared-for since then and in 2007 she underwent a complete refresh and restyle programme to keep her facilities thoroughly up-to-date.
Saint Louis' style might best be described as "casual luxury". This is the style of the interior fittings and furnishings, as well as the outside lounge deck and its furniture. This concept encapsulates the ethos of the boat, her skipper and crew; and the way in which cruises along the delightful waterways of southwest France aboard Saint Louis are lived.
GUEST CABINS: The Saint Louis has just three spacious guest stateroom suites, each a generous 127 square feet in size. Each has an en-suite bathroom with a roomy fully-tiled shower and plenty of hot water. Each is insulated and climate controlled with air-conditioning and central heating. Besides beds (twin or queen-sized double, as you wish) each cabin has a wardrobe, full-length mirror, dressing table and storage space.
THE CENTRAL SALON AND DINING ROOM is panelled in hardwood and furnished in style. Windows look out over the waterside scene. There is a well-stocked bar that also features local aperitifs and liqueurs including Armagnac and Floc de Gascogne and naturally, as your hosts are Scots, an excellent range of malt whiskies. There is a comfortable sitting area, well supplied with the latest international magazines and with Saint Louis' small library of fiction and reference books. And, of course, there is a generous dining table with six dining chairs! A very special feature of the salon is the many original framed Wyllie etchings on the walls. Alasdair's great-grandfather, W L Wyllie, was one of the great nineteenth century marine artists, a member of the Royal Academy. Steps give direct access up to the sun deck.
SUN DECK: This is a large, open, carpeted area. There are cushioned solid teak chairs and sun-loungers to provide the perfect elevated canal-side view of the villages and the countryside, the locks and the bridges, as we cruise slowly past. Relax, chat, read a book, or do absolutely nothing except daydream to the sound of bird-song. Or enjoy an alfresco meal of fresh local ingredients, with a glass of superb local wine.
WHEELHOUSE: The wheelhouse is Alasdair's domain, that gives the skipper his critical all-important view of the line of the boat and what is happening all round. The wheelhouse has been fitted out with seats and cushions, and guests are most welcome to visit the 'control center', to discuss with the skipper the ways of the world and of the canal in particular. You may even be allowed to take the wheel, under a very watchful eye, of course.
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