Come to France for a barge cruise in Rick Stein’s footsteps
Luxury hotel barge, the Saint Louis, cruises the Canal de Garonne, the same waterway that famous chef Rick Stein travelled in his acclaimed TV series ‘A French Odyssey’. As with Stein’s, the meals aboard Saint Louis are founded on the wealth of fresh local produce and delicious local cuisine, prepared on-board.
Rick Stein’s French Odyssey series followed him as he journeyed from Bordeaux to Sete on the Canal de Garonne and the Canal du Midi, which are jointly called the Canal des Deux Mers (the canal between the two seas – the Mediterranean and the Atlantic). A luxury barge holiday aboard Saint Louis can take you to many of the same places, the same markets, that Rick Stein visited.
Saint Louis Western Route Places
and Rick Stein’s French Odyssey
This is where Rick Stein boarded the hotel barge for a journey up the River Garonne to the start of the Canal de Garonne at Castets-en-Dorthe.
Saint Louis’ own itinerary does not include Bordeaux (the river trip is governed by strong tides and is, frankly, not very interesting) but the city’s airport can be a guest collection point for our Western Route, provided this is arranged in advance. Bordeaux is within an hour’s drive of Saint Louis’ westernmost mooring and guests can easily make arrangements to visit this historic and fascinating city before or after their holiday cruise.
Rick Stein appreciated the good traditional Bordelais cooking, sitting outside La Tupina café-restaurant in the centre of Bordeaux.
Rick Stein enthused about the incomparable Boeuf de Bazas, visiting the local beef farm, buying meat at M. Jean Ascencio’s butcher’s shop and enjoying entrecote de Bazas at Le Bistrot St Jean in the Place de la Cathedrale. Excursions and visits from the Saint Louis can be custom-organised with pleasure to suit guests’ interests and if you would like to visit Bazas – and/or sample Bazas beef – just tell us (but in advance, please).
Memorably, Rick Stein who is a sea and river food master chef, went fishing for Garonne eels with a local fisherman in a small dinghy. We can’t offer you the same experience, unfortunately, but the culinary delights aboard Saint Louis can include locally caught day-fresh fish, eels and crustaceans. We are at your command to prepare meals that suit your tastes and that will accommodate any dietary regimes.
Castets is at the end (or beginning) of the Canal de Garonne, a waterway that Rick Stein found not only delightful but which he also said represented the very best of French produce and French cooking. Depending on circumstances, Saint Louis will either voyage to Castets or a visit to see the village and the extraordinary Canal-River lock (tidal, deep and with amazing historic flood markings) will be made in our own air-conditioned luxury Mercedes people-carrier.
Next to the Bernes lock that Saint Louis will pass through, is situated the Creperie des Matins Verts where the owner Yvette Pompele cooked Canard au Vin for Rick Stein, using the local Marmandais wine that he tasted at nearby Cocumont winery.
During the “French Odyssey” series, Rick Stein often mentioned the wonderful “marriage” between local food and local wine. This theme is continued on the Saint Louis; we only carry wines from south west France, the area in which we cruise. Most of our wines are gold or silver medal winners, often obtained in National or International competitions.
Serignac sur Garonne
A lovely historic bastide village and an unmissably pretty mooring for Saint Louis and her guests, close by is the village of Bruch, where Rick Stein enjoyed a Sunday feast of escargots (snails) at the Restaurant de la Paix.
Between Agen and Serignac lies the village of Colombe-en-Bruilhois and the canal-side barge, house and kitchen of cookery writer and teacher Kate Hill, one of Saint Louis’ own special friends. Rick Stein spent a lot of time with Kate, cooking many local dishes in her kitchen for a number of episodes of the series.
The ‘capital of prunes’, Agen marks both the eastern end of Saint Louis’ Western Route and the western end of the Eastern Route, so is always visited by the luxury hotel barge.
Rick Stein visited the Ferme Roque at Montesquieu between Agen and Serignac and cooked using these delicious dried plums. And he raved about the quality of cooking to be found in the simple railway station restaurant! Good food, for Rick Stein and for Saint Louis, is about using fresh local ingredients, cooked to mouth-watering perfection, rather than on on gastronomic excess.
Saint Louis Eastern Route Places
and Rick Stein’s French Odyssey
Rick Stein watched the local patisserie delicacy, the Tourtiere apple tart, being prepared and baked at the Ferme des Tuileries, Fongrave, on the River Lot. We often visit this wide and pretty waterway in a motorised excursion from Agen, calling in at the famous Prune ‘Museum’ (you’ll be amazed!) and the Tuileries fruit farm.
Each August there is the most memorable week of evening performances of ‘Au Fil de l’Eau’ at the historic canalside village of Valence d’Agen, a regular mooring for Saint Louis.
Above the village run the Quercy hills and the whole area is one of France’s premier fruit-growing areas. Rick Stein tasted and enthused over the Quercy melons and cherries he found just north of Valence. Aboard Saint Louis you can also savour these local delights, as well as apples, kiwi fruit, apricots and the renowned Chasselas grape of Moissac.
The port of Moissac is one of Saint Louis’ favourite stops – appreciated by guests and crew alike. We often depart the canal for a short cruise on the River Tarn that also flows by the town.
Rick Stein cooked pike in the kitchens of the canal and riverside Pont Napoleon hotel and ate foie gras and goose in the restaurant. The chef in that programme – Michel Dussau – has now opened his own restaurant la Table d’Armandie by the river at Agen.
Toulouse airport is very often the location where guests fly in to enjoy their week-long barge holiday in France aboard the luxury floating hotel, the Saint Louis. Guests are collected from the airport and taken to her mooring (Saint Louis does not herself cruise to Toulouse – the 30-40km of canal nearest the city are interesting, but not special) in our spacious and comfortable air-conditioned people-carrier.
Like Bordeaux, Toulouse is historic and attractive – a fascinating mixture of the old and the new (the European Space Centre is located there). It is easy to arrange an extended stay there before or after your cruise on board barge hotel Saint Louis. Certainly, Rick Stein enjoyed visiting the Victor Hugo covered produce market, which he reckoned amongst the best in the world, and he also enjoyed an aperitif at the simple and traditional Bar Père Louis in the city centre.
Delicious Local Cuisine
Aboard Saint Louis
“ . . The food that he prepares during each episode is, as always, wonderful but what stands out is the journey that Rick has through the wonderful South Western French countryside and the people he meets on the way. The whole journey unfolds like a storybook rather than a cookery programme and as indeed the title suggests, it is most certainly an Odyssey . . “
“ . . . What a wonderful journey Rick Stein made, drifting down the main canal from the River Garonne at Bordeaux to Toulouse on a comfortable and very French barge.
He met a fascinating array of people, including cooks, chefs, farmers, fishermen and butchers, who willingly shared their culinary preferences and some secrets with him, particularly anything to do with fish or crustaceans.
The scenery was superb, filling this viewer with a deep longing to do something similar . . “