I recently had the great opportunity of spending a week aboard the Anjodi hotel barge on the Canal du Midi in the south of France. From the moment I stepped aboard the vessel, I felt welcome and at home. Upon entering the barge you step down into the salon, a cozy sitting room with a stocked bar and dining area. The ever accommodating crew had graciously prepared each guest a cocktail, which we sipped over introductions and easy conversation. After receiving some information about the vessel and the week ahead, we toasted to a great week and were shown to our cabins.
My cabin was a comfortable space complete with the extra details that are customary aboard the Anjodifresh flowers on the bedside, bottled water, and luxury bath products from LOccitane en Provence. The warming towel rack in the bathroom was another unexpected extra which made the cabins accommodations all the more comfortable! I unpacked my suitcase and was pleasantly surprised to find that although I had greatly over packed, there was plenty of room in the spacious closet for all of my clothes AND shoes! I took some time to unwind from my preceding days travels, and the ever-attentive crew checked to make sure that I was comfortable and feeling right at home, which of course I was.
After settling in I joined the other guests for what would be the first of many delicious meals cooked by Master Chef Laetitia. One of the highlights of the trip that by far exceeded all expectations was the foodit was amazing! We dined on a starter of goat cheese baked in a crispy dough, followed by an entrée (which actually means starter rather than main course in France more on that in my 10 things I Learned as a First Timer in France blog) of Dorado fish and scallops with a fruit reduction accompanied by a creamy and delicious sweet potato and coconut puree. After the main course came a cheese board of four selections of varying cheeses and a great description and history of each cheese, and then finally the grand finale: strawberries with mascarpone and homemade whipped cream, atop a pound cake muffin and a delicate and crispy almond cookie. Each course was paired with a delicious French wine, and after dinner digestifs, tea, and coffee were served.
Thoroughly stuffed, relaxed, and sleepy, I departed for my cabin and couldnt help but think that the crew and chef had outdone themselves with the first impression, and that the pace and quality of experience couldnt possibly hold up for the rest of the week. I would come to find out how mistaken I was. This first day merely set the tone for the next six days.
The Rest of the Week
Each morning we awoke to a breakfast of local fresh pastries, croissants, bread, cereal, yogurt, cheese, and fresh fruits spread out on the buffet table in the salon. After a leisurely breakfast and coffee, we departed for the days excursion. On each excursion our fantastic tour guide, Nicole, accompanied us. Each point of interest has an incredible history and a fascinating story behind it, which Nicole has a knack for telling in a way thats all at once engaging, informative, and entertaining. Her in depth knowledge of each attraction greatly enhanced every excursion (see My Favorite Attractions Along the Canal du Midi), and the pace was just right. We saw all the major points of interest along the route, with a few special treats such as a private chateau tour and wine tasting mixed in along the way.
After the days excursion, we headed back to the barge for some relaxation and lunch, a bike ride, walk along the towpath, or any other activity (or lack thereof) that each guest was interested in. The sundeck became a gathering place for kicking back and enjoying the passing scenery under the plane trees. When the weather was exceptionally nice, we dined alfresco on the sundeck which brings me back to the food. Oh my goodness, every meal was just as delicious and elaborate as the first, with regional and local flavors and traditions incorporated into each plate.
As the week came to a close and we sat down to a fantastic Captains Dinner on our final night, we reminisced over the beautiful sights, fascinating history, and rich flavors we had experienced the past week. The consensus was that everyone had had an unforgettable time aboard the Anjodi and would do the trip again in a heartbeat. I had heard that the Canal du Midi was a fantastic route to cruise, but after my first hand experience I have absolutely no hesitation recommending the Anjodi as the vessel on which to experience it!