French canal holidays offer you the opportunity to really get to the heart of the country. As France is a diverse place with so much to offer, it is great news that on French canal holidays you are not restricted to staying on the barge and are, in fact, invited to venture on land to explore as often as you like.
Most companies offering the barging experience have professional guides on board their boats, many of whom accompany cultural visits along the way. It does depend on which of the French canal holidays you book as to what is on offer, but here is an example of a cultural visit you can make when travelling in the Aquitaine region on the Canal du Garonne, between Entre-Deux-Mers and Perigord.
Introducing Duras Castle
Standing high above the Dropt Valley is Duras Castle, still one of the most impressive sights in the area. Built in the 12th century, it wasn’t until the 14th century that Bertrand de Got, who owned it, developed it into a formidable fortress. His architectural plan bore the support of his uncle, Pope Clement V.
Just before the time of the Hundred Years War (1337-1453), the Durfort family took ownership of the castle, and during the war it was controlled first by the Duke of Aquitaine, then by King Henry II of England and finally by Louis VII the younger of France.
The Duras castle earned the Durfort family much respect, and at the close of the 17th century the castle was given the Duchy status. In time it relinquished its intimidating aesthetic and morphed into a grand country estate. It had stables, fabulous gardens and an enviable area in which to receive guests. The Hall of the “Three Marshals”, the venue for ceremonious parties and gatherings, made the biggest statement, particularly because this was the time of the Age of Enlightenment and it suited the trend perfectly.
Duras in Recent Times
In 1798 the French Revolution brought tumultuous times and parts of the castle were destroyed. As a testament to the local community, however, in the 1960s the villagers bought the ruins at auction and today the castle is one of the treasures of this region of France.
If you are on one of the French canal holidays that allow you the opportunity to visit Duras, you really should. You can hire an audio guide that will bring the history of the castle to life in the form of an informal lecture. You can also take an independent tour with a guide if you visit in July or August, or simply wander at will, exploring with your own guidebook. However you choose to do it, it really is a fascinating visit and one not to be missed.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK\’s most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury French canal holidays. 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.
Find us at: http://www.gobarging.com/french-canal-cruises