Slow Travel along the Mayenne River: Houseboat Glamping in God’s country

“You are doing the very things that we only ever dream of!” My father’s words ring in my ears as I step on board our houseboat “Gabrielle” situated on the river Mayenne in Brittany, France. No driver’s license is needed to steer and drive the 12 metres long, 50 HP strong houseboat – just a brief introduction by Olivier of the houseboat rental company Canalous with me as an, uh, technical translator! Olivier speaks, “as befits a proper French”, only French of course. I do my best to translate his commands for Jörg, our captain, who does an amazing job at quickly learning how to steer, park & drive the boat – backwards and forwards. Et voilà! Ready to go now: 1 houseboat, 2 toilets / showers, 3 cooking stoves, 4 days, 5 bikes, 6 travel bloggers. No internet. A blessing. At least until we show symptoms of withdrawal and feel the need for WiFi at the nearest café in the small town of Laval … 😉 . But let us start from the very beginning.


In fact, it is really very easy (and beautiful!) to rent a houseboat in France.


My photo gallery here makes me want to go back immediately. In my mind, I am connected to the wonderful feelings on deck, surrounded by peaceful nature and river landscapes, the company of my dear colleagues and friends as well as simply having time to relax. The Mayenne is a relatively small and quiet river north of the world famous UNESCO World Heritage Loire Valley. Thanks to the good infrastructure and numerous excursions along the route, the river provides optimum conditions for a houseboat trip. 


We start our journey in the small town of Château-Gontier. Check out Anne-Laure’s & Olivier’s romantic hideaway, a cute little château “Parc Hotel” and their newly built spa!

The fresh plum cake tastes just wonderful. My feet cool on the damp grass underneath the table. Again and again, my view touches the magnificent estate of the family, who constantly strive to make us feel wonderful. “Vous voulez encore du champagne?” – “Mais oui, avec plaisir!” Anne-Laure happens to have the same name as my dear friend Anne-Laure from Limoges, who I have visited over a year ago here in France. We both connect immediately, and I enjoy the fact of being the only one in the group speaking French well enough to make new friendships. I have never been in this corner of France. And yet I feel welcome almost instantly. The glorious company of my travel writing colleagues & friends Monika & Petar Fuchs, of “Travel World Online” (check out Monika’s articles & Petar’s video here!), Monique of “Teilzeitreisender” and Laurel & Jörg, of “Monkeys & Mountains”, add to the feeling.

“Alors, vous êtes bien préparés pour commencer votre aventure en bateau?”

Yes, I think we are ready to go on our houseboat trip! Thank you so much, Anne-Laure & Olivier, for making us feel welcome here at Parc Hotel in Château-Gontier ahead of our magic boat trip.

Ankommen in Frankreich: Der Champagner perlt, die Blumen duften, die Sonne strahlt - Nach wie vor regiert in diesem Land das Lebensgefühl pur.

Arriving in France: Champagne, flowers & sunshine – the French really know about “laisser-faire” and “joie de vivre”.


Anne-Laure & Olivier haben den Abendtisch in ihrem schönen Garten für uns gedeckt ...

Anne-Laure & Olivier have set the table for us, including a delicious French picnic-style dinner …


... und auch am Morgen werden wir mit dem Duft frischer Croissants begrüßt: Einfach. Herrlich. Die Kuh im Hintergrund weist übrigens auf die Tatsache hin, dass in der Region rund um die Mayenne sehr viel Milch & Käse erzeugt wird.

… and in the morning, too, they spoil us to this handsome breakfast basket full of fresh croissants – a true delight for all the senses. The little cow in the background, by the way, is used to emphasise the area’s large-scale cheese & milk production.


Zur Entspannung lädt der moderne Spa des kleinen Château Parc Hotels ein: Monique ganz relaxed vor dem großen Abenteuer!

My friend Monique loves a soak! This recent spa addition compliments the otherwise historic charm of the Parc Hotel in Château-Gontier.


Das dann gleich mal so aussieht: Am Morgen danach übe ich mich gleich mal darin, "Freundschaft" mit unserer schwimmenden Unterkunft für die nächsten vier Tage zu schließen ... auweia!

The following morning, we are off to “get acquainted” with our travelling companion for the next few days, a large houseboat by the name of “Gabrielle”! Here, I manage to move and even pull the large beast, wohoo!


Romantik pur: Noch lässt der Blick vom Ufer nicht erahnen, wie wir uns gleich anstellen werden ...

Pure romance greets us upon the rental terminal of our houseboat company. We do not quite know what to expect yet …


... doch Jörg ist voller Feuer & Flamme und folgt den Anweisungen von Olivier von der Hausbootfirma Canalous mit Bravour ...

… but Jörg is all ears, taking good care to follow Olivier’s instructions and within only half an hour, we are ready to go …


... seine liebe Gattin Laurel nimmt's gelassen, ihrem Ausdruck nach zu urteilen ist auch sie von der Magie unserer Hausbootreise befangen.!

… Laurel, his beloved wife, seems to relax into the feeling too! After the initial excitement of learning how to steer the boat, we are all more settled and calm once the beauty of the river cruise gets to us.


Docking maneuvers, dinner time & planning our trip keep us on our toes as well as the rather cute French lock keepers.

Elena! Elenaaa!” Always me, running on deck to help out Jörg & Petar getting through the river locks. On our houseboat trip from Daon near Château-Gontier up north to the pretty town of Laval, we pass about 15 different locks and back again. The nerves of Jörg & Petar, when they manage to steer the comparatively large boat through the narrow locks! The lock-keepers, les éclusiers, always remain totally cool, and are enormously friendly – talking, of course, for the most part only French. I use the conversations to avoid possible misunderstandings, translating for our tech savvy captains Jörg & Petar, and managing to get some small talk going. He is rather cute, don’t you think?! Monique smiles at me meaningfully. Mum always said, learning languages ​​pays off! As state employees, the lock keepers usually spend the whole summer at their respective lock, happy to welcome more and more Australian, German & American cruise visitors along the Mayenne river. Now, they also have a Canadian (Laurel) and an Austrian to compliment that!

Nicht nur Schleusen, auch verschiedenste Brücken(Pfeiler) gilt es während der Hausbootreise sicher zu meistern.

It is not only the locks that our captains Jörg and Petar have to master. Narrow bridges are another challenge along the river – but one that is easily mastered, or so I am told by our confident captains.


Ist der erste Tag geschafft, geht es erst mal ans Anlegen für die Nacht: "Noch ein bisschen weiter rechts ... noch etwas langsamer", gibt Petar Jörg hier Kommandos.

Once the first day is done, we are ready to land: “A little further to the right … a little less speed .. yes!” Petar helps Jörg steer the boat safely.


Wenig später ist alles im Lot, das Boot sicher vertäut - mein Tipp an dieser Stelle lautet: Unbedingt ECHTE MÄNNER auf eine Hausbootreise mitnehmen!

15 minutes later, we are all set and ready for spending the night here! My tip for you is this: When embarking on a houseboat trip, you should consider taking REAL GUYS with you, who know how to do a thing (or two) in terms of practical stuff (such as landing and steering boats).


Hat man Glück, so wie wir, dann kochen & waschen diese auch noch ab! ;)

If you get lucky, as we girls do, they even help with the cooking and washing up! 😉


Die Abendstimmung an Bord unseres Hausbootes inmitten der sagenhaften Ruhe des Flusses Mayenne ist einfach wunderschön ... Monique beim Seufzen & Schwärmen!

A perfect evening aboard our houseboat on the Mayenne river, as agreed by dear Monique.!


Nach diesem Frühstück sind wir gerüstet für den Tag ...

Large & lavish breakfast times such as this one really makes us laugh at our idea of “houseboat glamping” …


... bereit für den Radausflug nach Château-Gontier, wo wir uns noch Steaks, Salat und natürlich Baguette für das Abendessen besorgen.

… ready for our bicycle excursion to Château-Gontier, where we roam the city in search of the best steaks, salad and baguette for the next dinner!


Am zweiten Tag unserer Reise überwiegt auch bei mir die Neugier: Ganze 10 Minuten "darf" ich unser Hausboot "Gabrielle" steuern.!

On the second day of our cruise, I am “also allowed” to steer our “Gabrielle” for a full 10 minutes: What a feeling!


Laval for lovers of good taste: The small town on the river Mayenne offers an enchanting old town, excellent crêpes et macarons!

Living in God’s country” A saying we have rather cultivated on this trip in France! The French really know how to do “their thing”: The charm of half-timbered houses in the town of Laval, the northernmost point of our houseboat trip along the Mayenne. The friendly lady at the local Boulangerie, offering us deliciously crunchy, different coloured macarons” sweets. The view of the city, the surrounding countryside, the large meandering river from the main square of the city. Laval’s car-free old town reinforces the impression of slow travel: Monique & I immediately feel welcome here. Finally, we end up in a classic French riverside cafe with crêpes, croquemadame toasts & café au lait what more is it that you could possibly desire?

(Internet. We are travel bloggers, after all … just a quick update getting the “fan base” jealous via Instagram, Facebook & Co. 😉 ).

Vormittags in Laval: Während Jörg noch einen Anlegeplatz für unser Boot sucht, sind Laurel, Monique und ich gleich morgens zu einer Fahrradtour aufgebrochen.

Morning glory in Laval: Monique, Laurel and I have decided to take a trip with our bicycles heading into Laval.


Die Altstadt empfängt uns ab dieser Brücke über die Mayenne ...

The old town welcomes us crossing this ancient bridge over the Mayenne river …


... etwas weiter oben sieht es dann so aus: Morgenstimmung mit historischem Flair in Laval.

… a little further up, this is what we find along the pretty little main street.


Diese Dame macht uns glücklich!

This lady makes us happy!


Hat sie doch köstlich aussehende, bunt gemischte "macarons" für uns.!

Offering us sweet, delightful and fresh “macarons” sweets!


Unterwegs auf unseren Rädern, erkunden Monique und ich die Altstadt von Laval.

Cycling is a perfect way to explore the cute little town of Laval: Monique and I on our bikes.


Dazu gehört, sich Zeit zu nehmen für Genuss: Beim Aufblicken von meinem Café au lait habe ich diese Stimmung unter den Einheimischen von Laval eingefangen.

Spending time in a (new) place also includes the time to relax: View from my café au lait by the riverside of Laval.


Finally, I would still like to share some practical reflections about our houseboat cruise with you. Yes, it is (much) easier than it looks to steer a boat this size as well as to pass through the locks along the river. In my opinion, at least two people should always pay attention to control, steer and navigate. Our group of six people proved to be a perfect size, allowing each other plenty of time to relax, to enjoy the nature & the pleasure of each other’s company. Cooking together and serving dinner out on the open deck was incredibly fun nevertheless, I still advise you to visit some of the great crêperies & restaurants along the way (also as a means to avoid cabin fever)! No license is required to steer the houseboat. And yes, all the French people we have met are really nice.! No, most of them really only speak French. Yes, I would do it again. Right away. This trip has been a delight, especially the time we spent on the river, the quiet countryside passing us by, the happy little engagements with the local people. Vive la France et les croisières en bateau!

Die Magie unserer Reise mit dem Hausboot ...

The magic of travelling by houseboat …


... ob beim gemeinsamen Abendessen an Deck ...

… whether it is the fresh summer meals we share on the deck …


... bei den genüsslichen Momenten der Ruhe, des Lesens oder Reflektierens ...

… the countless little moments of peace & relaxation …


... oder dem Betrachten eines faszinierenden Sonnenunterganges: Hier kann man wirklich wunderbar Urlaub machen.

… or the beauty of a summer sunset: “Houseboat Glamping” really is a perfect way to spend your holiday.


Wir sagen DANKE für eine großartige Reise, liebe Monique, liebe Monika, lieber Petar, lieber Jörg, liebe Laurel! Und freuen uns schon auf den nächsten Sommer in Frankreich ... ? :)

THANK YOU all for an amazing trip together, dear Monique, dear Monika, dear Petar, dear Jörg, dear Laurel! I already look forward to another beautiful summer travelling in France …! 🙂


Disclaimer: We have been invited by Mayenne Tourisme to travel by houseboat on the river Mayenne. All opinions are my own.

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