Why the bee and the barge?

Why the bee and the barge?


The Bee

The bee is an amazing creature, one that busily goes through its’ life doing the job that he was created for, creating a home for the baby bees to come that is safe and organized. Unbeknownst to the bee, his work also creates a profusion of natural beauty that would not exist without his participation and provides for us humans the benefit of pollinated crops. And as if that were not enough, there is the honey, the essence of the beauty around us in liquid form.

In the same sense, I would like the productivity of my hands to provide beauty for those around me to enjoy. If only I could could render a fraction of somewhat comparable beauty throughout my lifetime I would be content.


The Barge

I live on a Dutch barge in the south of France. I share this adventure with my lovely Englishman, Martin, and our funny Spanish Water dog, Bodhi (Bō-dee). We spend our days meandering along the canals of France apart from the winter when we moor up in some picturesque village while we wait for the locks to open in Spring and we can continue our slow paced odyssey through France.


Open Doors

We are always meeting fellow travelers on this linear village. Some only get a wave from the wheelhouse, others will become friends for a lifetime. This barging community goes beyond international borders and, sometimes, even languages. It is a lifestyle filled with camaraderie and learning to embrace the diversity of all those we meet along the way. We are basically “all in the same boat” by choosing this way of life so the delineations that once defined us as people no longer hold their sway. It is a truly enlightened way of conducting our lives and I am blessed for the experience.

One lovely couple that Martin and I met while on the Garonne Canal shared a glass of wine and a story. They shared that they had been living on their barge for 22 years. They were British and quite elderly and probably could find a more comfortable way of life for people dealing with physical problems, he had just had knee replacement surgery and she had very severe arthritis. And yet they choose to remain here, sharing their stories with strangers like us. They told us that when they first began their adventure on the waterways of France there were many working barges (most of them around 124′ long) still operating along the canals and rivers. One such barge was a bee barge, what a delight! The barge was hired by local farmers to moor up near their fields and open its large doors on the hold of the barge to allow the bees from the many hives, kept inside the hold, to freely pollinate the many orchards and vineyards along the canals and rivers here in France. This brought such endearing images to mind to think that one could earn a living providing such an essential, and yet, beautiful service to the many farmers. And what a bounty for their work, the abundance of honey to sell along the way at the local markets.

I do dream of simpler times and gentler ways of living, working to live instead of living to work. I am a very lucky girl!

Join Me on the Canal du Midi in 2016

The Bee and the Barge

Canal du Midi

Applique Cruise 2016


This is your moment in life to experience the transcendent French essence of life. Transport yourself to another place in time to the south of France on the celebrated Canal du Midi, the oldest canal in Europe. the Canal du Midi was completed in 1681 during the reign of Louis XIV. This historic waterway will be your portal to the fertile countryside of southern France. Envisage yourself on the deck of the luxurious “Louisa” as we meander through the history and culture of France, sipping local wines, delighting in the delicacies of the region and mastering the serene and creative art of needle-turn appliqué.


The Bee

Robyn Pandolph Saxty will be your appliqué instructor for this six day cruise. Robyn is an internationally renowned textile artist and has taught and lectured for the last 20 years sharing her love for needle-turn appliqué. Robyn has designed fabric lines for eighteen years for Moda, South Seas, Free Spirit and, now, RJRFabrics. Her love of textiles will be shared with you along the way as she guides you to some of her favorite brocantes and makes sure that you know all of her secrets for a more enjoyable way to appliqué. Robyn has perfected her needle-turn technique over the years so that she can help you be enthused and inspired to develop your own creativity through appliqué.

Your level of expertise is not relevant in order to embark on this adventure. The project that Robyn has designed exclusively for this cruise is provided to you in a beautiful kit, along with a selection of Robyn’s fabrics and vintage textiles, the pattern, pre-printed freezer paper and all the tools (scissors, thread, needles, thread conditioner, pencils, pens, etc.) you will need to complete the cruise project. This will all be included in the total price of the cruise. Our classroom will be the stunning countryside of France on the deck of “Louisa” with the sun illuminating our hands as we stitch and as the barge winds its’ way along the Canal du Midi. Robyn will be available each evening after dinner to stitch with you on board Louisa if you so choose. Her desire for you is to have this be one of the most memorable experiences of your life and find a renewed love of all things beautiful and tranquil as we persevere in our individual lives in a very hectic, and sometimes hostile, world.


The Barge

“Louisa” is a magnificent bespoke built Dutch Luxemotor that was lovingly fitted out by its’ delightful owners, David and Jenny. Louisa’s luxurious atmosphere will evoke for us the ambience for the most relaxed and creative experience possible. Her accommodations include two well appointed air conditioned cabins, each with their own ensuite, located above the water line. You will find luscious white Egyptian linens, luxury toiletries and plush white robes for your pleasure.

You will have access to an open plan lounge and dining area that is bright and airy, plenty of space for evening stitching and socializing. The lovely kitchen will be available to you for any late night snacking or beverages. Please note that all meals and beverages, including wine and spirits, are included in the total price of the cruise.

As lovely and luxurious as the interior of Louisa is, most days will be spent on Louisa’s deck as you learn to appliqué and take in the glorious beauty of the French countryside. Most meals will be served on deck as well, weather permitting. The beautiful deck is canopied so that you will be protected from the sun but if you choose to relax in the warmth of the sun there is space for lounging topside.


Cruise Details

Cruise length : six days and six nights, disembarking on the seventh day

Cruise Availability : We have a maximum of 4 persons per cruise. We are planning a total of three cruises for 2016 and the dates are as follows:

JULY 1-7


AUGUST 15-21

Cruise itinerary : Castelnaudary to Trebes  /  Trebes to Castelnaudary

Food : * Breakfast is continental with fresh bread, croissants, jams, fruit, cheese and meats. Lunch is an informal, two course affair and is generally served on deck with freshly prepared salads, meats, cheeses and quiches. Dinner is the culinary highlight of the day prepared by your chef, Jenny, using fresh locally sourced ingredients. This epicurean event will be a four course menu.

Drinks : *Unlimited local wines and full bar along with the usual juices, coffee, tea and water.

* All food and drinks are included in the total price of the cruise

Appliqué Workshop : Fabric, pattern, pre-printed freezer paper, sewing tools which include; pens, pencils, scissors, thread, needles, glue, thread conditioner, iron and ironing board. These are all included in the total price of the cruise. It is unnecessary for you to have to bring any sewing supplies with you to France. Feel free to bring your favorite thimble if you need one. Classes will take place each day while we are cruising, apart from the first day when you arrive. We will take this day to discuss the upcoming cruise itinerary, safety guidelines, get to know one another and relax. Days two and five we will have all day for sewing and learning with a break for lunch each of those days. Classes will be held on deck unless the weather prohibits. Robyn will be available after dinner in the evenings for relaxed socializing and stitching, in your pajamas, if you desire. If you choose to do nothing on this cruise but kick back and relax and take your project home with you untouched that is your choice. We want you to have the most relaxing, inspiring sojourn while on board Louisa.

Excursions : The excursions described in the itinerary are all included in the total price of the cruise.

Transportation : All transportation to and from Toulouse (Blagnac) Airport will be provided. These costs will be included in the total price of the cruise.

*This transportation is scheduled for pick up by 10:00 a.m. on the first day of your cruise.

If you prefer to arrive before this date, hotel and transport to “Louisa” will be your responsibility. We can recommend a hotel in Castelnaudary / Trebes if you want to contact us at info@bargelouisa.com. Train service is available to Castelnaudary.

Rates : $8600.00 USD per cabin

Our rates are based on double occupancy in both cabins which means $4300.00 USD per person. Cabin one has two single beds. Cabin two has one European king bed.

Single occupancy is available for an increased cost of $6500.00 USD

This price includes six days and six nights, all food and beverages (including wine and spirits), transport to and from Toulouse (Blagnac) Airport, excursions, workshop and project kit.

Please note that storage space is limited in each cabin so it is suggested that you only bring one checked bag and one small carry on excluding your personal handbag. Cruise attire is party casual. There will be no need for formal attire.

General Terms and Conditions

How to Book : You may book via bank transfer or credit card

 Please contact us at info@bargelouisa.com for details. Rates are based on the US dollar. A 30% deposit is required at the time of the booking. This is non-refundable. The balance is due 90 days prior to your cruise date. Non-payment of the balance will be regarded as cancellation of your cruise. You may cancel your cruise up until the 90 days before your start date. After the due date of the balance the whole cost of the cruise will be payable. We recommend that clients include cancellation in their insurance.

Your Cruise Does NOT Include : Travel arrangements to and within France. Travel, personal and health insurance. Telephone. Additional excursions not already included in the cruise package. Personal expenses while visiting local villages and towns. Any meals taken while not on board Louisa. Shipping charges incurred for posting items back home.

Changes and Cancellations : Changes in the route may occur due to the conditions of the canal and/or the duties of the VNF (voies navigable de France). Water levels, flooding, lock closures or repairs, these conditions are beyond our control and will result in changes to the route and/or itinerary. These occurrences cannot, for any reason, be used for cancellation by the guest. Refunds will not be applicable, either.

The owners of Louisa reserve the right to cancel any booking or part thereof and refund the amount paid without any further liability.

Health and Safety : Louisa has a safe barge environment. Guests should be of reasonable fitness and agility suitable for a barging holiday. Louisa, unfortunately, is not suitable for wheelchairs. Smoking is not allowed inside the barge or vehicles. The owners assume no responsibility or liability for accidents, deaths, illness, injury, loss or damage of personal property. We strongly advise that adequate insurance is taken by each guest suitable for their needs. Please feel free to contact us regarding these issues if you are unsure of how this may affect you.

The Bee and the Barge

Canal du Midi

Applique Cruise 2016



DAY ONE : Arrive in Toulouse by 10:00 a.m. David Tremain, skipper of Louisa, will collect you at the airport with comfortable transport back to Louisa. As you travel back to Louisa you will quickly become aware of the beauty of this region of France. You will arrive on board Louisa at 11:30 a.m. in time to meet your crew, Jenny and Simon, who will be providing their accommodating skills for your journey along the Canal du Midi.

You will be greeted with a champagne reception where you will get the opportunity to unwind from your travels and meet Robyn and the other guests on this voyage. Lunch will be served as you learn to get comfortable on the lovely Louisa. After lunch we will cruise to our first mooring near the village of Vivier. This time will be spent getting to know Robyn and the plans we have for you over the next six days. This will be a very relaxing time for you to sit back and emerge yourself into the French landscapes we drift along and go through the amazingly engineered locks of the historic Canal du Midi. This is a time for you to be rejuvenated as you prepare for the days ahead. Robyn will take this time to hand out your beautiful project kits and the other goodies that go along with this adventure. Think of this as a long, deep cleansing breath, one that will initiate the tranquil atmosphere of the remaining days on board. Ask the questions you need answers to and get to know your fellow travelers, stretch your legs along the tow path of the canal or have a rest in your cabin, this is your time.

Drinks will be provided before dinner and dinner will be served around 7:00p.m. in the evening and, as in the traditional French way, we will take our time and and contemplate the joy of life’s simple pleasures. It is now time to slow down and reflect what is really important when it comes to beauty and creativity.After dinner Robyn will share her personal journey into textile design and quilt making. She will also share with you her new life living aboard a Dutch Luxemotor traveling along the waterways of France. Please feel free to ask questions and share your own experiences and, finally, a good night’s sleep to restore and nurture your body, mind and soul.


DAY TWO : Today we will be cruising to the lovely canal port of Bram.Robyn will begin your workshop on needle-turn appliqué after breakfast. Now is the time to sit back on deck and let Robyn share her expertise in appliqué and the joy that this art form brings to her personally. Robyn’s goal is to encourage you to express your own creativity through appliqué. Today will be a full day of instruction so we will begin at 10:00 a.m. and break for lunch at around 1:00p.m. We shall pick up our workshop after lunch and continue on till early evening. You will have a break in order to freshen up and have some quiet time before we gather on deck for drinks before dinner. After dinner you will, again, be given time to get comfy and gather together with Robyn in the lounge for more socializing and stitching if you like. This is your time time so you can do as you please.


DAY THREE : Today we will be cruising to beautiful Villesquelande. Your morning will be filled with more appliqué instruction and inspiration with Robyn starting after breakfast around 9:30 a.m. After lunch a trip to the stunning Le Chateau Pennautier is planned. This excursion will include a wine tasting and a wander around the grounds and orangery of this Louis XIII era (1620) chateau and vineyards. You will be back on board Louisa in time for a drink before dinner. After dinner we will have the same opportunity as the night before for some S & S, stitching and socializing, with Robyn.


DAY FOUR : Today we will be cruising to the humming port of Carcassonne. Appliqué instruction will begin around 9:30 a.m. with Robyn as we cruise the Canal du Midi. After lunch today, you will be provided with an exciting excursion to the breathtaking medieval city of Carcassonne. Robyn and her husband, Martin, will guide you through the historic streets of this precious UNESCO/World Heritage designated city. You will be mesmerized by the beauty of this ancient place. Once back on board Louisa, you can put your feet up and relax with a glass of something cold and refreshing. Once again, after dinner is time for unwinding in our PJ’s ,if you choose, and more socializing and stitching with Robyn.


DAY FIVE : Today we will be cruising towards the picturesque port of Trebes, to the village of Villedubert. Today is another full day of stitching and instruction so we will begin around 10:00 a.m. and break for lunch around 1:00 p.m. An afternoon filled with appliqué should give Robyn the time to thoroughly review her own tricks and hints for making appliqué easier and more relaxing for you, individually. Please do not hesitate to ask her repeatedly for the information you need to be able to complete your project once you return home. Dinner will be a welcome respite as we allow our hands to recover from our sewing and we break bread together. After dinner will be your time to talk, laugh, share, sew, whatever your heart desires.


DAY SIX : Today we will arrive in the bustling canal port of Trebes as you continue to stitch along the way. Instructions and sewing will continue starting at 9:30 a.m. and go until lunch, which will be served early today at 12:00 p.m. Today, after lunch, Robyn will guide you on a brocante (antiquing) tour from Trebes to the colorful village of Mirepoix with three or four stops on along our path. There will be many vintage French textiles and treasures to tempt you along the way. The settings alone will fill you with interest as you explore the buildings and villages along this route. These are some of Robyn’s favorite places to shop. No need to worry about getting your new found treasures back because we can provide 7kg Collossomo boxes for you to fill for a flat rate fee of 55 euros to post back home. We will return to Louisa in time for cocktails before dinner and, once again, after dinner will be time to share our thoughts on this journey with one another as we begin our goodbyes before parting in the morning. Robyn will definitely want to make sure you have all the information you need to complete your project once you are home and give you any contact details you need so that you can ask further questions if needed.


DAY SEVEN : After a bittersweet breakfast and farewells, David will provide your transport back to Toulouse (Blagnac) Airport as you begin your journey home. Robyn will be there on deck to wave you off and let you know what a wonderful time was had by all. We want you to have the adventure of a lifetime filled with amazing memories for you ….and for us!!

*Please note that we completely understand that this cruise is your holiday and if you decide that you want to relax and do nothing, we understand. We will not coerce you to participate in any of the workshop or excursions if you do not want to but we will ask that you do not disrupt the workshop for the other guests who are participating.

 Also, please remember that space for storing luggage on board Louisa and carrying in the car during transport is limited. We suggest one checked bag (not oversized) and one small carry on per person. This does not include your personal handbag. Remember all fabric and supplies are provided for on this cruise.

It is suggested that attire for this cruise is summertime party casual, nice but relaxed.  Bring a light weight jacket or sweater (jumper) for evenings on deck and remember that we do not dress formally for dinner.

Contact information:


robyn at saxtopia@gmail.com