The Building of the Panama Canal

Often referred to as ‘the big ditch’ or ‘the bridge between two continents’ but if you take one look at the Panama Canal and you can’t help but think of the enormous amount of work that went in to it.  With more than 10,000 men trying to excavate it a French company still went bankrupt trying to get the canal completed.  The first person to even dream up the canal was Charles I back in 1534 the actual construction didn’t begin until 1882, the project came to a halt more than 7 years later with more than 22,000 people dead.  In remain dormant for a couple of years until the United States took over the project in 1902 and eventually completed the canal.  Here is the story behind the canal.

Coming from the East

When you come in from the Atlantic side you will first pass through  a little over a mile of dredged channel and then there will be 2 mile before you hit the Gatun Locks.  Huge ocean liners are lifted and pass through here, they rise more than 85 feet during the three sets of locks until finally reaching Gatun Lake.  The damming of the Chagres River created Gatun Lake, put this together with the Gaillard Cut and it was an engineering marvel similar to digging a 10 foot deep trench from New York to California.

Once you pass through Gatun Lake and pass through another 2 miles of the canal and you will come to the Pedro Miguel Lock and here you will drop 31 feet.  Here the lock borders Miraflores and you are still more than 50 feet above the level of the Pacific Ocean.  The Miraflores Locks will eventually lower the ship until it reaches the Pacific Levels eventually reaching the Gulf of Panama.

From the private balcony, you can watch the locks as you go from one to the other.  You can watch one ship being lifted as another is being lowered.  The lock system is 1,000 feet long and more than 100 feet wide.  It can take up to 8 hours to go through the canal, but the view makes the whole trip worth it.  Look at the lush rainforest, here you can watch the sun rise in the Atlantic and set in the Pacific.

The Panama Canal is simply a marvel of modern engineering that allowed tourism and trade to go between the Atlantic and the Pacific.  You need to experience it first hand to appreciate the work and the tragic history that went into it.

Cruising French Canals

Are you trying to find ideas for your next vacation destination?  Imagine yourself watch the beautiful countryside of France slowly drift by as you curl up on a chaise and sip some exquisite French wine.  Throw into that some gourmet meals made by an incredible French chef.  Now imagine yourself exploring some quaint little French villages, this is what a vacation cruising French Canals can be like.

Canal Barges

Taking your next vacation on a hotel barge is an incredible journey, you can enjoy the small villages and really it doesn’t get much better than local French food.  France is a country filled with history and along the way you can visit sites of historical battles, ancient churches and villages that have been around since the Roman times.  You also have the option of just getting away from it all and relaxing in comfort for a couple of days.   There are more than 5,000 miles of canals you can cruise through so your vacation can be as short or as long as you like.

Visit the Wine Regions

France has some of the best wines in the entire world and you can take a canal cruise through the Burgundy, Loire and Champagne regions of France.  Imagine sipping champagne less than a mile from where the grapes are grown.  The Loire Valley is both visually stunning and here you will find some bottles of world renowned French wines.  Visiting the wine regions alone is reason enough to take the tour.

Finding a Charter

There are hundreds of small and medium sized boats who run up and down the canals, along with different agencies that can book you a tour.  These charters can range from the very casual afternoon to a luxurious multi day cruise.  Before the rise of rail transportation these canals were built to transport goods, now they have been converted to floating hotels and many of the newer ships are meant for luxury travel.

The barge can hold anywhere from 4-20 passengers and you book an entire boat to yourself, what a fantastic way to spend your honeymoon or an anniversary trip.  The barges are pretty spacious and they run up to 35 feet wide and 130 feet long, but the canal system you’re on will determine the size of the vessel and they all come fully crewed so you don’t need any sailing experience at all. Lay back and enjoy the scenery while sipping French wine.