From Deckhand to Tour Guide and Now Captain of L’Art de Vivre, Matthew Price knows Europe’s waterways well! Read on to find out how this London-born photography enthusiast spends his cruise season enchanting guests as they cruise the Canal du Nivernais in Burgundy…
Meet L'Art de Vivre Captain, Matthew Price
How long have you worked for EW?
My first season was in 2014, so this would have been my 7th season barging – however I did work for three years on other boats and so really I have only worked for European waterways for 4 years
Is it how you expected it to be?
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I suppose I’ve made barging what I want it to be and I love it!
Tell us about your love of the waterways
This is a hard question, and perhaps with an even more difficult answer. My love for the job, isn’t so much the waterways themselves but the people I am with. Whether that be the crew or the passengers. The love for the waterways came later and of course goes hand in hand with the job. There’s something about being in the middle of nowhere, on a beautiful stretch of water in a beautiful country with people you love that is very hard to explain…
What was your very first job?
My first job was as a photographer for a classic car magazine, later I worked as a sales assistant at a local music store, specialising in classic rock…
What inspired you to become a barge Captain?
Not an inspiration per se… I worked up the ranks. I started off as Tour Guide and Deckhand, and was promoted to Captain in 2019
What are you most proud of about working for EW?
The people who work on the barges. The crews are amazing and the majority return year upon year, which I think is rare these days in hospitality and tourism. It shows that they care, not only for the company, but for the passengers.
What are your favourite daily duties?
1. Front of house: Being the Deckhand, Tour Guide and Captain onboard. I have contact with guests 90% of the day and being able to express my love for the region and the job to them is very rewarding
2. This is, above all else, my favourite aspect of the job. It was my original job onboard when I started barging and I love showing passengers the beautiful region we cruise in and the fascinating towns, villages and places of interest we are nearby during the week. However, I never actually see myself as a tour guide as such – I describe myself to passengers as a story teller because, after all, that is what history is all about… stories!
3. Handling the ropes. Although it may be at times unpleasant (such as in unbearable heat or massive downpours – we are in Burgundy, after all) I do enjoy being part of safely taking the barge through locks and helping to moor. I am hoping to (one day) get my pilots license and so I sometimes take the helm of the barge as well during navigation
4. Keeping the show on the road. One aspect of my role onboard involves shuffling vehicles around so that they are always where we need them to be. It may seem odd, but this is part of my “downtime” – a part of the day when I can simply wind down the windows, put on some music and start to relax before the evening shift kicks in. Sometimes vehicle transfers take the best part of an hour, and so I make the most of not being on the boat or in front of passengers to wind down after another busy day!
5. Getting stuck in. Despite being the “boss” onboard, I am not work shy when it comes to being a crew member and helping out with odd jobs around the boat, which are not necessarily part of my position. I consider the other crew members I have worked with my best friends and, in some cases, my family and I really enjoy being part of a team. I am lucky enough to have never worked with anyone I dislike – and I feel this camaraderie is reflected in the work we do.
What makes your barge unique?
L’Art de Vivre (affectionately known to us as ‘Arty’) is the oldest barge in the fleet and saw active service during the First World War. I think that makes her quite special
What feature do guests always love?
I think passengers are impressed by the high level of detail we maintain on L’Art de Vivre. She’s a beautiful barge and has a certain character that you only feel once you’ve stepped onboard, and that is, in part, down to the amazing crew I have
Favourite region to cruise in?
Another difficult question to answer. The regions I have cruised in would probably have not been as I had experienced them if it were not for the crew I had worked with. I was lucky in that, during my four years guiding on the Midi I had a solid friend base who were there and with them I have some of my most treasured memories. For that, I think the Languedoc holds the top space for my favourite region
First thing you do when you climb aboard?
It’s really boring, but I check the electricity, the water pumps, the water tanks and the bilges. Before I leave the barge, I always maintain that it is secure for the winter
Do you live on a boat?
I do not – but this may change!
Where did you grow up?
I was born in the East End of London, but I grew up in the west – close to Windsor
Do you miss any home comforts?
I suppose being able to open your front door and not risk falling into the canal is a bonus!
How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
I work at European Waterways’ Headquarters in England, and in the marketing department. For the last three or so years I have been actively involved in producing marketing material for the boats, including cycling and walking maps and the Guides to Cruising.
In terms of my leisure activities, I am an avid film photographer and have a growing collection of antique and vintage cameras. I tend to travel to a far and distant land in February and so take a couple of old cameras with me – such as my 1952 Rolleicord and perhaps my 1955 Leica II – and a whole heap of film and try to capture unique angles and compositions of the world around me. When I get back home, I will spend hours in my darkroom lovingly processing and producing the images I have take and created. There’s something very satisfying about the tactile nature of film photography. As opposed to taking a photograph on a phone or digital camera and ending up with a file, I cock the shutter, read the light, take the photograph and end up with a film of acetate with negatives on it – a physical object. I slows me down and helps me to relax after a busy season!
What would you do if you weren't a barge Captain?
What, you mean a real job? No thank you…
Meet Captain Matthew aboard L'Art de Vivre
Set sail on a gourmet trip through pastoral scenery through Burgundy aboard 8-passenger luxury barge, L’Art de Vivre, led by Captain Matthew and his fantastic crew.
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