Private CHarter cruise

 

Southbound: Berry-au-bac to Courcelles

Welcome aboard

Medieval Laon

Wandering the walled city of Laon

Stained glass in Reims cathedral

Reim's gothic cathedral

Stacks of champagne

The sweeping vineyards

Cooking class with Eric

Descending to the cellar at Veuve Clicquot

Moet & Chandon

Charming Chateau Pierry

Visit the cellars at Guy Charbaut

Candelight evening at Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte

The village of Ay dates from the 1400s 

Get an amazing view over the city and the vines from the balloon

Ride a segway in the vineyards

Champagne Le Gallais

Relax at the Viels-Maison gardens

Following an extended 14 night cruise in mid-August, Serenity will be further north along the canal than usual so this week's itinerary is extra special.  From Monday 24th August we will be heading back to our normal cruising area so you can choose to start your cruise at any point along the way; on either Monday 24th, Tuesday 25th or Wednesday 26th....or if you love the look of the whole itinerary extend your cruise to 8 nights and do it all!!!

monday 24th August

Afternoon - Pick-up in Paris

This afternoon we will meet your group at a pre-agreed location in Paris and drive to where Serenity is moored in the small village of Berry-au-Bac, 20kms north of Reims (typically 1.5 hours – 2 hours drive depending on traffic).

 

Upon arrival at the barge you’ll be welcomed by the rest of the crew with champagne and canapes.  Afterwards there’s time to take a stroll in the village or just simply relax and unpack before you enjoy a 3 course dinner onboard.

 

TuesDAY 25TH august

 

Morning – Cruise from Berry-au-Bac to Loirve

About 9am we’ll be taking off the mooring ropes to start our cruise along the canal.   Here the canal passes through peaceful countryside, past occasional grain silos that are the canal’s original raison d'être. 

 

Afternoon recommended excursion - the medieval hill-top town of Laon

With it’s dramatic hilltop position Laon has been inhabited for millennia.  With many medieval buildings and the cities 12th century defensive walls and gates still standing a visit to Laon can feel like stepping back in time.  We will take you on a walking tour of the city through the narrow alleys with stops at the 12th century cathedral and a charming patisserie.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 45 minutes)

 

Alternative excursions

WW1 History at La Caverne du Dragon - Having captured the area north of Reims, in 1915 German troops transformed a 16th century stone quarry into a strategic barracks with dormatories, electricity network, hospital and even a chapel.  15m underground this stronghold was held until 1917 when the French Army took back part of the complex, with the opposing forces living just metres from each other.  Our guide will take us on an atmospheric tour of the complex and tell us more about it’s fascinating history.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 25 minutes)

The cellars of a Grande Maison - Choose to visit either; Tattinger, Pommery or Veuve Cliquot.  Whichever house you choose to visit you'll be shown around the beautiful natural chalk cellars which were originally dug out before the middle ages to build the city of Reims and today house million of bottles of maturing champagne.  You'll be introduced to how champagne is produced, learn about the history of the house and the personalities who shaped it into an iconic champagne brand.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 25 minutes)

Evening

Tonight you will enjoy dinner at one of our favourite restaurants in Reims.

wednesDAY 26TH august

 

Morning – Cruise from Loirve to Reims

For the first couple of hours this morning we will still be deep in the countryside, surrounded by greenery and nature.  We then arrive in the outskirts of Reims, where we pass industrial quaisides still used by cargo barges before we moor in the city centre. 

Recommended afternoon excursion - The historic city of Reims

We start our visit at the magnificent gothic cathedral.  Every king of France since Clovis in 1130 has been crowned in this cathedral, today it is a UNESCO World Heritage site in recognition of this history it’s architecture significance and the impressive beauty of the external sculpture work.  You can then choose from the following options: (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 5 minutes).

  • Option A - Walking tour of Reims city-centre – Settled since Roman times, Reims is awash with history.  On our walking tour you’ll get to discover of it’s hidden gems and beautiful art deco buildings. With this option there is also time for souvenir shopping and a stop at a patisserie.  NB. We can combine this with another optional tour to make a longer excursion if you would like.

  • Option B - San Remi Basilica and Musee San Remi – Built in the 11th century the beautiful Romanesque San Remi Basilica is even older than the main cathedral.  Next door we will also visit the 17th century abbey which now houses a museum telling the history of the city from Roman times.

  • Option C - Musée de la Reddition - The school which served as the Headquarters of General Eisenhower, and where he received the German surrender that ended combat in WW2 (24 hours before it was re-signed in Berlin) is now a museum dedicated to this historic event and the city’s role in the closing stages of the war.

  • Option D - Musée Beux-Arts – With over 300 items on display you'll take a walk through  five-centurys of  French and European art, from the Renaissance to Impressionism, Le Grand Siècle, Impressionism and the unclassifiable work of the French-Japanese artist Léonard Foujita.

Alternative excursions

The cellars of a Grande Maison - Choose to visit either; Tattinger, Pommery or Veuve Cliquot.  Whichever house you choose to visit you'll be shown around the beautiful natural chalk cellars which were originally dug out before the middle ages to build the city of Reims and today house million of bottles of maturing champagne.  You'll be introduced to how champagne is produced, learn about the history of the house and the personalities who shaped it into an iconic champagne brand.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 5 minutes)

 

The villages of the Montagne de Reims - Head out to explore the vineyards and villages of the Montagne de Reims.  This north east facing hillsides here are famous for their Pinot Noir grapes, with many villages designated as ‘Grand Cru’ ie. the highest of quality.  Our explorations take us to the pretty villages of Rilly-la-Montagne as well as Verzy with a stop of the picturesque 'Lighthouse in the vines' and a tasting at a small producer.   (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 15 minutes)

Evening

Tonight you will enjoy dinner at one of our favourite restaurants in Reims.

ThursDAY 27TH august

Morning – Cruise from Reims to Sillery

With a slightly shorter cruise today there is time to do a bit more exploring in Reims if you want before we set off.  Once we're underway, Serenity climbs up through three locks on our way out of the city and then we are back in the countryside, with just nature and the occasional fisherman, cyclist or jogger for company.  Our mooring for tonight is our home port of Sillery, where Serenity is based over the winter.

Recommended afternoon excursion - the vineyards of the Montagne de Reims

This afternoon we head out to explore the vineyards and villages of the Montagne de Reims.  The north east facing hillsides here are famous for their Pinot Noir grapes, with many villages designated as ‘Grand Cru’ ie. the highest of quality.  Our explorations take us through the villages of Verzy and Verzenay before we visit Sandrine at Champagne Jorez Le Brun.  Passionate about her family vines, Sandrine will explain her work in the vineyard and show you how her parents and grandparents used to tend the vines with traditional tools, before we taste her champagne. (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 10 minutes)

Alternative excursions

Cooking class with Eric - Join Eric for a fun and educational evening in the kitchen – learn pro tips and techniques as you help prepare a starter, main and dessert.  Then enjoy the fruits of your labour!  Example menu: Turbot with kaffir lime and ginger, duck cooked at low temperature with foie gras two ways and chestnut macaroon.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 15 minutes).  

Fort de la Pompelle - Built in the Napoleanic period as part of a ring of 7 forts around Reims, this bunker-like fort played a key role in protecting Paris from invasion during both the Franco-Prussion war and WW1.  We visit the modern museum that tells it's history.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 5 minutes)

Evening

Tonight's dinner is at a Michelin recommended restaurant, just a few minutes from the barge.

FriDAY 28TH august

Morning – Cruise from Sillery to Isse

As we continue cruising south along the canal you'll see the vineyards we visited yesterday in the distance.  Around midday we will reach the Mont Billy Tunnel.  Built in 1860, this tunnel took 15 years to complete and takes the canal beneath the Montagne de Reims.  Passage through the tunnel takes around 35 minutes - if anyone is claustrophic or doesn’t want to travel through the tunnel, the vehicle is available to take you for a visit to the nearby Phare de Verzenay, a lighthouse built in the vineyards as an eye catching landmark, which now houses a modern museum about the vineyards, before meeting the barge at a later lock.

Recommended afternoon excursion - Tour an iconic Champagne House

No holiday in the region is complete without a visit to one of historic champagne houses that have built themselves into an iconic global brand.  You visit will include a cellar tour and a tasting of a number of their champagnes, so this is a great opportunity to get to know a brand you love better. Choose any one of the houses listed below: (Drive time from the barge, each direction: various, up to 40 minutes)

  • Billecart Salmon

  • Boizel

  • Bollinger

  • Canard-Duchene

  • Lanson

  • Moet & Chandon / Dom Perignon

  • Mumm

  • Pommery

  • Ruinart

  • Tattinger

  • Veuve Clicquot​

 

Alternative excursions

Chocolate workshop  - Get hands on and learn how to make filled chocolate champagne corks with Xavier at his artisan chocolate shop.  We will then head into Epernay, where on a walk down the famous Avenue of Champagne you’ll learn the story of some of champagne’s most iconic names including Moet & Chandon, Pol Roger and Perrier Jouet.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 25 minutes)

Chateau and vineyard village - We start our afternoon at Chateau Pierry, a charming, privately owned 18th century chateau.  Small but perfectly formed, we may well bump into the owner as Claire shows you round the reception rooms, former private apartments, gallery of the kings, champagne granary and wine cellar, before enjoying a glass of champagne in the garden.  We will then drive onto the nearby village of Cramant which is nestled among the vines of the Cote de Blanc, where the chalky soils are ideally suited to Chardonnay grapes.  Our stroll around the pretty village concludes with a tasting at a small producer.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 25 minutes)

Evening

It's BBQ evening onboard tonight, giving you the opportunity to enjoy the peace and quiet of our rural mooring and the beautiful sunset.

 

saturDAY 29TH august

Morning – Cruise from Isse to Mareuil-sur-Ay

We will spend around 6 to 7 hours cruising today so the barge may already be moving as you sit down to breakfast.  Serenity will be descending downhill through a chain 6 locks, before passing through the pretty villages of Tours sur Marne and Bisseuil.  With the towpath alongside and several nearby villages this is the perfect opportunity to hop on one of our bikes or take a stroll as there are lots of opportunities to get on/off the barge as we stop in each lock.

 

Recommended afternoon excursion - Champagne Guy Charbaut and the village of Hautvilliers

Established in 1936, this family owned champagne house focus on bio-dynamic work in the vineyards and are experimenting with aging in oak barrels for their cuvees.  On your tour, Marion will explain the complete process of making champagne as she shows you around the vat house and century old cellars dug into the chalk cliff above.  Your visit ends with a generous tasting of a range of the vintage and non-vintage champagnes.  We will then drive to the village of Hautvilliers, considered one of the prettiest villages in the region.  Famous as the home of Dom Perignon, who is often credited with discovering how to make champagne, today this village is home to around 800 people and more than 30 champagne houses!  On our guided walk around the village you’ll visit the abbey and enjoy another champagne tasting at one of the village’s small producers.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 20 minutes)

Alternative excursions

Candleight evening at Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte - Enjoy a night to remember at this picture perfect 17th century chateau.  Upon arrival we will visit the interior of the chateau with it’s magnificent state apartments.  There is then time to wander in the formal gardens by Le Notre (who also designed the gardens at Versailles) before enjoying dinner al-fresco overlooking the chateau.   As darkness falls over 2,000 candles are lit throughout the gardens and chateau, a beautiful spectacle and a glimpse of how the chateau would have been felt in the time of Louis XIV.  The evening ends with a firework display.  Important: The chateau is around 1hr 50min drive from the barge (this is alot further than we normally travel for excursions, but it is only available on the Saturday night and it is a unique and stunning experience)

Champagne Le Gallais - At this winery not only are their vineyards blessed with beautiful views down the Marne valley but the grapes also go right up to the turreted Chateau Boursault, built in 1843 by Madame Cliquot. Join the lovely Florie for a walk in the vineyard and learn how they care for the vines throughout the year.  And as we're approaching harvest time you'll pick a selection of grapes and test their sugar levels to help the winemaker decide the optimum date for picking.  Our visit ends with a tasting on the deck overlooking the vines and one of the group will be taught how to open a bottle using a sword!  Called ‘Sabrage’ this technique dates back to the Napoleanic troop’s who liked to celebrate victory with champagne.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 25 minutes)

A stroll in Ay - Join Claire for a walking tour of this charming village, with its 14th century half timbered houses, winding lanes and gothic church. After a 're-fuelling' stop at the patisserie we visit Champagne Collet, with its Art Deco villa and museum of champagne production.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 10 minutes)

 

Evening

For tonight we are moored in one of our favourite spots, on the edge of the village of Mareuil-sur-Ay.  Right underneath the vineyards we always get beautiful sunsets over the canal here.  Dinner tonight is at an excellent local restaurant.

 

sunDAY 30TH August

 

Morning - Cruise from Mareuil-sur-Ay to Damery

Whilst we start our morning cruising along the canal, as lunch is served we leave the manmade canal and descend onto the river Marne.  This tree lined winding river has for centuries been an important trade route to Paris and even today we will likely pass some cargo barges on our journey.  Otherwise the river is a peaceful place with wildlife, fishermen patiently waiting for their catch, pleasure boaters and canoeists.

Recommended afternoon excursion - Epernay, the Capital of Champagne

A highlight of Epernay is the famous Avenue of Champagne, the home of Moet & Chandon, Pol Roger, Mercier and Perrier Jouet.  As we stroll down the hill into the city there are plenty of opportunities to stop for a tasting if you wish.  You will enjoy a flight on a tethered balloon that climbs to 150m, offering fantastic views over the city, vineyards and the Marne river valley (weather permitting) and there is also time for some shopping if you wish. (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 15 minutes)

Alternative excursions

Segwaying in the vineyards

On this fun excursion we’ll explore the vineyards above the Marne valley in the company of Bruno, the winemaker at Jacques Copin Champagne.  Segways are easy to ride and mean we can cover a greater distance than walking.  And of course your visit ends with a tasting of Bruno’s champagne.  On the way back to the barge we will stop in the pretty village of Chatillon-sur-Marne which has panoramic views of the river valley we are cruising along.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction 25 minutes)

A stroll in Ay - Join Claire for a walking tour of this charming village, with its 14th century half timbered houses, winding lanes and gothic church. After a 're-fuelling' stop at the patisserie we visit Champagne Collet, with its Art Deco villa and museum of champagne production.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 10 minutes)

Evening

Tonight you'll have dinner at a restaurant in Epernay, a 15 minute drive from the barge.

MONDAY 31st august

 

Morning - Cruise from Damery to Courcelles

Today as we continue westwards along the river, the banks become less tree-lined to reveal sweeping views of the rolling vineyards.

Recommended afternoon excursion - Champagne Le Gallais

At this winery not only are their vineyards blessed with beautiful views down the Marne valley but the grapes also go right up to the turreted Chateau Boursault, built in 1843 by Madame Cliquot. Join the lovely Florie for a walk in the vineyard and learn how they care for the vines throughout the year.  And as we're approaching harvest time you'll pick a selection of grapes and test their sugar levels to help the winemaker decide the optimum date for picking.  Our visit ends with a tasting on the deck overlooking the vines and one of the group will be taught how to open a bottle using a sword!  Called ‘Sabrage’ this technique dates back to the Napoleanic troop’s who liked to celebrate victory with champagne.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 25 minutes)

Alternative excursions

Gardens of Viels-Maison – Take a stroll through 3 hectares of gardens and surrounding parklands, that has been lovingly created over the past 20 years by Bertrande de Ladoucette.  The adjacent 11th century church provides a lovely backdrop for this charming country garden filled with roses, topiary and sculpture.  If you wish, on our way back to the boat we can also stop for a tasting at a small champagne house.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 25 minutes)

Champagne Alain Mercier - Join Romain for a tour at Champagne Alain Mercier, which was originally established by his Great-Grandfather in the 1920s.  We will visit the vineyards, the vat room and the cellars, giving you an indepth introduction into how champagne is produced at a small family owned vineyard.  You'll also taste a range of Romain's champagnes including an 100% Pinot Meunier, the speciality of the Marne Valley and rarely sold outside France.  (Drive time from the barge, each direction: 5 minutes)

Evening

It's a gastronomic end to your cruise, with dinner at a Michelin recommended restaurant tonight.

 

TUESDAY 1st SEptember

Morning - Return to Paris

After a relaxed breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to Serenity.  You’ll leave the boat at around 10am and should be in Paris around midday, depending on traffic.