westbound: Sillery to Chateau Thierry
Stained glass in Reims cathedral
Stacks of champagne
Saturday morning market
Champagne Le Gallais
Champage Dom Caudron
WEDNESDAY 23rd SEPTEMBER
Afternoon - Pick-up in Paris
This afternoon we will meet your cruise group at the Novotel by Gare de Lyon station in Paris and drive to where Serenity is moored at our home port of Sillery, 10kms southeast 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 dinner at a Michelin starred restaurant in the nearby city of Reims.
THURSDAY 24TH SEPTEMBER
Morning – Cruise from Sillery to Isse
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. You can also see the vineyards 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.
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 (25 minutes drive from the barge) .
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.
Tonight we are moored in a peaceful spot in the middle of the countryside and you'll enjoy dinner at a local village restaurant.
FRIDAY 25TH SEPTEMBER
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.
Afternoon excursion - 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. (20 minutes drive from the barge)
For tonight we are moored in one of our faveourite 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.
SATURDAY 26TH SEPTEMBER
Morning - Cruise from Mareuil-sur-Ay to Damery
It's an early morning start today if you want to join Claire for a visit to the bustling Saturday morning covered market in Epernay. The stalls are laden with fresh produce from across the region and you can choose the cheeses and charcuterie to enjoy as a platter style lunch today.
When we return to the barge we’ll enjoy the short cruise to Damery. 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.
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 whilst tasting the estates champagnes, 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. (10 minutes drive from the barge)
If you choose the Chateau excursion you will enjoy dinner al-fresco on the terrace at the chateau. If you choose one of the alternative excursions you'll enjoy dinner one of our faveourite restaurants in Epernay.
SUNDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER
Morning - Cruise from Damery to Dormans
This morning we continue along the river to the town of Dormans.
Afternoon excursion - Champagne Dom Caudron
A visit to this vilage co-operative makes an ideal introduction to how champagne is produced. We start our tour at the historic wine presses in the museum, before moving onto the modern cuverie. And your visit ends with a tasting of three champagnes, each paired with a different handmade chocolate. We’ll then take a short drive to the Memorial Chapel in Dormans, with its beautiful views over the Marne river valley, before walking back through the village to the barge. (10 minutes drive from the barge).
Tonight dinner is a BBQ dinner onboard.
MONDAY 28TH 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.