eastbound: chateau thierry to sillery

Join the barge in Chateau Thierry

WW1 history

Champagne Dom Caudron

Chateau at Champagne Le Gallais

In the vines

The historic village of Ay

Damery village

Hautvilliers

Magical candlelight evening at Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte

Chapagne Guy Charbaut

Chapagne Pommery

Art Deco Villa Demoiselle

The grand staircase at Musee Saint Remi

Our countryside mooring

Reims Cathedral and Archbishop's Palace

Visit the room where WW2 officially ended

WEDNESDAY

 

Afternoon - Pick-up in Paris

This afternoon we will meet your cruise group at a pre-agreed location in Paris and drive to where Serenity is moored in the town of Chateau Thierry (typically 1 hour – 1.5 hour 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 around to the ruined hill-top castle or just relax and unpack before sitting down to a three course dinner aboard.

 

THURSDAY

 

Morning – Cruise from Chateau Thierry to Dormans

About 9.30am we’ll be taking off the mooring ropes to start our cruise along 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 - recommended 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).

 

Alternative excursions

WW1 History - This area was a key strategic location during the Aisne Marne Offensive during the closing stages of World War 1.  We start our tour at the statuesque Franco-American Memorial atop Hill 204, with its sweeping views over the champagne hillsides of the Marne valley.  We will then drive a short way to Belleau Wood were the trench lines and shell holes remain as scars of the fierce fighting that took place here, famous as the first significant engagement of the newly created US Marine Corps - who earned the nickname 'The Devil Dogs' from the assulting German troops.   We will also visit the adjoining American and German cemeteries (40 minutes drive from the barge).

 

The castles of Fere-en-Tardenois & Nesles - Built in 1206, today only the atmospheric ruined towers remain atop a dramatically steep mound - but what makes this castle unique is the monumental 5 arch bridge spanning what was originally the moat.  On our way back to the barge we will stop at the Chateau de Nesles, which remains a family home, to admire the courtyard garden (20 minutes drive from the barge).

 

Evening

Tonight you will enjoy dinner at a popular local restaurant on the town square, just a few minutes from the boat.

 

FRIDAY

 

Morning – Cruise from Dormans to Damery

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

 

Afternoon - Recommended 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)

 

Alternative excursions

Epernay - Often called 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. (15 minutes drive from the barge)

 

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. (20 minutes drive from the barge)

 

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 to the city centre, 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.  (20 minutes drive from the barge)

 

Champagne Guy Charbaut - 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.  (15 minutes drive from the barge)

 

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. (15 minutes drive from the barge)

 

Evening

Tonight's dinner is at a local village restaurant a short drive from where the barge is moored.

 

 

SATURDAY

 

Morning - Cruise from Damery to Mareuil-sur-Ay

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.

 

After we return to the barge, Serenity will continue cruising east along the river.  As we pass the village of Cumieres, make sure you look out for the metal sculptures along the river bank, depicting different scenes from the vineyards.  Soon afterwards we leave the river and turn into the man-made canal with its narrower locks, where Serenity squeezes in with centimetres to spare.

 

Afternoon - Recommended excursion: A stroll in the village of Hautvilliers

We'll drive through the vineyards 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)

 

Alternative excursions

Candlelight 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.  Important: The chateau is around a 2 hour from the barge.  (This is significantly further than we normally travel for excursions, but previous guests who’ve chosen this option thought the unique experience was well worth the extra time in the car.  If you are keen on this excursion and flexible on travel dates, consider taking a Westbournd cruise as the drive time is shorter).

 

Epernay - Often called 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. (15 minutes drive from the barge)

 

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.  (20 minutes drive from the barge)

 

Champagne Guy Charbaut - 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.  (1 minute drive from the barge)

 

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. (5 minutes drive from the barge)

 

 

Evening

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 this evening is at an excellent restaurant in Epernay, offering modern, refined French cuisine.   (NB. if you choose the Chateau excursion you will eat at the Chateau).

 

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SUNDAY

 

Morning - Cruise from Mareuil-sur-Ay to Isse

We'll spend around 6 hours cruising today so the barge will probably already be moving as you sit down to breakfast.  After passing through the pretty villages of Tours-sur-Marne and Bisseuil, Serenity starts climbing uphill through a chain 6 locks.  With the towpath alongside and locks every kilometre of less this is the perfect opportunity to hop off the boat and get some pictures of her cruising along.

 

Afternoon - Recommended excursion: Champagne Pommery and Villa Demoiselle

One of Champagne’s ‘Grande Maisons’ it was Pommery champagne that first developed the modern “Brut” style of champagne in 1874.  Your guide will show you around the beautiful natural chalk cellars which were originally dug out by the Romans, which today house an eclectic collection of modern artworks as well as million of bottles of maturing champagne.

 

After your cellar tour we'll cross the road to visit Villa Demoiselle.  Originally built for the directors of Pommery Champagne, in the last five years this Art Deco house has been lovingly restored before being opened to the public.  The result is a real architectural jewel with floral paintings climbing the walls, stained glass windows, period furniture throughout, sweeping central staircase and superb Baccarat chandeliers.

 

Alternative excursions

The village 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 Verzy, Verzenay and Mailly with a stop of the picturesque 'Lighthouse in the vines' and a tasting at a small producer.

 

San Remi Basilica and Musee San Remi – Built in the 11th century the beautiful Romanesque San Remi Basilica is even older than Reims 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.

 

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.

 

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.

  • 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 optional B to make a longer excursion if you would like.

  • Option B - 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.

 

 

Evening

Tonight we are moored in a peaceful spot in the middle of the countryside and for the final evening of your cruise you'll enjoy a BBQ dinner onboard.

 

MONDAY

 

NB. - If you choose a 5 night cruise you will leave the barge this morning and be driven back to Paris, arriving around midday.

 

Morning - Cruise from Isse to Sillery

About 9am we’ll be taking off the mooring ropes to start our cruise along the canal.   Our journey this morning takes us through peaceful countryside, past occasional grain silos that are the canal’s original raison d'être.   Around 10am 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 claustrophobic 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 - Recommended excursion: 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.

  • 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 options B or C to make a longer excursion if you would like.

  • Option B - 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 C - 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 village 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 Verzy, Verzenay and Mailly with a stop of the picturesque 'Lighthouse in the vines' and a tasting at a small producer.

 

Champagne Pommery - One of Champagne’s ‘Grande Maisons’ it was Pommery champagne that first developed the modern “Brut” style of champagne in 1874.  Your guide will show you around the beautiful natural chalk cellars which were originally dug out by the Romans, which today house an eclectic collection of modern artworks as well as million of bottles of maturing champagne.

 

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.

 

Evening

As a fitting end to your cruise, dinner tonight is at Le Millienaire in Reims.  Holder of a Michelin Star since 2011, the father and son team of Laurent and Thibault Laplaige are in the kitchen, offering modern seasonal cuisine based on local products.  We love this restaurant for the interesting flavour combinations, beautiful presentation and excellent service to match.

 

 

TUESDAY

 

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.