12 MAY 2021 – Sillery to Chateau Thierry

Departure date : 12 MAY 2021

Route: Sillery to Chateau Thierry

€2,950/person
6 nights 3 cabins available

Be the first to book - choose the excursion options

Wednesday - 12 MAY 2021

Afternoon – Pick up in Reims

This afternoon we will meet your cruise group at Reims train station (or at your hotel if you’re already staying in the city).  

The direct high speed train from central Paris takes just 45 mins  – about half the time it takes to drive!  We’ll provide all the information you need, including where to go and how to buy your tickets online in advance.  Typically the fare from Paris to Reims is around €25 per person, each way. 

Optional Extra: Transfer from Paris €100 per person, return

If you prefer we can pick you up and drop you off in central Paris at the Gare du Nord train station.

NB. We are only able to do one pick-up location per cruise so the first customers to book decide if there is a Paris transfer – so please check the individual itinerary for the date you are interested in.     

Evening – Dinner aboard

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 the village or just relax and unpack before sitting down to a three course dinner aboard.

Summer poppies with Serenity Barge and canal in the background
You'll join the barge in Sillery
Champagne welcome at the start of your barge cruise
Champagne and canapes
Our 9 seater vehicle on a barge cruise excursion
Our comfortable 9 seater vehicle

THURSDAY - 13 MAY 2021

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.

Optional Extra: Hot air balloon flight €350 per person (maximum price)

See the vineyards from a different pespective as you soar above them, with an English speaking balloon pilot. 

NB. If your fellow cruise guests also choose this optional extra the price per person will be reduced as follows: 4 guests = €300 per person, 5 guests = €250 per person, 6 guests = €200 per person.  Should your flight be cancelled, eg. due to weather conditions, you will receive a refund.

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 architectural 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 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 – San Remi Basilica and Musée – 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 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 and the unclassifiable work of the French-Japanese artist Léonard Foujita.

Evening – Michelin star dinner

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.

 

Alternative excursions

E-bike adventure through the vineyards – You’ll have seen the vineyards from the barge and from the car but today we head out to explore them on electric bikes. Our ride takes us up through the vineyards to the villages of Bouzy and Ambonnay. This is Pinot Noir territory and with both villages being designated Grand Cru, the highest quality, here you’ll find vineyards belonging to Krug, Bollinger and Veuve Cliquot. As well as stopping for a couple of tastings we’ll visit the charming village church which dates from the 1850s and a panoramic viewpoint. And with electric bikes even going uphill is easy!  (0 minutes drive from the barge) 

Cellar tour at Lanson, Mumm, Pommery or Veuve Clicquot – All of these famous brands are located in Reims.  Your visit will include a cellar tour and tasting of at least two of their champagnes.  NB. a private tour is not possible at all Champagne Houses, we will discuss the options when to choose your excursions  (25 minutes drive from the barge)

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. (10 minutes drive from the barge)

Cook a meal with a French Chef – Join Chef 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 sit down to dinner and 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. (25 minutes drive from the barge) And don’t worry, if you choose this option you will have dinner that the Michelin star restaurant on night 1 of your cruise so you don’t miss out!

Reims cathedral - a recommended excursion on your barge cruise
Historic city of Reims
View across the vineyards to the village of Verzy
Villages of the Montagne de Reims
Barge cruise guests getting hands on in the kitchen at a chef-led cooking class
Cook a meal with a French chef

FRIDAY - 14 MAY 2021

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 – Recommended 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. (20 minutes drive from the barge)

Evening

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.  You’ll have dinner in the neighbouring village of Ay, at a restaurant popular with locals and visitors alike.  

 

Alternative excursions

Walking tour of Epernay – Often called the Capital of Champagne, you’ll discover the stories of some of champagne’s most iconic names on this city walking tour.  A highlight is a flight on a tethered balloon, offering fantastic views over the city and vineyards (weather permitting).  There is also time for some shopping if you wish. (15 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.  (20 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)

Cellar tour at Moet & Chandon – Probably the best known champagne brand of all, if this is your favourite then a cellar tour here is a must-do.  Afterwards we’ll take a walk along the Avenue of Champagne.  (15 minutes drive from the barge) 

Champagne bottles on riddling boards
Cellar tour at Champagne Guy Charbaut
View over Epernay and the vineyards from static balloon during an excursion in Epernay
Walking tour of Epernay (balloon flight view)
Barge cruise guests at a chocolate making workshop
Chocolate workshop

SATURDAY - 15 MAY 2021

Morning – Market visit and 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 – 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. The evening ends with a firework display. Important: The chateau is around 1hr 30min drive 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)

Evening

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 favourite restaurants in Epernay.

Alternative excursions

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)

Walking tour of Epernay – Often called the Capital of Champagne, you’ll discover the stories of some of champagne’s most iconic names on this city walking tour.  A highlight is a flight on a tethered balloon, offering fantastic views over the city and vineyards (weather permitting).  There is also time for some shopping if you wish. (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)

Cellar tour at Moet & Chandon – Probably the best known champagne brand of all, if this is your favourite then a cellar tour here is a must-do.  Afterwards we’ll take a walk along the Avenue of Champagne.  (15 minutes drive from the barge) 

Dinners enjoying al-fresco dinner overloooking the Chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte - an excursion option on your barge cruise
Candlelight evening at Vaux le Vicomte
View over the vineyards at Champagne Le Gallais to the Chateau Boursault - an excursion option on your barge cruise
Champagne Le Gallais
Half timbers house in Ay
A stroll in Ay

SUNDAY - 16 MAY 2021

Morning – Cruise from Damery to Courcelles

This morning we continue along the river, past the town of Dormans to our peaceful mooring spot in Courcelles. Keep an eye out for the resident peacocks at the first lock we pass through this morning.

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).

Evening

Tonight you’ll enjoy a relaxed BBQ dinner aboard.

 

Alternative excursions

Ride a Segway through 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 ofcourse your visit ends with a tasting of Bruno’s champagne.  (10 minutes drive from the barge)

Visit the vineyards and cellars at Champagne Alain Mercier – Romain has recently taken over as winemaker at the family champagne house established by his Great-Grandfather in the 1920’s. Passionate about his wine, Romain will let you into to secrets of how he makes his award winning champagnes and share his favourite cuvees with you. (10 minutes drive from the barge).

Walking tour of Epernay – Often called the Capital of Champagne, you’ll discover the stories of some of champagne’s most iconic names on this city walking tour.  A highlight is a flight on a tethered balloon, offering fantastic views over the city and vineyards (weather permitting).  There is also time for some shopping if you wish. (35 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)

Historic wine presses at Champagne dom Caudron
Champagne Dom Caudron
Barge cruise guests on segway riding exursion in the vineyards
Ride a segway through the vineyards
The ruined castle at Fere-en-Tardenois - an excursion option on your barge cruise
Castle of Fere-en-Tardenois

MONDAY - 17 MAY 2021

Morning – Cruise from Courcelles to Chateau Thierry

Our final morning of cruising takes us through the more tree-lined winding section of the Marne river to the town of Chateau Thierry, which has been an important crossing point since Roman times.  With the barge moored in the middle of town, you also have the opportunity to take a walk up to the ruined hilltop castle.

Afternoon – recommended excursion: 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 (35 minutes drive from the barge).

Evening

For the final evening of your cruise you’ll dine at a gastronomic restaurant/hotel in a nearby village.

 

Alternative excursions

The charming gardens of Viels-Maisons – Take a stroll through gardens and surrounding parklands, that have 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. (20 minutes drive from the barge)

Champagne Pannier – Since 1937 the company have been maturing their champagne in a 2km long network of 12th century cellars in Chateau Thierry. At the end of your tour you will get to taste a range of their champagnes (5 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).

Lines of graves in a commonwealth WW1 cemetary
World War 1 history
Flower banks at the Viels Maison gardens with the village church behind - an excursion option on your barge cruise
Charming gardens of Viels-Maisons
Champagne bottles stacked in the cellars at Champagne Pannier - an excursion option on your barge cruise
Champagne Pannier

TUESDAY - 18 MAY 2021

Morning – Return to Reims

After a relaxed breakfast it’s time to say goodbye to Serenity. 

You’ll leave the boat at around 10am and we will drop you off at the train station in Reims to meet your train back to Paris.

Alternatively if you choose the Paris pick-up & drop-off option you’ll be dropped off at Paris Gare du Nord train station around midday, depending on traffic.

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Serenity barge cruising along he tree lined canal