5 MAY 2021 – Chateau Thierry to Sillery

Departure date : 5 MAY 2021

Route: Chateau Thierry to Sillery

€2,950/person
6 nights 3 cabins available

Be the first to book - choose the excursion options

Wednesday - 5 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 to the ruined hill-top castle or just relax and unpack before sitting down to a three course dinner aboard.

Champagne welcome at the start of your barge cruise
Champagne and canapes
View over the river Marne and town from the ramparts of the ruined castle at Chateau Thierry
Stroll up to the hill-top castle
The imposing Hotel de Ville in Chateau Thierry - the start/finish point of our 6 night barge cruise route
Chateau Thierry

THURSDAY - 6 MAY 2021

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).

Evening

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

 

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).

 

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)

 

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
Lines of graves in a commonwealth WW1 cemetary
WW1 History
Barge cruise guests on segway riding exursion in the vineyards
Ride a segway through the vineyards

FRIDAY - 7 MAY 2021

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 Clicquot. 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)

Evening

Dinner this evening is at an excellent restaurant in Epernay (a short drive from the barge),  which offers modern, refined French cuisine.  

 

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)

Private chateau and a sparkling 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, before enjoying a glass of champagne in the garden.  We then drive onto the nearby village of Cramant which is nestled among the vines of the Cote de Blanc.  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.  (20 minutes drive from the barge)

Cellar visit to Champagne Guy Charbaut – At this family owned producer we will explain the complete process of making champagne as you tour the vat house and century old cellars dug into the chalk cliff above.  Your visit ends with a generous tasting of a range of their vintage and non-vintage champagnes.  (15 minutes drive from the barge)

A stroll in historic 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)

Charter barge cruise guests on an excursion to Champagne Le Gallais
Champagne Le Gallais
Barge cruise guests at a chocolate making workshop
Chocolate workshop
Charter barge cruise guests sitting in the courtyard at Chateau Pierry
Private chateau and sparking village

SATURDAY - 8 MAY 2021

Morning – Market visit and 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)

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.  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)

Cellar visit to Champagne Guy Charbaut – At this family owned producer we will explain the complete process of making champagne as you tour the vat house and century old cellars dug into the chalk cliff above.  Your visit ends with a generous tasting of a range of their 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)

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) 

Narrow alleyway leading up to the abbey in Hauvtilliers
A stroll in Hautvilliers
View over Epernay and the vineyards from static balloon during an excursion in Epernay
Walking tour of Epernay (balloon ride)
Half timbers house in Ay
A stroll in Ay

SUNDAY - 9 MAY 2021

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.

Evening

Tonight we are moored in a peaceful spot in the middle of the countryside and to make the most of it you’ll enjoy a BBQ dinner onboard.

 

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) 

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).

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 –NB. can be combined with option B, C or D to make a longer excursion if you would like.
  • Option B – Musée de la Reddition – where the German surrender that ened World War 2 was signed
  • Option C – San Remi Basilica and Musée – beautiful 11th century church and museum telling the history of the city from Roman times
  • Option D – Musée Beux-Arts – art museum with over 300 works from 5 centuries. 

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.

Exterior of the art deco Villa Demoiselle
Villa Demoiselle
Barge cruise guests on a guided e-bike ride through the vineyards
E-bike adventure through the vineyards
Reims city walking tour

MONDAY - 10 MAY 2021

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.

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.

  • 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 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

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  (15 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. (15 minutes drive from the barge)

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. (5 minutes drive from the barge)

Historic Reims cathedral
Historic city of Reims
Guests on a family charter barge cruise on the steps leading to the cellars at Veuve Clicquot
Cellar tour at Veuve Clicquot
Barge cruise guests getting hands on in the kitchen at a chef-led cooking class
Cook a meal with a French chef

TUESDAY - 11 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