Reims Cathedral

 

Stained glass in Reims Cathedral

The cavenous cellars at Champagne Pommery

Visit the room where the surrender of WW2 was signed

The charming village of Ay

Chocolate Workshop

At the Saturday morning market

Chateau Vaux Le Vicomte

Champagne Dom Caudron

The Franco-American memorial

Hotel de Ville in Chateau Thierry

The ruined castle at Chateau Thierry

Westbound:  Sillery to Chateau Thierry

 

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 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

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 - Recommended 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.

 

Alternative excursions

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.    (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)

 

Evening

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

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: 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)

 

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)

 

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)

 

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 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)

 

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 tonight is at an excellent local restaurant.

 

SATURDAY

Morning - Cruise from Mareuil-sur-Ay to Damery

After breakfast why not join us for a visit the 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 - Recommended excursion: 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 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)

 

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)

 

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)

 

 

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 faveourite restaurants in Epernay.

 

 

SUNDAY

Morning - Cruise from Damery to Dormans

Our final morning of cruising takes us further west along the river to the town of Chateau Thierry.  The scenery of rolling vine covered slopes and frequent villages becomes more wooded over the course of the morning, before we arrive into Chateau Thierry, which has been a strategic crossing point of the Marne river since Roman times.

 

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

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. (30 minutes drive from the barge)

 

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).

 

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 dinner is 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

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).

 

Alternative excursions

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).

 

Evening

Tonight you will have dinner a a bustling brasserie on the quaiside, a short walk from the barge.

 

 

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.