A canal charter barge docked in a canal.

5 night / 6 day cruise – Best of Champagne

Over the years we’ve found a 5 night trip is the perfect option – which is probably why its our most popular cruise!  This itinerary is designed to showcase the best of the Champagne region with some history, some culture and of course some bubbly as well.

WEDNESDAY

Afternoon – Pick up in Reims
This afternoon we will meet your cruise group at Reims train station at around 2pm (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.

Upon arrival at the barge you’ll be welcomed by the rest of the crew with champagne and canapes.  Afterwards there is time to relax and unpack before we head out for a short excursion, either:

  • tasting with the owner at a boutique champagne house, or
  • visit to the WW1 memorial chapel overlooking the vineyards

Optional Extra: Transfer from Paris €250 each way

If you prefer we can pick you up and drop you off at the location of your choice in Paris (eg. your hotel or the airport)

Evening – Dinner aboard

Dinner this evening is at a village bistro, just a quick 10 minute drive away, and if you’d like Claire will take you on a stroll round the village before dinner.

Two pictures of a bottle of wine and a castle, showcasing the charm of a canal cruise through France onboard a hotel barge.

THURSDAY

Morning – Cruise from Courcelles to Damery

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: Explore the vines at Champagne Le Gallais (10 minutes from the barge)
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 Napoleonic troop’s who liked to celebrate victory with champagne.

Evening
Graeme’s manning the grill tonight for a BBQ dinner aboard. As we’re moored in the countryside tonight, it’s a great opportunity to really enjoy the peace and nature before ending the evening with a beautiful sunset over the hills. Dinner is accompanied by your choice of champagne or wine – how about trying the Bouzy Rouge, a full bodied Pinot Noir just like this region produced for the Kings of France before Champagne was invented.

Alternative excursions

Chocolate making workshop (15 minutes drive from the barge) – Get hands on and learn how to make chocolate filled champagne corks with Xavier at his artisan chocolate shop.

E-bike adventure through the vineyards to Chatillon sur Marne (0 minutes drive from the barge) – You’ll have looked up at the hilltop village of Chatillon-sur-Marne as we were cruising and this afternoon that’s where we are heading – don’t worry with an e-bike the uphill climb is easy!  We’ll ride through the vineyards and on quiet backroads and you’ll be rewarded with great views from the top. 

A stroll in historic Ay (15 minutes drive from the barge) – 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-fueling’ stop at the patisserie we visit Champagne Collet, with its Art Deco villa and museum of champagne production. (15 minutes drive from the barge)

Four pictures of a man riding a bike through a vineyard in France.

FRIDAY

Morning – Cruise from  Damery to Mareuil-sur-Ay

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

Afternoon – Recommended excursion: Visit to the historic city of Reims (30 minutes drive from the barge)

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 an 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 – San Remi Basilica and Musée San Remi – Built in the 11th century the beautiful romanesque San Remi basilica is even older than then main cathedral. Next door we will also visit the 17th century abbey which now houses a museum telling the history of the city through the ages.

Evening
It’s about 5 minutes in the car to reach our restaurant for this evening, the Henri IV restaurant in Ay.  This place is so popular with locals and visitors that they moved to a larger location a few years ago – guests often come home raving about the 12 hour lamb dish. 

Alternative excursions

Cook a meal with a French Chef (35 minutes drive from the barge) – 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.

Tour the Art Deco Villa Demoiselle (35 minutes drive from the barge) – 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.  If you’d like we can also make a short visit to Reims cathedral before heading back to the barge.

Visit the chalk cellars of a Grande Maison (35 minutes drive from the barge) – Originally dug by the Romans, today there are millions of bottles of champagne sleeping in the kilometres of interconnected caverns.  During your tour you’ll learn about the history of the house and taste two or three of their premium cuvees.  You can choose to visit Ruinart, Tattinger, Veuve Cliquot or Pommery (please note this may be a public group tour).   

Chocolate making workshop (15 minutes drive from the barge) – Get hands on and learn how to make filled chocolate champagne corks with Xavier at his artisan chocolate shop. 

A stroll in historic Ay (5 minutes drive from the barge) – 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-fueling’ stop at the patisserie we visit Champagne Collet, with its Art Deco villa and museum of champagne production.

A group of people are standing in front of a charter barge.

SATURDAY

Morning – Market visit and Cruise from Dizy 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.

Afternoon – Recommended excursion: A stroll in the village of Hautvilliers (15 minutes drive from the barge)
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. (15 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)

Four pictures of buildings in a town in France, including a hotel barge.

SUNDAY

Morning – Mareuil-sur-Ay to Vraux

Leaving Mareuil-sur-Ay we’ll spend this morning cruising through the pretty villages of Tours-sur-Marne, Bisseuil and Conde-sur-Marne.  With just short distance between the locks, today is a great opportunity to hop of the barge and watch from a different angle the precision of maneuvering Serenity in with just centimetres to space each side.

Afternoon – Recommended excursion: Champagne Lamiable

On your tour of this family run champagne house in the Grand Cru village of Tours sur Marne, Hélenè will explain the complete process of making champagne as she shows you around the vat house, press room and the hand dug cellars.  Your visit ends with a generous tasting of their range of vintage and non-vintage champagnes.

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 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)

Champange 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.

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).

Four pictures of buildings and a bicycle on the street during a canal cruise in France.

MONDAY

Morning – Cruise from Vraux to Chalons

Chalons has been an important city since medieval times and today the compact city centre boasts two beautiful cathedrals and many charming half timbered buildings.    On todays cruise we are surrounded by trees and greenery and once we get close to the city there is a great view down the canal to the St Etiene cathedral. 

Afternoon – Au Revoir

After a relaxed final lunch aboard its time to say goodbye.  You’ll lave the boat around 2.30pm and we’ll drop you off at Chalons train station to meet your train back to Paris.  

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