8 - 14 JUNE 2022
6 night / 7 day cruise from Chalons-en-Champagne to Courcelles
€3,250 per person
Bicycle – €40 per person
Electric bicycle – €100 per person
Hot air balloon flight over the vineyards – from €200 per person
Afternoon - Pick up at Reims train station and welcome aboard
We’ll meet you on the platform at Reims train station, which is around 30 minutes drive from the barge. The direct train from central Paris takes 45 minutes (which is quicker than if you drive). We’ll provide all the information you need, including where to go and how to buy your tickets in advance. Typically the fare from Paris to Reims is around €30 – €45 per person, each way.
When you arrive at the barge you’ll be welcomed aboard by the rest of the crew with champagne and canapes. There’s then time to take a stroll to explore the medieval buildings in the centre of Chalons or just relax onboard and unpack.
Evening - Michelin starred dining
We’re kicking off your cruise in style tonight with dinner at a Michelin stared restaurant. Holder of a Michelin Star since 2018, we love this restaurant for the interesting flavour combinations, beautiful presentation and excellent service to match and it’s just 10 minutes walk from the barge (or we can hop in the car if you prefer).
Morning - Cruise from Chalons-en-Champagne to Vraux
About 10am we’ll be taking off the mooring ropes to start our cruise along the canal. Here the canal takes us through peaceful countryside, past occasional grain silos that are the canal’s original raison d’être.
Afternoon excursion: Historic city of Reims (40 minute drive from the barge)
Settled since Roman times, Reims is awash with history. We’ll start our walking tour at the 13m high Porte de Mars archway, built by the Romans this was once one of the cities gates. We’ll then admire some of the cities beautiful art deco buildings whilst heading towards 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 architecture significance and the impressive beauty of the external sculpture work.
There’s time for a ‘re-fueling’ stop at a patisserie and a bit of souvenir shopping before we head over to the San Remi Basilica. This beautiful 11th century church is totally different in style to the cathedral and the adjoining museum telling the history of the city from Roman times.
Evening - BBQ dinner aboard
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.
Morning - Cruise from Vraux 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 take a stroll as there are lots of chances to get on/off the barge as we stop in each lock.
Afternoon excursion: Cellar tour at Champagne Guy Charbaut and stroll in the village of Hautvilliers (15 minutes drive from the barge)
Established in 1936, this family owned champagne house focus on bio-dynamic work in the vineyards and is 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 their range of vintage and non-vintage champagnes.
We will then drive to 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 villages small producers.
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 at Les Avizes, a small restaurant housed in a chateau dating from the 1820’s. Run by a champagne family who were among the early leaders of the high quality grower movement the food is gourmet and the wine list divine.
Morning - Market visit and cruise from Mareuil-sur-Ay to Dizy
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 along the canal to Dizy, from where there is a great view of the village of Hautvilliers perched above us.
Afternoon/Evening excursion: Candlelight evening at Chateau Vaux-Le-Vicomte (1hr 45minutes drive from the barge)
Enjoy a night to remember at this picture perfect 17th century chateau. Upon arrival we’ll visit the interior of the chateau with it’s magnificent state apartments. There is then time to wander in the formal gardens designed by Le Notre (who also did the gardens at the Palace of Versailles) before enjoying dinner al-fresco on a terrace overlooking the chateau. Then as darkness falls over 2000 candles are lit in the gardens and chateau, a beautiful spectacle and a glimpse of how the chateau would have felt in the time of Louis XIV.
IMPORTANT: The chateau is around a 1hr 45 minute drive from the barge (each way) which 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.
Morning - Cruise from Dizy to Damery
Today we continue to cruise west on the 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 excursion: Epernay and the Avenue of Champagne (20 minutes drive from the barge)
This afternoon we’re heading to Epernay, the so called ‘Capital of Champagne’. You’ll discover the stories of some of champagne’s most iconic names on a walking tour along the Avenue of Champagne, home to Moet & Chandon, Pol Roger, Perrier Jouet and Mercier to name a few. We’ll start with a tasting flight at Boizel and there are many options for additional tasting stops if you wish. We’ll finish our walk with 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.
As it’s Sunday and many restaurants are closed it’s a relaxed evening of dining aboard tonight.
Morning - Cruise from Damery to Courcelles
Our final morning cruising takes us through the more tree-lined winding section of the Marne river past the town of Dormans.
Afternoon excursion: Explore the vines at Champagne Les Gallais (20 minutes drive 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. Whilst tasting the estates champagnes back on the terrace, 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.
The final dinner of your cruise is at the Auberge Le Relais, a Michelin recommended restaurant, which offers classic french flavours with a modern presentation. At this elegant country inn you can choose to sit on the terrace looking out over the vineyards or in the tastefully decorated dining room. Conveniently located in the next village it’s just a quick 10 minute drive in the car to the restaurant.
Morning - Au revoir!
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 Dormans 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.