You'll join Barge Nilaya in Chateau-Thierry, a pleasant small town on the banks of the River Marne. This weeks cruising is all about Champagne and over the coming days we'll visit all the major centres associated with this wonderful bubbly liquid! Fierce first world war battles were fought in the countryside nearby and an imposing American memorial to Cote 204 lies ten kilometres away, above the town and terrific views of the surrounding countryside can be gained from up here. Chateau-Thierry is best known as the birth place in 1621 of the poet, Jean de La Fontaine and a small museum in the house of his birth can be visited. The surrounding villages all have small wine makers offering tasting opportunities and the nearby village of Brasles has a museum of wine labels. The Caves de champagne Pannier offer a one hour audiovisual presentation and tour of its cellars in a 13th century stone quarry. There are a number of restaurants in town and tonight you'll be dining ashore.
After a leisurely breakfast we will be steaming out of Chateau-Thierry heading for the small town of Dormans, further upstream. Dormans has a wonderful Chateau in whose outbuildings are contained a museum crammed with rural farming implements. It's usually manned by staff from local wine growers and well worth the visit. On the hill behind the Chateau is a beautifully illuminated chapel and war memorial which is extremely moving to visit with a torch after dark. The two fork Michelin rated restaurant 'La Table Sourdet' offers a great opportunity to dine ashore in the dining room of a huge old house.
We cruise through rural countryside to the pretty village of Reuil where I hope to stop for a light lunch aboard. As we cruise, high on a hill to our left we'll pass the imposing 30 metre statue of Pope Urbain II, erected in 1887 by the proud villagers of Chatillon-sur-Marne. I hope to gain one of the limited moorings in the lovely village of Cumieres tonight. The champagne vineyards drop right down to the river around here and stretch as far as the eye can see. An energetic uphill walk or bike ride will take you through those vineyards to the beautiful neighbouring village of Hautvillers which proudly boasts being the birthplace of champagne due to a certain previous resident having been one Dom Perignon. It's a great place to wander around and the views over miles of vineyards spectacular as you retrace your steps to Barge Nilaya. If you want to visit a family run estate for a premier cru tasting, why not check out the Hautvillers champagne houses of G. Tribaut or Locret-Lachaud before you return? I'll cook you a hearty dinner aboard tonight.
This morning we'll cruise the very short distance into downtown Epernay. Epernay is 'champagne central' and and the number of cave tours and degustations you might enjoy will be limited most likely by your liver! This small town's dedicated entirely to champagne production and all the most illustrious names in the business are represented on the Avenue de Champagne. Over one hundred kilometres of underground tunnels contain millions of bottles. Moet et Chandon (pronounced Mo Et not Mo Ay), De Castellane, Mercier, Canard Duchene, to name but a few. I have personally enjoyed the Mercier cave tour on a number of occasions. Dining ashore at one of the many fine restaurants would be the best bet tonight. There are a number of eateries recommended by Michelin such as the two fork 'Les Cepages', 'Theatre' and 'La Table Kobus', or the one fork 'La Cave a Champagne'. We've discovered a very enjoyable vineyard tour for small groups which leave Epernay, take 3 hours and pass through local villages, stopping to see the vines, winegrowers at work etc. You also go to a vineyard, to discover (again) how Champagne is made and get a glass of bubbly at the end. Tonight you can dine ashore in downtown Epernay.
An early start on Wednesday sees us leave Epernay and the River Marne and join the 'Canal lateral a la Marne' cruising through to the small port of Conde-sur-Marne and its canal junction with the 'Canal de l'Aisne a la Marne'. From here we turn left and head uphill towards the summit of the canal for tomorrows cruise in to Reims. There is a wonderful canal tunnel and some stunning scenery up here and tonight we'll be preparing you a delicious dinner aboard. It'll be a full full days cruising!
Today we have two or three hours cruising through to our mooring in Reims. The fabulous City of Reims is famed throughout the world for its involvement in the Champagne industry Why not visit the 'odd' Champagne cave in town, possibly even forcing yourselves to drink yet more of the celebrated liquid? The champagne houses of GH Mumm, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot and Piper-Heidsieck offer guided tours and degustations.
There is so much to see and do here. Reims'. Notre-Dame cathedral is spectacular with a facade containing some 2300 statues! It's 38 metre high nave has borne witness to the coronation of French Kings from Clovis in 498 AD until Charles X in 1825. It contains no less than two UNESCO world heritage monuments, the stunning 'Palais du Tau' and interior of the 'Basilique St. Remi'. I have details of a self guided 2 hour walking tour if you are interested in following it. Reims is a wonderful city to explore at your leisure and you might decide that tonight's the night to round off your week and splash out on a meal out in one of Reims' very chic and fashionable restaurants. 'Foch' and 'Le Millenaire' are but two of Reims three fork Michelin rated establishments. That choice is yours!
Today, you are due to depart Barge Nilaya after breakfast by about 10AM. We can drop you at the towns main rail station or you can simply take a tram. Just outside Reims lies the Champagne Ardennes TGV station with superfast TGV trains to northern and eastern France.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Unforeseen circumstances sometimes affect our cruising schedule. These can include, but are not limited to: illness, floods, weather, canal closures, canal maintenance, lack of moorings, bureaucracy, strikes, civil disturbance, acts of god, the engine, and whims and fancies of both skipper, guests and crew. All of these things might cause last minute changes to the above and cruise routes. Although rare, we reserve the right to alter any and all routes accordingly. Flexibility is the name of the game and any such changes cannot be considered grounds for cancellation of the cruise.