Champagne's Vineyards & Reims

Chateau-Thierry to Reims (Cruise runs Saturday to Friday)

Highlights: The Champagne Capitals of Reims and Epernay - Beautiful Hautvillers - Mont de Billy Tunnel

Looking across towards Epernay from the Champagne vineyards near HautvillersYou'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 I suggest that tonight you choose to dine ashore.

On Sunday morning, 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.

The mooring pontoon and sculpture at Cumieres on the River Marne champagne barge cruiseOn Monday 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.

On Tuesday morning we'll more than likely cruise the very short distance into downtown Epernay. Although our moorings are not particularly attractive here, 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 is dedicated entirely to champagne production andChampagne grapes at Hautvillers 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'.

I have discovered a lady called Nathalie who runs vineyard tours for small groups. ( These 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, discover (again) how Champagne is made and get a glass of bubbly at the end. It sounds like a nice few hours out but would cost around 20 Euros each person.

An early start on Wednesday sees us leave 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'. We have a lot of cruising and many locks to work through today as we advance to tonight's' mooring, the small town of Sillery, just south of the champagne capital of Reims. During the day we pass through the two kilometre 'Mont de Billy' tunnel. Sillery has a fabulous three fork Michelin rated restaurant called the 'Relais de Sillery'. It comes very highly recomended!

Champagne tasting at the Mercier house in EpernayOn Thursday morning, we have two or three hours cruising through to our mooring in the fabulous City of Reims, famed throughout the world for its involvement in the Champagne industry! It is highly likely that you'll 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. I'll try to get you into Reims as early in the day as possible in order that you to have time enough to fully appreciate all the city has to offer.

On Friday morning, you are due to depart Barge Nilaya after breakfast. Trains from Paris to Chateau-Thierry take about 60 minutes and from Reims to Paris, likewise.


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.