A 15 day tour
The Canals and Villages of Burgundy
Our tour to this part of France reveals villages spread out like a fan, built against a cliff or encased in a small valley. Others are nestled in the loop of a river, at the foot of a grand châteaux or at the bottom of a natural gorge. Romantic villages, in the shade of cypress groves are bedecked with lavender and vines, while others glisten with colour.
Together we explore and enjoy these ‘beautiful villages’ in places off the beaten track, safeguarded from urban development and communication highways. We travel in comfortable cars, linked by communication that allows us to share the sights as we travel, it also allows us to arrive without interference in the daily flow of these intriguing places.
The cities we visit are also unique and historic, waiting to be explored as they enjoy a spectacular renaissance offering fine art galleries, excellent food and drink, historic architectural treasures, and great shopping.
During this time, the French countryside is bustling with activity as vintners work to haul in the wine harvest. The market tables are laden with the late summer produce, harvested from plots tendered by the hand of a local farmer or retiree.
The tour begins with three nights in Strasbourg, starting from our Hotel strategically located on an Island in the middle of the River Ill. We have a private guide who will help us to explore the network of streets, bordered by medieval half-timbered homes built tightly together, all with uniquely pointed roofs pierced by dormer windows.
Housed among the old timbered buildings are shops and craftsmen, reflecting images of medieval and post-medieval Christian society. The city centre, particularly picturesque with its 15th and 16th century residences, is on a small island encircled by the river Ill. We take a canal tour after exploring the city streets.
On our third day here we leave the city to explore the historic wine villages, just a short distance away in the Alsace region.
Leaving Strasburg we travel south, visiting a local village before we arrive to board our comfortable canal boats at a small port on the Soane River.
Overnighting here to relax, we share a meal cooked on board by Ali, served on the top deck of the barge by candlelight as we enjoy a local wine together.
Travelling by canal boat means we live like ‘family’, helping with the lochs, shopping at local markets for food and putting together meals. Ali is a professional chef who will organise and prepare the meals when we are on board. If you wish to help her in our family way, then you would be welcome. Sharing in all the daily routines brings the experience more to life as we ‘live like locals.
A gentle start this morning takes us along the River, passing locals fishing from the river banks, farms and villages. We travel south stopping overnight at a local port. After time to explore the village we head south again this morning, sharing the river with the bustle of commerce and leisure barges.
Arriving later this afternoon, at a tiny village on the Canal du Centre we are joined by our Sommielier and together we sample local wines and learn much about the terrior.
Our vehicles move with us allowing us to visit more distant sights from our port stops. Bikes are on board for those who want to follow the tow paths. There is also time for those who choose to walk along these paths. Travelling on the canals is at such a leisurely pace.
BUT… bring a book and your camera and relax on the decks also, as we glide through the French countryside.
A day travelling through Lochs and passing villages brings us to another small port, here we moor and take a walk to the village to share a drink in the square with the locals.
Dinner on board tonight.
It is Market day in the village today. We shop for provisions and absorb the atmosphere of the bustling village before departing for an overnight stay at one of Burgundy’s most treasured Historic Abbeys. We picnic along the way at one of the many villages, tucked under trees beside the canal.
Dinner is a very special affair tonight, held in the Monks dining room we indulge in the finest food and wines of Burgundy.
An early leisurely start after breakfast at the Abbey. We travel to a local wine barrel maker (Coupier) where we learn the specialist art – not just as observers, but actually help make a barrel yourself. We then visit a historic Chateau tasting several vintages of their flagship wines. Next stop a Truffle Patch. Here we meet the hunter and his loyal dog to discover the ancient art of the Truffle Hunt. This evening we share another one of Ali’s delightful meals, using the fresh market produce we purchased together and if the hunter was lucky, we get to taste some of the truffles.
A day relaxing on the canal, biking, or simply enjoying the countryside as we head toward the Soane Canal for an overnight stay in Fragnes. Dinner is on board, served with local wines.
An early start to explore with a local guide the intriguing city of Chalon Sur Soane. Enjoy time to explore after the tour with a light luncheon of your choice.
At 1pm we gather together and drive to Cluny for a special guided tour.
Cluny Abbey is a former Benedictine monastery. It was dedicated to Saint Peter. The Abbey was constructed in the Romanesque architectural style, with three churches built in succession from the 4th to the early 12th centuries. It was greatly broken apart in the Revolution, however much remains.
We return to Chalon Sur Soane and enjoy dinner on board.
Today we travel south on the canal, turning to the east we join a smaller canal and travel up to a small shady location on the river, where we overnight and share dinner together. The option today is to take a guided bike tour through the French countryside to join us at our over night Port or to simply relax as we travel along the canal.
This is the last day we have on the canal, reaching our final port we leave for the enchanting Medieval city of Beaune.
Arrive in time for a shared light lunch before we check into our ideally located accommodation. Set in the heart of the medieval town of Beaune, the luxury hotel Le Cep, is located a stone’s throw from the famous Hôtel Dieu des Hospices and the Notre-Dame Basilica, plus all that is special to explore in the old city centre. This 5-star establishment is a well known luxury institution.
Today is market day in Beaune. Wander the markets, be enthralled, find those special purchases you have been looking for … the Antiques are amazing. Visit the Hospice De Beaune – such a special experience.
Tonight we share a special final dinner together. A farewell to friends, an affirmation of friendship, having spent so much time together on the canals and in the villages of one of the most special parts of France.
After a leisurely breakfast, we drive to Paris, here we say farewell, as you travel homeward.
These are two comfortable, modern cruisers skippered by Ali and Ian, and our experienced crew. Each cabin is typical of a modern canal boat, with a full en-suite and good storage. They are not 5 star accommodations but are very comfortable for this luxury family style tour. Bed linen and towels will be changed mid week.
Whilst not like a large hotel room they are comfortable boat accommodation.
The Boats are 45 feet in length and have four en-suite cabins on each boat, a large Galley and a top deck to relax and also to dine. They have a large galley and dining facility on the main deck, plus on the top deck, there is space for up to 16 persons, plus a BBQ, and drinks area, plus a sun bathing area for four persons.
This is an ideal craft to relax on as we travel the canals.
We travel in three luxury SUV’s. These are very comfortable vehicles, all connected by radio telephone. The vehicles are relocated to the ports where we will need them for our onshore excursions.
All meals are included unless specified. These are prepared by Ali (an experienced chef), and served family style.
Top quality local wines, aperitifs and mineral waters are included with all meals.
All breakfasts are included, plus most dinners and lunches, unless specified.
This is not included. We do not expect tips as the staff of this tour.
Outside the tour tipping would be your decision when you are dining or visiting a bar or cafe when not part of the tour.
Optional extra that you may add to this tour. Start the tour in Paris and add four days to the tour as you visit Rheims ( Champange district) and Verdun the WW1 battle sites.