Captain Francisco pilots the barge along the Nivernais canal with precision. Each day we cruise for 6 to 7 hours through the glorious scenery. The Luciole’s evening moorings vary; dramatic Auxerre, charming villages and Medieval Clamecy, where time stands still.
Our expert guide, Andy, knows this historical and culturally rich region well. Every day his informed tours take you to delightful destinations of wine tasting, shopping and sightseeing.
Lunch in a classic French restaurant on shore is also included.
The rendezvous in Paris at the Hotel Mansart with the Luciole's representative is at 2.15 pm, followed by the journey to Auxerre in the barge's private bus. The Luciole will be moored on the impressive river frontage of the city, overlooked by the Cathedral St Etienne, the 13 - 15th Century Abbey of St Germain and the Parish Church. A Champagne reception, delicious canapés and our crew, welcome Luciole passengers on board.
The cruise upriver leads us into beautiful pastoral countryside intermingled with sweeping reaches of the River Yonne. After lunch we pass by Bailly. Here in 1972 local winemakers restored the fortunes of these ancient vineyards with the production of sparkling Crémant de Bourgogne in the large limestone Caves de Bailly. The picturesque villages of St Bris and Irancy, also devoted to wine, stand nearby. We moor for the evening on the wide river in Vincelles.
A journey in the afternoon is made to a wine cellar in the Chablis vineyards, barely sixteen kilometres to the east of Auxerre. Chablis is one of the greatest names in wine, with production within a strictly-defined area. The most prestigious wines are produced from vineyards on the south of the town on 'Grand Cru Hill'.
In the morning the canal takes you towards the River Cure on the 'Vermenton Arm' and the village of Accolay.
Our excursion to historic Auxerre is in the afternoon. The city offers many historic features: the Cathedral of St Étienne, Abbey of St Germain, with the Romanesque crypt and attractive clock tower in the centre of the town, built in the 15th Century. The Church presides over one of the most attractive waterfronts in France, recently renovated and where the Luciole now has her own private mooring. Auxerre was originally a Roman camp and became a centre of learning and pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. It was declared a holy city by the Pope in the 11th Century. The afternoon provides a good opportunity to visit the shops and enjoy French provincial life.
In the morning we travel from Accolay, to the delightful town of Noyers-sur-Serein. With its friendly market stalls, half timbered houses and turreted ramparts it is easy to see why Noyers is considered one of the most beautiful villages in France. Above the town, the reconstruction of the medieval castle progresses. Catholic Henry IV ordered the destruction of the Protestant-owned château in 1599. Look out for the orchids in May and June
After lunch the Luciole’s journey continues southwards to a night-time mooring beneath the walls of Mailly-le-Château. Here you can take the steep path from our mooring at Bourg d’en Bas, or Lower Town up to Mailly-le-Château where a terrace offers spectacular views of the Yonne Valley.
We visit Vézelay is in the morning, where the spectacular 11th Century Basilica dominates the steep sided hill town which has numerous shops and cafes. Vézelay was the historic starting point for two of the Crusades to the Holy Land, where Saint Bernard preached to the Crusaders in the presence of Louis VII and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Vézelay owed its position of influence and prestige since it holds the relics of Saint Mary Magdalene and a Papal declaration attesting to their authenticity. The town was a high point of Medieval pilgrimage and was a major gathering point for the Crusaders on the way to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain.
There is plenty of time to soak up the atmosphere of this hilltop town and a super chance to visit the numerous craft shops selling clothes and gifts. Another opportunity too, to stop at one of the local cafes and watch the world go by (very French cafe life!). .
We cruise in the afternoon to an evening mooring at Lucy-sur-Yonne, passing through a region where dramatic cliffs stand by the water's edge. Watch out for the delightful ducks and geese, who have made this canal bank their home. Along the cruise route the Rochers du Parc and those at Les Saussois are regularly used by climbers. Do take a look at our video for a true idea.
Our final cruise in the morning takes us to the delightful Medieval town of Clamecy, a worthy venue for the climax of our cruise. The town features the 12 -16th Century church of St Martin that stands up on the hill in the town centre. Beside the river, stands the church of Our Lady of Bethlehem, which was opened in 1927. It was dedicated to the 50 successive bishops of Bethlehem who, unable to preside in Bethlehem itself, were resident at Clamecy from 1225 until the French Revolution in the late 18th Century.
Our final tour is to the imposing Château of Bazoches. Set on a hillside amidst splendid rolling countryside, this was the 17th Century home of the Marquis de Vauban (1633-1707). Vauban was France's great military tactician and engineer, who was responsible for the creation of the first coherent network of fortifications surrounding the developing kingdom of France. He was also a prolific and at times visionary writer who remained steadfastly loyal to his roots in the Morvan region around Avallon and Vézelay and considered the Château of Bazoches as his true home.
After breakfast, the Luciole bus departs for Place Vendôme, central Paris where taxis are available for onward travel. Anticipated arrival is at 1pm. For guests wishing to travel elsewhere in France by train or hire car, a stop can always be made in Auxerre en-route to Paris.
The River Yonne was an important route for transporting goods to Paris. In 1784 work began on the Nivernais Canal as we know it today. This entailed the building of wiers and locks to increase the depth of the waterway. Freight traffic soon rose in variety and volume: stone, wood, grain and wine were carried northwards. Embracing both river and man-made canal, the Nivernais preserves the character of 200 years ago.
The Nivernais is intricate and very beautiful. The canal is rated by experienced barge travellers as one of the finest cruise routes in Europe. It takes a dramatic and varied route, with breathtaking panoramas as the waterway weaves through the heart of Burgundy. While the boat gently slips through the water; there is time to look around from our raised sundeck and admire the bankside flora and absorb the beauty of the countryside.
The Nivernais Canal towpath is now an excellent cycle route, with a smooth and flat surface running alongside the canal for the whole of our cruise. With no cars, it provides a perfect opportunity to stroll or cycle the short distances between the locks or bridges. We have bicycles on board for those wishing to pedal alongside the barge or explore nearby villages.
Auxerre rises dramatically from the western bank of the River Yonne. The Cathedral of St Etienne dominates the town along along with the older Abbey of St Germain, dating back to the 5th Century, together they create a sky-line to dream about.
The city was originally a Gallo-Roman town: a busy port on a trade route called the Via Agrippa. In the centre of the town the delightful old clock tower built in 1483 and depicting the lunar months on a gilded face, is not to be missed.
The Luciole moors beneath the imposing Cathedral, on the recently re-develped river front. As dusk falls, a serene sky provides the backdrop to the city’s magnificent architecture: a sky-line to dream about, reflected in the River Yonne.
For a memorable wine-tasting experience we visit the aclaimed winery of Domaine Brocard, renowned for their wines and increasingly for their organic vintages. This region of Burgundy is highly respected by wine connoisseurs worldwide. Chablis is held to produce the finest and most complex of Chardonnay wines with its distinct mineral overtones.
Proud domaine owners have tended the same soil here for generations, protecting vines from winter frosts and nurturing the fruit-bearing plants during the summer sun. The most prestigious wines the Grand Cru are grown in an area of one single square
The Basilica of St Mary Magdelene in Vézelay is one of France’s religious and architectural gems - a stunning blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles. It was from here that Saint Bernard preached the Second Crusade. Here too, in 1190 Richard the Lion Heart, King of England, joined forces with Philip Augustus of France to launch the Third Crusade.
The Relics of Saint Mary Magdelene are enshrined in the crypt. Since 1058 pilgrims have arrived in their masses to pay homage en-route to Santiago de Compostela in Northern Spain. Crowning the ‘Eternal Hill’, the spectacular Basilica is the focal point of a huge expanse of rich, rolling countryside. On the southern flanks monks still tend to the vines of ancient vineyards - producing an excellent wine that we are delighted to serve on the Luciole.
There are delightful shops and art galleries to visit. The perfect opportunity to find souvenirs and enjoy the hill top town, a favourite in France for so many reasons.
The 12th Century Château of Bazoches became home to the Marquis de Vauban in 1675. He was a genius engineer and military tactician of Louis XIV (the Sun King) playing a very important role in shaping French history as we know it today. During his lifetime Vauban built thirty-seven new fortresses, and radically upgraded three hundred others to withstand gunpowder. Vauban took part in many sieges. Evidence of musket ball dents can be seen in his suit of armor.
Still owned by Vauban’s descendants, both the château and grounds have been lovingly restored. The Great Hall contains many exhibits, featuring examples of strategic wartime plans and fort designs. A spiral stone staircase leads to the living quarters, splendid in the affluence of the Baroque era, while the downstairs area features a library of rare books and a large model of the 74-gun ship that sailed to America in 1780.
There are many treasures in this truly French market town with its winding cobbled streets that nestling beside the meandering River Serein. Stalls of fruit, vegetable, cheese and flowers as well as silk scarves, jewellery and clothes are fun to browse. Here is an opportunity also to visit the Andy and Claire Squire’s rustic pottery or the leatherworkers shop to see their high-class hand tooled leather bags and belts.
During the 12th Century the Dukes of Burgundy constructed France’s largest château above the town of Noyers. However, the Dukes were considered a threat to Paris and so in 1599 King Henri IV encouraged the townsfolk to raze and plunder the chateau, still evident in the use of stonework in the cottage facades. Restoration is now underway to rebuild the château. Working from old manuscripts the ruin is slowly being returned to its former glory.
From the Nivernais Canal one can see the vineyards of the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée wines of the Côte d’Auxerre, Saint-Bris, Irancy and Coulanges-la-Vineuse. To the east, close by, are the famous vineyards of Chablis.
Our cruising region is associated with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However, other grape varieties are grown in the vineyard too. In St-Bris-le-Vineuse it is Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris; in Irancy the ancient grape César, brought to France by the Romans is also grown. The Aligoté grape is also grown and particularly associated with the Burgundian aperitif ‘Kir’, made from blackcurrants.
We visit the esteemed winery and vineyards of Jean-Marc Brocard. Jean-Marc’s son, Julien has earned a highly valued reputation for his organic wines. Their winery is to be found in Préhy and after the tour, we cross the valley of the River Serein to visit 'Grand Cru Hill' to fully appreciate the expanse and beauty of the Chablis region.
The town is situated, to the south of our cruise route in the region of Burgundy, called the Côte d'Or. A flank of vineyards extend down from the Côte de Nuits into the Hautes Côte de Beaune, where both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes are grown.
Lying to the west, in the Loire Valley the wines of Sancerre and Pouilly are associated with the crisp Sauvignon Blanc varieties. We visit the two towns, lying each side of the might River Loire, Sancerre perched on its hill top and a little farther south along the river bank, Pouilly.
The impressive cellar in Bailly is within walking distance from the canal. In this historic ‘cave', from where stone was quarried and sent to Paris by barge, a thriving winery now produces the delicious ‘Crémant de Bourgogne’. The combination of Crémant de Bourgogne and Kir is known as Clément Royale. Simply delicious!
We rendezvous in Paris at the Hotel Mansart for the transfer to the barge. Captain Francisco welcomes you on board the Luciole, with Champagne reception and canapés.
In the morning we begin our cruise towards Vincelles. Along the route, we stop in Bailly to visit the impressive caves where Crémant de Bourgogne Bailly Lapierre is made The afternoon wine tasting is at the inspiring vineyard of Brocard. The tour introduces you to Chablis, the real Chablis made from the grapes within the town's boundaries. After the tour, we take you to look over the prestigious ‘Grand Cru Hill’ and the vineyards stretched out, into the distance.
Breakfast cruise to Vincelles before a departure to Beaune. The Pinot Noir grape is grown in this famous wine region of Haute Côte de Beaune. We visit the stunning Chateau Mersault and lunch town before going to Beaune to visit the Hospice
The small delightful town of Irancy nestles in an amphitheatre of vines and cherry trees. The winemakers here combine Pinot Noir grapes and the ancient variety of César for the town’s Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée (AOL) red wine. We wine taste in St Bris, awarded AOC status in 2003. The wine is famed for being the only Burgundy to be permitted to use the Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris grape varieties.
Cruise in the afternoon is to Mailly-le-Château, where we moor beneath the dramatic rocks.
Early morning cruise to Lucy-sur-Yonne, a delightful mooring between the village and the River Yonne.
The bus departs to drive west for lunch in the enchanting hill-top town of Sancerre, overlooking the majestic River Loire. In this region, the Sauvignon Blanc grape is grown, a fruity contrast to the mineral white Chardonnay of Burgundy
We return home via Pouilly Fumé on the Loire's east bank. The wine of this town, called Pouilly Fumé, takes its name from the grapes, that when ripe, are covered with a 'smokey' bloom. A fascinating day for wine lovers.
Our final cruise is to the medieval town of Clamecy.The afternoon visit is to an organic wine producer, close to the magnificent hill top town of Vézelay. After the winery we visit the imposing World Heritage Site Basilica of Mary Madeleine for culture and an opportunity to shop at the delightful boutiques of clothes, jewellery, art and crafts.
In the evening we celebrate the cruise with the farewell ‘Captain’s Dinner’.
Departure from the Luciole is after breakfast at 9.30am.
Arriving in Paris at lunchtime.
For the fourth consecutive season we have teamed up with ‘The Walking Party’ to offer passengers a Walking Cruise on the Luciole.
Guided walks through woods and vineyards, along rivers, vary between 5 - 8 km (3 – 6 miles). Those choosing not to walk are most welcome to relax on board or take a meander closer to the mooring.
Rendezvous in Paris, at the hotel Mansart and transfer to the Luciole for a Champagne reception. The boat is moored for the evening in Clamecy
Morning cruise to Lucy-sur-Yonne, with time to find ones walking feet, strolling beside the barge.
We drive to Vézelay in the afternoon, for a tour of the UNESCO, hilltop basilica, before walking down the Eternal Hill to Saint-Père, a Burgundian village with an interesting 13th Century Gothic church, covered in strange gargoyles of grimacing heads. We head to Foissy-lès-Vézelay, climbing gently for views looking back to the basilica. Here ancient oak trunks hollowed out by the Romans and used for baths at this natural salt spring. The final part of the walk is through Vézelay vineyards before we are met by the bus for a ride back to the barge moored in Lucy-sur-Yonne (7 km/4.5 miles).
Non-walkers can take extra time to explore the town and many varied shops.
Early morning cruise towards our evening mooring in Mailly-le-Château.
The morning walk takes one away from the canal, up and over gentle hills to Châtel Censoir. Here we stop at the classic French village café in the town square, joining the locals for a coffee, chocolat chaud or even an early morning Cognac. We cross the canal and River Yonne, continuing through the beautiful the countryside and walk to the medieval village of Merry-sur-Yonne with views of Châtel Censoir’s hilltop church before joining the Luciole for gourmet buffet lunch (7 km/4.5 miles).
An afternoon visit is to the Château of Bazoches, once home of the Marquis of Vauban, France’s great military engineer.
We rise early for a walk through beech forests full of bird song, to a vantage point on limestone cliffs, with lovely views of the Nivernais Canal and river valley. Continuing along narrow forest paths to an isolated farmhouse - with a yard full of turkeys, guinea fowl and chickens. The walk then takes us across a plateau of fields to the Rochers du Saussois, allowing for extensive views west, over Merry-sur-Yonne and into the distance. We then meet the bus to return to the Luciole (8 km/5 miles).
We travel to Noyers-Sur-Serein for the morning weekly village market. Market stalls, boutique shops and classic cafes are hidden in the narrow medieval streets, Noyers is officially one of France’s prettiest villages and we dine in a restaurant here for lunch. Coming back to the barge to cruise to our night’s mooring in the sleepy town of Accolay.
A further walk for the keen is offered in the late afternoon from the Rochers du Saussois with their panoramic views, south towards our mooring.
We leave the barge at Accolay, to walk up through the village and along the River Cure - a pretty and bubbling river and a tributary of the Yonne. Crossing fields and through woods to a swimming spot beneath the 1790’s bridge in the village Bessy-sur-Cure. A short walk along a quiet lane leads to Arcy-sur-Cure, in time for drinks and a further swimming opportunity. The Luciole bus will be there to meet us and take us for lunch on the barge and the cruise to Vincelles (6 km/4 miles).
In the afternoon we visit the wine cellar of Brocard in Chablis, for wine tasting of pure Chardonnay wine.
For the final walk of the week from the barge, we cross the canal and climb towards the vineyards - with views of Vincelles and Vincelotte, straddling the River Yonne. Our walk continues to Irancy, a beautiful wine making village, nestling in a large amphitheatre of Pinot Noir and César vineyards. Descending into Irancy, there is an again the opportunity for a café or chocolat chaud, before a gentle climb out through the vines, up to a spectacular panorama of the viticultural village and Saint-Bris-le-Vineux to the north. Our final descent allows us to take in the far reaching views before we reach the Luciole for lunch and our last cruise into the city of Auxerre (7 km/4.5 miles).
In the afternoon we explore the old Roman city of Auxerre. The dramatic Cathedral of Saint Etienne and the Abbey of Saint Germain rise dramatically from the left bank, on which the Luciole is moored.
Captain’s Diner in the evening is hosted by James and the Luciole Captain, Francisco.
Morning departure at 9.30am, arriving in Paris at lunchtime.
Each itinerary is carefully planned with the charter group before the cruise
Alternative visits can usually be offered to those choosing not to participate in the selected activity
All visit costs are covered in the all-inclusive speciality cruise rate
We remain flexible should circumstances or the weather change.
Traversing the wires, tackling the obstacles and exciting zip-lines from the treetop. The forrest features numerous circuits for varying abilities and ages - some high up in the trees. You are provided with a harness and helmets. It’s great fun, and can be as challenging or easy as the individual chooses.
Free time to explore the market and rambling round the medieval castle remains, set up on the hill above the village. Volunteers are rebuilding the castle towers of what was France’s largest chateau.
Alternative: Linger in the delightful town, enjoy a coffee in one of the cafes
An old limestone quarry with a vast cave cut into the rock. Featuring long zip wires, abseiling and rock climbing on a course set into the cave walls. Different levels of difficulty mean any age can participate. This is great fun - for the thrill-seekers - there is the opportunity to feel scared! The café with seating area provides a perfect place for spectators, while others can wander and watch the activities of others.
Canoe down the enchanting River Cure, past geological outcrops and under an ancient Roman bridge. Its not white water rafting - but it is fun. If time allows we make a quick detour up to Vézelay for those wanting to see the inspiring bascilia.
Alternative: The river is close to the Chateau of Bazoches and Vézelay, for those preferring a guided tour.
Ride through the buttercup fields and rolling hills. The stables offer horses and ponies for beginners to the more experienced rider. Helmets provided.
Alternative: A visit to the Roman Museum at Escolives
Elegant Auxerre is great a place to shop, featuring French fashion shops and cafes. Vézelay has a great array of antique, clothes and craft shops. Market day in Noyers-Sur-Serin is loved by ladies, with market stalls, a charming pottery shop and a tanner – making classy hand-tooled leather handbags and accessories. Of course our wine tasting tour to Chablis and visit around the stunning chateau at Bazoches are also included.
We whisk you off to the lovely Spa of 'Le Prieure' for a massage in the elegant and relaxed surroundings of this tranquil old priory.
An afternoon with a colour consultant from Paris, providing the opportunity to learn about the colours and styles that suit you. Lots of laughter along the way!
A visit to a gorgeous French garden in Fontenille, close to our route, for tea, cake and garden joy. An opportunity to share flower appreciation with the knowledgable and delightful house owners.
Hotel barge Luciole is delighted to offer a partnership cruise with the highly respected French company 'France à Vélo' based in Auxerre. Together we have organised an itinerary that will suit all cyclists, from those who are keen to wheel the miles on a cycle round-route, to others who prefer a shorter, mid-point return to the Luciole. Alternatively for passengers who would prefer not to cycle every day (or if you are accompanying a cyclist and not wanting to cycle at all!) our itinerary enables you to enjoy the week from the comfort of a Luciole chair, rather than a bike saddle!
The week's itinerary gives passengers the best of both worlds, dovetailing half-day of biking with the barging, cycling between 15 - 30 miles (25 - 55 km) per day. The 'France à Vélo' experienced bike guide will lead the excursions, taking cycle routes from the barge to Chablis, Noyers, Vézelay, Bazoches and through the stunning Morvan Forest National Park.
The 'France à Vélo' bus is on hand to make the most of each day, so you really can 'bike and barge'. The 'cycle-round' will take in glorious scenery of Burgundy, our regular visits and refreshments along the way.
France à Vélo bike, with 21 gears
Electric bikes available (surcharge)
France à Vélo's professional bike guide, working in partnership with the Luciole crew
France à Vélo's bus to transport bikes for passengers choosing 'the lite' cycle compared to the long
Our Sunday rendezvous is at 2.15pm at the Hotel Mansart in central Paris, located one street away from the Place Vendôme and a stone’s throw from the Paris Opéra.
The hotel reception staff receive passenger names in advance and will direct our guests to the rendezvous point. We kindly request that passengers gather for the rendezvous no earlier than 1.30pm.
The Luciole Tour Guide, will meet and drive passengers in our bus to the barge, travelling in the region of 100 miles and arriving at the Luciole for a Kir Royal reception between 5 and 6pm. A rest-stop to stretch your legs will be made halfway along the route.
A free left-luggage facility for Luciole passengers is provided at the Hotel Mansart for those arriving early and wishing to explore the area unencumbered. Breakfast at around 15 Euros is also available, which is particularly nice for passengers arriving very early to the hotel from overnight flights.
At the end of each cruise, we provide a transfer service back to Paris, to the Place Vendôme, where taxis are available for onward travel. The estimated arrival time is at 1pm, allowing for a rest-stop along the route.
Passengers preferring to join the Luciole, without making their way to Paris, are welcome to arrive directly at the barge. When the Luciole is moored in Clamecy, at the southern end of our route, our bus can make a small detour on the way there from Paris to meet passengers in Auxerre. Private car parking can also be arranged in Auxerre.
For on-going car hire in the region, Auxerre is the most suitable location. At the end of each cruise we are able to drop passengers directly at the car hire office of their choosing.
We expect to arrive in Paris between mid-day and 1pm, under normal conditions, though this can not be guaranteed.
We strongly recommend that flights are booked after 5pm and Eurostar trains after 4.30pm.
With regret, the Luciole transfer service is unable to take responsibility for any missed travel departures.
Take a flight in a hot air balloon to float above the beautiful scenery of the region. From the air you see a bird’s eye view of historical landmarks, the abundant wildlife and undulating landscape. A flight can be arranged with the highly reputable balloon company France Montgolfieres, whose operation is based close to the canal route. For those wishing to take a balloon flight, details will be confirmed once on board the barge, taking account of weather patterns at the time.Visit website
Cruising since 1976
Phone: 00 44 1625 576880
From USA: 011 44 1625 576880
23 Adlington Road, Bollington
SK10 5JT England
Quai de la Marine, Auxerre