A week on board balances cruising the Nivernais Canal with daily excursions in our accompanying bus.
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.
View our weekly itinerary below, please be aware that the direction of travel alternates each week
The rendezvous in Paris at the Hotel Mansart with the Luciole's representative is at 2.30 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.
Cruise - Auxerre to Vincelles
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.
Tour - Wine tasting in Chablis
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'.
Cruise - Vincelles to Accolay
In the morning the canal takes you towards the River Cure on the 'Vermenton Arm' and the village of Accolay.
Tour - Walking tour of Auxerre
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 take time to enjoy French provincial life.
Tour - Market day, Noyer
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
Cruise - Accolay to Mailly-le-Chateau
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.
Tour- Vézelay Basilica
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!). .
Cruise - Mailly-le-Chateau to Lucy-sur-Yonne
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.
Cruise - Lucy-sur-Yonne to Clamecy
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.
Tour - Château of Bazoches
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 Nivernais Canal
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.
visiting famous vineyards, medieval towns, historic châteaux and colorful markets
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.
Our Chablis excursion reveals breath-taking views across the vineyards
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 kilometer, known as ‘Grand Cru Hill'. During the vendange there, the pickers gather these grapes by hand to ensure their quality
Wander down the Eternal Hill at your own pace.
Take the time to browse the craft expositions, art galleries, cafes, boutique clothes and antique shops that line the route
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.
We visit on market day, providing opportunities to buy gifts from the varied stalls and artisan shops
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.
We also offer an Art Cruise and Wine cruise to individuals, who can book by the cabin
Tailored itineraries of activity, art, wine, pampering and more
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
Tree walking - Nature Adventure, Treigny
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.
Noyers-sur-Serein - Chateau Noyers
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
Cave climbing - Grotte Champ Retard
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.
Canoeing - Saint Père sous Vézelay
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.
Horse riding - Montillot
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 market town of Avallon with optional visit to the Costume Museum
The Captain is able to adapt the itinerary with the charter leader when the passengers arrive on board, should the weather or passengers preference require amendment.
Download the Activity Charter cruise itinerary in pdf format
luxury Ladies Cruise
Escape, unwind and have fun with our luxury ladies cruise itinerary
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!
French flower garden
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.
And of course everything else you would expect from our 'All-inclusive' Luciole barge cruise
Bike and barge Cruise
The daily cycle routes are between 15 - 30 miles (25 - 55 km)
Perfect vacation for the keen biker or for those accompanying them!
The Luciole has teamed up with 'France à Vélo'
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.
Bike and Barge week - book by the cabin for the cruise of the 16th - 22nd October 2016
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
And of course everything else you would expect from our 'All-inclusive' Luciole barge cruise
Join Charles Hickson, artist and accomplished teacher for a week of tuition and inspiration
Painting, drawing and a visit to the splendid Musée des Beaux Arts in Dijon
Charles Hickson is a British painter, with a degree in Fine Art Painting. He divides his time between painting and exhibiting his work. In the summer he leads Art Schools for the novice to the experienced painter, in some of England’s finest country houses. Throughout the week, Charles will be on board the Luciole and going on our trips, to teach, inspire, demonstrate and encourage.
The Luciole Art Week blends cruising and creative art time. Days will be divided into different art subjects, with the opportunity to use different mediums. There will be structure but also a considerable degree of flexibility for painters wanting to follow their own agenda, whilst knowing Charles is close to hand.
We will be providing art materials, including easels, (but imagine painters to bring along their personal favourite arty possessions!) The Luciole also welcomes passengers accompanying ‘painting partners’. We will be offering our usual visits so plenty for everyone one to see, sketch or paint, in this historic region of France.
Transfer from Paris to the Luciole moored in Auxerre for a Champagne reception, meeting your art teacher, Charles Hickson, your and the Luciole crew.
Time before dinner to sketch the skyline with the dramatic Cathedral St Etienne and Abbey St Germain.
In the morning we cruise out of Auxerre towards Vincelles. Leaving the city behind the River Yonne opens into wide stretches of river, before entering into canal sections. Choose to paint or sketch the scenery or walk the towpath and pick flowers from the bank to sketch back on the barge. A slow easy start to relax and enjoy the artistic surroundings with Charles and fellow passengers.
Afternoon visit to Irancy to paint and enjoy a wine tasting in the picturesque village, set in an amphitheatre of vines and cherry trees.
Alternative option: A wine tasting visit to Chablis.
After our early morning breakfast cruise, we drive to Dijon to visit the dramatic Musée des Beaux Arts, situated in the dramatic Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy. We lunch in the famed city before returning to the Luciole and cruising to our evening mooring, next to the ‘lavoir’ (wash house) in Accolay. An ideal location to draw village life.
Morning visit to the delightful medieval town of Noyers-sur-Serein, listed in the top hundred prettiest villages in France. Wednesday is market day and there is so much to see and sketch There are boutique art and craft shops of pottery, leather-makers and fashion. Simply a delight.
Afternoon cruise from Accolay to Mailly-le-Château. Sit on deck with Charles and paint or finish the mornings artwork.
Morning visit to the barge owners house, gather round a large table to 'chat art' and choose a subject to paint or draw: the interior, garden flowers or still life.
Afternoon cruise from Mailly-le-Château to Lucy-sur-Yonne
Optional extra visit to the Chateau of Bazoches, home to Vauban, Marechal of France.
Our final cruise is from Lucy-sur-Yonne to Clamecy. We pass under the lift bridge of Pousseaux and lunch beside the the medieval farm Chartreuse, with time to explore and draw.
Afternoon visit to the hill top town of Vézelay. Shops line the Eternal Hill that leads up to the Basilica. On the terrace behind the panorama of the Burgundy landscape is breathtaking. A painter’s paradise.
The shops are enticing to all. A fitting finale to the Art Cruise.
In the evening we celebrate the week of art with Charles at the four course, Captain’s dinner.
Departure from the Luciole is after breakfast at 9.30am.
Arriving in Paris at lunchtime.
Download the Art Cruise itinerary in pdf format
Wine week cruise
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.
Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé
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.
Caves de Bailly
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.
Download the Wine Cruise itinerary in pdf format