In August we take Le Papillon from the Nivernais Canal onto the Burgundy Canal – what we call re-positioning in cruising terms. It means heading north for a short distance, then first turning east at Migennes, before slowly working our way south. It takes two weeks to reach our regular mooring at Escommes, from whence we start our weekly reversing cruise to Pont de Pany – not far from Dijon, the gourmet capital of Burgundy. We call these weeks our ‘moveable feasts’ because, whilst we like to keep the actual itinerary a little flexible, this is serious food country and a total gastronomic delight. It’s an opportunity to experience parts of France most people never get to see – it’s very real France, rural and off the beaten track, but with some hidden gems along the way. This is the route:
Moveable feast week 1: Auxerre to Montbard
After dropping of the previous week’s guests in Auxerre, we move Papillon a few miles north along the River Yonne to the hamlet of Bassou. Here we’ll welcome our new passengers with a glass or Champagne (or probably two) before a briefing followed by a brief cruise to our overnight mooring and the first of the voyage’s gourmet meals at St. Cydroine on the outskirts of Montbard – gateway to the Burgundy Canal.
We pass through the first of the locks on the Burgundy Canal and the adventure truly begins. We cruise until lunch, after which we visit the amazing 12th century cellars of Domaine Bersan in the famous wine making village of St. Bris – be careful to duck your head as you go down into the cellars, in medieval times people were much shorter! Whilst we’re slaking our thirst, Papillon cruises to Saint Florentin where we re-join her for aperitifs and dinner.
The marvellously medieval town of Tonnerre is a living history lesson, buildings dating back beyond medieval times to Roman days. En route, at the hamlet of Bernouil, we make a stop to taste a truly remarkable wine called Vigne de l’Empereur. It’s made from chardonnay vines planted in the time of Napoleon (so early 1800’s) which, owing to the remoteness of the vineyard, were never affected by the Phylloxera aphid which so devastated the wine making areas of Northern Burgundy. Drinks and dinner in Tonnerre.
We disembark after breakfast to visit and explore the medieval half-timbered 15th / 16th century buildings and cobbled streets of medieval Noyers lining the banks of the river Serein. Today is market day – they’ve been holding a market here since time immemorial – and you can browse the stalls or simply grab a coffee in one of the cafes and watch the hustle and bustle that goes on in the town square. It’s very colourful so bring your camera. Later we return to Papillon for lunch and an afternoon cruise to Tanlay for cocktails and dinner.
You can stay on board and cruise this morning, or hop-off and visit the rather lovely Château de Tanlay and rejoin Papillon for lunch at Ancy le Franc. This afternoon is one of the real highlights of the week – a visit and tasting at the legendary town of Chablis, famous for super-classy and crisp flinty chardonnay wines that impress and delight palates the world over. We won’t be dining on board this evening – we’re taking you out as our guests to a local Michelin-starred auberge. Bring an appetite.
We can’t leave here without showing you the 16th century renaissance Château d’Ancy le Franc – a true palace of a building overlooking the canal. Our cruise today takes us through classic Burgundian countryside parallel with the river Armançon. This evening we moor just outside Montbard for the pre-dinner drinks and the Captain’s farewell feast.
After breakfast we wave you off on your way back to Paris.