Chablis to Nivernais cruise map

An engineering ‘tour de force’ the Nivernais canal was opened in 1841 nearly 60 years after construction started. Its purpose is to cross the watershed and link two of France’s most important rivers – the Seine and the Loire. In doing so it mostly follows the valley of the River Yonne, a tributary of the Loire, which feeds water into the canal and makes for reliable cruising. This little known area is what locals called ‘France Profond’ – deepest France.

NB: this itinerary runs in reverse directions on alternate weeks – so Auxerre to Chevroches one week, then Chevroche to Auxerre the next – starting May 17th, with the last cruise departing July 5th.

Day 1, Sunday: Welcome to Auxerre, where your cruise starts. After a glass of champagne or two when you board you are free to stroll along the quayside along the river Yonne, or along the cobbled streets of the old town to find a cafe for an aperitif – perhaps a traditional Kir made by mixing a glass of white Bourgogne Aligoté with Creme de Cassis, the regional liqueur made from blackcurrants. Meanwhile, back in the port, chef will be preparing the first of your gourmet dinners. Overnight at mooring.

Day 2, Monday: After a morning cruise, navigating some delightful locks and passing through vineyard-covered hillsides, we moor at the typically French village of Vincelles. After lunch we make the short drive to Chablis, one of the best-known wine names in the world – although sadly it’s been misused in the USA where for some time it was a descriptor for rather average low quality white wines. To taste the quality here is an absolutely jaw-dropping wake-up call for the palate. No surprises really as they’ve been making great wine here since Roman times and the soil, or ‘terroir’, produces uniquely flinty crisp white wines. Like all the very best white Burgundy the wines are 100% from the chardonnay grape – but as we go on and taste in different places throughout the week you’ll come to see just how much difference ‘terroir’ can make. Thirst slaked and taste-buds delighted it’s back to Papillon for aperitifs and dinner.

Day 3, Tuesday: Today we’ll quickly drive back and guide you around Auxerre, the original capital of Lower Burgundy. It’s a wonderfully medieval town, with a magnificent cathedral, old churches and later period renaissance houses. We return to Le Papillon for lunch and a slow cruise south through rich pastures dotted with grazing white Charolais cattle. You can simply sit back and enjoy the view although this is also a good afternoon to bag one of the on board bikes and cycle along the towpath as we negotiate locks, or even to stroll. Tonight, we moor at Mailly-le-Ville and dine on board.

Day 4, Wednesday: We start by driving through delightful countryside to visit Noyers-sur-Surein, one of the prettiest medieval 14th century market villages in France and wonderfully evocative of French ‘je ne sais quoi’. After lunch back on board the landscape changes dramatically as we head towards the cliffs at Le Saussois, internationally famous as a climbing centre. This evening we’ll be treating you to a spectacular dinner ashore at Le Château de Vault-de-Lugny – so this afternoon you might want to walk or cycle along the towpath to work up an appetite. The romantic and secluded 5-star hotel dates back almost 900 years and the menu includes Burgundy Truffle (hand picked from the hotel’s secret plantation) and Charolais beef, arguably the finest red meat in Europe. A good night’s sleep is assured!

Day 5, Thursday: Plenty of time to digest last night’s feast as we cruise through the Yonne valley to moor for lunch at Lucy-sur-Yonne. Then it’s an afternoon of full-on history and culture as we visit Vézelay, designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Benedictine Abbey here is not only a fantastic place in its own right, it has a major role in history. In the 9th century it acquired the relics of St. Mary Magdalene, now housed in a Romanesque Basilica bearing her name, so has long been a meeting point for pilgrims. It played a part in both the Second and Third Crusades and, even today, is an important landmark on the Camino de Santiago – the pilgrims’ walk to Santiago de Compostela. It’s a wonderful place to visit, with some stunning views into the bargain. Dinner on board.

Day 6, Friday: Our last day cruising takes us through yet more glorious countryside as we clear the locks and arrive in yet another quaint village, Chevroches. Yet more great history on our afternoon visit, this time to elegant Château de Bazoches. Built in the 12th century, it is has welcomed, among others, Richard III the famous Crusader King known as ‘Richard the Lionheart’. Today it welcomes you! There are wonderful views from its elevated hillside setting. This evening we welcome you back on board to share the Captain’s Farewell Dinner.

Day 7, Saturday: After breakfast we wave you off on your way back to Paris.

2020 Calendar

Nivernais Canal – Auxerre ↔ Chevroches

May 17-23 (Auxerre to Chevroches)
May 24-30 (Chevroches to Auxerre)
May 31-June 6 (Auxerre to Chevroches)
June 7-13 (Chevroches to Auxerre)
June 14-20 (Auxerre to Chevroches)
June 21-27 (Chevroches to Auxerre)
June 28-July 4 (Auxerre to Chevroches)
July 5-11 (Chevroches to Auxerre)

6-Night CHABLIS AND THE NIVERNAIS 2020 – Sunday to Saturday Tariffs

Price includes:

  • Collection from, and return to Paris, France
  • Accommodation in a double or twin cabin with private facilities
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks all cooked by our gourmet chef w/ local seasonal delicacies
  • Restaurant meals where required
  • Wine pairings of finest Burgundian vintages at lunch and dinner
  • Open bar 24/7 stocked with French champagne, fine wines and spirits
  • Use of the on-board library and stereo system
  • All ground transport in air-conditioned mini-bus for local sightseeing visits
  • Entry costs for sightseeing
  • Use of on-board bicycles
Passion for barging