CLASSIC 6 NIGHT CANAL CRUISE: CHABLIS AND THE NIVERNAIS
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.