An engineering “tour de force,” the Nivernais Canal was opened in 1841, nearly 60 years after construction began. Its purpose was to cross the watershed and link two of France’s most important rivers — the Seine and the Loire. In doing so, it closely follows the valley of the Yonne River, a tributary of the Seine. This little-known area is what locals call “France Profonde” — deepest France. The Nivernais is spectacular for cruising, as it features a wide variety of landscapes and points of interest from historical villages, beautiful gardens, and expertly produced wines.
Welcome to Auxerre, where your weeklong cruise begins! Come aboard your home for the next week, Le Papillon, and have a glass of champagne while you’re introduced to the crew.
After introductions, you’re free to stroll along the quayside along the Yonne River, or along the cobbled streets of the old town to find a café 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.
Back in the port, your chef will be preparing the first of your gourmet dinners. You’ll stay overnight at the mooring.
Day 2, Monday: Auxerre to Bailly
After a morning cruise navigating some delightful locks and passing through vineyard-covered hillsides, we moor at the hamlet of Bailly.
Enjoy lunch before we make the short drive to Chablis, one of the most famous white Burgundies, of worldwide renown.
If you think you don’t like white wine — think again! To taste the quality here in Chablis is a jaw-dropping wake-up call for the palate.
Winemaking in Chablis goes back to Roman times, and the soil, or “terroir,” produces uniquely flinty crisp white wines.
Like all the best white Burgundy, the wines are 100% from the chardonnay grape — but as you go on and taste in different places throughout the week, you’ll come to see just how much difference terroir can make.
With your thirst quenched and taste buds delighted, it’s back to Le Papillon for aperitifs and dinner.
Day 3, Tuesday: Bailly to Mailly-le-Ville
Today, we’ll drive you quickly back to Auxerre and show you the sights of the original capital of Lower Burgundy.
This wonderfully medieval town is home to a magnificent cathedral, old churches, and later period renaissance houses.
Visit the Cathedral of St. Étienne, with its Gothic architecture and stained-glass windows. Or, take a look at the beautiful church of St. Pierre en Vallée. Everywhere you look around in Auxerre, you’ll be charmed by the deep history and impressive architecture.
You’ll return to Le Papillon for a fresh lunch, and then we’ll slowly cruise south through rich pastures dotted with grazing white Charolais cattle.
Sit back, relax, and enjoy the view!
This afternoon is also the perfect time to grab a bike and cycle along the towpath in the sunshine as we navigate locks or you may want to take a stroll alongside us!
Tonight, we moor at Mailly-le-Ville and dine on board.
Day 4, Wednesday: Mailly-le-Ville to Roches-du-Saussois
You’ll start your day with a drive through the rolling countryside to visit Noyers-sur-Serein, a medieval 14th-century market village in France, and wonderfully evocative of French “je ne sais quoi.”
With a cozy, romantic feel about it, Noyers-sur-Serein isn’t the largest of villages, but it is one of the most beautiful.
You can explore the city and observe the ruins of the old castle, built sometime in the 10th century and demolished at the end of the 16th century by order of the king.
Stroll about the city and admire the markets, squares, and shops.
After lunch back on board, the landscape changes dramatically as we head toward the pale cliffs at Le Saussois, internationally known as a climbing center. You’re in for some breathtaking views!
This evening, you’ll be treated to a spectacular dinner ashore at Le restaurant L’Eternel, located in the charming Hôtel de la Poste & du Lion d’Or. This afternoon you might want to walk or cycle along the towpath to work up an appetite.
For over 200 years, Hôtel de la Poste & du Lion d’Or has delighted its guests with unrivalled views of the Morvan countryside in Vézelay. The beauty of Vezelay cascades into the kitchen of Le restaurant L’Eternel. Procuring ingredients from his onsite garden and the local forest, Chef Eric Balan incorporates a spectacular blend of colors, textures and flavors into your meal tonight.
Your stomach and taste buds are sure to be in heaven this evening!
Day 5, Thursday: Roches-du-Saussois to Vézelay
You’ll have plenty of time to digest last night’s feast as you enjoy a leisurely morning on board as we cruise through the Yonne Valley to moor for lunch at Lucy-sur-Yonne.
This afternoon is filled with history and culture as you visit Vézelay, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Benedictine Abbey here is not only a fascinating place in its own right, but it plays a major role historically as well.
In the 9th century, it acquired the relics of St. Mary Magdalene, now housed in a Romanesque Basilica bearing her name. Because of this, it has long been a meeting point for pilgrims.
It also played a part in both the Second and Third Crusades. Even today, it’s an important landmark on the Camino de Santiago — the pilgrims’ walk to Santiago de Compostela.
After a full day experiencing all Vézelay has to offer, you’ll have a peaceful dinner on board tonight, paired with the wines of the region.
Day 6, Friday: Vézelay to Chevroches
Your last day of cruising takes you through more picturesque French countryside as we clear the lock and arrive in the quaint village of Chevroches, where you’ll be able to take in the beautiful views of the valley from its lush, elevated hillside setting.
More history awaits you at the elegant Châteaude Bazoches.
Built in the 12th century, upon the site of an old Roman post, it has welcomed, among many others, Richard I, the famous Crusader King known as “Richard the Lionheart.”
This evening, we’ll welcome you back on board Le Papillon for your final dinner. Your captain will join you for what’s sure to be a wonderful evening of stories, food, and wine.
Day 7, Saturday: Chevroches
Take your time this morning and indulge in a final café and a light breakfast before saying farewell to our crew. Don’t stress about the logistics of your departure. Our captain will assist you in your seamless and stress-free transition to your flight home or on to your next destination.
You’re going to leave feeling refreshed and relaxed after your week of cruising and experiencing the Nivernais region on Le Papillon.
Le Papillon was remodeled in 2021 and is our flagship luxury barge. She carries a maximum of 4 guests with 4 crew members and cruises multiple itineraries through some of the most beautiful wine regions of France.
Thank you for the wonderful week! We will long remember the food, the wine, the cruising, the tours, the walks, the lounging on the deck, the conversation and just plain fun!
Jane & Nelson
A week of fabulous food, wonderful wines, terrific trips, comfy cabins, cheery company and most of all the super duper staff.
You made this a truly memorable week – great food, fabulous wine and such attention to detail.
Ursala & Garth
The beautiful French countryside, amazing French cuisine & fabulous Burgundy wines surpassed all we had imagined!
Mike & Carolyn
I have traveled all over the world and this is by far one of the finest experiences of my life.
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