Discover the spellbinding waterways of France and close-by destinations on this new way to explore the French backwaters, savouring a serene river cruise on largely unexplored waterways and then returning to your quality hotel base each evening. Each day brings fascinating new vistas and discoveries as we present an array of intriguing destinations studded with natural and cultural history. Our cruise takes us along the Canal de Bourgogne from the wine centre of Tonnerre, built around a natural karst spring, through ancient Saint-Florentin, situated on the beautiful river Armançon through to some of the lovely towns and cities on the River Yonne, including Joigny, Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, and Sens. Mornings will be spent gliding along the small-scale Canal de Bourgogne and the rather grander scale River Yonne - passing through 32 locks along the way - supplemented with afternoon visits by coach to include the magnificent city of Auxerre, Chablis Vineyards, Château d'Ancy-le-Franc, UNESCO-listed Fontenay Abbey, and a scenic excursion to the lovely town of Semur-en-Auxois and the nearby ‘Plus Beaux Village’ of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain.
8 nights in hotels (accommodation as specified or similar)
Titan’s VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home for your journey to the Ramada Dover (4T). This afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the hotel’s facilities and then meet your fellow travellers at a welcome dinner at the hotel this evening.
Dover - Joigny
We journey this morning by Eurotunnel or ferry, to Calais and southwards through France, stopping en route in Arras. This gem of a city is exceptionally elegant, and is of current historical significance because of its key role as an allied strongpoint in the Great War. The cobbled Main Square of Flemish houses, or Heroes Square, dominated by the town hall, are charming places to look for lunch. Resuming our journey we continue to Joigny and Le Rive Gauche Hotel (4T), our base for the next seven nights, with dinner included each evening.
Tonnerre - Flogny
We begin our cruise itinerary in Tonnerre, a town of Roman and medieval history noted for its natural karst spring, the Fosse Dionne. Nowadays Tonnerre is one of Burgundy's mainstream wine-producing areas. From Tonnerre our spacious boat takes us westwards along the Canal de Bourgogne to today's disembarkation point at Flogny. After lunch on board we join our coach for a scenic drive just into the adjoining Côte d'Or departement where we visit Semur-en-Auxois, a picturesque town that attracts many artists with its magnificent citadel, the perfect picture to sketch with its extensive grand medieval exterior. Roam Semur-en-Auxois’ pleasant historic streets before our drive resumes to Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, a medieval fortified village which nowadays enjoys the accolade of being one of France's prestigious ‘Plus Beaux Villages’. Enter through one of the grand stone gateways, which have protected the settlement since medieval times, to embrace the extensive array of medieval and Renaissance houses with views of the lovely Auxois hills from the town’s elevated position.
Flogny - Saint-Florentin
This morning we continue along the quiet and tree-lined Canal de Bourgogne between Flogny and Saint-Florentin. This particularly serene stretch of canal might be especially appealing to anyone keen on walking or cycling the towpath - there are 7 locks in the course of the morning so plenty of chances to stroll ahead. After lunch on board we will join the coach in Saint-Florentin for a guided visit to Château d'Ancy-le-Franc, a spectacular Renaissance castle. Renowned Italian architect Sébastiano Serlio is credited for the structure’s architectural design, with beautiful apartments, grand hallways, an extravagant chapel, historic King’s room, elegant marble floors and ornate galleries - all of which reveal five centuries of astounding history.
Saint-Florentin - Joigny
Today is all about the pristine and enchanting beauty of France’s waterways as we enjoy an all-day cruise between Saint-Florentin and Joigny. On arrival, we make a brief visit to the town's magnificent hilltop church, noted for its 16th century stained-glass windows. From Saint-Florentin our day-cruiser then continues westwards, joining the River Yonne at Migennes and continuing from there downstream to Joigny. We will invite a wine producer from Chablis to join us for the morning to offer a presentation on the region's wine heritage before we all enjoy lunch aboard. In the afternoon stay on board, or there will be an optional excursion by coach to Pontigny Abbey, one of the great Cistercian monasteries of France dating back to the 12th century (small entrance charge applicable for the abbey). Arriving in Joigny mid-afternoon, the rest of the day is at leisure. The Romans founded this spectacular riverside town, now renowned for its flourishing vineyards and fine gourmet cuisine. Each of its three districts tell their own story of the region’s impressive past: Saint-Jean is the old part of the town constructed around the 10th century castle wall; Saint-Thibault is a pretty area home to craftsmen, shopkeepers and wine merchants; and Saint-André is a traditional wine-growing district.
Joigny - Villeneuve-sur-Yonne
After breakfast we join our barge for more delightful river valley views as we follow the lock-cut between Joigny and Cezy, where you should catch a glimpse of one of France's oldest suspension bridges from just upstream of where we rejoin the river. From here we continue on the main river towards the gated Royal town of Villeneuve-sur-Yonne, where we enjoy lunch at a riverside auberge. If you can tear yourself away from the spectacular river scenery you will find the old town a fascinating stroll with the two gated portals at either end of the main street, and the sunken gardens betraying the position of the moat that protected the old fortified walls of the town.
Villeneuve-sur-Yonne - Sens
Today we rejoin our barge in Villeneuve-sur-Yonne for an onward cruise through more delightful scenery to the fine city of Sens. After lunch on board there will be a free afternoon to stroll through the pedestrianised old town with its 12th century Cathedral Saint-Etienne and magnificent rose window, elegant statues and beautifully-detailed stonework; a visit inside reveals more of its Gothic charm, along with historic tapestries, antique silverware, enamels, ivories and fabrics. Outside, the streets and alleys have half-timbered houses, elegant shops and delightful cafes, and some lovely strolling can be done along the tree-lined boulevards that form a ring around the city centre.
Sens - Pont-sur-Yonne
For our final morning of cruising we continue downstream from Sens to Pont-sur-Yonne, and from here we join our coach to spend a free afternoon in the capital of the Yonne Departement and Burgundy’s fourth-largest city, Auxerre. Here you can trace centuries of history as you roam an old town characterised by half-timbered houses, magnificent mansions and an array of monuments including the grand 15th century Clock Tower; Saint-Etienne Cathedral - an exquisite Gothic structure home to Carolingian crypts - and the remarkable Abbey of Saint-Germain.
Day 9 Joigny - Dover
After breakfast we begin the return journey home, stopping in the northern-France town of Reims en route before crossing by Eurotunnel or ferry, to the Ramada Dover (or a similar stop). On arrival you will be met and guided to your Titan vehicle, for the journey home.