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Into Champagne Country: France Walk & Barge

On the first VBT tour of its kind we’ll cruise and walk through a magnificent corner of northern France. Unpack only once and follow country trails into charming medieval villages and the gardens of glorious châteaux. We’ll also descend into cellars to sample the region’s famed Brie cheeses and bubbly.

  • 11 Days
  • Activity Level: Easy
  • Daily Mileage: 3 1/2 - 6 mi
  • Daily Walking: 2 - 4 hr
  • Small Groups: 20
  • Walking Activity
  • Relatively flat terrain. Well-kept paths. Fine for even occasional walkers.
  • Airfare Packages Available

Why You'll Love This Tour

Overview

Into Champagne Country: France Walk & Barge

Explore a magnificent corner of northern France in the slow lane during VBT’s new walking and barge tour. Like the fine sparkling vintages of Epernay, you’ll achieve the pinnacle of discovery leisurely, drifting down languorous canals and disembarking your deluxe private barge for unhurried ambles along inviting walking paths. Follow country trails into charming medieval villages and the gardens of glorious châteaux. Descend into cellars to sample the region’s famed Brie cheeses and bubbly. Honor the fallen at Belleau Wood. By journey’s end, you’ll raise a glass to your Champagne days along these glorious waterways and footpaths in Paris’s backyard.

Cultural Highlights

  • Wander Epernay’s elegant Avenue de Champagne
  • Explore the hometown of the monk Dom Perignon
  • Honor WWI U.S. Marines at Belleau Wood
  • Tour a maturing cellar and taste its Brie cheese
  • Stroll the gardens of Château Champs sur Marne
  • Taste local champagne in the cellar where it aged
  • Immerse yourself in rural France by private barge
  • Walk through the historic streets of Meaux

What To Expect

This tour offers easy terrain on walking paths and roads through both urban and rural areas. Trails are mainly flat or slightly inclined. Some are unpaved and can be muddy along the canal and river and through the vineyards or surrounding countryside. Our days typically begin with a walk from the barge, followed by lunch and a return shuttle, or vice versa. On one day, we transfer by train and on another we transfer by mini-bus. Taxis will be used as support vehicles if required.

Average Daily Mileage: 3.5 – 6 miles
Average Walking Time: 2 – 4 hours

Climate Information

Average High/Low Temperature (°F) – Paris
Apr 60°/45°  May 67°/52°  Jun 73°/57°  Jul 77°/60°  Aug 77°/60°

Average Precipitation (in.) – Paris
Apr 2.0  May 2.5  Jun 2.0  Jul 2.5  Aug 2.0

What’s Included:

Walking Vacation Only – without Air

  • 7 nights aboard a canal barge
  • 15 meals – 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners

Air Package Plus

  • Roundtrip international airfare
  • Transfers
  • 7 nights on a canal barge, 1 night in a Paris hotel at both the start and finish of the barge tour
  • 17 meals – 9 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 5 dinners
  • AND the option to add our Low-Cost Trip Extensions: Pre-trip: Paris – 2 nights for only $495 • Post-trip Paris – 2 nights for only $595

Both Vacation Options Include

  • 1 glass of wine with all dinners aboard the barge
  • FREE use of our custom VBT Walking Poles
  • Service of two bilingual VBT Trip Leaders
  • 6 days of walking during the cruise portion of your trip
  • Daily route directions and maps
  • Welcome reception
  • Sightseeing and cultural activities
  • Special Good Buy Discount
  • 5% Frequent Traveler Credit to use on your next VBT vacation. See details.

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Air Package Plus Single Supplement: $1895 | Land Only Single Supplement: $1395

Please note: Web Special savings cannot be combined with any other offer. Standard Terms & Conditions apply when purchasing this trip. 2017 Prices include all airline surcharges and Government taxes and fees. Ask our Tour Consultants for details. Every effort has been made to produce this information accurately. We reserve the right to correct errors. Prices are based on preferences selected above, including meals and sightseeing as specified in What’s Included. All prices are subject to change. Departure dates and prices shown may be updated several times daily, and apply to new bookings only.

Itinerary & Map
Or, Expand All Days
DAY 1: Depart from home / Fly to Paris

Depart from home for France. The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight itinerary.

DAY 2: Arrive in Paris

Upon arrival at Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport, claim your luggage and clear customs. If your luggage is lost, fill in a PIR form before leaving the customs area – VBT representatives are not allowed into the customs area.

Please note: Make sure that your VBT luggage tags are attached to your bags. This helps the representative identify you.

After exiting customs, enter the arrival hall and look for your VBT representative or driver, who will be holding a VBT sign. Your representative will welcome you to France and arrange for your transfer via taxi or van (approximately 60 minutes, depending on traffic) to your Paris hotel. If you are delayed in meeting your VBT representative at the CDG Airport, please call 06 72 07 59 24 or 06 15 15 15 25 from within France. Outside of France, call +33 672 07 59 24 or +33 615 15 15 25.

Please note: The hotel check-in time is 3:00 pm, but hotel staff will do their best to get you to your room as soon as possible. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations on what to see and do in Paris. Use the rest of the day to relax or explore.

Hotel: Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra

DAY 3: Embark barge / Warm-up walk

VBT No-Air Package guests: You are responsible for meeting our barge, the Fleur, between 1:45 and 2:15 pm. Please note that you cannot embark earlier, as the barge is being prepared for your arrival. If you are late, you must contact the barge as soon as possible to make alternative arrangements. Contact telephone number is ++0031 622 738 857.

The barge will be moored at Port de l’Arsenal, Boulevard de la Bastille, Paris, near the Gare de Lyon railway station. At the docks, meet the barge crew and your VBT Trip Leaders, who will welcome you aboard with refreshments. After visiting your cabin and attending a safety briefing, enjoy a warm-up walk along the banks of the River Seine. This evening, gather on board with the group for a welcome dinner.

VBT Air Package and Pre-Trip Extension guests: After breakfast, make sure your luggage is packed and ready to be transported to the barge. At 2:00 pm, you will shuttle to the barge, arriving at around 2:15 pm. The barge will be moored at Port de l’Arsenal, Boulevard de la Bastille, Paris, near the Gare de Lyon railway station. At the docks, meet the barge crew and your VBT Trip Leaders, who will welcome you aboard with refreshments. After visiting your cabin and attending a safety briefing, enjoy a warm-up walk along the banks of the River Seine. This evening, gather on board with the group for a welcome dinner.

Please note regarding Wi-Fi onboard the barge:  Each device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) receives 50 MB per day free, to be used on that day. Additional amounts can be purchased via credit card or Paypal. The barge crew can assist you. However, due to the nature of the barge movements, internet access is not always available. As such, if stable internet access is critical to you, VBT recommends that you purchase your own bundle before traveling overseas.

Hotel: Barge Fleur
Meals: B, D

DAY 4: Cruise to the lock of Neuilly sur Marne / Walk to the Château and park of Champs sur Marne

Enjoy your first breakfast during a leisurely cruise along the Seine. Join your Trip Leaders onboard for a brief language lesson of useful French phrases. Upon arrival at the lock of Neuilly sur Marne, disembark for a walk to the Château Champs sur Marne.

You will follow the tow path of the canal for a ways before crossing a footbridge to the bank of the River Marne, where the streets of a chic neighborhood lead you to the entrance of the château. You will stop for a picnic lunch along the way. Château Champs sur Marne is one of the finest examples of neo-classical architecture in the Île-de-France region, with over 200 acres of formal gardens and lovely meadows. There’ll be time to explore the splendid castle and grounds before you shuttle to meet the barge, which has sailed on to the town of Lagny sur Marne.

This evening enjoy dinner on board the barge.

Hotel: Barge Fleur
Meals: B, L, D
Daily Options: 6.8 km (4.2 miles)

DAY 5: Walk to Esbly / Cruise to Meaux / Free afternoon in Meaux

Walk directly from the barge this morning along the towpath of La Marne. Your footfalls take you past quaint houses with lovely river views; then trace a route into more open countryside. The natural course of the river meanders around a hill here, but a canal tunnel has been cut through the hill for quicker shipping. Follow this canal, diverging briefly on a short road in order to traverse the hill. You will meet your barge in Esbly in time for a later lunch. During your meal, the barge will get underway to Meaux.

Upon arrival in Meaux, the remainder of the day is free. You may wish to walk into the old town, stepping through the defensive walls. A segment of the original wall dating from the Gallo Roman period is still visible. As you explore, admire the beautiful Meaux Cathedral Saint-Etienne and peer into the inviting shops. Alternately, you may wish to take a local public bus a short distance to visit the very impressive Museum of The Great War. Housing a collection unparalleled anywhere in Europe, the Musée de la Grande Guerre offers a new vision of the world’s first global conflict that lasted from 1914 to 1918.

This evening you’re sure to find a local restaurant for dinner on your own.

Hotel: Barge Fleur
Meals: B, L
Daily Options:  9.75 km (6 miles)

DAY 6: Market of Meaux / Visit and tasting with a Brie maker / Walk to La Ferte sous Jouarre

Today, walk from the barge to visit the local market of Meaux, located along the old defensive walls. Here local producers sell all manner of fruits, vegetables, and handmade wares. After time to browse the stalls, you will shuttle to nearby Jouarre, home of Fromagerie Ganot, a small, family-run maker of traditional Brie cheese. Isabelle greets you in the courtyard and tells you a little about her family, which has been in the cheese business since 1895. Your tour starts with a short video and explanation about Brie production. Then visit the small museum dedicated to the history and making of Brie and other local cheeses. Continue to the refining cellars, where hundreds of molds are aged to perfection. You can sample the cheeses with farmhouse bread and a sip of Bordeaux wine. If you wish, you may purchase some Brie in the small shop before strolling into Jouarre for lunch on your own and a visit to the Benedictine abbey.

After lunch, your amble leads through the town and into the surrounding countryside to the village of Courcelles sous Jouarre.  Continue into the town of La Ferte sous Jouarre to rejoin the barge. Dinner is served on board this evening.

Hotel: Barge Fleur
Meals: B, D
Daily Options:  6 km (3.7 miles)

DAY 7: Belleau Wood / American cemetery / American monument

Today is dedicated to the fierce World War I fighting that took place in and around Belleau Wood between June 1 and June 26, 1918. Fought predominantly by US Marines, the battle stopped the German Spring Offensive. After a short drive, you will meet a local historian, Florence Lamousse, at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery which rests at the foot of the sloping hills of Belleau Wood. As she relays the events of the battle, accompany her on a walk past the burial crosses and to the Romanesque-style memorial Chapel. Here, you can take a moment to read some of the names of the 1,060 American soldiers never recovered. Continue into Belleau Wood itself, where you can still see German cannons, traces of trenches, and shell holes from the heavy fighting.

Later, you will drive to the Château Thierry Monument, which commemorates the sacrifices and achievements of American and French fighters before and during the Aisne-Marne and Oise-Aisne offensives. The eagle and shield sculpted on the east face of the monument represents the United States. Beneath it, a map depicts the ground gained by US Forces in the summer of 1918. Pause for a picnic lunch in this tranquil and revered setting.

After lunch, you can walk or shuttle to meet the barge in Château Thierry. The remainder of the day is free. You may wish to explore the small town and do some shopping or explore the remains of the town’s namesake château. This evening find a local restaurant for dinner on your own.

Hotel: Barge Fleur
Meals: B, L
Daily Options: 2 km morning and 2.7 km afternoon (1.5 miles morning and 1.7 miles afternoon)

DAY 8: Train ride to Epernay / Champagne visit

Walk to the railway station in Château Thierry to catch a train to Epernay, the self-proclaimed capital of Champagne province and home to many of the world’s most celebrated Champagne houses. Stroll through the town, passing the synagogue and beautiful town hall. Follow the handsome Avenue de Champagne, lined with maisons de champagne (Champagne houses) and grand mansions and neoclassical villas rebuilt after World War I. It’s been said this is the most expensive street in the world for the miles of champagne-lined chalk cellars beneath it. The prestigious Moet and Chandon, Mercier, De Castellane, Pol Roger, Perrier and others have their cellars here and offer tastings and tours. The remainder of your morning is free to enjoy the delights of the various stately champagne houses or to venture into the lovely shopping areas.

This afternoon, walk with your Trip Leaders to Cumieries, where your barge awaits. Or ride the shuttle if you prefer.

Before dinner onboard, take a late afternoon stroll for a visit and tasting at a small nearby champagne producer.

Hotel: Barge Fleur
Meals: B, D
Daily Options:  2.4 km morning and 5.2 km afternoon (1.5 mile morning and 3.4 miles afternoon)

DAY 9: Hautvillers loop walk

After breakfast, start today with a walk along the river. Then follow some trails through hillside vineyards to the village of Hautvillers, the cradle of Champagne. Here, in the ancient Benedictine Abbey of Hautvillers, the monk Dom Pérignon discovered the Champagne wine-making process in the 18th century. His tomb rests today in the chancel of the Saint-Sindulphe abbey church. Hautvillers is a charming wine-producing village lined with houses decorated in beautiful wrought iron shop signs and colorful flowers. You will have free time to grab lunch in one of the local cafes and to visit the abbey.

After lunch, continue through the vineyards by foot, with magnificent views over the valley and The Marne River. Rejoin your barge in Cumieres.

Dine on our barge one last time this evening.

Hotel: Barge Fleur
Meals: B, D
Daily Options: 8.3 km (5.2 miles)

DAY 10: Depart barge / Discover Paris / VBT No-Air Package ends

VBT No-Air Package guests: After breakfast, your tour ends. Please disembark with the rest of the group at 9:00 am. It is important that you leave the barge no later than 9:00 am so the crew can prepare for their next guests. Refer to the information listed in the tour handbook. You are welcome to join the VBT coach transfer back to the Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra, but this must be reserved upon meeting your tour leader in Paris as space is limited.

VBT Air Package and Post-Trip Extension guests: After breakfast, say goodbye to your barge crew and Trip Leaders, then transfer back to your hotel in Paris. After checking in, you will have free time for independent exploration. Please note that your room may not be ready when you arrive, but the hotel will store your luggage. Enjoy dinner on your own tonight. VBT provides you with City Information that includes recommendations for what to see and do in Paris.

Hotel: Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra
Meals: B

DAY 11: Depart for home or begin optional Paris Extension

After breakfast*, meet in the hotel lobby for your transfer to the Paris airport and your flight back home**. Be sure that you are waiting at the designated time and transfer location.

*Please note: For guests with early-morning departures, breakfast at the hotel may not be available. Please check with the front desk to verify the times that breakfast is served.

**VBT recommends that you check your transfer time in your “Transfer Reminder.” The transfer is prearranged by VBT and is prepaid. VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will be at your own expense.

Meals: B

France Walk and Barge Tour Map

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Accommodations

Into Champagne Country: France Walk & Barge

7 nights on a canal barge. Air package guests receive an extra 1 night in a Paris hotel at both the start and finish of the barge tour.

Barge Fleur

A comfortable, luxurious, two-deck, 20-passenger barge with a homey atmosphere, the Fleur was put into service in 2002. The barge was built exclusively to navigate the narrow French canals, so it is slightly smaller than barges featured on other VBT tours. Its 10 comfortable cabins have private bathrooms with showers, and the barge has air-conditioning and heating throughout. Common areas include a dining room, a lounge with bar and a sundeck at the bow. The barge moors each night. Drinks of all types are available for purchase at the bar on board the Fleur. It is not customary for guests to bring their own wine and liquor onboard; your understanding is appreciated. Onboard meal menus are set, though the chef is happy to accommodate vegetarians and those on restricted diets for health reasons. Please note: We have adopted a no-smoking policy in the van during transfers, on the barge and at meals. Please note regarding Wi-Fi onboard the barge: Each device (smartphone, laptop, etc.) receives 50 MB per day free, to be used on that day. Additional amounts can be purchased via credit card or Paypal. If travelers plan to utilize data in a normal fashion (i.e. email and basic web browsing) and avoid streaming videos and loading hi-res images, the 50 MB allotments should suffice. Please be advised that the wifi connection varies and it is not guaranteed. If internet access is critical during your travel, we recommend purchasing your own bundle either in the United States or Europe.

Millennium Hotel Paris Opéra

The Millennium Hotel Paris Opera offers an ideal Right Bank location, just 1,700 feet from the Opéra Garnier and the famous Galeries Lafayette department store, The building combines the elegance and splendor of the 1920s with modern, comfortable amenities. The hotel features 163 air-conditioned guestrooms with traditional decor in light colors and includes period-style wood furniture with green leather-topped writing desks. All rooms offer satellite television, pay movies, a safe, trouser press, mini-bar, and coffee/tea-making facilities. En-suite bathrooms include hair dryers. In addition to a restaurant, the Millennium Hotel Paris Opera offers a lounge bar where guests can enjoy snacks and drinks by the fireplace and cocktails in the evenings, all to music from the grand piano. Room service is available around the clock. Multilingual staff on the 24-hour front desk can provide concierge services, including theater and opera reservations, transportation arrangements, and recommendations for places to visit. Wireless Internet access covers all public areas of the hotel, and high-speed Internet connections are available in every room.
Free WiFi Included
Reviews

Enjoy Your Vacation Longer With LOw-Cost Trip Extensions

Walk and Barge PreTrip Paris

Pre-Trip Extension - Paris

2 nights for only $495

Eiffel Tower

Post-Trip Extension - Paris

2 nights for only $595

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