Trip Type : River Cruise
Tournus city saone_2853931_France_P

Cruise France by River Barge in Burgundy

Adventure Women
5.0 . Excellent
Travel Style: A lot of free time, with very few inclusions. Ideal for independent and/or low-key travelers and cruisers. Relaxed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards. Premium - 4 star
7 days
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  • 7 day/6 night barge trip in France in Southern Burgundy, on the Canal du Centre and River Saône, from St. Leger to Lyon, France.
  • Stay in comfortable accommodations on board our elegant, privately chartered hotel-barge, exploring the “soul” of this region from our “floating country inn.”
  • Enjoy Bike, walk, motor and walking excursions into famous cities and towns of the region (St. Leger, Chagny, Chalon Sur Saône, Tournus, Mâcon, Lyon) full of gardens, renowned art and architecture, and famous vineyards (Messanges, Santenay, Remigny).
  • Feast on superb gourmet regional French cuisine, exquisite 4-course dinners, superb wines and French wine tastings, and experience caring service.
  • Celebrate a French "Toast" with several wine tastings at famous vineyards during the cruise.
  • Come early to Paris, France or extend your trip at the end of our river cruise to go shopping in Paris and exploring in the “City of Light.”

Short Description

Barging in France on a European river cruise is a graceful way of life that seems long forgotten to us today. Enjoy superb French cuisine and taste dozens of top quality French wines, visit historic castles and bike or walk canal towpaths. Experience central France on a European river boat cruise where you can discover a quieter, more relaxed part of Europe.

Located southeast of Paris in east-central France, Southern Burgundy is a region known for its rich history and red wines, prestigious gastronomy, and majestic castles, marked by gentle rolling hillsides covered with vineyards. As one of France’s most reputable wine producing regions, this region of France is often considered to be at the heart of French cuisine. Many traditional French dishes such as coq au vin, beef bourguignon and escargot all come from Burgundy.

These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Trip Type River Cruise
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Lodging Level Premium - 4 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Paris
End City Lyon

Trip Includes

  • Double occupancy, fully air-conditioned cabin accommodations aboard the barge, including full bathroom and shower in each cabin.
  • Transportation to and from the barge: from your arrival from Paris at the Le Creusot TGV train station; and from your departure from Lyon at the Gare Perrache train station, back to Paris.
  • All meals while on the barge, from dinner on the first day to breakfast on the last morning, including wine and beverages served with lunch and dinner. Certain of the more rare chateau-bottled vintage wines may be excluded.
  • Private coach transportation on daily sightseeing excursions with a guide and entrance fees.
  • Bilingual guide services throughout the trip.
  • The use of bicycles to ride on the towpaths.
  • Use of an onboard laptop computer for emails, since there are places along the route where cell service is not available. A small charge is levied to cover costs of service.
  • One AdventureWomen Associate.

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Day 1: Depart the USA for Your Overnight Flight to Paris, France

Day 2: Arrive in Paris and Take the Train to Le Creusot to Meet the Barge 

Meals: Dinner

This morning you’ll arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris, France and transfer to one of two Paris train stations (Bercy or Gare de Lyon) for your TGV (high speed train) to Le Creusot, in Saône-et-Loire in Burgundy where you will be picked up at the railway station by the crew at 5 p.m. and transferred to our French river barge, the Caprice, moored in the quiet canal-side village of St.Leger sur Dheune.

A “welcome aboard” Kir Royale (with champagne) awaits, and we are introduced to the bilingual French-English crew and to the Caprice while our luggage is quietly taken to our river barge cabins.

Before and after dinner there will be time to stroll along the tow path of the Canal du Centre. Cocktail hour is before dinner each night, and tonight we’ll enjoy our first gourmet dinner together on board Caprice.

Day 3: Cruise from Dennevy and Market Day in Chagny

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Following a buffet breakfast on board our French river barge, we begin our cruise to Dennevy along the beautiful Canal du Centre. The serene and picturesque Canal du Centre links into the river Saône. It meanders through the peaceful countryside of Burgundy with its grand châteaux and coveted vineyards, colorful locks and lock keepers.

For the next two days we have ample opportunity to bicycle and walk the canal’s tow path. The Caprice only travels at 2-3 mph, which is walking speed on the canal. Requiring about 30 minutes to transverse a lock (there is a lock, on average, each ¾ miles), it is easy to leave the Caprice as it enters a lock and walk the tow path ahead of the boat. Go two locks ahead and you will have ample time to explore the small villages along the canal and meet the boat when it catches up. Use one of the boat’s 10 bicycles on board and your horizons are broadened to other villages near the canal!

We arrive in Dennevy at 10 a.m. and are whisked off by our bus on an excursion to the busy market in the town of Chagny. A visit to France is not complete without exploring a typical farmer’s market, where we can mingle with the locals who come once a week for fresh vegetables, fresh meats from the traveling butcher, milk and butter direct from the cow, and dozens of household items and linens. This traveling market goes from village to village each day. Chagny’s market is today!

A little after noon we return to the barge for lunch, then cruise through six more locks in the afternoon, where we have many opportunities to walk or bicycle along the towpath or into the small and interesting villages along the way. The canal follows the Burgundy wine route as we cruise through the vineyards of Messanges, Santenay and Remigny, and at the end our day we moor at the pleasure port of Chagny.

Pre-dinner happy hour is followed by a gourmet dinner with wine. After dinner you may want to stroll along the tow path, or sit on the deck and get to know your barge-mates over an after-dinner drink.

Day 4: Visit Chateau Couches, Merge into the River Saône, and Moor in Chalon-sur-Saône

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

After breakfast we are again whisked off by the barge’s bus at 9:30 a.m. for an excursion to the Chateau Couches, listed as a French Historical Monument. It is a splendid example of changing architecture between the 11th – 19th centuries. We’ll see the 12th century Castle Keep, 15th century Gothic Chapel, 14th century Justice Tower, and the 19th century Residence. All this is complimented by the incredible underground galleries, the Old Drawbridge between the Chapel and Residence and the Residence itself.

Back to the Caprice at 12:30, we enjoy another wonderful lunch with wine. Continuing our afternoon the boat cruises the beautiful, winding Canal du Centre through 11 more locks until we meet the 30 foot high river lock that merges us into the River Saône. There’s a short river cruise to moor up in the very heart of the riverside and canal-side town center of Chalon-sur-Saône.

Chalon Sur Saône was built alongside the Saône about 3000 years ago. During antiquity, the town was a naval base, the location of big fairs during the Middle Ages, and a trading center in modern and contemporary times. Chalon in the 19th century is best known as the birthplace of photography. Its most famous resident, Nicéphore Niépce invented it here. A museum in town has more than two million photographs and many old artifacts such as cameras and other equipment for old and modern photography.

On the French wine route, Chalon takes in the vineyards of some of the best wines on the planet (Gevrey-Chambertin, Meursault, Chassagne-Montrachet, Fuissé, Chablis), and this area in Burgundy is a goldmine for wine-lovers.

Late afternoon we’ll have a guided walking tour of the magnificent old town of Chalon, with time for shopping in the town’s elegant shopping district, followed by pre-dinner happy hour, then our gourmet dinner with more delicious French wine!

Day 5: Exploring Tournus and the French Villages of Southern Burgundy

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Departing Chalon this morning we cruise 13 miles on the River Saône and arrive in Tournus by noon.

The delightful town of Tournus, at the southern tip of Burgundy in the rolling Mâconnais hills and wine country, has a wealth of old buildings, alleyways, antique shops, cafes and restaurants. It is one of the oldest and most important monastic centers in Burgundy, and is known for its superb abbey, St-Philibert, parts of which date back to the 10th century, and classed as one of the finest examples of Romanesque architecture. This French town has a distinctly Mediterranean flavor, with narrow winding streets and half-rounded tiles, and a fine quayside promenade.

After lunch on board the Caprice, we have an afternoon excursion to visit churches and castles dating from the 12th century. We’ll explore the village of Brancion, where the Dukes of Burgundy stored their vast treasures; the village of Chapaize, with its unique 12th century “romanesque” church; and walk through the renaissance Chateau de Cormatin in the midst of its gardens and water features. The Chateau was built by the Marquises of Huxelles in the early 17th century. To show his power and prestige, he built a wide moat, turrets, high rusticated basement, gunports and a drawbridge. Built to impress, it has succeeded to this day.

Happy hour and a gourmet dinner with wine follow our very full day of cruising and sightseeing!

Day 6: The Pre-historic Site of Solutré and the Vineyards of Mâconnais

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

After breakfast we depart for a serene and beautiful cruise through a peaceful river valley of the River Saône, through fields and woodlands that come up to the river’s banks. To the west are the hills where the grapes are grown for “Chalonnais” and “Maconnais” wines. We moor up in the town of Mâcon, the adminstrative capital of southern Burgundy and have lunch onboard. Buildings in Mâcon are painted burnt sienna, buttermilk and rose, which gives the town a distinctly Mediterranean feel.

As we are picked up for our bus excursion, there’s a bustle in the air in Mâcon town. All around we see the beautiful surrounding countryside as we drive through the Mâconnais wine region.

Among the vineyards of the Mâconnais region there are the prehistoric rock outcroppings at Solutré-Pouilly Vergisson, dominated by the famous Solutré Rock, a spectacular limestone cliff. This rock is both a geographical phenomenon and a prehistoric site, with remains of a distinct culture of the Upper Palaeolithic period (20,000-16,000 BC). The rock was an important hunting site for more than 25,000 years, and thousands of horses and reindeer were hunted and killed here.

Famous for its white wine, two thirds of the wine in the Mâcon region is white, coming from the Chardonnay grape with Pouilly-Fuissé, St-Véran and Mâcon-Villages Blanc being the most famous. The other third is red or rosé from the Gamay or Pinot Noir grape. Following our visit to Solutré,we have a much anticipated wine tasting at the winery of Pouilly Fuissé!

Returning to the Caprice, we continue tasting great wine at happy hour and dinner!

Day 7: Beaujolais Wine Tasting and Arrival into Lyon

Meals: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

Early this morning we leave Mâcon and cruise towards Lyon. Continuing along the river Saône, Caprice glides by pretty towns and villages, and past lovely countryside. To the west are the hills of Beaujolais, an important wine region of southern Burgundy, famous for its vibrant, fruity red wines made from the Gamay grape. The widespread plantings of Gamay here make Beaujolais one of the few regions of the world to be so focused on a single grape variety.

At 9:30 our bus meets the barge and we are off for an excursion into the hills of Beaujolais, passing the villages of Fleury, Julienas, Chenas and Morgan – and stopping at a favorite winery for a tasting of the soft red wines of the Beaujolais “gamay” grape.

Returning to the barge for lunch, we continue our cruise to Lyon. As we approach the city, there is one river lock remaining, then the Saone River takes us past the historic old part of Lyon before entering the main city of Lyon.

A busy city, Lyon is built over the Saône River where it joins the Rhine River, and it is the gateway to the Mediterranean. It is the second largest city in France and is the undisputed gastronomic capital of the country. Its roots precede Roman times and there are many Roman ruins throughout the region. Lyon played a significant part in the French Resistance activity in Nazi occupied France.

Arriving into the city, Caprice moors for the night at the Quai des Celestins, near the town center. We’ll have wonderful views of the city from the boat, and the central square is within walking distance. After our guided walking tour of the historic “old” Lyon, we’ll have plenty of time to shop and visit more of the town before our last Happy Hour and Gala celebratory Farewell Dinner on board.

Instead of leaving for Paris tomorrow morning, you might decide to stay and explore Lyon for a day or two. Check out Ciretta can help you arrange a lovely 4 Star Hotel in Lyon.

Day 8: Depart France

Meals: Breakfast

After breakfast you are transferred by bus to the Gare Perrache train station to arrive by 9 a.m. for your departure from Lyon.


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Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Intimate Group - 12 max

Cancellation Policy:

Notification of cancellations must be received in writing. Full payment is due 90 days prior to  departure date, and 50% of the registration deposit is non-refundable. For cancellations received 60 89 days prior to the trip departure date: 50% of the total trip cost is non-refundable. For cancellations received 1-59 days prior to the trip departure date: 100% of the total trip cost is non - refundable.

Trip ID#:


Trip Excludes

  • Round trip airfare from the U.S. to Paris, train from Paris to Le Creusot, and from Lyon to Paris.
  • Optional hot air balloon excursion, booked separately with the balloon company but coordinated by the barge crew. The 2014 price was 250 Euros (approximately $331 USD as of August 2014 exchange rates).
  • Gratuities for the barge crew (suggested tip of approximately $200 U.S. Dollars per participant).

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