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A Barge Journey on the French Canals

June 12-18, 2024


Our Schedule for this fantastic wine  journey…

This is a week full of activities and offerings.  If you ever wish to just simply relax and enjoy the scenery or take a little rest, you may do so at any time. Also note that this schedule may vary slightly to meet the needs of the participants as the days unfold. Mornings will start with an optional Yoga session, followed by breakfast. Evenings after dinner? Let’s wait and see who has joined us and we’ll decide what works best for everyone during the evening times. More than likely the evenings will involve a combination of sessions, games, activities and free-time.

First Day

For information on getting to the mooring point for the barge MS Raymonde, go to: Getting There  Also, if you wish some suggestions for accommodations in this area, the Getting There section has a list of recommended hotels.

You are welcome to board the Raymonde barge at 6:00 p.m. on June 12, 2024. We’ll introduce the barge crew at a welcome cocktail before dinner on board. Franco and Kay will welcome the group and share some information, and the sommelier will give an overview of French wines before our first delectable dinner.

This evening, you’ll enjoy a cruise through Paris at night.

Second Day

Our first Yoga session is available for the early raisers, followed by breakfast. The Sommelier will do a presentation as we cruise to Bougival. After lunch you may join  an  excursion: Guided tour of the Château de Malmaison. Built in the 17th century, Joséphine de Beauharnais acquired this castle in 1779. In 1800, it became the headquarters of the government and a conference room. The library restores the industrious atmosphere by which Bonaparte enjoyed to be surrounded. The council room is shaped like a military tent where receptions, dances and country-style games took place. The musical lounge offers Josephine’s “troubadour” paintings and her well-known harp for visitors to admire. Here, many paintings from these times are on display. After her divorce in 1809, Joséphine continued to live in her house, where she died in 1814. The Napoleonic museum was inaugurated in 1906; it is furnished, decorated and adorned with the paintings that Joséphine bought and loved. The charm and authenticity that have been preserved in this castle will certainly delight you. You’ll return on board the ship, the Sommelier will introduce our evening wines, and we’ll enjoy a delicious dinner together.

Third Day

As we cruise to Pontoise, you may engage in a Yoga session followed by breakfast. The Sommelier will offer a session and at the conclusion, we’ll have lunch. In the  afternoon, you may join an excursion: Pontoise and the Pissarro Museum. Learn about Pontoise’s monuments and celebrities as you stroll along its picturesque streets at your own pace. The city’s superb cathedral dates as far back as the 12th century and includes a Flamboyant-style tower and central portal, as well as Renaissance additions added a few centuries later. Afterwards, you’ll visit the Pissaro Museum, containing works not only by the museum’s namesake, but also by his sons (Lucien, Ludovic-Rodo, Georges, and Félix) and contemporaries such as Paul Signac, Ludovic Piette, Federico Zandomeneghi, Edouard Béliard, and Louis Hayet. The collection is rounded out by canvases from pre- and post-Impressionists who worked in the Oise Valley, most notably Charles-François Daubigny, Luis Jimenez, and Octave Linet. You’ll finish up your excursion with a taste of goat cheese and honey at the Tourist Information Office. You’ll return on board the ship and the Sommelier will share his insights as we prepare for dinner. A wellness discussion will follow dinner.

Fourth Day

After Yoga and breakfast you have an opportunity to visit some famous museums: Auvers-sur-Oise and the Musée de l’Absinthe. You’ll head towards Auvers-sur-Oise. Stretching almost four miles (seven kilometers) of the Oise River bank, Auvers-sur-Oise was Vincent Van Gogh’s last home and final resting place. We’ll stroll through the picturesque village streets and along the Artists’ Pathway, where works by famous Impressionists compare the current landscapes and architecture. The next stop will be the Musée de l’Absinthe and its reproduction of the ambiance found in cafés during the Belle Époque, when the “green fairy” was the preferred drink of poets and artists. The museum collection gives great insight into 19th-century culture in France. You’ll finish up the tour with a demonstration of the absinthe ritual and a tasting, of course. You’ll return to the ship in Auvers-sur-Oise for lunch and a wine discussion, and then enjoy a cruise to Saint-Leu-d’Esserent.

Calling all dessert lovers! If you wish to learn how to prepare France’s legendary crème chantilly, a member of the Confrérie des Chevaliers Fouetteurs will join us on board this afternoon to talk about this traditional culinary delight. Learn how to whip up delicious, authentic whipped cream by hand and the Sommelier will discuss wine-pairings.

After a wine presentation and dinner, take some time on your own to explore Saint-Leu-d’Esserent. The more adventurous can head to the impressive abbatial church to catch some great views of the surrounding valley. The barge will remain in port overnight.

Fifth Day

Another beautiful excursion is available to you after Yoga and breakfast. You may visit the  Château de Chantilly. You’ll set off for Chantilly, home to one of the most beautiful castles in France. The château is the work of an exceptional figure, Henri d’Orléans, Duke of Aumale, son of the last French king, Louis-Phillipe. The duke is considered to have owned one of the finest art collections of his time, making Chantilly a showcase for his many masterpieces and priceless manuscripts. The castle has remained at a virtual standstill since the Duke of Aumale bequeathed it to the Institut de France, so take advantage of this moment to jump back in time and relish this princely domain. You’ll visit the art galleries, where paintings have hung undisturbed since the 19th century; the large, opulent suites once used as reception rooms; and the reading room, one of the most extensive libraries in the country. You’ll return to Pont-Sainte-Maxence for lunch, wine pairings, and the barge will cruise to Compiègne in the afternoon as we offer a session on the Health Benefits of Wine, followed by dinner. We’ll remain in port overnight. 

Sixth Day

Are you ready for another amazing excursion after our usual Yoga and breakfast? You’ll get to visit Compiègne, the Armistice Memorial, and the Château de Compiègne. Set off on a guided tour of historic Compiègne. On the picturesque streets of this significant city, you’ll see the lovely 16th-century town hall with its intricately sculptured late-Gothic facade containing several historical figures, such as Louis XII on his horse. The town hall tower holds one of the oldest municipal bells in France, dating back to 1303. Further along the route, we’ll come across some lovely medieval homes. You’ll enjoy a tasting of regional wine and delicacies before we continue on to the Armistice Memorial. Part of the museum’s collection includes the emblematic train car used in the signing of the 1918 Armistice.  You’ll then visit the Château de Compiègne. The outstanding beauty, gorgeous decor, and fine furnishings of the largest neoclassical palace in France add up to an impressive ensemble.  Versailles, Fontainebleau, and Compiègne form a trifecta of the largest imperial residences in France.  After the excursion, we’ll return on board for wine and lunch. Our barge will cruise to Pont-l’Évêque, arriving mid-afternoon.

Another excursion is available to you, Noyon and its Cathedral. Discover Noyon and its 2,000 years of history during this exclusive tour. Two thousand years of heritage and funky street art dot this eclectic city’s streets. A festival of lights and colors awaits you within the Notre Dame Cathedral, the first example of Gothic architecture in northern France during the second half of the 12th century. We’ll return on board the ship. Tonight is our festive gala evening flowing with wine and delicacies.

Seventh Day

This is our last morning together as a group. Enjoy breakfast on board as we wrap up this amazing experience. The Sommelier, Kay and Franco will share their insights and each participant may choose to share their final thoughts as we all move forward in our lives having experienced a unique and memorable event. Disembarking will be at 9:00 a.m.