Purpose: Cuisine & Culture  
Description: Luxury – 4-star hotels and canal barge trip through Champagne, private tours
Group Profile: Multi-generational
Activity Level: Low to Moderate 
Resource: France Planning Quick Facts & Itinerary Planning Template 
Related Stories: A Beautiful Day in Paris, Omaha Beach in Normandy, Sampling Calvados in Normandy, Barging Through Champagne, Champagne: The Widow Clicquot, and Exploring the WWI Trenches of La Main de Massiges

Itinerary Developed by: Village & Vine Travel (Champagne Itinerary by Saroche Barge)
Tours by: VIP Tours Paris, Viator, and Saroche Barge Captain (Jason) 

21-Day Itinerary: Paris-Normandy-Champagne-Loire-Paris

Date of Trip: May 11 – 31, 2016 Rectaingular Img
Day Stops Itinerary Observations


Depart from the US



St. Germaine

Arrive Paris
Private transport to apartment via Viator
Driver will have a sign after clearing customs.

Check into AirBnB Apartment in the St. Germain arrondissement (6th) two blocks from the Musee d’Orsay Museum and the bridge over the Seine to Notre Dame Cathedral (prior to the fire).

We LOVED our apartment in St. Germaine – we found le “Relais de l’Entrecote” – a boutique grocery and wine shop! We had fresh French pastries for breakfast and wine, cheese, and bread on our outdoor patio in the evenings after days of touring



Paris Tour with VIP Tours Paris
Pick up at Apartment
La Conciergerie, Sainte Chapelle, Lutetia (oldest neighborhood in Paris), Montmartre,
12:30 Lunch: Le Grand Colbert
5PM Drop off at Apartment

VIP Tours Paris was excellent – worth the money spent!



Châteaux de Fontainebleau and Vaux le Vicomte Tour with Viator

Vaux le Vicomte was incredible and is not as visited by tourists.



A Day in the St. Germain Arrondissement
11AM St. Sulpice Church – Featured in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code; Organ plays 15-minutes before and 30-minutes after mass.
1:30PM Brunch at Ralph Lauren

Gorgeous, intimate neighborhood of epicurean delights and lovely vintage and antique shops. Super quiet at night.



Notre Dame
Shakespeare & Co.
Latin Quarter
Les Invalides – Military Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb
Cafe de Flore



10AM Private Tour of Palace of Versailles and Chateau Trianon with Viator
Return to Paris
Wine at one of the gorgeous D’Orsay restaurants

It was on this tour that we decided to arrange private tours through ONLY Virtuoso tour companies. Our guide, via Viator, was “Ok” which was disappointing.



10AM Louvre and Musee d’Orsay – Viator Skip-the-Line Small Group Tour

Again, we wished that we had spent the money to have VIP Tours Paris handle this tour.



Transfer to Bayeux
Meet Mom and Dad at train station; Arrive early and secure train tickets

Depart Paris St. Lazare Station (Euro Railways)
Arrive Bayeux
Hotel Pick up and Transportation
Check Into Villa Lara Hotel

Bayeux – 1944 location of Charles de Gaulle’s speech in which France sided with the Allies.

On our own walking tour of the Bayeux Tapestries (woven in 1066)
That evening, while having Champagne in the hotel lobby living area, my Mom was able to meet Rick Steves as he walked through the hotel lobby – it was an unforgettable moment.

Since making this trip I have discovered an US expat who is a Virtuoso travel agent living in Normandy. Adrienne at Albion Voyages has developed a 7-day trip for us which was incredible.



Normandy Tour
Overlord Tours Pickup at Villa Lara – Private Guided Tour of Omaha & Utah Beach
Dinner Reservation at La Maison Blanche

Overlord was excellent



On our own walking tour of Bayeux’s Cathedral of Notre-Dame, consecrated in 1077

Hotel Transportation to Train Station
Depart Bayeux on TGV
Arrive Paris St. Lazare
Taxi from Train Station to West-End Hotel

Check Into West-End Hotel

Reservation at Michelin starred Lasserre

It takes approximately 2-½ hours to travel from Paris to Bayeaux

The West End Hotel is one of our favorites and where my parents stay any time they are in Paris.

Lasserre was an elegant experience but we all would have preferred dinner at a neighborhood bistro.



Barge shuttle pick-up at hotel and drive from Paris to Vandieres
Board the Saroche Barge for our barge cruise through Champagne
Settle In
Champagne welcome reception
Dinner on board

This was the first of several trips with Jason and Dawn on their barge. We love the barge and them!



Breakfast on board
Walking tour of Chateau of Conde en Brie, a 16th Century Hunting Lodge
Return to the Saroche for lunch on board
Sail from Vandieres to Cummiers
Bubbles du jour
Dinner on board

The Count owning the Chateau was present for our tour and demonstrated how to slice off the neck of a Champagne bottle with a sword. Impressive!


Tour sur Marne

Breakfast on board
Drive through Epernay
Visit Thibault chocolatier where we made champagne-filled chocolates
Lunch on board
Sail from Cummiers to Tour Sur Marne passing by Mumm, Philiponat, Moet and Chandon, and Heidesek vineyards
Time to walk or cycle alongside of the barge
Bubbles du jour
Dinner on board

Beautiful countryside as we cruised along around 5 miles per hour through the sloping hillsides with vineyards.



Breakfast on board
Drive to Reims – Tour the Eisenhower War Rooms and the Reims Cathedral
Lunch at Les Crayers Bistro (Michelin dining experience)
Light dinner on board

Having come for Normandy we had a new appreciation for the extent of WWII.
Les Crayers was incredible.


Mareuil sur Ay
Mont du Billy

Breakfast on board
Drive to Mareuil sur Ay
Private tour of Billecart Salmon
Lunch on board
Sail from Marne to Mont du Billy – climbing through 8 locks
Join Dawn in the kitchen to watch preparations for dinner
Bubbles du jour
Dinner on board

The Billecart Salmon tour was incredible. We were even allowed to walk through the historic caves which were filled with bottles of unlabeled champagne.


Mains de Massiges

Breakfast on board
Sail from Mont du Billy to Beaumont
Lunch on board
Minaucourt Cemetery containing 21,300 French soldiers who were killed in WWI
Tour WWI trenches at Mains de Massiges
Bubbles du jour
Dinner on board

The trenches brought the horror of WWI home.



Barge shuttle return to hotel in Paris
Check into Airbnb Le Marais (3rd and 4th Arrondissements) Apartment

We wanted to experience a different neighborhood and chose Le Marais. It ended up too crowded and loud for our taste and wishes we were back in St. Germaine.


Loire Valley Castles Tour – Viator Small-Group Trip that included:
Château of Sully-sur-Loire; Château de Chenonceau; and Château of Chambord

Lovely introduction to this beautiful area of France.



Tour the Marais neighborhood
Musee Carnavalet – History of Paris
Tour the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House)
Lunch: Le Grand Colbert (again)
E. Dehillerin Cookware Store – Wonderful copper cookware
Return for an Opera performance – Lear

This was a fun last day of no schedule. What was incredible was our discovery of the Palais Garnier interiors – STUNNING!



Return to the US

Sadly, we boarded the flight for the US.

Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.

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