After scouring The Barge Lady’s website and comparing cruise options for Champagne we selected a week-long cruise on the Marne canal aboard the Saroche. After finalizing arrangements for our pick up at The West End our departure day finally arrived. Captain Jason greeted us in Paris where he loaded our luggage for the three hour trip to Vandieres.
Anticipating that we would be boarding in a marina, imagine our surprise when we pulled up to a lock master’s house in the middle of the gently rolling hillsides of Champagne only to make our way across the Vandieres lock to board the Saroche! As the staff carried and stowed our luggage in our rooms we enjoyed the gentle walk to the boat, complete with the local geese squawking our arrival.
After settling into the three guest cabins, Captain Jason welcomed us with the nightly bubbles du jour aperitif followed by an outstanding dinner by Chef Dawn. We learned that Jason, the sommelier, boat captain, and tour guide, and Dawn, the onboard guest operations expert and chef, were the owners and operators of the Saroche and would be serving as our hosts for the week in Champagne.
The next morning, after a delightful breakfast on board, we began our first half day excursion with Jason to Chateau of Conde en Brie where we had a private guided tour, complete with meeting the Count and learning of his family’s champagne business. But no tour would have been complete without a tasting of the Chateau de Conde champagne which was ceremoniously opened by the Count using a small sword to cut the neck off of the bottle.
It was a dramatic beginning to an amazing week of slowly floating past the villages and rolling hillsides filled with the vineyards of Champagne while tenderly watching the many spring hatchlings of baby swans just learning to paddle with their protective mothers leading the way while others waddled in the grass beside the barge. We witnessed the careful threading of the Saroche into each lock and the almost 1.5 mile long Mont du Billy tunnel with inches to spare on either side of the barge. We found that the miles of the canal tow path provided a perfect surface for bike riding while we had glimpses of enchanting chateaus, workers in the early Spring vineyards, and barge life on the Marne.
Additional outings included a quiet afternoon strolling through the village of Tours sur Marne, home of Laurent-Perrier, tours of various champagne house production facilities, barrel rooms, and underground caves, a tour of the Reims Cathedral, tour of a WWI Western Front trench, and even champagne filled chocolate making.
For additional information on this journey: 21-day trip to Normandy, Champagne, Paris, and the Loire.
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.