Guests are met at our meeting point in Paris** and transferred by private chauffeured minibus to the spacious Renaissance where a champagne welcome with canapés awaits and you meet the Captain and crew. We enjoy an afternoon cruise through the picturesque “little Venice of Gâtinais” with its 131 bridges connecting the streets and crossing the Canal de Briare and the River Loing. Dinner on board.
This morning we cruise through wooded countryside and past the old Bardin water mill, to reach our mooring in Montbouy. After lunch, we visit the privately-owned Château de La Bussière, known as the ‘Fishermen’s Castle’, with its wonderful ornamental and vegetable gardens, where we enjoy a cooking demonstration with the barge chef using seasonal produce from the gardens. Dinner on board.
After breakfast we explore the town of Montargis on foot, viewing the 11th century chateau before passing through the picturesque Fishermen’s Quarter; its half-timbered houses bordering the canals. Arriving at the 12th century Church of the Madeleine, we stop to admire its soaring 75-foot-high nave. Our footsteps finally bring us to Mazet, the confectioners renowned for creating the original praline recipe over one hundred years ago. Here, we observe the chocolate production and enjoy a tasting of their delicious products. Later, we enjoy an afternoon cruise to our mooring at the pretty village of Rogny-les-Sept-Ecluses, near its 350-year-old 7 lock-flight, now disused and a national monument, from which it takes its name. A short stroll to the locks is worthwhile before dinner on board.
Today we immerse ourselves in the world of Impressionist art. We start with a short walking tour of Moret-sur-Loing, famous for its association with the Impressionist painter Alfred Sisley and see several of his most famous scenes before continuing to the Chateau home of Rosa Bonheur. Rosa Bonheur was the most celebrated female artist of the 19th Century; a pioneer in a man’s world and a champion of women’s rights. Her best-known paintings are of animal scenes including one of Buffalo Bill on horseback which prompted an enduring friendship between the two. We take lunch in the private salon of the chateau before joining the present owner for a tour and to hear more about the history of this remarkable lady and view some of her works. Later, we enjoy an afternoon cruise past the Rogny lock flight to La Gazonne, a beautiful rural mooring surrounded by lakes and ponds that provide water for the workings of the Canal de Briare. Dinner on board.
A morning cruise to our mooring at the little town of Briare, site of Gustave Eiffel’s magical aqueduct across the River Loire, again with excellent walking and cycling opportunities. We preview Friday’s crossing of this amazing 10,000-ton, 662 metre Pont Canal which was completed in September 1896. Our afternoon visit is to the renowned Sancerre winery of La Perriere. Having stopped to view the vineyards and learn something about viticulture, we then visit the winery, with its operations and cellars all set spectacularly inside huge natural caves. We enjoy a private tour and a tasting of some of their best vintages before we return to the barge. Dinner on board.
This morning we visit the market in Briare with its food and fashion stalls before returning to the hotel barge for lunch and a spectacular cruise across the Briare aqueduct with its ornate iron lampposts and railings, spanning the wide River Loire below. This afternoon, we visit the delightful Château de Ratilly and its rather unusual selection of turreted towers, construction of which began in 1270. In the castle’s workshops, we see traditional pottery being hand thrown and have the chance to try this artisanal craft for ourselves. Captain’s Farewell Dinner on board.
After breakfast, guests are transferred by private chauffeured minibus to Paris