- Attractive Vézelay
Visit the UNESCO-listed Romanesque Basilica of St Mary Magdalene, in this pilgrimage town.
Explore Auxerre from your hotel.
- A modern medieval castle
Guédelon Castle is a replication of a medieval castle, built by traditional methods.
- New holiday
- VIP on selected river cruises
- Full board
Visit historic sights close to the River Yonne and Nivernais canal
Discover river cruising with a difference… Our new holidays offer five day-cruises on the backwaters of France and included excursions on most afternoons, during a seven-night stay in a welcoming hotel.
After breakfast at your hotel, make yourself at home on your ‘floating lounge’, the award-winning day-cruiser ‘Natalia’ and admire the passing scenery as you cruise the smaller canals and rivers of France. The eco-friendly boat was voted Best New Tourism Project in all of Europe in 2018 by the British Guild of Travel Writers. A light lunch of local specialities will be delivered to the ship each day to enjoy with included drinks as you cruise.
Our programme of excursions takes you through delightful rural countryside to the historic attractions that abound in Burgundy. Dinner will be served in your hotel, the locally rated 4 star Mercure Auxerre Nord in Appoigny and on two evenings you dine out a local restaurants. Magnifique!
7 nights in a hotel with 5 days of cruising
20 meals: 7 breakfasts, 6 light lunches and 7 dinners
- Optional travel insurance underwritten by Great Lakes Insurance SE, UK
- Return coach travel from Folkestone via Eurotunnel or ferry, and transfers
- Welcome drink
- Light lunch on board ship
- Free bar on board ship
- Saga Cruise Assistant
Excursions and visits
- Train ride to Chatel-Censoir
- Prehistoric Caves d’Arcy tour
- Tour of Vézelay
- Visit Caves de Bailly wine cellar with tasting
- Visit to the Guédelon Castle project
- Visit to Cistercian Abbaye de Reigny, with dinner
- Dining in Chablis with an iconic local wine tasting
Day 1 UK to Auxerre, France
Travel by coach from Folkestone to Auxerre via Eurotunnel or ferry.
Check in to the locally rated 4-star Mercure Auxerre Nord in Appoingny, where you’ll stay for the next seven nights. Enjoy a welcome drink at the hotel.
Day 2 Vézelay to Clamecy
This morning travel by coach to the attractive Renaissance town of Vézelay, set on a steep hillside on the edge of the Morvan Natural Park.
Shortly after its foundation in the 9th century, the Benedictine Abbey of Vézelay acquired the relics of St Mary Magdalene and since then it has been an important place of pilgrimage. St Bernard preached the Second Crusade there in 1146 and Richard the Lionheart and Philip II Augustus met there before leaving for the Third Crusade in 1190. Enjoy a guided introduction before some free time to enjoy the wonderful views of the surrounding countryside.
Next, enjoy the short scenic drive to the medieval town of Clamecy where you join your cruiser Natalia to follow the Canal du Nivernais as far as the small town of Coulanges-sur-Yonne, where we moor for the day. As with all your cruise days, lunch will be served on board and a complimentary bar service is available.
Day 3 Coulanges-sur-Yonne to Châtel-Censoir
After re-embarking at Coulanges-sur-Yonne, continue cruising the Canal du Nivernais downstream through peaceful rural scenery as far as Châtel-Censoir, and, after lunch on-board rejoin the coach for the scenic drive back into Auxerre.
The afternoon is free for exploration. The city is famous for its magnificent skyline, highlighted by the former Benedictine Monastery the Abbaye St-Germain with its remarkable octagonal spire, and the Gothic cathedral St-Etienne. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries the cathedral has beautiful stained glass windows. In the evening look forward to dining out in nearby Chablis, accompanied by a tasting of the iconic local wine.
Day 4 Guédelon Castle
Savour fine views of the rolling Burgundy countryside on a full-day excursion by coach to the building site of Guédelon Castle, subject of a BBC television series.
In 1997, this ambitious project was started, replicating the construction of a medieval castle by traditional methods, with a team of 50 masons, carpenters and craftsmen using the wood, stone and clay available close to the site. The castle is scheduled for completion in 2023.
Enjoy a guided tour before lunch and explore further in the afternoon before returning to your hotel for your evening meal.
Day 5 Châtel-Censoir to Vermenton
This morning take a local train along the Yonne Valley to Châtel-Censoir where you will re-board your cruiser as it waits in the canal immediately adjacent to the station.
Today you will cruise all day as far as the short branch canal leading to the village of Accolay. This is Nivernais cruising at its best, with the canal weaving its way along the contours of the Yonne valley and passing a succession of picturesque villages. Pause for lunch near Mailly-le-Château, with the opportunity to take in splendid views from the Château’s parapet overlooking the river valley. You will also pass the imposing limestone bluff known as Les Rochers du Saussois, known for its resident population of peregrine falcons.
Return by coach to your hotel for dinner.
Day 6 Vermenton to Champs-sur-Yonne
This morning your coach will return you to Vermenton for your morning cruise to Champs-sur-Yonne. The River Yonne takes over from the Canal du Nivernais as the principal waterway today, offering more expansive views of the Yonne Valley and its vineyards and farmland.
After lunch, board a coach for a guided visit to the prehistoric Caves d’Arcy – limestone caves carved out by the River Cure and used by Stone Age man. Wall paintings of bears, mammoths and ibexes, and hand prints - believed to be the second-oldest discovered in the world - have been found here. The walking tour of the caves involves around 100 steps and there are some places where visitors must stoop, anyone not wishing to go all the way into the caves can still visit the opening cavern and display cases and then relax in the café just outside.
From the caves, you’ll travel a short way onwards to the Abbaye de Reigny – a lovely former Cistercian abbey founded in 1128 with one of only three intact Cistercian Refectories to survive in all of France. Enjoy a tour before relaxing amid the gardens and riverside scenery, where you might spot kingfishers. Dinner will then be served in the cellar restaurant of the Hostellerie de La Fontaine in nearby Accolay before the coach returns you to the hotel.
Day 7 Champs-sur-Yonne to Auxerre
This morning board a coach bound for the Caves de Bailly, where the AOC Crémant de Bourgogne sparkling wines are produced from hand-picked, noble grapes. The wines are matured underground in a former quarry which provides the natural low light and temperature they require. Look forward to a wine tasting here! From Bailly it’s just a few minutes drive to Champs-sur-Yonne, where you re-board Natalia for your final cruise leg, downstream into Auxerre. As you pass under the historic Pont Paul Bert, enjoy one of the great riverside vistas on the planet. Continue along the Yonne as far as Gurgy before your return to the hotel, where there will be a gala farewell dinner this evening.
Day 8 Auxerre to UK
Check out after breakfast and board your coach for your return journey. You’ll pause for a while en route so you can buy yourself lunch, before setting off again to the UK via Eurotunnel or ferry.
A few details about your hotel
The locally rated 4-star Mercure Auxerre Nord, is situated in the heart of the Yonne Valley, just 10 minutes north west of Auxerre city centre.
It features 77 air-conditioned rooms spread across ground-level with views of the pretty four hectare gardens surrounding the hotel. There is an attractive sun terrace, lounge bar and an outdoor swimming pool. Breakfast is offered buffet-style while in the evening the a’ la carte restaurant, Le Chaumois, serves delicious traditional dishes from the Burgundy region.
Accommodation contact details
In case you need to leave contact details with a friend or relative…Mercure Auxerre Nord
0033 386 532500