3-Country Barge Cruise: Holland - Belgium - France
Holland to France between Rotterdam and Paris
14-nights in the Spring & return cruise in the Autumn
Sunday, Day 1 - Amsterdam to Schiedam (Rotterdam)
You are met in Amsterdam by your chauffeur at either your hotel or the airport and transferred to Aurora, moored in the quaint and fascinating town of Schiedam, on the outskirts of Rotterdam. Once aboard, there is an introduction to Aurora and the crew. Settle in with a champagne and petits fours/canape reception. This afternoon’s visit is to Rotterdam with the most significant highlights of the city. Dinner onboard.
Monday, Day 2 - Rotterdam to Willemstad
We depart Schiedam after breakfast with an optional visit to the ancient distillery of Ketel One (one of the most prestigious vodkas in the world) and cruise through the busy port of Rotterdam onto Dordrecht. Guests get to spend the afternoon visiting the oldest town in the Netherlands. Aurora continues across the Hollands Diep, part of the Dutch estuaries, to the charming old fortress town of Willemstad for our evening mooring spot. Dinner on board.
Tuesday, Day 3 - Willemstad to Antwerpen
Today, we will leave Holland, passing by the town of Tholens and an impressive Kreekrak lock. We cross the border into Belgium and cruise to the bustling port of Antwerpen. Antwerpen is the city of Rubens. After lunch, we tour Rubens’ home and take a stroll in the old quarter of this beautiful Flemish city. Dinner on board.
Wednesday, Day 4 - Antwerpen to Ghent
After breakfast, we catch the flood tide up the winding Sea Schelde, which takes us to the gorgeous town of Ghent. Here you may spend time to visit the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Bavo which houses “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, the famous 24-panel altarpiece by the Van Eyck brothers, or take a walk through this wonderful town at your leisure and explore the local boutiques. Dinner on board.
Thursday, Day 5 - Ghent to Bruges (road trip)
Today we spend the day moored in Ghent. Guests get to visit the beautiful little town of Bruges, known as the “Venice of the North”. You’ll have ample time to explore many museums, magnificent squares and perhaps buy some of the handmade lace. Perhaps take a boat trip on the small canals which meander through this picturesque town for a unique view of the Flemish architecture.
Friday, Day 6 - Ghent to Oudenaarde
This morning we have a beautiful, peaceful cruise on the Scheldt river into the Flemish Ardennes. We moor in Oudenaarde, renowned for its tapestries. After lunch, we visit the spectacular town center with its Gothic town hall, patrician houses, the Mou Museum with its magnificent tapestry displays, and the Brouweij Liefmans beer brewery.
Saturday, Day 7 - Oudenaarde to Tournai
There’s plenty of time to relax this morning as we cruise gently up the River Schelde past sleepy hamlets and beautiful rolling landscapes. We arrive at our mooring in Tournai, an ancient Belgian town and birthplace of Clovis I, founder of the Merovingian dynasty. Not to be missed are two UNESCO World Heritage sites: the Belfry of Tournai, the oldest and best preserved belfry in Belgium, and also the 12th-century Cathedral of Notre-Dame with its five solemn square towers. Dinner aboard.
Sunday, Day 8 - Tournai to Arleux
Today we cruise along the river and cross over the border into France. We travel through the town of Valenciennes and to the junction with the Canal du Nord, mooring in the village of Arleux. Many barges pass through this little French village on their way to the south of France. We will visit the town of Cambrai, home to the famous confectionary, the Betise de Cambrai. ‘Betise’ means nonsense or mistake. Legend goes that these mint candies were accidentally invented by the son of a confectioner. They make wonderful gifts. Another possibility is to visit the modern art Matisse Museum, or the lace museum, or perhaps a brewery. Dinner on board.
Monday, Day 9 - Arleux to overnight mooring
A day of contrasts awaits. This morning your captain will pilot Aurora over the Vermandois Hills of Picardy through many deep locks and several tunnels. While the captain works our way along on the Canal du Nord, you can enjoy the spectacular scenery from the deck or take a walk or cycle along the well-maintained towpath through this rural landscape. After lunch, we leave the countryside behind to visit the town of Amiens, known as “Venice of the North”. We visit the 13th-century Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Amiens, more simply known as the Amiens Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in France, with towering spires, magnificent columns and the tallest nave in France. Other possibilities are to visit recreated prehistoric dwellings or local artefacts in the Musee de Picardie. Dinner aboard.
Tuesday, Day 10 - Overnight mooring to Péronne
After yesterday's climb, today we will drop into the Valley of the Somme, revealing landscapes not normally seen by tourists. Again, there are great opportunities for walking and cycling. After lunch, we will visit the war museum dedicated to First World War history and set in the medieval Château de Péronne. Dinner aboard.
Wednesday, Day 11 - Péronne to Compiègne
Our cruise today brings us to the Oise River valley. We will moor in the busy waterside town of Compiègne. There is much to see, including the Royal Palace, a neoclassical château and royal residence lavishly redecorated at Napoleon’s request, a huge town square, and the train carriage where the WWI Armistice was signed to end the First World War. You may also wish to hike or bike in the gorgeous forest full of ponds and delightful hamlets. Dinner aboard.
Thursday, Day 12 - Compiègne to Auvers-sur-Oise
After breakfast, we continue our cruise through the beautiful Oise Valley. We will moor in Auvers-sur-Oise, where Van Gogh took his inspiration to produce many of his last and most important paintings. He lived in a small room above the local café. After an afternoon walking tour, you may be inspired, too. We'll finish the tour at the cemetery where both Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo are buried. Dinner on board.
Friday, Day 13 - Auvers-sur-Oise to Conflans
We continue our art theme today with an excursion to Giverny, to visit the home and gardens of Claude Monet, the most famous of the Impressionist painters. Stand by the Japanese bridge, gaze into the lily pond and discover Monet's many influences in this fascinating exhibition. Lunch is at a local auberge. We return to Aurora’s evening mooring at Conflans, a city at the junction of the River Seine and the Oise. Many bargees retire here, and you will see many house barges alongside the quays. Dinner aboard.
Saturday, Day 14 - Conflans to Paris
We slip away from Conflans at dawn to cruise along the mighty River Seine to Bouvigal, where we’ll visit the home of Napoleon at Malmaison, lavishly decorated by Josephine. We return to Aurora for lunch, then continue our journey to Paris, passing by the iconic Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral to moor in the heart of Paris. This evening, the romantic setting of Paris provides the perfect place to reflect on your time aboard Aurora.
Sunday, Day 15 - Paris
Enjoy a special hearty breakfast before bidding farewell to Aurora, her captain, and crew. After breakfast, guests are transferred by private chauffeured minibus to their specified drop-off point in Paris.
NOTE: This is a sample itinerary that may be subject to change depending on local conditions. The cruise runs in the reverse direction towards the end of the season in October, ending in Rotterdam.