3 COUNTRY CRUISE
(HOLLAND, BELGIUM, FRANCE)
DAY 1: Rotterdam
Arrival from Amsterdam in the early afternoon (from the airport or respective hotel) to barge Aurora moored up in Schiedam. Introduction to the ship and the crew, settling in, welcome with champagne and petit fours/canape reception. Afternoon visit of Rotterdam with the most significant highlights of the city. Dinner onboard. Evening walk through old Schiedam harbor.
DAY 2: Rotterdam to Willemstad
Departure from Schiedam after breakfast (possibility to visit the ancient distillery of Ketel One, where one of the most prestigious vodkas in the world is made) – with a cruise through the busy port of Rotterdam onto Dordrecht – here guests get to spend the afternoon visiting the oldest town in the Netherlands. Aurora carries on across the Hollandse Diep, part of the Dutch estuaries, to the charming old fortress town of Willemstad for our evening mooring spot. Dinner on board.
Day 3: Willemstad to Antwerpen
Today, we will leave Holland (we pass the town of Tholens and an impressive Kreekrak lock) and 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 with the possibility to visit the Onze Lieve Vrouwenkerk cathedral, city hall, the main market square, and the medieval Steen Castle. Dinner on board.
Day 4: Antwerpen to Ghent
After breakfast, we can catch the flood tide up the winding “Sea Schelde”, which takes us to the gorgeous town of Ghent. Here you get to spend some time so that you can visit the magnificent cathedral which houses “The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb”, the fabulous and famous painting by the Van Eyck brothers, or take a walk through this wonderful town at your leisure and explore the local boutiques. The city of Ghent is proud of its rich past and its position at the junction of the Leie and Schelde rivers has ensured the town’s success as a trading port. Ghent is much more than just a museum town. This lively city with its numerous squares and cozy pubs is an excellent mixture of medieval edifices, stylish shopping streets, splendid mansions, working-class quarters from the beginning of the 20th century, and busy little squares where people eat out till the wee hours on a sultry summer night. Dinner on board.
Day 5: Ghent to Bruges (road transport)
This morning we will not cruise and spend another day moored up 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 maybe buy some of the handmade lace or take a boat trip on the small canals which meander through this picturesque town for a unique view of the Flemish architecture. Possible to visit the famous Belfry, Quay of the rosary, Hoistorium museum, Burg square or St. Boniface Bridge.
Day 6: Ghent to Oudenaarde
Beautiful peaceful sailing on the Scheldt river into the Flemish Ardennes and the lovable town of Oudenaarde renown for its tapestries. After the lunch we get to visit spectacular center of the town full of patrician houses with the Gothic townhall (one of the most beautiful in Flanders, with its UNESCO inscribed belfry), cloth hall Mou Museum with the tapestry display and the beer brewery Brouwerij Liefmans.
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 until our arrival at Tournai (also known as Doornik in Flemish), an ancient Belgian town and I birthplace of Clovis I (founder of the Merovingian dynasty). Not to be missed is the aged and fascinating clock tower/ belfry on the wonderful square and a magnificent Romanesque Gothic cathedral with its five solemn square towers (two world heritage sites). Tournai’s belfry dates from around 1188, making it the oldest belfry in Belgium. You can observe the big ships navigate through the gate of the old Watergate and also not to be missed is the famous “ Pont des Trous” (Bridge with holes) used to collect tolls on the rivers in the old times. In 1940 the entire town was destroyed in a German air raid but restoration has been very successful. Dinner aboard.
Day 8: Tournai to Arleux
Today we move further into France along the river through the town of Valenciennes and to the junction with the Canal du Nord. Many barges pass through the little French village of Arleux on there way to the south of France. We’ll take some time out to visit the town of Cambrai, home to the famous confectionary, the Betise de Cambrai sweet. ‘Betise’ means nonsense or mistake and legend goes that these sweets (mint candies) were invented by accident by the son of a confectioner named Afchain. They make a good gift! Possibility to visit modern art Matisse Museum / or a lace museum/ or a brewery. Dinner on board.
This is a very long cruising day, next 2 days also a bit tedious, not much cultural stuff happening around our cruising route so have to be a bit innovative 🙂
Day 9: Arleux to Peronne
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 on the Canal du Nord. This canal was constructed to replace the neighboring and smaller Canal St.Quentin built to transport coal from the mines strewn around the Picardy region. This is no mean feat, and the scenery is spectacular too! The well-maintained towpath invites you to walk or cycle along through the rural landscape.
After lunch, we leave the countryside behind to visit the town of Amiens “Venice of the North” to see one of the most impressive Gothic cathedrals in France, with towering spires, magnificent columns and the tallest nave in France. Possibility to visit recreated prehistoric dwellings or local artefacts in Musee de Picardie.
Day 10: Peronne to Noyon
After the climb yesterday, today we will drop down towards the Valley of the Somme, revealing landscapes not normally seen by tourists. Again, there are great opportunities for cycling. After breakfast, we will visit the war museum in Peronne dedicated to First World War history and set on the premises of the medieval castle. If there is a group interested in the history of the First World War (1914-1918) an extensive visit to the places connected to the era can be arranged. Afternoon cruise to our overnight destination. Dinner aboard.
Day 11: Noyon to Compiegne
Our cruise today brings us to the Oise River valley. We will moor in the busy waterside town of Compiegne. There is much to see here including the Royal Palace – a neoclassical chateau and a 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. Possibility to hike or bike in the gorgeous forest full of ponds and sweet hamlets. Dinner aboard.
Day 12: Compiegne to L’ Isle Adam
After breakfast, we continue our cruise through the beautiful Oise Valley. We will moor in charming little town L’Isle Adam. From here we take a visit to Auvers sur Oise, where Van Gogh took his inspiration to produce many of his last and most important paintings. He stayed in a small room above the local café. An afternoon walking tour may inspire you too and will include all the highlights such as the Van Gogh house, the Absinthe museum, the Atelier of Daubigny, and more! We’ll finish the tour at the cemetery where both Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo are buried. Dinner on board.
Day 13: L‘ Isle Adam to Conflans
We continue our arty theme today with a day 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 his many influences in the fascinating exhibition in the house. We will lunch in a local auberge today.The barge Aurora will be moored at Conflans this evening, at the junction of the River Seine and the Oise. Many bargees retire here, and you will see numerous house barges alongside the quays. Dinner aboard.
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. Lunch on board and then we continue our cruise to Paris, past the iconic Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame cathedral to moor in the heart of Paris.
This evening, spent in such a romantic setting provides the perfect time to look back over your time onboard Aurora.
Day 15: Paris
Enjoy a special hearty breakfast before bidding farewell to Aurora, her Captain and the crew. Bags are loaded after breakfast to transfer you to your drop off point in Paris.
Please note: This is a sample itinerary that may be subject to change depending on local conditions; The cruise is run in reverse towards the end of the season in October, ending in Rotterdam.