On déjà vu and redistributing the Poissons d’Avril.

Now follow carefully because something amazing is happening in Burgundy on April 1st, a date which most of us think of as April Fool’s day but which the French know as Poisson D’Avril. Interesting word ‘poisson’ which of course means fish. Interesting name Poisson, as in Siméon Poisson the great French mathematician who invented the Poisson distribution.

April Fools' Day

What’s French for April Fools’ Day?

Now it’s important to realise that, whilst the context of this blog is all about the wonderful waterways of France, the Poisson distribution has nothing to do with the whereabouts of fish. Not even on April 1st when the distribution of paper fish is largely on people’s backs as French children go around trying to make fools of their friends and family.

Mais non, the Poisson distribution is a statistical prediction all to do with the probability of a given number of events occurring within a fixed time or space, and whether they occur with a known average rate or independently.

But even the great Siméon would have been fooled by what’s just happened, an event that must go down as one of unpredictable magnitude.

So here’s the thing – Le Papillon has gone full circle. Metaphorically that is as, if you’ve ever had the pleasure of cruising on her, you’ll know she has a turning circle only a little smaller than a baby Boeing.Papillon-FB-image-768x514We could tell you that she has at last left the stewardship of Bill and Jenny Higgs and that a new crew is at the helm. The thing is that would be making a poisson of you because the new crew at the helm is in fact an old team on the block, assembled by the man who lovingly rescued and restored her back in the 1980s. The hotel barge Le Papillon has returned to the hands that nurtured her.

It’s a multi-national British / French / American team that includes a chef who has made several trans-Atlantic crossings cooking on yachts, travel guru Rick Steve’s leading tour guide in France and marketing experts based in the States. She will remain the cherished and beautiful historic boat that she is, ‘The Butterfly’ firmly back in the business of ‘transporting people into another world’.

As a member of the new/old team made the point that there was definitely nothing fishy about their decision, saying: ‘quite simply we would have been foolish to pass up on the chance of looking after such a fabulous craft.’download

The French have a saying ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose’ – which roughly translates to ‘the more things change, the more they stay the same’.

Siméon Poisson would have known a thing or two about that – and in this case the Poisson redistribution of Le Papillon would seem to be around once in every 30 or so years. We wonder if he ever sailed in her?


Travel Legend Rick Steves talks about Le Papillon

“Heartfelt thanks for transporting us, yet again, so caringly into another world”

Sir Alan Ayckbourn

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Your Burgundy canal vacation starts here…

‘Le Papillon’ or ‘The Butterfly’ is an authentic vintage barge launched over a century ago in 1902. During her commercial life she proudly steamed the waterways of northern Europe and carried cargo along the Rhine and Meuse rivers.

In 1980 she was rescued by two designers from New York and skilfully converted into the elegant ‘péniche-hôtel’ that today graces the Burgundy canal.
With her oak and teak furnishings, provincial handmade tiles, brass portholes and printed wall paper, Le Papillon has such character and charm that passengers find themselves wanting to return year after year.

She sleeps only six, in three cabins – one double and two twins. Each cabin has en-suite facilities with air conditioning and central heating. Every one of the large portholes can be opened so your floating home is always filled with air and light.


The living quarters are spacious and well appointed. Her traditional dining room provides the perfect ambience to sample all the essential flavours of Burgundy from the chef’s galley. The comfortable saloon is complete with an eclectic library and stereo system. Naturally the bar is stocked with the finest vintage wines the Burgundian vineyards have to offer.

Your crew provide an impeccable and attentive service and will make your stay aboard Le Papillon the trip of a lifetime. Together, they are a wealth of information about France and are passionate about sharing its culture, cuisine and wine.

If you’re looking for a luxury Burgundy canal vacation Le Papillon really is the only way to travel.

See more of the Le Papillon – click to for a full view.

Cruise through Burgundy with a double bed cabin onboard LePapillon
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“Burgundy, like much of France, is laced with canals just made for spending lazy afternoons gliding by pastoral scenes”

Rick Steves


Share our passion for Burgundy Cuisine

Food is one of Burgundy’s greatest passions (the other, quite naturally, is wine). From our point of view that means the galley is the beating heart of Le Papillon.

Our Chef de Cuisine takes great pride in ensuring your dining experience on board will not only be a feast of the senses but also support our local farmers and growers. We focus on organic and artisan products, and our menus are created according to what’s seasonally available. We take the time and attentiveness to select ingredients at markets, directly from producers, and often from the lock-keepers who supply us with eggs, cheese or a basket of ‘trompette’ mushrooms.

We’re also great foragers – so much in fashion today – so we follow the seasons along the banks and fields and, depending on what time of the year it is, we’ll serve you fresh elderberry cordial, wild asparagus, black berry jelly or warm walnut tart. Feel free to join on us on any of our culinary excursions into the hedgerows!

We can’t not mention French bread. Of course you can buy ‘French bread’ the world over but only when you buy from the village boulangerie will you get a real ‘baguette’ or ‘ficelle’. Legend dictates that the baguette was invented by Napoleon for his soldiers – they were given one every morning and it was long and thin so they could carry it in a special pocket in their trousers.

When it comes to mealtime you can either enjoy our gourmet cuisine in the formal dining room or on the front deck. On a balmy summer evening why not eat outside by candlelight and watch for shooting stars?

Be sure to let us know if there is a traditional dish you have always wanted to try or, if you have any dietary requests, we are always happy to try and accommodate your needs.

Click to see menus.

Get up close with Burgundian cuisine – click for a full view.

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“We loved the way the cruise was set up. We could stay on the barge and float through the locks and countryside, get out and walk the towpaths, bicycle into the next town, or take the tours Stefan offered every day.

Fall is here and I bet the trees are beginning to turn along the canals. Sigh!!!”

Donna and William Farrior


Discover the wines of Burgundy

For a big Department Burgundy is rather off the beaten track. These days it’s the sort of place people drive through to get somewhere else. It wasn’t always so and has a phenomenal place in French and European history as a centre of power and politics, the golden period being 1364 to 1477 when the powerful Dukes of Burgundy challenged the might of France itself.

Naturally we can’t exactly have a cellar on a barge, but we take enormous pride in the wine we serve on Le Papillon and we lovingly store every bottle in our own cellar on land. We buy an enormous variety of wine, mostly top quality red and white Burgundies, which we will match to every meal and serve you throughout your stay with us.

We have our personally ‘quaffing house wine’ in the bar for everyday drinking in the saloon or on deck but when it comes to meal times we pride ourselves on the fact that we will never offer you the same wine twice. Quite simply there is such an amazing variety of incredible wine in Burgundy we don’t need to. Our list includes:

  • Brilliant, big and buttery fill-your-mouth-with-flavor chilled Burgundian chardonnays of classic proportions and delight
  • Sumptuous and stunning properly grown-up red Burgundy Pinot Noirs from some of the very best villages and producers of the area
  • The odd slightly off-piste Burgundian delights that we’ve discovered on our travels

We do serve wines other than Burgundy, in particular our very favourite champagne which we always have chilling in the bar for everyday drinking. Well, life’s too short not to isn’t it? We never forget what Madame Lily Bollinger famously said of champagne:

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company, I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise, I never touch it. Unless, that is, I’m thirsty.”

As you’d expect we’ve searched high and low throughout the Champagne area, and tirelessly put our palates to the test with dozens of different marques (bet you wished you’d been with us). Of course we never stop trying to find something better – which is great fun – but we keep on coming back to a little hideaway village called Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and where you find the house of Delamotte 

It never fails to delight although if you have a birthday or anniversary when you’re on board let us know and we’ll find something even more elegant for the occasion.

Finally we’ll also offer you wines from Beaujolais, the Alsace, the Cote du Rhone and Macon. Best of all we’re always finding new winemakers and new wines to add. A week on Le Papillon is a veritable masterclass in great wines.

Get up close with the wines of Burgundy – click for full view.

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“Fantastic week! The best way to relax, view the French countryside, and enjoy first class good and wine! Cedric, Jim, Carlene, Abigail-great team! Merci!”

Shelia Klein


Vacation in Burgundy – a hidden treasure

For a big Department Burgundy is rather off the beaten track. These days it’s the sort of place people drive through to get somewhere else. It wasn’t always so and has a phenomenal place in French and European history as a centre of power and politics, the golden period being 1364 to 1477 when the powerful Dukes of Burgundy challenged the might of France itself.

There were four Dukes of Burgundy in these golden years between 1364 and 1477, known rather grandly as Philip the Bold, John the Fearless, Philip the Good and Charles the Bold. Each married well, so increasing the Duchy’s cross-border land and power. On one hand these years were typified by assassinations, inter-marriage, illegitimate children, treachery and back-hand dealings. On the other there was the pageantry of the magnificent ducal court with its art, music, jewellery and wealth of the dynasty brought by the Flanders acquisitions during successive generations.

The wealth of Burgundy continued through history, in large part because of the quality of the wines of the region, much sought after throughout France and far abroad. This is rich and fertile land and in large part the Burgundy Canal that we cruise today was built to carry the wine and other produce to Paris and beyond.

Construction of the canal began in 1775 and was completed in 1832 the finished waterway connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea via the Seine and the Yonne to the Saône and Rhône.
There are two river entrances for the canal: to the north the Yonne River allows access in the town of Migennes, and in the south the Saône allows access in the town Saint-Jean-de-Losne. Every mile of the way you are cruising a little bit of history.

Burgundy by Water

We usually cruise between 4-5 hours a day. It’s not about covering great distances but experiencing a different pace of life. As we weave through some of France’s most idyllic landscapes, you can either enjoy the scenery reclining on the front deck or take a stroll between locks. But don’t forget, everything stops for lunch!

The unique part of living on a barge is that every day you will experience a different location. The moorings we choose are always picturesque. Along the waters’ edge, trees overhang, herons watch and fishermen wait for their catch. Our years on the boat have taught us that there is nothing more calming for the spirit or restorative on the soul than a week of losing yourself along these old highways, now the quiet backwaters of France.

Once the boat is moored, your guide will take you on a visit according to your interests. Flexibility is something that we take great pride in, so if there is a wine you have always wanted to taste or a village you have dreamt of visiting, we will do our very best to get you there.
However, this is France at your own pace. If you feel like relaxing on the front deck with a book or taking a bicycle to explore the surrounding countryside, it’s always up to you. The crew will be sure that you don’t miss any sights that are truly special.

Burgundy by Land

We make sure that whenever and wherever we moor you have a choice of things to do and see. There are several advantages of being on the waterways. In the first place we’re generally off the beaten track in rural France so you’re always deep in the heart old-world villages and towns most people pass by. Secondly the flat and level tow paths make fantastic cycle-ways and we’re always amazed how many guests rediscover their ‘bike-legs’ on the bicycles we keep on board.

For journeys to places further from the water we have a minibus. At most places we stop we have excursions we can suggest but we’re equally happy to let you choose. If there’s somewhere along the route you’ve always wanted to see, or a wine you’ve always wanted to taste, we’ll make sure you don’t miss out. You can use the crew’s local knowledge or follow your own personal agenda.

We never forget this is your vacation. So we don’t really have any set itineraries – we can discuss where you want to go and what you want to see before you arrive.

We’re so flexible it’s almost tempting to say we ‘go with the flow’. The only problem of course is that canals don’t really flow!

Burgundy by Hot Air Balloon

Being a long way from the ocean Burgundy is blessed by wonderful blue skies throughout the summer months. We do get the occasional thunder storm, but what would life be without a bit of drama? They clear the air too.

The brilliant thing is that the cool air of the mornings and evenings make for stunning hot air ballooning across spectacular countryside. Even confirmed water rats like us agree that there is no better way to enjoy the patchwork of fields and vineyards and woodlands and villages than from on high.

Over the past seasons we’ve made great ‘ballon buddies’ with David who operates France Montgolfieres in Burgundy. Most weeks he has a slot reserved for us – it’s one of the highlights of the vacation.

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“Fantastic week! The best way to relax, view the French countryside, and enjoy first class good and wine! Cedric, Jim, Carlene, Abigail-great team! Merci!”

Shelia Klein


Which way will you explore brilliant Burgundy?

2017 sees us firmly rooted into the waterways and hills of Burgundy with a choice of 3 idyllic cruises for your delectation. Of course this is totally your vacation so, whilst these itineraries are the tried and tested to delight, Le Papillon is yours to command – if there is somewhere you have always wanted to see, or a vineyard you have always wanted to visit, just let us know. We love discovering new places.

Because of that we don’t want to constrict your choice by doing set cruises on set dates. We also don’t need to cruise ‘Saturday to Saturday’ – just like everything on board Le Papillon life is totally flexible. When you contact us to make a reservation we’ll spend some time talking about what you want to get out of your luxury Burgundy vacation and custom-make your own itinerary.

In terms of joining up with Le Papillon we can either meet you in Paris and transfer you to the waterways, or collect you from the TGV fast train in Dijon

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Six Night Classic Burgundy

An unforgettable journey through the Burgundy countryside on the Canal de Bourgogne complete with historic castles, traditional wine making villages and fabulous food markets. Stroll or cycle through the rolling hills that surround the canal de Bourgogne and become enchanted by one of the most beautiful regions of France. Dijon, Beaune and the wines of the Côte D’Or are just a few of the highlights of the voyage. It’s a romance of medieval proportions.

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An Intense Taste of Burgundy

A four night adventure on the Canal de Bourgogne that offers the chance to explore the Ouche valley with its quaint villages, fairy-tale views and exquisite boutique vineyards. Beginning at Pont de Pany and finishing at Escommes the itinerary is totally focussed on the food and wine passions of the region and includes farmers’ markets with the local cuisine, wines and cheeses that define the true taste of brilliant Burgundy. Read the detailed itinerary and we guarantee your mouth will start to water in anticipation.

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Biking through Burgundy (6 nights)

This brand new tour is the result of extensive research and planning by Brits Tim Wilcox and Bill Higgs, who have both worked in Burgundy tourism for over 20 years. The concept is quite simply to add the magic of barging to road biking by combining the very best bikes available with expert local knowledge and technical support plus the experience of the longest established barging company in France. No more packing bags and moving on every day of your road trip, instead your own exclusive hotel, Le Papillon, will cruise along side you for the entire trip.

All Biking through Burgundy routes are in the department of the Côte dʼOr to the west of Dijon and north of Beaune. During the tour Papillon will cruise from Pont de Pany near Dijon to Marigny-le-Cahouet near Montbard. This really is a rare opportunity to combine a serious bike tour with an authentic barge cruise, making you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury. Each day, when the pedalling is over, what better way to relax than with a book, on deck, sipping a glass of Burgundy wine as you cruise the waterways of France?

The physical challenge

Tim is a life-long naturalist and bird enthusiast with an unparalleled knowledge of the cycle routes of Burgundy. He will bring alive the rich natural heritage of the region and help you explore parts of the Côte dʼOr so many visitors never see. This does mean negotiating the undulating countryside as we hop valleys and climb hills, but each significant climb has been graded based on the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) criteria for road racing with category 5 the easiest and 1 the toughest.

The Bikes

We use very comfortable lightweight (25 lb) hybrid bikes with an aluminum frame and a 27-speed Shimano Deore LX equipped groupset – ideal for road riding whilst giving us the flexibility to cycle through vineyards and short sections off-road on gravel paths. You are welcome to bring your own pedals and shoes if you are more comfortable with a clipless pedal system.

Each day, we aim to bike about 40 km (25 miles), but will also propose one challenging 100km day. The support vehicle will always be nearby providing refreshments en route, plus the chance to return and cruise with Le Papillon in the glorious Ouche valley west of Dijon. You have 27 gears on our hybrid bikes, so the plan is to choose a comfortable gear, adopt a relaxed cadence and enjoy the views!

Specialist road bikes (optional extra)

We also offer an itinerary for specialist road riding enthusiasts using Cannondale carbon-frame road bikes equipped with Shimano 105 groupsets. The itinerary will be similar, but we keep to metal roads and will do on average an extra 10 miles per day. For these bikes, you will need to bring along your own pedals and shoes.

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For enquiries or booking requests please email us using the contact form below. We will reply as quickly as possible, always within 24 hours. If your query is urgent please send a text message to +33 6 86 28 11 55.

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Le Papillon Tivauche-Le-Haut
21460 Corsaint France
+ 33 6 86 28 11 55

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