France has around 8,000km of navigable inland waterways, much of which is on more intimate rivers and canals not accessible to larger craft. A company called Backwaters has come up with the original idea of exploring some of these backwater navigations, and commissioned a naval architect to design a special boat, in the style of a Dutch barge, that can carry 40 passengers at a gentle pace in style and comfort. The result is the Natalia, a 38-metre long vessel launched in 2018. She is very environmentally friendly, using a hybrid propulsion system, and can cruise for up to six hours on the electric engines. Natalia could be described as a floating lounge and has a single passenger deck with an outside viewing area forward which is ideal for photography. There are large picture windows to ensure that everyone has the best possible view. The boat has two toilets and its galley maintains a complimentary bar service whilst cruising. Lunch is served on board, with the emphasis on local dishes. For further information see www.backwaters.tours
Travel Insurance £34 pp
Day 1 - Wednesday
Taxi pick up from your home to the coach. We cross to Calais, either by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel, and then on to the port and old town of Boulogne-sur-Mer. There will be time for lunch and a visit to the fortified Old Town with its UNESCO World Heritage listed belfry. Later this afternoon re-join the coach to continue to our Hotel in the centre of Amiens. A three-course dinner (set menu) is included this evening.D
day 2 - Thursday
After breakfast we travel by coach to the Thiepval Memorial designed by Lutyens and unveiled by the Prince of Wales in 1932. The monument commemorates more than 72,000 British and South African soldiers who died on the Somme and have no known grave. It stands on high ground overlooking the Ancre River, dominating the landscape for miles around, and is the largest Commonwealth memorial to the missing in the world. We include admission to the Visitor Centre and Museum. Next we drive to Corbie to board barge Natalia. Lunch will be served on the boat, and we spend the afternoon enjoying a gentle and picturesque cruise to Amiens, and passing the Hortillonnages floating gardens that have been cultivated since the Middle Ages. Dinner is not included, providing the opportunity to dine out in one of the restaurants close to our Hotel.B, L
Day 3 - Friday
We will rejoin Natalia for a cruise of approximately 16km, this time heading west on the Somme from Amiens. Lunch is again included on board, and later we will travel back to Amiens by coach. There will be time to explore the City at your own pace. Amiens is known for its Gothic cathedral and nearby medieval belfry. Shops and cafés line the Quartier St.Leu's narrow streets. The Musée de Picardie houses art and antiquities spanning centuries, and the Maison de Jules Verne is a 19th century mansion where the science fiction author once lived. Dinner is not included this evening.B, L
Day 4 - Saturday
We head to St.Omer. The town has an elegant main square where a Saturday market is held. There will be time to explore and find lunch. Parts of the Old Town date back more than 300 years, and the majestic Church of Notre Dame looms over everything and is well worth a visit. Next stop is Calais, from where we cross back to the UK, arriving for early evening taxis.B
B=Breakfast, L=Lunch, D=Dinner
MERCURE HOTEL AMIENS CATHEDRALE
Situated opposite the biggest medieval cathedral in France, the four-star Mercure Hotel has spacious rooms with tea/coffee making facilities, free Wi-Fi and satellite TV. An excellent breakfast is included, with plenty of choice.
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