Medieval France and the Romance of Fontainebleau

A hotel barge cruise along the Seine and Yonne rivers

Trip Scholar: Dr Rowena Archer

Lecturer in Medieval History, University of Oxford
Available to Alumni of Oxford and Cambridge, family and friends

7 day tour
Price from £2,745

Tour date: 3-9 October 2023

Join medieval historian Dr Rowena Archer on this amended hotel barge itinerary, cruising along the Seine and Yonne rivers from Paris to the edge of Burgundy, amidst countryside dotted with a charming collection of significant medieval towns and villages. You’ll float through the famous forest of Fontainebleau—once the hunting grounds for French royalty and a natural inspiration for many artists. Travel back in time at the 13th century Château de Dourdan and magnificent Fontainebleau castle, home to every French king for 800 years, whose décor changed the direction of French art. You’ll fall in love with Barbizon, the timeless painters’ village, and visit several little-known medieval gems such as the churches of Etampes and charming Moret-sur-Loing, with its winding streets lined with timber-framed houses. A highlight will be the architectural wonders of Provins—a UNESCO World Heritage listed fortified town packed with medieval delights within its 12th century ramparts, and the magnificent cathedral at Sens, the first to have been built in the Gothic style and filled with medieval treasures both architectural and ecclesiastic.

Note: This Seine and Yonne itinerary is a change from the originally advertised Medieval Loire barge cruise. Due to low water levels in the Loire the French government has decreed that hotel barges are no longer permitted to cruise there.

Tour highlights

  • Cruise through picturesque countryside within easy reach of Paris and the Eurostar from London.
  • Discover the half-timbered houses and superb cathedral at Sens, considered the first to be built in the Gothic style in Europe and the inspiration for Canterbury Cathedral.
  • Explore the UNESCO listed town of Provins, famous for its exceptional number of well-preserved medieval monuments, including fortified ramparts and 13th century homes.
  • Marvel at the staggeringly beatiful Palace of Fontainbleau, home to over 800 years of French royalty and whose sumptuous Italianate decor and archicture changed the direction of French art.
  • Travel aboard exclusively chartered stylish hotel barge Deborah, with just 11 ensuite cabins with picture windows.
  • Sample local delicacies including the famous rose honey in Provins, and enjoy a Cremant tasting at the Bourgogne’s premier cellar.
  • Your choice of relaxing or active: bicycles carried on board for cycling along the towpath.



Itinerary at a glance

Day 1:    Tour starts in Paris at the Gare du Nord   |  Visit Conciergerie and Sainte Chapelle  |  Eurostar tickets available departing 09:31 arriving 12: 47
Day 2:    Cruise on the Seine towards Evry |  Visit 17th century Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte 
Day 3:    Visit the 13th century Château de Dourdan   |  Medieval churches of Etampes  |  Quaint artist’s village of Barbizon |  Moor in Melun
Day 4:    Relaxing cruise to Moret-sur-Loing  |  Afternoon visit to Palace of Fontainebleau
Day 5:    Optional walking visit to Moret-sur-Loing with its medieval gates  |  Cruise towards Montereau-Fault-Yonne  |  Afternoon walking tour of medieval Provins  |  Rose honey tasting
Day 6:    Morning cruise to Sens  |  Walking tour of Sens including Sens Cathedral and treasury   |  Farewell dinner
Day 7:    Tour ends after breakfast  |  Coach transfer to Paris  |  Optional Eurostar to London at 15:13

Click ‘expand all’ below to see the full day by day itinerary and links to the accommodation for each night of this tour.

A printer-friendly PDF version of the itinerary can be found by clicking here.

Dates and Prices
Prices are in UK£, per person, based on double occupancy

3-9 October 2023
Cabin ClassPriceSingle SupplementOptional train London- ParisAvailability
Standard£2,745On request£100-200 return4 cabins

Share of twin cabin with private bathroom, full board (except on the arrival day when only dinner is included, and on the departure day when the tour ends after breakfast), red and white wines with lunch and dinner, group road transfers to/from Paris to coordinate with our recommended Eurostar train timings, all excursions mentioned with local guides including entrance fees, expert leader.

Travel from the UK to and from Paris (optional Eurostar train available for around £100-£200 per person return), drinks other than those served with meals, transfers to the barge if arriving independently, travel insurance, tips to crew and guides, items of a personal nature.

Optional Eurostar train tickets
Temple World can arrange the Eurostar train from London to coordinate with this tour, subject to a minimum of 10 people booking this. The cost of tickets start at £100 per person. When available, we will hold seats on the 09.31 departure from London St Pancras. The return train is likely to be the 15.13.  A group transfer from Paris Gare du Nord station to and from the barge is included in the tour price but to take advantage as this you must arrive/depart at the specified time.

Booking your own travel
Clients who would like to travel on different days/times, or who wish to travel from a city other than London are advised to book their own transport, although if travelling out with the main group we can often book a different return date at the same fare. The start and end point for the tour is PARIS GARE DU NORD STATION if taking the group transfer, otherwise guests are welcome to make their own way to Nevers and back from Briare – detailed directions will be given as to the mooring point of the barge.

If making your own way to Briare, you can arrive at any time of day on 3 October but check-in at the barge is not normally until 5pm as the crew need to rest and re-provision the barge after its previous charter. There are no activities on the first day until dinner, which is likely to be at around 8pm.

On the last day (9 October) we will leave the barge after breakfast – those who do not need a transfer to Paris must vacate the barge by 9am. Those with earlier flights/trains are welcome to leave earlier if need be.

Very Important! Clients should not make any binding or non-refundable travel arrangements until their place has been confirmed on the tour and Temple World has confirmed that it is a guaranteed departure.



No vaccinations are usually recommended for travel to France,  as long as travellers are up to date with routine vaccination courses and boosters as recommended in the UK. These vaccinations include for example measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine and diphtheria-tetanus-polio vaccine. See your GP or travel health professional at least 4-6 weeks before travel for advice tailored to your personal requirements.


Entry Regulations
If your passport describes you as a British Citizen you won’t need a visa to enter France if staying under 3 months. If you have another type of British nationality, you should check the current entry requirements on the website of the French Foreign Ministry.
Foreign Office Advice

Fitness Guideline

We have graded the fitness level required for participation in this tour as Easy/Moderate. This is a relaxed itinerary, though for those who wish to be more active there are opportunities to walk and cycle. There are no strenuous hikes but whilst sightseeing we might be ‘on the go’ for several hours at a time, without breaks to sit down and rest. It is important that everyone is able to keep up with the group.
Full fitness profile of the tour

Trip Scholar
Dr Rowena E Archer
Medieval historian Dr Rowena E. Archer is a Fellow and lecturer at Brasenose College and lecturer at Christ Church. Her initial research focused on the Late Medieval English Nobility during the Hundred Years War with France but she was soon drawn towards the experiences of women. She has now published on a wide variety of aspects of women’s lives making particular use of the work of the late fourteenth century Franco-Italian writer Christine de Pisan, and is currently starting a study on the impact of the Anglo-French wars on women. She has a particular interest in Henry V and Agincourt. She teaches French History from 1000 – 1500 and runs a specialist course on Joan of Arc (born in Lorraine) and her Age, 1419-1435. She is Director of the long running Medieval Studies Programme for the Cambridge International Summer Schools and regularly teaches at Madingley Hall. She travels to France at least twice a year, partly for work and partly for pleasure.

Lectures during our tours
All our tours are accompanied by an academic ‘trip scholar’ as well as local guides. The local guide or guides provide the day-to-day guiding on our tours, whilst the trip lecturer will give regular lectures on his/her specialist subject throughout to provide an academic overview. Lectures/talks usually last 30-40 minutes including questions and answers (if applicable). These are generally held in the evenings before dinner and attendance is optional. We don’t usually specify before travel which days the lectures will be given (for operational reasons) but guests can expect them roughly every other day as a minimum, with some lecturers giving some kind of talk or presentation more frequently.

Extensions in Paris

We recommend a three-night extension to glorious Paris after your tour. Our top hotel recommendations are the Sydney Opera (Paris), for value in a great location and the Balzac, a boutique four star deluxe property in a quiet street close to the Arc de Triomphe. For unparalleled luxury we recommend one of Paris’ opulent ‘palace’ hotels, Le Meurice, the Plaza Athenée or the Four Seasons George V.  Please ask us for a quote.

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    A lovely touch was the boat trip where [our guide] led us past boats crowded with tourists to our own private boat with waiter service. This was typical of the attention to detail paid by Temple World beforehand and by the Tour Manager and Tour Guide on the ground. Glyn

    Congenial Companions

    Our small group tours are exclusively available to alumni of Oxford and Cambridge universities and their friends and family, making for a wonderful atmosphere amongst like-minded individuals.

    Expert Lecturer

    All our small group alumni tours are accompanied by a university lecturer as well as local guides, with illuminating lectures given throughout the tour to enrich understanding of the destination.

    To reserve a place on one of our small group alumni tours, contact us for availability then send us a signed booking form and deposit.

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