It’s that time of year again! With Christmas fast approaching, lots of us are frantically looking for gift ideas. If your list of people you’re buying for includes a fan of France, a discerning foodie, a wine connoisseur or someone with an itch for some wanderlust in 2019, read on. Our definitive 2018 Christmas Gift Guide for lovers of France comes with lots of inspiration for presents that they’ll all thank you for this year.

Wine as French Christmas gifts

No Christmas Gift Guide for lovers of France would be complete without a nod to the vin. Who doesn’t love opening a parcel and discovering a bottle of bubbly (the real stuff, from Champagne)? Or unwrapping the paper to find just the right carafe for decanting a Bordeaux? Or a visit to a vineyard? With French winos in mind, here are our ideas for the gift they’ve always wanted….

1. The perfect wine

France produces almost 3,000 different types of wine so buying the perfect French tipple is always going to be a challenge. But to make things a little easier, Vinatis does the hard work for you. Their website lists French wine by region, type, grape variety, style, award, price… So you can narrow the choice down even for the most discerning wine drinker. There are also seasonal offers and a special Christmas gift shop. Salut!

2. Ze perfect wine gadget

Easy and light wine storage comes in the ZEbag that can transform into a wine carrier or display on the back of a door. The internal padding ensures nothing gets broken as you carry it around. It takes up to six bottles – or fewer with some glasses – and even keeps wine cool for up to two hours. Buy it here.

3. The perfect wine experience

Combining great travel with some of the country’s best wine would surely make the ultimate French Christmas gift. This luxury hotel barge cruise on board the Saint Louis ticks all the boxes – stateroom suite accommodation, stunning countryside in Aquitaine and your own private wine tours. Go on, treat them!

4. The perfect wine read

It’s the world’s most famous wine area and home to thousands of vineyards, so compiling a book that includes them all is some feat. But wine expert Stephen Brook’s The Complete Bordeaux does just that. This lovely coffee table edition covers all the communes and appellations, describes the different Bordeaux wine making styles, and gives you a vintage lowdown for the last four decades no less. Buy it here.

French food gifts for Christmas

Their tables will probably be laden, but there’s always room for an extra dish. Or an accessory to help you eat it. And failing that, how about giving them the ultimate foodie experience? Or the book to read about it? Read on for our French Christmas Gift Guide for foodies.

1. The perfect food

  • Likes cheese? Tick.
  • Loves terrines? Tick.
  • Adores fois gras? Tick.
  • Would do anything for a saucisson? Tick.

Then the perfect gift has to be a hamper of French food goodies. Bien manger does hampers and baskets to a ‘T’ from custom made feasts to your own selection via all the foodie regions in France.

2. The perfect food gadget

The answer for the seafood lover – and in France that means oysters, Saint Jacques, mussels, crabs, lobsters… comes in these handy gadgets for dealing with those hard shells, sharp pincers and wafer-thin openings. All the tools you need to crack open and enjoy the most delicious French seafood. And best of all, the sets are portable. Buy one here.

3. The perfect food experience

Chef Alain Ducasse holds the most Michelin stars in France and his restaurant Plaza Athenée in Paris boasts the prized triple accolade. Gift the experience of French cooking at its finest with a dining experience at one of the Ducasse-run venues. From breakfast, to tasting menus with other meals in between, this foodie feast will be a present to remember.

4. The perfect food read

For the best of French food throughout the year, how about Taste of France, the new magazine, produced and published by France Today? Featuring reviews of the best foodie destinations and restaurants, a round-up of culinary festivals and recipes by gastro legends such as Michel Roux and Clotilde Dusoulier, the new publication will set any French gourmet’s tastebuds going every quarter.

France as a Christmas gift

And lastly on our round-up of great French Christmas gifts we come to France itself. The world’s favourite holiday destination makes a great present in itself. Whether you’re gifting a holiday, a travel accessory or a book for inspiration, la France will definitely be a festive present to remember.

1. The perfect trip accessory

We might all have Google Maps on our phone, but it doesn’t beat the thrill of plotting your own route on a real paper map. Or the excitement of planning where you might go on your holiday. Michelin maps are something of an institution in France and certainly the best when it comes to finding your way round with a good old-fashioned map. Give them one of the whole country (red), a regional map (orange), a local one (yellow) or simply a wall map of la belle France.

2. The perfect French travel read

Put together Paris, a canine vagabond, a lost puppy and some delightful illustrations of the City of Light and you have Hudson and the Puppy: Lost in Paris. This is the latest in the Paris-Chien Adventures by American artist and writer Jackie Clark Mancuso who took her inspiration from her own experience of finding it hard to communicate with Parisians. All her books tackle situations that children often face and look at a way round them using the friendly Hudson as a guide. Kids will love the dogs and the little French dictionary while adults will adore the illustrations. Buy it here.

3. The perfect French trip

And last but not least, we come to the gift of a trip to France itself. At French Waterways, we offer a wealth of ways of exploring the country via its vast network of rivers and canals that crisscross one stunning landscape after another.

Whether you fancy a luxury barge cruise or prefer a hands-on self-drive holiday on your own hire boat. Whether you’re travelling as a couple, family or group. Whether you want to discover the north, the south, centre, east or west, we have the perfect boating holiday you can give as a gift.

Take a look around our website, choose the one to suit and then ‘wrap it up’ for the lucky recipient to enjoy in 2019. Definitely a gift to remember and forever!

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It’s that time of year again! With Christmas fast approaching, lots of us are frantically looking for gift ideas. If your list of people you’re buying for includes a fan of France, a discerning foodie, a wine connoisseur or someone with an itch for some wanderlust in 2019, read on. Our definitive 2018 Christmas Gift Guide for lovers of France comes with lots of inspiration for presents that they’ll all thank you for this year.

10 reasons to visit Reims in Champagne, FranceThe capital of Champagne country, a UNESCO world heritage site and a stunningly attractive city, Reims comes with lots of must-sees and dos. Its compact size makes it an easy side trip while you’re on a luxury barge cruise on the River Marne. And of course, you can sample that delicious bubbly! To help you make the most of your time, we’ve put together ten suggestions of things to do and see in the city, all of which provide compelling reasons to visit Reims.

Reims comes with two UNESCO stamps

In 1991, Reims received UNESCO recognition for three monuments – the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Palace du Tau and Saint Rémi Abbey. All are fine examples of different architectural styles (see below for more details).

In 2015, the trio was joined by another Reims classic, the Champagne landscapes. Mile after mile of vineyards, stretching as far as the eye can see, and producing the world’s most famous fizz.

Did you know? The 30,000 hectares that make up Champagne are home to 5,000 independent producers and 320 crus. Find out more about Champagne.

Reims does royalty with a capital R

Until it became a republic in 1870 France had run up a long list of monarchs. Of all the French cities, Reims lays claim to perhaps the most pomp and circumstance. Historians can’t quite agree on the exact number of French kings crowned in Reims, but general consensus puts the coronation ceremonies at around 30 between 1223 and 1825.

Did you know? You can soak up the right royal atmosphere in the Cathedral and Saint Rémi Abbey (see below).

Reims boasts some truly fine monuments

One of the most compelling reasons to visit Reims comes in the city’s monuments. Include on your must-visit list the UNESCO heritage trio:

Notre Dame Cathedral

One of the largest Gothic cathedrals in France, the 13th century building has a number of highlights. Don’t miss the crowded façade, packed with sculpted figures (2,303 no less) including the world famous L’Ange au Sourire (Smiling Angel), which was crafted in the 13th century and decapitated by German war damage in the First World War. Then there are the stained glass windows including the Great Rose and those bearing Chagall’s signature. Spot Joan of Arc in full armour inside and outside the Cathedral. Or a climb up the 250 steps to the top of the tower (open April to October) to view Reims below you and the Champagne vineyards beyond.

Did you know? You can snap the best photos of Reims Cathedral from Cour Anatole France, behind the monument.

Saint Rémi Abbey

Consisting of two parts – Basilica and Museum – a visit to the city’s patron saint’s abbey gives you the chance to see the saint’s tomb. While you’re there take in Flemish tapestries depicting his life, fine 12th century stained glass, plenty of local history, a range of military collections plus the Holy Ampulla used to anoint the kings during their coronation.

Did you know? Joan of Arc attended the coronation of Charles VII at Reims Cathedral in 1429.

Palace du Tau

One of the area’s finest Neoclassical buildings, the Palace was once home to the archbishop of Reims as well as the royal residence during coronations. Its banqueting hall is, of course, fit for kings and you can also see a wealth of Cathedral treasures including Saint Rémi’s gold and bejewelled chalice.

Did you know? The Palace gets its name from its T-shape – Tau is Greek for the letter T.

Reims goes back to the Romans

Like so many French cities, Reims has deep roots and in this case, they go back to the Romans. Few signs of the Roman Empire’s time remain but you shouldn’t miss the Porte de Mars. Built in 200AD, the arch spans 33 metres and ranks as the longest Roman triumphal arch in the world. One of the four original gates to the city, Porte de Mars is exquisitely decorated with sculptures of mythological figures. At the time of writing it is currently under restoration. Expect to see it revealed in full glory in 2019.

Did you know? You can also see impressive Roman ruins in the kitchens at Saint Rémi Abbey museum.

Reims does art

For a small city, Reims boasts an impressive array of art. The Musée des Beaux-Arts covers the main trends in European art from the 16th century to the present day and works include paintings by Poussin, Delacroix and Monet. But the real highlights (and the real arty reasons to visit Reims) are the famous The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David – one of the four versions of the macabre scene takes pride of place in the museum – and the world’s second largest collection of Corot paintings.

Lovers of art deco shouldn’t miss the Bibliothèque Carnegie, a literary and architectural gem. Its shelves and archives come packed with medieval manuscripts and incunabula (books printed prior to 1501). But art deco enthusiasts will be feasting their eyes on the mosaics, chandelier in the entrance hall and (more) stained glass.

Did you know? Reims was one of four cities to receive funding from the philanthropist André Carnegie for a library after the city was badly damaged during the First World War.

Reims is the capital of bubbly

Reims stands tall as the capital of the world’s most famous fizz. Several renowned champagne houses have their seat in the city – think Mumm, Ruinart, Tattinger, Veuve Clicquot… You can visit them and their cellars and crayères (man made chalk tunnels that stretch for miles under the city and house millions of bottles of bubbly).

Did you know? Book your tour of a champagne house well in advance and take a sweater. These are popular tourist attractions nowadays and the temperature in the cellars hovers at a chilly 10 degrees.

Reims sits among Champagne landscapes

Walk through the southern gates of the city and you’re immediately among the area’s famous vineyards, which stretch as far as the eye can see. To explore them better, hire a car or a bike and take the Champagne Tourist Route, some 600km of vineyards and stunning scenery.

Did you know? A major landmark on the Champagne Tourist Route is the Lighthouse of Verzenay. Climb the 101 steps for 360-degree views of all those vineyards.

Reims does dwarf beech trees

Perhaps one of the most unlikely reasons to visit Reims is found just outside the city in Verzy, home to the world famous Faux de Verzy. This forest contains almost 1,000 dwarf beech trees, the largest concentration of these extraordinary trees in the world.

Did you know? Faux de Verzy is stunning at any time of year – starkly bare in winter, budding green in spring, verdant in summer and fiery auburn in autumn.

Reims provides a feast

You’ll be wanting something to eat with all the bubbly and Reims ticks the boxes here too. Start your culinary tour off with a visit to the Halles de Boulingrin. As the largest market in the city it is home to dozens of stalls selling local produce and delicacies. Open Wednesday, Friday and Saturday mornings.

Lunch or dine at one of the city’s Michelin starred establishments. A total of nine stars shine in Reims. Shining most brightly is Assiette Champenoise, headed by chef Arnaud Lallement, holder of the prized trio of Michelin stars since 2014.

And as a sweet end to your meal, try a biscuit rose (or several). These pink biscuits coated in sugar are just perfect dipped in a flute of champagne. Buy them at Maison Fossier, one of the city’s most famous confectioners.

More reasons to visit Reims

The last of our reasons to visit Reims is that the city is a perfect place to see while you’re cruising the French waterways. We have a range of luxury barges that include Reims in their Champagne itinerary. Take a look and add some fizz to your next river cruise.

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The capital of Champagne country, a UNESCO world heritage site and a stunningly attractive city, Reims comes with lots of must-sees and dos. Its compact size makes it an easy side trip while you’re on a luxury barge cruise on the River Marne. And of course, you can sample that delicious bubbly! To help you make the most of your time, we’ve put together ten suggestions of things to do and see in the city, all of which provide compelling reasons to visit Reims.

Sixto Green boats are just as easy to use, you do need to know how and where to charge electric boats along the route..When hire boat cruising company Nicols launched the Estivale Sixto Green early in 2018 (link to other blog), they introduced the first electrically powered hire boat and brought zero emission cruising to France. Launched only from its base at Saverne in Alsace, it sold out quickly and early bookings for 2019 are also looking busy. While the electric boats are just as easy to use, you do need to know how and where to charge electric boats along the route…

10 electric charging points

Powered by on-board lithium-ion batteries, the Sixto Green needs charging along the way. In an initiative that’s a first of its kind, Nicols has since partnered with the Voies navigables de France (VNF) to install 10 charging points. The electric charging terminals are dotted roughly 11km apart on the Marne-Rhine and Saar canals.

The result? Some 150km of inland waterway navigable by zero emission cruising.

Where to charge the Nicols Sixto Green

There are four charging points on the Canal de la Sarre

  • Port du Houillon
  • Albeschaux
  • Mittersheim
  • Harskirchen

There are six charging points on the Canal de la Marne au Rhin

  • Hesse
  • Henridorff
  • Stambach
  • Saverne
  • Lupstein/Detwiller
  • Waltenheim-sur-Zorn

How to use Sixto Green charging terminals

The Sixto Green charging stations have easy to use touch screen technology. The display and instructions are also available in four languages: French, English, Spanish, Italian.

It only takes 2 hours to recharge the boat and a fully charged boat will provide you with 6-8 hours of power. This is typically sufficient for a day, if not a day and a half, of cruising.

When you collect your Sixto Green, you’ll be provided with an access code for the mooring spots with charging points. As these are specifically for electric boats, you’ll have priority over non-electric boats at these mooring points.

Some although not all of the charging points also provide a water supply for refilling your water tank, should you need to.

Ecotourism on the waterways

The partnership between Nicols and the VNF perfectly demonstrates the VNF’s passion for fluvial tourism within the limits of considered conservation. Both parties understand the increasing importance of ecotourism to consumers. There’s particular appetite with holidaymakers from Northern Europe to reduce their carbon footprint while travelling and this appetite is spreading as climate change and plastics continue to top the news agenda.

The 3-cabin Nicols Estivale SIXTO Green is a new electric powered boat joining the Nicols fleet for 2018. Non-polluting and with a silent motor, It's the first ever electric self-drive hire boat.

The 3-cabin SIXTO Green is a brand new electric powered boat joining the Nicols fleet for 2018. Non-polluting and with a silent motor, feel at one with nature amidst the lush French countryside.

Launching from their bases in Alsace, what a serene and mindful way to have a waterways holiday. The joy of hire boating is that you can jump aboard, be shown around and then off you go. And now you can do it with the peace of mind of zero emissions and an overall reduce carbon footprint for your holiday in France.

The Sixto Green

Nicols’ newest hire boat can sleep up to 8 guests. There are three cabins sleeping 6 guests then the extra bed spaces come thanks to the convertible double bed in the living room. This makes the boat ideal for crews of three couples or two couples and two, or more, children.

Outside there are two deck areas for relaxing as well as a second steering position. The addition of the second steering position is such a treat for whomever pilots the boat . On the most gorgeous of day, they don’t miss out on the best of the weather nor scenery. Then off the back there is a sun awning over tables and chairs for sheltered al fresco dining.

Self drive hire boats are easy to steer and roomy enough for guests without taking up too much room on the waterways. The added extras on the Sixto Green enable you to take a dip via the swimming ladder and really enjoy river life then rinse off under the deck shower. This is more than just a boat – it’s home for a week or two.

The reality of an electric hire boat

Naturally, piloting an electrically charged boat requires some thinking about power levels and regular recharging. Nicols has thought this through too. In a unique partnership with the Voie navigables de France (VNF), together they have installed staggered charging terminals to support the cruisers. These charging points on the Saar and Marne-Rhine canals appear roughly every 11km.

In terms of planning recharging into your day, it takes just two hours of charging time to fully restore the battery charge.That’s plenty of time for lunch and a wander around your newest mooring spot.

Book an eco-friendly cruise

Due to limited availability and bases, the Nicols Estivale Sixto Green books up quickly. Book yours today