Bike and Barge France
The Champagne tour is a bike and barge touring classic that not only allows guests to explore the world famous city of Paris, but also the Champagne region, famous of course, for producing Champagne wines. From the time the Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon invented the bubbly drink in 1670 at the Abbey of Hautvillers, the Champagne name has been synonymous worldwide with the very best of sparkling wines.
Every day you will cycle small country roads (including a few un- or semi-paved roads and tracks) that go slightly up and down the beautiful slopes of the wide river valley, through the hills and the Champagne vineyards.
Champagne: Epernay Paris| MS Zwaantje
On a daily basis you will have the opportunity to cycle to boutique wineries, sample a variety of champagnes, taste delicious cheeses of the Brie region and generally discover all gems that the Champagne region, UNESCO world heritage, has to offer. But more than just visiting the Champagne region, you will also have the opportunity to explore Paris, one of Europe’s most beautiful and beloved cities. Other highlights of the tour include a visit to the city of Meaux, well known for its Brie cheeses and a stopover in Château-Thierry, scene of major battles in World War I. Along the way you will cycle through almost endless vineyards on the rolling banks of the Marne river and visit a local wine farmer. The tour ends in the city of Epernay, the real capital of the Champagne region, where you will have the opportunity to visit one of the town’s imposing champagne cellars.
Note: The cycling tours are fully guided, but cannot be rated as easy: you need to be a fit and well-practiced cyclist. Every day you will cycle small country roads (short distances: un- or semi-paved roads and tracks) that go up and down the beautiful slopes of the wide river valley, through the hills and the Champagne vineyards. Cycling distances vary from 30 – 50 km (19 – 31 miles) per day.
You will travel on board the passenger barge Zwaantje, a cosy barge with 12 twin cabins with en-suite facilities and air conditioning for max. 24 passengers.
Tour Details France: From Epernay to Paris – MS Zwaantje
Day 1 (Sat): Embarkation: Epernay
Embarkation and check-in at 2 p.m. in Epernay. After a welcome by the captain, crew and tour leader there is time for bicycle fitting and a short test ride.
After dinner your tour leader will take you for a walk through Epernay, the major wine center of the Champagne region. Epernay has many town houses dating in neo-renaissance style or classical style dating from the 19th century, especially around the beautiful Avenue the Champagne, where many prestigious champagne houses are situated.
Day 2 (Sun): Epernay round tour (17 km/10 mi. or 25 km/16 mi.)
The first half day’s cycling tour takes you along the quiet canal parallel to the Marne river to Ay and Mareuil-sur-Ay. Return via Dizy to visit Hautvillers. After a somewhat challenging first ascent of the slopes and through the vineyards (cyclists can test their shape and muscles for the first time) you will reach this picturesque village of Champagne wine growers on the southern slopes of the Montagne de Reims. Highlight is a visit of the chapel with the tomb of the monk Dom Pérignon (1638-1715). In charge of the wine cellars of a Benedictine abbey, Dom Pérignon pioneered a number of winemaking techniques, being the first to blend grapes in such a way as to improve regional wines into a wine of superb quality. Double fermentation, characteristic for the making of champagne, was introduced also by him. Return cycling to Epernay. After lunch, visit the center of Epernay. Together with Reims, Epernay is the major wine center of the Champagne region, where three extensive wine regions meet: the Montagne de Reims, the Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne. Epernay has many town houses dating in neo-renaissance style or classical style dating from the 19th century, especially around the beautiful Avenue the Champagne where prestigious champagne houses, such as Moët & Chandon and Mercier, are situated. Enjoy a Champagne tasting and take a tour in one of the major Champagne houses.
Day 3 (Mon): Epernay– Dormans – Château-Thierry (Approx. 30-50 km/19-35 miles)
Start the first full day cycling tour along the canal and Marne river. We will see the Château de Boursault, a large castle built in 1848 by the widow of Mr. Cliquot, who gave her name (“Veuve Cliquot”) to a famous Champagne wine. A ride up the northern valley slope to the village of Châtillon-sur-Marne rewards the cyclist with a stunning panoramic view over the Marne valley and the Champagne vineyards. Today we will leave the official Champagne area. Cycle along the Marne river to Dormans, a quiet village on the Marne with a castle and chapel in memory of the battle of the Marne. During World War I this area was the scene of close battles. The short cycling tour ends in Dormans, where you can join the ship. The longer option ends at the lock of Mont St. Pierre. Today’s destination is Château-Thierry, that owes its name to the castle that once was situated on the slopes above the Marne. The town was the site of the Battle of 1814 in the Napoleonic Wars between France and Prussia and of 1918 in World War I. Château-Thierry is also known as the native town of the world-famous writer of fables Jean de la Fontaine.
Day 4 (Tue): Château-Thierry – La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre (42 km/26 mi.)
Enjoy a somewhat challenging cycling tour from Château-Thierry to La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre . The first part of the cycling tour leads you along the Marne river. After a few miles you will take a small side valley and follow country roads through various small villages and hamlets. En route you can visit the large WW1 American War Cemetery and Monument near Belleau. Follow the small river Clignon and continue riding uphill until you finally reach the plateau above the northern part of the Marne valley. The side valleys are mainly covered with forest, on the plateau agriculture is predominant. Start your descent to reach La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre in the Marne valley, where you will meet the barge and spend the night.
Day 5 (Wed): La Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Meaux (30 km/18 mi. or 52 km/32 mi.)
After breakfast you will start your cycling tour that will lead you over the hills and slopes of the Marne valley through forests and small villages on the southern and northern banks of the river. After just a few miles (uphill !) you will enjoy a very nice presentation and tasting of the famous Brie de Meaux and Brie noir cheeses at the family-run Fromagerie Ganot. Then you will hop on the bicycles again and you can opt for a longer or shorter ride to Meaux. The short option will lead you over the hills and slopes of the Marne valley on the southern bank of the river through forests and small villages. The long tour follows a few large curves of the river to Lizy-sur-Ourcq and Trilport. Today’s destination is the city of Meaux, famous for its “Brie de Meaux” cheeses and the magnificent Cathedral St.-Etienne. Visit the historical city center of Meaux. Dinner on board and night in Meaux.
Day 6 (Thu): Meaux – Lagny-sur-Marne (20 km/12 mi. or 37 km/22 mi.)
Visit the beautiful city center of Meaux. Then you can take your bicycle for a last ride, mainly along the Marne river and its parallel canal. The longer option leads along the Canal de l’Ourq, that was built by Napoleon to transport wood, grain and drinking water to Paris. In the afternoon you will meet the barge in Lagny-sur-Marne, an outskirt of Paris, where you will stay for the night. You can add an afternoon bicycle ride of 20 km through the valley of the Marne river to the castle of Champs-sur Marne. The Château de Champs-sur-Marne is characteristic of the residences of leisure built in the countryside in the 18th century, giving rise to a new style of living. It is one of the most magnificently furnished châteaux in the Ile-de-France
Day 7 (Fri): Paris: Lagny-sur-Marne – Paris (35 km/21 mi.)
Today we will bike further along the Canal d’Ourcq. This canal was built by order of Napoleon Bonaparte. The canal provided the city with water and played an important role in the transportation of goods to and from the city. We will enter the city along a bike path that leads via the basin of la Vilette all the way to the place the la Bastille (close to the mooring place of the Zwaantje). We will find the Zwaantje at Quai Bercy in the heart of Paris.
Day 8 (Sat): Disembarkation: Paris
End of your tour: Disembarkation after breakfast until 9.30 a.m.
Good to know:
Parts that are printed in italics parts will be covered by the ship.
All distances are “approximate distances” of recommended bike tours.
The planned itinerary is subject to change due to nautical, technical or meteorological reasons and other unforeseen circumstances. If there is low or high water and a route cannot be shipped, the captain reserves the right to change the route in view of your safety (this cannot be accepted as a reason for free withdrawal).
The cycling tours are fully guided, but cannot be rated as easy: you need to be a fit and well-practiced cyclist. Every day you will cycle small country roads (short distances: un- or semi-paved roads and tracks) that – almost all day – go up and down the beautiful slopes of the wide river valley, through the hills and the Champagne vineyards. Cycling distances vary from 30 – 50 km (19 – 31 miles) per day. This tour therefore is more challenging than tours in (flat) Holland or Flanders.
- The daily cycling tours will be accompanied by a knowledgeable and multi-lingual tour leader.
- During the days when 2 bicycle options are possible, the tour leader will make a choice for the longer or the shorter option together with the group.
- Not all mentioned highlights will be visited during the short bike option.
- In case you prefer a day of rest, you can skip the bike tour and relax on board while cruising to the next town.
- On the arrival day is it possible to bring your luggage on board from 11 a.m.
- 8 days/7 nights
- 7 x breakfast
- Packed lunches
- 7 x 3-course dinner
- Coffee and tea on board
- Welcome drink
- Use of bed linen and towels
- Daily cleaning of the cabin
- Climate-controlled cabin
- Daily briefings
- Fully guided cycling tours (1 tour leader)
- Some short walking tours
- Maps for cycling tours (1 set per cabin)
- GPS tracks
- Use of a helmet
- Use of a waterproof pannier bag
- Water bottle
- Fees for ferries
- Brie cheese tasting in Jouarre
- Champagne tasting at local producer
- Visit champagne cellar in Epernay
- Bicycle rental or E-bike rental
- Personal insurances
- Gratuities (at your discretion)
- Entrance fees and excursions (not mentioned under included)
- Transfers to/from the docking place
- Parking fees
Rental bicycle (incl. helmet and water bottle): €80 per period Rental E-Bike (incl. helmet and water bottle): €175 per period (only on request, limited number of e-bikes available, early bookings strongly recommended. You can find a description of the bicycles when you click on ship.
Transfer from Paris: Nearby the docking place of the Zwaantje you can take the subway, tram or train to the airports Charles de Gaulle Roissy or Paris Orly.
More information and online route planner:
Transfer from Epernay: The SNCF train station is approx. 1 km / 0.6 mi. from the docking place of the Zwaantje. From the train station in Epernay you can travel with only one change in approx.. 1 hour and 20 minutes with SNCF to TGV Station Champagne-Ardenne, just a little South of Reims. There is also a good, direct (SNCF) connection to both Reims Centre (23 – 39 minutes) as Paris Gare de l’Est (1 hour and 16 min – 1 hour and 42 min). Plan your route at www.goeuro.co.uk of www.trainline.eu.
Taxi from Epernay to Reims or the TGV train station: We can recommend taxi company A’Gil. We strongly recommend you to reserve your taxi in advance, especially with a transfer from Reims or TGV station to Epernay.
Tel.: +33 326 59 01 44 Mobile: +33 6 80 30 55 89