Bike and Barge France: Paris – Bruges v.v.
During this biking holidaty through northern France and Flanders, from Paris to Bruges or in September from Bruges to Paris, you will cycle through attractive landscapes, over gently forested undulations and across open farm land, along the rivers Seine, Oise and Somme, Scarpe and Scheldt, where the watershed appears to be the actual border.
You will walk through interesting cities; for example a visit to Paris and its exceptional parks is on the program, but also to small art-deco towns such as Ham and Ronse. You will pass through Oudenaarde and Ghent with their historically renowned production of tapestries and sheets, past the impressive cathedrals and ancient bishoprics such as Noyon, Cambrai and Tournai.
We’ll visit the lively Creil, the imperial city of Compiegne and the tourist town of Péronne; and inspiration for painters such as Van Eyck in Bruges, Corot in Arleux, Van Gogh in Auvers and Permeke in St. Martens-Lathem. You will get to see imposing remains of the abbeys at Royaumont and Our-champs, of Marchiennes and St. Amand, view the palaces of Chantilly, Compiegne and Blérancourt and admire the castles in Pierrefonds and Péronne. There are many reminders of the First World War such as in the Armistice and Péronne museums and the farmer’s craft traditions in Hertsberge.
Itinerary Fleur: Paris – Auvers – Compiegne– St. Quentin – Cambrai – Oudenaarde – Ghent – Bruges or v.v.
Good to know:
With 18 guests or more, the daily cycling tours will be accompanied by two knowledgeable and multi-lingual tour leaders. On most days, the tour leaders will offer a long and a short (or a quicker and a more relaxed) cycling option. The option for a long tour is also depending on weather conditions and wishes of the group.
When there are less than 18 guests aboard, the tours will be accompanied by one knowledgeable and multi-lingual tour leader. During days when two bicycle options are possible, the tour leader will make a choice to guide the longer or the shorter option after consultation of the group.
Not all mentioned highlights can be visited during the short cycling 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 am.
Day 1 (Sat): Embarkation: Paris
Embarking takes place from 16.00 on board the barge MS Fleur in Paris from the Port d’Austerlitz, close to the eponymous station. In the evening you can walk to Ile Saint Louis, a distance of around 3 kilometers.
Day 2 (Sun): Paris: City Center
During breakfast a cruise on the river Seine through the center of Paris. At around 10.30 you will be able to go ashore to visit the city at your leisure or you can go on a city walk of around 5 kilometers through the beautiful green areas of Parc de la Vilette, Buttes Chaumont and Belleville. The ship sails on and mores close to the outer area of the city. You can reach the berth using public transport (day tickets not included, around €3) and will be able to board at around 17.30 for dinner.
Day 3 (Mon): Saint Germain and Laye, Conflens and Auvers sur Oise (ca. 40 km/ 24 miles)
After breakfast you will cycle along quiet towpaths along the river Seine to the higher situated St. Germain, the gardens of Le Nôtre provide a magnificent view across Paris. Next you will go through the woods to Conflans for a picnic on the pier amongst the terraces. After a short stop at the Pontoise Bridge, you cycle further across the picturesque Chemin des Monts to the church of Auvers, famous for Van Gogh’s paintings. We will visit his grave during the evening walk.
Day 4 (Tue): Beaumont sur Oise, Royaumont, Chantilly, Creil (ca. 50 km/ 31 miles)
After a short stop in Beaumont we will have a picnic at the Royaumont abbey; one of the best preserved abbeys from the 13th century. During the afternoon we will visit the splendid Chantilly; a luxurious castle with an impressive art collection and horse dressage. After dinner there will be a stroll through the lively provincial town of Creil.
Day 5 (Wed): Pont St.Maxence, Pierrefonds, Compiegne (ca. 55 km/ 34 miles)
During breakfast the MS Fleur will take us to Pont Saint Maxence. From there you will cycle through little towns and have a short stop in Verberie and then through the forest to Castle Pierrefonds; the leading restoration project by Viollet le Duc. In the evening we will be exploring the historical center with its medieval market and many alleyways.
Day 6 (Thu): La Clairière, Tracy, Ourschamps or Blérancourt, Noyon (ca. 40 – 55 km) 24 / 34 miles)
First we’ll go to l’Armistice de la Clairière to the forest clearing and the carriage where the First World War armistice was signed. Then through Tracy and the Our-champs abbey with its charming ruin then on through rolling woodlands to Noyon and its imposing cathedral. You can extend the route by cycling to Blérancourt, where there is a lovely town hall from the 17th Century and a charming palace with flower gardens to be admired.
Day 7 (Fri): Through Ham to Péronne (ca. 65 km / 40 miles)
Today we will embarking on a long bike ride leaving at 8.30 for a ride through gently rolling, open countryside, the art deco town of Ham and along the river Somme and the picturesque villages.
Day 8 (Sat): Day in Péronne
The Barge will be moored just outside this charming town with its intimate square and church as well as a castle and the fascinating Grande Guerre museum. Dinner in town in a restaurant of your choice (not included, recommendations available on board).
Day 9 (Sun): Bapaume, Ruyaulcourt (ca. 45 km / 27 miles)
We will continue cycling along the river Somme and then through the sparsely populated open and rolling landscape to Bapaume which was re-built after the First World War. We will then go on to Canal du Nord in Ruyaulcourt, here the barge will pass through the divide between the rivers Somme and the Scheldt through a tunnel; the original border between Flanders and France. Mooring is in an outer area.
Day 10 (Mon): Cambrai and Arleux (ca. 45 km/ 27 miles)
Today we will visit Cambrai, a lively provincial town with historic monuments and a beautiful park to picnic in and then past the marshlands of Chantraine on to rural Arleux.
Day 11 (Tue): Lewarde, Montigny, Marchiennes, Saint Amand les Eaux, Tournai (ca. 65 km / 40 miles)
A long day of cycling through former mining towns with beautifully preserved heritage from around 1900, and past the Scarpe-river through Marchiennes and St.Amand where there are monumental remains of baroque abbeys. Just across the border with Belgium lies Tournai, where we will take an evening walk through its historic center.
Day 12 (Wed): Kluisbergen, Ronse, Oudenaarde (ca. 50 km/ 31 miles)
North of Tournai we will cycle across flat farmland with a few hills to the wooded Kluisberg, known for its cycling tours. The church in Ronse has a beautiful crypt from the 13th Century and Art Deco-villa’s and a crypt from the 11th Century. In Oudenaarde you will find the splendid town hall with a magnificent collection from the 16th and 17th Century as well as the Tour of Flanders Centre. After dinner you can enjoy a Belgian beer at the atmospheric Market place.
Day 13 (Thu): Through Nazareth, Ooidonk, Sint-Martens-Lathem, Afsnee (ca. 50 km/31 miles) or directly to Ghent (ca. 35 km / 21 miles)
First we will cycle along the river Scheldt then on through the idyllic Ooidonk landscape, the artists’ village of St.Martens-Lathem, the small ferry of Afsnee and the bustling Gent-South. There is the option of cycling directly along the river Scheldt to Ghent to spend an afternoon in this lively university town. Of Romanian origin and situated at the merging point of the rivers Scheldt and Leie, Ghent was, between the 14th and 16th Century, a wealthy trade and textile city, evidence of which lies in the cloth hall, cathedral and town hall. In the evenings the town center is a very atmospheric place to be. There is the option of joining a canal tour to the center and returning to the ship by taxi (not included).
Day 14 (Fri): Bellem, Hertsberge, Moerbrugge, Bruges (ca. 50 km/ 25 miles)
During breakfast the barge will take us to Aalter where will get on our bikes and cycle through wooded areas and fields, past quiet villages and castles to the Hertsberge estate where there is an interesting agricultural museum to visit. Timely arrival in Bruges, the most picturesque city in Flanders and from the 14th to the 16th Century renowned as one of Europe’s most important centers of banking and art, and during the romantic period rediscovered for time travel in the Middle Ages.
Day 15 (Fri): Disembarkation: Bruges
After breakfast you will leave the ship. Disembarkation till 10.00.
Details: In italics printed parts will be covered by the ship.
All distances are “approximate distances” of recommended bike tours.
When you do not want to cycle one day, you can skip the bike tour and relax on board while cruising to the next town.
Program and details barring changes, a.o. as a result of nautical, technical or meteorological reasons.
On the arrival day is it possible to put your luggage already on board as from 09:30 AM.
Guided bike tours: it is also possible to ride some shorter bike tours self-guided, on an individual basis: descriptions and maps are available on board.
During the day the tour leader is guiding the daily bike tour and – for those who want to cycle individually – can be reached on his/her mobile phone in cases of emergency or technical breakdown of the bicycle.
Day 1 (Sat): Bruges (22 km/13 mi.)
Embarkation and check-in is at 2 p.m. in the center of Bruges. After a welcome meeting with the crew there is time for bicycle fitting and a short test-ride. After dinner the tour leader will take you for a walk through the center of town.
We advise you to come to Bruges one or more days earlier, so that you will have plenty of time to discover this interesting city.
Bruges, also called “Pearl of Flanders”, is probably the most beautiful of all Flemish cities. Its old center, which dates from the middle Ages, is almost completely intact. In that period Bruges was a metropolis and – after Paris – the 2nd largest city of Europe, center of trade and art, which you can still fully enjoy.
Day 2 (Sun): Bruges – Aalterbrug | Aalterbrug – Ghent (34 km/21 mi or 44 km/28 mi)
After breakfast you’ll start cycling. You will zigzag through charming woodland and pasture. Half way the canal between Bruges and Ghent your barge will be waiting for you. Once everyone is on board the anchor will be lifted to continue by barge to Ghent. In the evening you can make a nice tour through the historical center of Ghent with a small canal boat.
Ghent is a lively university city, also with a rich past. The city has its origins in Roman times, at the confluence of the rivers Leie and Scheldt. This favorable site resulted in great prosperity over the years, which had its peak late 13th, early 14th century. Textile manufacturing brought great wealth. In the city center many old patrician houses have been preserved. In the Clothmakers’ Hall (1425) textile merchants used to meet. Ghent’s major church is St. Baafs’ Cathedral, raised in various ages and in various styles. In the cathedral you can admire a number of masterpieces of medieval painting, of which the “Adoration of the Lamb” by Jan van Eyck is the most famous.
Day 3 (Mon): Ghent – Oudenaarde (42 km/26 mi or 51 km/31 mi)
This morning you will cycle back into downtown Ghent, where you will have some more time to enjoy the buzz and beauty of this historical city center. In the late morning you will hop on your bicycles again, onwards to Oudenaarde. Oudenaarde is a small town, which was situated on the border of the French German Empire, so the town was the involuntary witness (and victim) of many wars. Because it was often in the firing line, there was always someone on the lookout. The statue of most famous watchman, “Hanske de Krijger”, still stands on the magnificent town hall, that was built in the first half of the 16th century and is one of the most beautiful in Flanders. Style is Brabant late gothic, material is sandstone from Balegem. Oudenaarde is also known as the town of tapestry weavers. The tapestries became famous all over the world. Before reaching Oudenaarde you will visit an interesting archaeological site (of an old Abbey) Ename which is located at the eastside of the river Scheldt.
Day 4 (Tue): Oudenaarde – Doornik (Tournai) (42 km/26 mi.)
Before leaving Oudenaarde, there is a guided visit to the beautiful town hall. After that you will follow the river Scheldt upstream and cross the linguistic frontier, thus arriving in the Wallonia region. From now on people speak French and villages, towns, and cities have French names. Today’s destination is Doornik or (in French:) Tournai, one of the oldest towns of Belgium. Doornik was under French government until the early 17th century. Just like in Oudenaarde, after the decline of textile industry, tapestry became important here. In 1940, the entire town center was destroyed in a German air raid, but renovation of the center of town has been very successful. Especially the Notre Dame Cathedral (12th and 13th century) is worth seeing. Also the Belfort, built around 1200, is definitely worth a visit.
Day 5 (Wed): Doornik (Tournai) – Bleharies | Bleharies – Pont Malin | Pont Malin – Arleux (41 km/26 mi or 53 km/32 mi)
During breakfast the barge cruises into the direction of the Belgian-French border, through the so called “white land”, where (white) limestone has been quarried since Roman times. Around the village of Bleharies at the border, you will start today’s bicycle ride. The tour goes through open farm land, through little mining towns towards Lewarde, where a mining museum can be visited. You will spend the night in Arleux.
Day 6 (Thu): Arleux – Ruyalcourt (36 km/23 mi. or 54 km/34 mi.)
The barge leaves the large canal and will from now on follow the Canal du Nord. The construction of this canal was already planned in 1903, but it took until 1966 to finish the works. It was constructed to replace the older and smaller Canal de St. Quentin, constructed by Napoleon in 1801, to transport coal from the mines to the north. Your cycling tours leads to the city of Cambrai, once a Roman provincial capital and an important destination for pilgrims. Worth seeing are the impressive restored buildings of the city fortress, built under King Charles V. Later you will cycle through the marshlands of Chantraine to rural Ruyaulcourt.
Day 7 (Fri): Ruyalcourt – Péronne (39 km/24 mi or 52 km/33 mi)
The Canal du Nord has 2 tunnels, where the barge has to sail through. The longest one is the tunnel of Ruyalcourt, which is 4,350 meters (2.7 miles) long. Today the barge will sail through this tunnel. Above the tunnel is the watershed between rivers Escaut (Scheldt) and Somme. From here the barge therefore goes downhill again into the direction of Péronne.
After passing the tunnel you will continue cycling through the valley of the river Somme through sparsely populated open and rolling landscape. At the end of World War 1, this area was the frontline of the battle around the Somme. You will continue cycling to Péronne.
Day 8 (Sat): Péronne
Today the barge will stay in Péronne. The barge will be moored just outside this charming town with its intimate square and church as well as a castle and the fascinating Grande Guerre museum. Today there is no dinner planned on board. You can select one of the many restaurants of Péronne.
Day 9 (Sun): Péronne – Épénancourt | Épénancourt – Noyon – Pont l’Évêque (39 km/24 mi. or 48 km/29 mi.)
During breakfast the barge will bring you to the little village of Épénancourt. There you have to get on the bicycles in time for a long ride through gently rolling, open countryside to the art-deco town of Ham and along the river Somme and other picturesque villages. Destination is Noyon with its imposing cathedral.
Day 10 (Mon): Pont l’Évêque – Compiègne (36 km/23 mi or 48 km/29 mi)
From Pont l’Évêque you will set course for Compiègne. You will ride through the forest of Ourscamp and cross the river Aisne where the forest of Compiègne begins. Here, at “Clairière de l’Armistice”, French and German generals signed a Treaty to end World War I. You can visit the small but interesting museum that tells the story. Soon you will arrive at Compiègne. The town owes its magnificent buildings to the proximity of Paris and the great woods, where the French kings loved to stay and hunt. The gardens of the Chateau de Compiègne are definitely worth a visit.
Day 11 (Tue): Compiègne – Pont-St-Maxence. (45 km/27 mi or 55 km/34 mi)
Today you cycle first through the forest south of Compiègne, after which you will follow the valley of the Oise further downstream into the direction of Creil. The long tour will add a loop in order to include the little town of Pierrefonds, where you can admire the exterior of the “Disney-like” castle with the same name. Right before reaching Pont Ste. Maxence you will pass by the abbey of Moncel, founded in 1309 by King Philip the Fair. Pont Ste. Maxence owes its name to the fact that in the Middle Ages here was one of the very few bridges over the Oise river. It became a place to spend the night for merchants and kings, who were on their way between Flanders and Paris.
Day 12 (Wed): Pont-St-Maxence – Creil |Creil – Beaumont |Beaumont – Auvers-sur-Oise (42 km/27 mi. or 57 km/35 mi.)
After a sailing breakfast you start cycling out of Creil towards the precious and famous Castle of Chantilly, also very known for the horse racing circuit and royal stables and for its art gallery – the Musée Condé – that houses one of the finest collections of paintings in France. After the visit you continue through a nice forest and pass the abbey of Royaumont. If you take the short option, you will be picked up by the barge at Beaumont. The long option will cross the river Oise and follow the river to Auvers-sur-Oise, where Vincent van Gogh spent the last days of his life and where he and his brother Theo are buried on the cemetery. You will have the possibility to visit Van Gogh’s grave on the local cemetery during a short evening walk. This region was very popular among impressionist painters.
Day 13 (Thu): Auvers-sur-Oise – Paris (Bougival/Rueil)(42 km/26 mi. or 46 km/28 mi.)
Since you arrived in Auvers late yesterday, you can first spend some time in Auvers to search for “the soul of Van Gogh”. Then, full of impressionist impressions, you will cycle in the direction of the Capital of Light. There is time for lunch at Conflans Sainte Honorine, where the Oise and Seine rivers merge. Conflans has been an important shipping center in Northern France since the 19th century. In the afternoon you will cycle up to the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye from where you will have a splendid view over Paris. After that you will continue along the river to Bougival, where you will spend the night.
Day 14 (Fri): Paris (Bougival/Rueil) – Paris
Today the barge finally cruises the Seine, upstream into Paris. It is not far in a straight line, but the Seine makes a number of large meanders here. You will cruise right through the center of Paris. You can spend the rest of the day as you like. You can explore the city by subway, or take a bus roundtrip that takes you along all major sights.
Day 15 (Sat): Paris
End of your tour: Disembarkation after breakfast until 9.30 a.m.