From: $3,910 USD
During this 15 day bike & barge trip through Flanders (Belgium) and northern France, from Bruges to Paris, you will cyclethrough attractive areas, not yet discovered by mass tourism. This tour is characterized by a wide variation in landscapes and hasall the ingredients a good bike & barge tour needs to explore these interesting regions. The first stage in Belgium featureshighlights like magnificent Bruges as unbeatable start of a beautiful discovery tour, history in medieval Ghent, tapestry in Oudenaarde, Vincent van Gogh’s heritage, a nice Belgium beer at end of your daily cycling tour. Highlights in France are World War I battle fields and memorials in the Somme valley, the Chateau de Chantilly and its art gallery the Musée Condé that houses one of the finest collections of paintings in France, and – last but not least – beautiful Paris, the “City of Lights”.
The cycling tours go over gently forested undulations and across open farm land, along the rivers Scheldt, Somme, Oise andSeine; the Belgian-French border also appears to be more or less the watershed between the river basins of Scheldt and Seine.
We advise you to arrive one day earlier to Bruges, so that you will have plenty of time to discover this interesting city.
REVERSE ROUTE: Paris to Bruges
When you arrive on board the ship in Bruges by 2 p.m., you can put your luggage away in your cabin and then enjoy a cup of coffee or tea. It’s also a good moment to become acquainted with the guide, skipper, and crew – and of course your fellow passengers. After a welcome meeting there is time for bicycle fitting and a short test-ride. Our tour guide will take us after dinner for a walk through the center of Bruges, also called the Pearl of Flanders. Bruges is one of the most beautiful Flemish cities. The old center, dating from the Middle Ages, is almost completely intact. During the Middle Ages Bruges was a metropolis and after Paris the 2nd largest city of Europe.
*On some days you can choose between a longer and a shorter cycling route
After breakfast we’ll start cycling zigzag through charming woodland and pasture. Half way the canal between Bruges and Ghent our barge will be waiting for us. Once everyone is on board the anchor will be lifted to continue by barge to Ghent.
During the Middle Ages, Ghent was one of the richest and most powerful cities in Europe. The city has its origins in Roman times, at the confluence of the rivers Leie and Scheldt. This favorable site resulted in great prosperity, which had its peak late 13th, early 14th century. Textile manufacturing brought great wealth. Many old patrician houses have been preserved. As well as the ‘Cloth makers Hall’ (1425) where textile merchants used to meet. Ghent’s major church is St. Baafs’ Cathedral, raised in various ages and styles. In the cathedral we can admire a number of masterpieces of medieval painting (“Adoration of the Lamb” by Jan van Eyck ). Nowadays Ghent is a lively university city. Since the city council made the center free of cars this is a very welcoming and impressive open area.
After breakfast we will cycle back downtown Ghent, where we hop on a small boat for a nice canal tour through the historical center. In the late morning we start biking onwards to Oudenaarde. Oudenaarde is a small town, which used to be situated on the border of the French German Empire. Being often in the line of fire, there was always someone standing on the lookout. On the magnificent town hall (built in the first half of the 16th century) we will see the statue of the most famous watchman ‘Hanske de Krijger’. Oudenaarde got known all over the world for its tapestry weavers. Before reaching Oudenaarde we visit an interesting archaeological site of an old Abbey. Oudenaarde has four breweries specialized in fruit beer. If the weather’s good, why not try out the newest fruit beers on one of the terraces overlooking the river Scheldt? Shall we order a ‘pint’?
Today we will cross the language border Flandres/Wallonia. When cycling we will notice that the names of villages, towns and streets have French names. Our destination will be Doornik (French: Tournai), one of the oldest towns in Belgium. The entire town center has been destroyed during World War II (1940), but the renovation has been very successful. Especially the huge Cathedral of Notre-Dame, with 5 towers and a rose window. Nearby we will find the Grand Place, a triangular square lined with bars and restaurants. It is dominated by the 12th-century Belfry of Tournai, with views over the city. Opposite the Belfry is the Romanesque St. Quentin’s Church, and the medieval Red Fort tower. All worth visiting.
During breakfast we cruise to the Belgian-French border, passing the so called “white land”, where (white) limestone has been quarried since Roman times. Around the village of Bleharies at the border, we will start today’s bicycle ride. The tour goes through open farm land, through little mining towns towards Lewarde, where France’s largest Mining Museum can be visited. We will spend the night in Arleux.
Our barge leaves the large canal and will from now on follow the impressive Canal du Nord. The construction of this canal was already planned in 1903, but it took until 1966 to finish. It was constructed to replace the older and smaller Canal de St. Quentin, constructed by Napoleon in 1801, for coal transportation from the mines. Our cycling tour 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. After the fortress we cycle through the marshlands of Chantraine to rural Ruyaulcourt.
Today we start sailing the Canal du Nord where we go through the longest tunnel of Ruyalcourt, which is 4,350 meters (2.7 miles) long. Above the tunnel is the watershed between rivers Escaut (Scheldt) and Somme. After the tunnel we will notice the barge going downhill into the direction of Péronne. Our cycling of the day will start after passing the tunnel and continue through the valley of the river Somme. We will enjoy the open and rolling landscape. At the end of World War I, this area was the frontline of the battle around the Somme. Our destination of the day will be Péronne.
While the barge is moored just outside Péronne, we have time to explore the beautiful charming town of Péronne, with its intimate square, church, castle and the fascinating Grande Guerre museum. Tonight dinner will be on your own. You can select one of the many charming restaurants of Péronne.
During breakfast the barge will bring us to the little village of Épénancourt. From here our bike ride will start with a long ride through gently rolling, open countryside to the art-deco town of Hamand. Along the river Somme and other picturesque villages. Destination is Noyon with its imposing cathedral.
From Pont l’Évêque we will set course for Compiègne. We bike 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 aTreaty to end World War I. We can visit the small but interesting museum that tells this story. After a short bike ride we 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.
Today we cycle first through the forest south of Compiègne and 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 we can admire the exterior of the “Disney-like” castle. Right before reaching Pont St. Maxence we will pass by the abbey of Moncel, founded in 1309 by King Philip the Fair. Pont St. Maxence is named after one of the very few bridges over the Oise river. Merchants and kings, who were on their way between Flanders and Paris, used to stay here overnight.
After sailing during breakfast we start cycling out of Creil towards the precious and famous Castle of Chantilly, also famous for its horse racing circuit, royal stables and art gallery. We will visit the Musée Condé – that houses one of the finest collections of paintings in France. After the museum we continue biking 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. This region was very popular among impressionist painters.Vincent Van Gogh and his brother Theo are buried on the local cemetery. After dinner we can join a short evening walk and have the possibility to visit Van Gogh’s grave.
Since we arrived yesterday late in Auvers, we will have first time to spend some time in Auvers to search for “the soul of Van Gogh”. Then, full of impressionist impressions, we 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 we will cycle up to the castle of Saint-Germain-en-Laye from where we have an amazing view over Paris. Our last bike ride of the day will be along the river to Bougival, where we will spend the night.
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. We will cruise right through the center of Paris. The rest of the day we can explore the city by subway, or take a bus roundtrip that takes you along all major sights.
End of the tour. Disembarkation after breakfast until 9:30 a.m.
Green = Open | Yellow = Limited | Red = Full
Prices are per person in US Dollars – inclusive bike rental
Twin for Single use
Well-maintained, comfortable 27-speed hybrid bikes are included. These unisex bike models come in sizes appropriate to your height. The bikes have a side pannier, helmet, water bottle, and lock. A map holder/front bag is also given to the people that want to do this tour as a self-guided tour. An electric bike is also available for this tour ($350 per person). We advise you only to rent an electric bike if you have first tried one at home. They’re heavier than regular bikes and therefore can be difficult to maneuver. In addition, you can rent children’s bikes, child seats, bike trailers, and tag-alongs. Due to lack of space on the deck of the barge there is no possibility to bring your own bike.
The cook prepares all meals: a substantial breakfast and a three-course dinner of very good quality. A packed lunch may be prepared after breakfast. Tea and coffee will be ready when you arrive on board in the afternoon. There’s a bar on the boat with beer, wine, and soft drinks at reasonable prices. If you have special meal requirements, please mention this when booking. In the case of a Vegetarian and gluten-free diet there is an additional charge of €50 per week. You’ll need to pay this cash on board.