After arrival and welcome at the barge on the mooring place. Tryout bike ride into the countryside near Bruges. (Guided) walk in town in the evening.
Sunday: Bruges - Ghent
A variated ride 60 or 40 km in the typical Flanders countryside with small villages, patches of forest, rich fields and pastures into thriving Gent, one of the biggest towns (more than 250.000 inhabitants.) in Belgium and with a rich history, still visible in layout and buildings in the centre where you will have time to visit some of the highlights (St. Baafs Cathedral with the famous triptyque ‘Mystic Lamb’, the castle, museum of fine arts etc. You will like Gent!. Well lit Gent in the evening is another experience. Option: cover first leg by barge and join later.
Monday: Ghent - Oudenaarde
Another nice ride in the countryside of Flanders, partly along the river Schelde. Our goal today is Oudenaarde, famous for its town hall, church, beer breweries and the Tour of Flanders centre (cycling). Walk in town.
Tuesday: Oudenaarde - Tournai
We can visit the centre this morning while museums are open now. We continue our tour in the Schelde river valley. After crossing the language border (Flemish/French) the river is called Escaut. To the left hills appear on the horizon. Ancient cobblestone roads on some of these are (in)famous because they are part of Tour of Flanders speed cycling race. Die hearts can try one or two of them! In a small village we can have our lunch. Goal in the afternoon is Tournai. Watch how big ships sail through the gate of the medieval watergate.The town centre is on the UNESCO world heritage list. A visit to the immense cathedral (5 towers) is not to be missed! Walk in town after dinner.
Wednesday: Tournai – Bouchain/Arleux
Today we can start our tour with an early sailing. The barge has to cover quite a distance today because the river makes a big loop. Nice riding in forest and visit to St. Amand-les-Eaux with its abbey-tower. Between the English Channel and the German Ruhr-area in a relatively narrow belt there was a major coal mining industry in the 19th and the first three quarters of the 20th century. This is still visible in the landscape. Red brick buildings are abundant here. The mooring place will be either Bouchain or Arleux.
Thursday: Bouchain/Arleux – Hermies
Arleux is on the beginning of the Canal du Nord. Following this canal takes a long time because of the shipping traffic and many locks. The captain might have to moor halfway ‘in the middle of nowhere’ in case of heavy traffic. But a night in the quiet countryside has charm of its own. We are planning to moor near the village of Hermies. We are entering agricultural Northern France with its large fields. You might encounter some minor slopes today. The town of Cambrai (part of the Netherlands in the 16th century) is nearby. Depending on the starting point today we might visit it. Our goal today is Peronne.
Hermies – Peronne
A short ride 20 km to the town of Peronne, following the canal, with at least one serious slope. In the afternoon there is an option of another ride 45 km with a nice stay halfway.
The Historical, war museum in the castle is worthwhile visiting. There is another small local museum in the centre. Participants who are even more interested in the history of the Great War ‘14-’18 could use their day off for a visit to one or more places connected with the 1st World War. To the west, direction Amiens, was the Australian sector. Visit on your own initiative (by taxi for example, or organised by yourself before; it’s not included in our tour). Ask your guide for information at the beginning of your journey.
Sunday: Peronne – Pont ‘l Eveque
An early sailing or one in the afternoon will be part of the itinerary. Between Peronne and Compiegne there are some hills to be conquered. It’s the typical landscape of Northern France with undulating fields and small villages. Noyon has a very old interesting cathedral. The barge will be moored near Pont l’Eveque, some 3 km. from Noyon.
Monday: Pont l’Eveque – Compiegne
Nice ride in the forest, one serious slope, passing through the lovely valley of St. Crépinaux-Bois. Visit to the Clairiere de l’Armistice (armistice place 1918/1940 in the forest) and continuing along the river Aisne and Oise, into Compiegne. After arrival in Compiegne you have time to spend in town (Palace-museum). You can join a guided walk in this historic town (Joan of Arc).
Tuesday: Compiegne – Creil
A nice bicycle ride 40 or 50 km in the immense forest to the east of town, including a visit to the castle of Pierrefonds, restorated and rebuild in the 19th century by the famous architect Violet le Duc. Nice cycling in the forest. Visit to the village in the forest St. Jean-aux-Bois and Roman ruins just south of it or a short ride on a new bike path along the river bring us to Béthisy-St. Pierre. From here we cycle to the river to meet our barge for the last stretch to Creil, mooring place on the Oise river.
Wednesday: Creil – Pontoise
Today is a ride in a wooded area with nice bike paths. There are a few options for visits: town of Senlis, Chantilly-castle and Royaumont abbey. Part of the distance will be covered by sailing because of the distance between the mooring places today. On our way to Pontoise we will make a stop near the little town of Auvers is connected with the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, who spent his last months here, producing a large number of paintings. Guided walk. From Auver the barge brings us to the town of Pontoise.
Thursday: Pontoise – Bougival
Sailing downstream the river Oise and upstream Seine is one of the highlights of the tour but cycling near it too! 20 or 45 km. Many interesting things to visit in a short distance. We can start our bike ride in Pontoise or Conflans, old riverport where Seine and Oise meet. Between Conflans and Bougival the distance is less than 30 km. Centre of horse-riding is Maisons Lafitte. The next town, St. Germain-en-Laye has a museum with an impressive collection of human artifacts from early manhood until the early Middle Ages. Not far away from Bougival (4 km. mainly on bike paths), is the chateau-museum of Malmaison with its beautiful park, the dwelling of Napoleon and Joséphine, his first wife. It’s a very good alternative for the grand but busy chateau at Versailles.
Today we are already in the suburbs of Paris, but with quite some green parts. Some serious hills are part of the day-trip. First goal is the terrain of the Palace of Versailles. We can visit the park. A visit to the chateau itself will take several hours. A private reservation for this or the next day is an option. Also rides in some nice parks are part of the itinerary today. We will see highlights of Paris. Of course the traffic will be more intense as you experienced in the two weeks before! An option is to stay on board of the barge and see Paris from the river.
After breakfast your bike-and-barge tour from Bruges into the capital of France comes to an end.