Saturday Paris, Bike tour
Upon arrival on board in Paris, the crew will welcome you with a cup of coffee or tea. After an introduction to the crew, there will be a short program explaining the rules on board and information on the program. After the introduction, there will be a short tour through a cycle friendly part of Paris. This is a perfect time to get comfortable with the bike and make necessary adjustments.
Sunday Paris - Bougival
Depending on the mooring place, you will traverse Sunday-morning Paris with relatively less traffic, following the Seine-river. This first day has some serious slopes to conquer (Paris is not flat!). We will go through parks (Bois de Boulogne) and forest to Versailles (lunch) where we will visit the park. Through Sunday-afternoon quiet suburbs we will find our way to the Seine River. Option: visit to chateau/museum of Malmaison (Napoleon and Josephine). Mooring Place near Bougival.
Monday Bougival-Auvers sur Oise
In the morning we follow a bike path along the river to nearby St. Germain-en-Laye. From the bridge to the castle is a ca. 1 km. slope. The French kings had many luxurious dwellings in and near Paris. From St. Germain the court finally moved to Versailles. In the castle houses a fine prehistoric museum. Coffee stop. We follow the river more or less and will have lunch in the next town. End of this Seine-day is in Conflans Ste. Honorine, a once busy river port. From here the ship will sail upstream the Oise river to Auvers. This nice little town is connected with the famous Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh,who spent his last months here, producing a large number of paintings. Guided walk.
Tuesday Auvers sur Oise – Creil
An early sailing brings us quite a distance upstream. The bike ride leads us to the forest around Chantilly. Here an impressive chateau (art) can be visited. In case it is closed (Tuesdays off season) a good alternative is a visit to the former abbey of Royaumont.After Chantilly the longer ride-option offers you a nice ride to the historic town of Senlis (Roman traces, cathedral) and a beautiful wooded landscape back to the river in Creil.
Wednesday. Creil – Compiegne
Another early sailing on the Oise river starts your day. Cycling away from the river you’ll hardly experience the very moderate slope. After coffee stop we are heading for the immense Compiegne forest. On our way to there, you’ll see a ruïn of a chapel and impressive Roman excavations. Lunch in a village in the forest. Pierrefonds castle is a must-see! All the way back to the river is in the forest. Compiegne is waiting for us. It’s a nice town. Palace-museum. You can join a guided walk in this historic town (Joan of Arc).
Thursday Compiegne – Chaun
An open space in the forest of Compiegne is connected with two truces of two World Wars (Clairiere d’Armistice). There is a small museum to be visited. After the coffee stop we enter a lovely wooded valley on our way to the north. In one of the villages we can have our lunch. In the afternoon we are heading for the canal parallel to the Oise river, between Pont l’Eveque and Chauny. Cycling straight away to Chauny makes the distance ca. 45 km. Including a visit to the old town of Noyon with it’s immense cathedral is worth while. At it’s foot there is a nice historic museum. Another nearby little museum is dedicated to the reformer Calvin who was born here. This visit adds some 15 km. A good and easy bike path runs all the way along the canal to Chauny.
Friday Chaury- St. Quentin
Between Chauny and St. Quentin we have a variety of itineraries but they’re all on quiet country roads most of the time or taking towpaths next to the canal for a while. The canal to St. Quentin is never far away. We are entering the wide agricultural area of Northern France, also site of fierce fighting in the war of 1914-1918. You’ll encounter military cemeteries in this vast area. But enjoy the cycling. In the end of the afternoon and the next morning you have time to explore St. Quentin. The historical town hall can be visited on Friday.
Saturday. St. Quentin – Honnecourt
The morning you can spend in St. Quentin. To the north of the town the ship has to cross the watershed. The canal is in a shorter and a longer tunnel. In the long one the barge is drawn by an electric tug: but no service on Sunday, so we have to pass it on Saturday. Cycling (part of) the distance, one notices the road is rising. Somewhere underneath is the hidden canal. Near the southern entrance of the second tunnel is a small museum dedicated to the history of the tunnel. From there we follow nice country roads, some serious slopes but not very long. The source of the river Escaut is near now. After Cambrai the barge will follow this river all the way to Gent in Belgium. The village of Honnecourt will be our mooring place.
Sunday. Honnecourt – Cambrai
Very nice cycling in rolling countryside but most of the itinerary follows the canal. You will see several locks and in some of the villages we can have a stop. Cambrai for a while was the southernmost town of the Low Countries (16th century). The barge will be moored on walking distance of the centre with its big square and impressive townhall. Several café’s are to be found there too.
Monday. Cambrai – Valenciennes
A day in the north of France. 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. Bouchain has an old fortress and a small museum. Valenciennes is a bigger town with all facilities belonging to that (museums etc.)
Into Belgium. We leave Valenciennes towards St. Amand-les-Eaux with its impressive tower is a nice place for a stop. East of this town is a lovely forest with immense beechtrees. Time for lunch! Towards Tournai we can take the longer ride in a beautiful forest area, cross the river Escaut and find our way on quiet country roads towards the Belgian border. Along the Escaut-river we cycle into Tournai. If necessary, we can take a shortcut after St. Amand.Tournai is famous for its historic town centre. Highlight is the cathedral with its five towers. Mooring near the city centre, at walking distance.
Cycling to Oudenaarde is easy, just following the river Escaut. After crossing the language-border(coffee stop), the river is called Schelde. An alternative with just a few slopes a bit further away from the river is an option. Near the lunch place the hill-lovers have a chance to prove their climbing capacities! Nearby are two of the (in!) famous cobblestone covered roads up to the hill (12 and 20 % slope. A beautiful bike path on a former railroad track leads us to near Oudenaarde. Highlights in town: townhall with tapestries, bicycle centre Tour of Flanders, church, beer brewery. On the market-edge you’ll find several café’s. Mooring ca. 1 km. from the market square. Walk in town.
Thursday Oudenaarde- Gent
The ride to Gent is nice. First part is along the river, with visit to the former location of an abbey and castle of Ename (3 km’s from Oudenaarde). Quiet roads, patches of forest, some villages and nice bike paths lead us to Merelbeke (lunch). We are near Gent already. Via bike-friendly roads we cycle into 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! It is a very lively town (more than 250.000 inh.)partly because of its many young inhabitants (university students). Well lit Gent in the evening is another experience. Dinner in town this evening.
Friday Gent- Bruges
Between Gent and Bruges you will experience the typical landscape of Flanders.Fields with all kind of crops, winding country roads, small towns, some forest. After Nevele (coffee stop) Poeke, with its castle and park and two café’s on the square near the church is a good place to have lunch. On our further way towards Bruges we will find some villages and patches of forest and of course a café to have a teastop. Then we will encounter the canal and follow it into Bruges. The mooring place is at the very beginning of town, so no ride in busy traffic necessary. At the end of the afternoon the guide can show you some of the highlights of town.
After breakfast your bike-and-barge tour comes to an end.