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Champagne by Bike and Boat: Marne River valley and Paris (and reverse)

  • 5

    (1)

  • 7 nights | 26 miles/day
  • Difficulty Level: 3
  • Guided from: €1099
  • View Dates

Tours using road, hybrid or touring bikes:

  1. Mostly flat
  2. Flat with some gentle slopes
  3. Rolling, hilly terrain
  4. Some long and/or steep climbs
  5. Extensive climbing

Tours using mountain bikes:

  1. Mostly flat, wide trails
  2. Some gentle slopes, wide trails
  3. Rolling, hilly terrain and/or narrow trails
  4. Some long and/or steep climbs and/or technical trails
  5. Extensive climbing and/or highly technical trails
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Tour description

This eight day, seven night Champagne, Marne River Valley & Paris tour on board the barge MS Zwaantje is a cycle 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 wine. From the time the Benedictine monk Dom Pierre Pérignon invented the bubbly drink in 1670 at the Abbey of d’Hautvillers, the Champagne name has been synonymous worldwide with the very best of sparkling wines.

On a daily basis from your base on board your floating hotel for the duration for the tour, the barge MS Zwaantje, you will have the opportunity to cycle to boutique wineries, sample a variety of champagnes, taste delicious Brie cheese and generally discover everything the Champagne UNESCO world heritage region, which is centered on the towns of Epernay and Reims, 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 on a full day guided excursion.

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, the 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. 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 massive champagne cellars.

Note: This tour runs on opposite weeks from Paris or Epernay. Both itineraries are listed in the Daily Program.

This tour is guided, but it is also possible to ride some of the shorter distances self-guided, using maps and descriptions made available on board. The tour leader is always available by mobile phone if you wish to do this. When a guest does not want to cycle one day, she/he can skip the bike tour and relax on board while cruising to the next town.

Daily program

Note: This tour runs on opposite weeks from Paris or Epernay. Both itineraries are listed below.

From Paris
May 26*, 2018 (*indicates fully booked date)

Day 1: Paris: Embarkation and check-in between 5:00-6:00pm at the Quai de Bercy on the Seine in Paris
Welcome by the captain, crew and tour leader. Dinner on board. First briefing about the barge, bicycles and tour program.

Day 2: Paris: full day excursion
After breakfast, you will leave the ship and enjoy a full day guided excursion to many highlights of Paris. Visit some of the many highlights that the "City of Light" has to offer. To mention just a few: the Eifel Tower, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica in Montmartre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay.

Your tour guide will take you by public transportation (day ticket not included) from the barge to the center of Paris and on some walking tours. For safety reasons, no cycling tour in Paris is planned. Return to the barge in Lagny-sur-Marne by train.

Day 3: Lagny-sur-Marne – Meaux (approximately 21 miles/35 km)
In Lagny-sur-Marne, you can take your bicycle for a first ride, mainly along the Marne river and its parallel canal. The first challenge is the hill near Chalifert. The barge will take the tunnel through the hill but cyclists can test their shape and muscles for the first time by climbing and crossing that hill by bicycle. Today's destination is the city of Meaux, famous for its "Brie de Meaux" cheeses and the magnificent Cathedral St.-Etienne. Night in Meaux.

Day 4: Meaux – La Ferté-sous-Jouarre (approximately 22-25 miles/35-40 km)
After breakfast, you will start your cycling tour through the center of Meaux. Today's cycling tour will lead you over the hills and slopes of the Marne valley and through forests and small villages on the southern and northern banks of the river. On the way, we may visit the Château de Montceau, the building of which was started by Catherine de Médicis in the 16th century.

During the day you will enjoy a tasting of the famous Brie de Meaux and Brie noir cheeses. Dinner on board and night in La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre or one of the villages nearby.

Day 5: La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Château-Thierry (approximately 32 miles/50 km)
Enjoy a somewhat challenging bike tour from La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre to Château-Thierry. The first part of the cycling track leads you along the Marne river. After a few miles, you will take a side valley and follow country roads along the small river Ru de Bouillons through various small villages and hamlets.

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. Follow the valley of the small river Clignon.

En route you can visit the large World War I American War Cemetery and Monument near Belleau on the D82. Start your descent to reach Château-Thierry. Easier and shorter cycling option along the river through the valley. Dinner on board and night in Château-Thierry.

Day 6: Château-Thierry – Dormans – Epernay (approximately 19-35 miles/30-50km)
Château-Thierrry owes its name to the castle that once was situated on the slopes above the Marne. You can still see some remnants. The town was the site of two important battles: the Battle of 1814 in the Napoleonic Wars between France and Prussia and the Battle of 1918 at the end of World War I.

Château-Thierry is also known as the native town of the world-famous writer of fables Jean de la Fontaine. Choose between a longer and a short bike ride. Today we will enter the official Champagne area. Cycle along the Marne River or cruise 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. We will see the Château de Boursault, a large castle built in 1848 by the widow of Mr. Cliquot, who gave her name (VeuveCliquot) 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. Dinner on board and night in Epernay.

Day 7: Epernay round tour (approximately 16 miles/25 km)
The last half day's bike 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 ascent, you will reach this picturesque village of Champagne winegrowers on the southern slopes of the Montagne de Reims. The highlight is a visit to the chapel with the tomb of the monk Dom Pérignon.

According to tradition, Dom Pérignon (1638-1715), who was in charge of the wine cellars of the abbey of Benedictine monks, was the first to succeed in blending various kinds of wine 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 the Reims, the Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne. Epernay has many townhouses 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 are situated. Champagne tasting and tour in one of the major Champagne houses.

Day 8: Epernay: disembarkation
After breakfast: end of tour and disembarkation at 9:00am near the train station in Epernay.


From Epernay
Jun 2*, 2018 (*indicates fully booked date)

Day 1: Epernay: embarkation in the afternoon
Embarkation and check-in between 5:00-6:00pm. Welcome by the captain, crew, and tour leader. Dinner on board. First briefing about the barge, bicycles, and tour program.

Day 2: Epernay round tour (approximately 16 miles/25 km)
The first half day's bike 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 winegrowers on the southern slopes of the Montagne de Reims.

A highlight is a visit to the chapel with the tomb of the monk Dom Pérignon. According to tradition, Dom Pérignon (1638-1715), who was in charge of the wine cellars of the abbey of Benedictine monks, was the first to succeed in blending various kinds of wine 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 the Reims, the Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne. Epernay has many townhouses 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 are situated. Champagne tasting and tour in a Champagne house on the famous Avenue de Champagne.

Day 3: Epernay – Dormans – Château-Thierry (approximately 19-35 miles/30-50 km)
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 (or cruise) 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. Dinner on board and night in Epernay.

Today's destination is Château-Thierrry, 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. Short bike tour, if possible, starts in Dormans.

Day 4: Château-Thierry – La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre (approximately 32 miles/50 km)
Enjoy a somewhat challenging bike 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 World War I 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 along the small river Ru de Bouillonsto reach La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre, where you meet the barge. Night in La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre or one of the villages nearby.

Day 5: La Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Meaux (approximately 22-25 miles/35-40 km)
After breakfast, you will start your cycling tour that will lead you over the hills and slopes of the Marne valley and through forests and small villages on the southern and northern banks of the river. On the way, we may visit the Château de Montceau, the building of which was started by Catherine de Médicis in the 16th century.

Today's destination is the city of Meaux, famous for its "Brie de Meaux" cheeses and the magnificent cathedral, the Cathedral St.-Etienne. During the day you will enjoy a tasting of the famous Brie de Meaux and Brie noir cheeses. Visit the historical city center of Meaux. Dinner on board and night in Meaux.

Day 6: Meaux – Lagny-sur-Marne (approximately 21 miles/35 km)
In Meaux, you can take your bicycle for a final ride, mainly along the Marne river and its parallel canal. Last challenge is the hill near Chalifert. The barge will take the tunnel through this hill, but cyclists have to ride up to take the hill by bicycle.

In the early afternoon, you will meet the barge in Lagny-sur-Marne, where you will stay for the night.

Day 7: Paris: full day excursion
After breakfast, you will leave the ship and enjoy a full day guided excursion to many highlights of Paris. Visit some of the may highlights that the "City of Light" has to offer. To mention just a few: the Eifel Tower, the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, the Arc de Triomphe, the Centre Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay.

Your tour guide will take you by public transportation (day ticket not included) from the barge to the center of Paris and on some walking tours. For safety reasons, no cycling tour in Paris is planned.

Day 8: Paris: disembarkation
After breakfast: end of the tour and disembarkation at 9:00am in Paris.

Note: all distances are approximate distances. The program may change as a result of nautical, technical, or meteorological reasons.

Dates

From Paris: May 26*, 2018. From Epernay: Jun 2*, 2018

Prices

MS Zwaantje
Per person, double occupancy
€1099
Single cabin surcharge (1 person/1 cabin)
€400
Bike Rentals
Hybrid touring bike, 21-speed
€80
Electrically assisted bike (limited number, only on request)
€165

Ratings

Ratings Snapshot

  • 5 Star 1
  • 4 Star 0
  • 3 Star 0
  • 2 Star 0
  • 1 Star 0

Average Ratings

  • Overall

    5

  • Difficulty level (Actual vs. expected) 3
  • Value 5
  • Included meals 5
  • Bikes & equipment 5
  • Hotels or boat 4
  • Scenery 5
  • Ease of navigation 4
  • Tour documents 5
  • Local tour company services 5
  • Route selection 5
  • Guides (if applicable) 5

Reviews

Trail Ted July 30, 2016

What a great tour

This was the highlight of our three week trip in Europe. The barge was newly refurbished, the crew was great and the trip leader made it so interesting. And what great food! We all applauded the chef.
Not a lot of hills, but the few long and steep ones were a challenge for those of us using standard bikes. We envied those with e-bikes! The wifi on board was sometimes a challenge - the only area for improvement.

Would definitely recommend this tour to others.