For the most part, we can get any of our trips for you, whenever it suits you to go. Flexibility and making the trips completely your own are part of our company makeup, something we are very happy to be able to do. However, there are a couple of trips with extremely limited availability, small group departures that go like hot-cakes and we have just released dates for 2020 on a couple of these amazing trips. So, to give you the bigger picture on one of these limited availability tours, we present France Bike & Boat: Paris to Champagne.
In a Nutshell:
Where: This trip sees you cycling predominantly down the Marne River, from Paris to the 'Champagne Capital' Epernay. Paris is the cultural centre of French life and the most visited city in the world and for good reason. The fact that the Champagne region is so close to the capital city is something that not many people know and of course, for us, it is a complete bonus as you get to experience two amazing facets of French life, with some beautiful cycling in between.
Your home for the week will be the beautiful MS Zwaantje, a 40m barge with capacity for 24 guests, making this an intimate, small-group experience. Every room is en-suite and there are a couple of bars and a delightful restaurant where you will eat every night before retiring to the ample sundeck.
Distance: The distances on this trip can be variable, depending on whether you want to head out on your bike, or spend the day on deck, watching France glide by you as you sample some local wine and read your book. However, we would say that the distance you can expect to ride would be around 180-200km.
Grade: This tour is graded Moderate as you will cycle a combination of flat easy riverside cycling mixed with some hillier stretches. There is a good mix of dedicated cycle paths, quiet country lanes and riverside paths. It is recommended that you are cycle fit for this trip, but again, if you feel that one of the days was too punishing for you, take the next day off and relax.
Why Cycle Here?
This trip is packed with so much wonderfulness, that it is going to be tough to fit it in. What it offers, in a nutshell, is a way to experience a big slice of French life. It is bookended with a couple of major French highlights, but also you get all that joyful French wonder in the middle, the little towns and villages, bread and pastries fresh from the boulangerie, interesting local wines and well thought out, local gastronomy.
Paris. The most romantic city in the world. Streets lined with monuments, bursting with museums and dotted with chic little bistros. Paris should be experienced at least once in everyone's life. While we suggest booking a couple of extra nights before the boat heads off, we also include a guided tour of the city on your arrival day so you will get some intimate, local knowledge about the city too.
Heading away from Paris you will spend your first night in Lagny sur Marne, which I suppose is technically 'the suburbs' of Paris, but not as you or I would imagine it. A typical French town, with small winding streets, a beautiful open town square and replete with bistros and boulangeries to replenish yourself after a day in the saddle. Further down the route, you will stay on the banks of Chateau Thierry, site of the first and second Battles of the Marne and now home to an impressive and moving American war memorial.
When you think of France, many things will come to mind, but one of those will more than likely involve cheese. French cheese is world-renowned and you will spend a couple of days moored in Meaux, home of some of the greatest Brie in all of France. To make sure that you get the most from this, we have arranged a tasting of the local Brie de Meaux and Brie noir cheeses, letting you know all about this sumptuous cheese (and the best wines to accompany it!) You will also get a full day to explore the well-preserved heritage town of Meaux including its 12th Century Cathedral and 16th Century Château de Monceaux. It really is a stunning town.
Then there is the Champagne. While many people have been taken by Prosecco over the last decade (and fair enough) there really is no substitute for the real thing. Champagne production is an art form. The bubbles are naturally formed in the bottle as opposed to artificially pumped in, giving them a smoother, creamier feel. Combine this with lovingly tended grapes and hundreds of years of experience and you have a wine that is almost certain to please.
One of my favourite memories is after the tour of Moet et Chandon, the tour guide opening double doors to a room filled with glasses of champagne, saying 'you have 30 minutes. Help yourself.' Perhaps things have changed a little since then, but we have arranged a tasting class at one of the big champagne houses in Epernay. Here you will learn all about champagne, what to look for in a good one and will try a good few, just to make sure. You will also have some time cycling to and around Epernay where you can just cycle up to the Champagne house and take your own tastings. It is highly recommended to visit some of the smaller houses, you will be amazed at the quality of these champagnes that you likely have never heard of.
Planning and Preparation
One of the easiest trips to get to that we sell. France Bike & Boat: Paris to Champagne, starts in Paris and just about every carrier in the world will fly here in one form or another. To get back from Epernay to Champagne is simple, with trains running back to the capital which take around 1.5 hours.
If you have any questions about the route, don't hesitate to contact one of our Destination Specialists, who will be more than happy to help.