Embarkation and check-in at 2 p.m. in Epernay. After a welcome by the captain, crew and tour leader there is time for bicycle fitting and a short test ride.
After dinner your tour leader will take you for a walk through Epernay, the major wine center of the Champagne region. Epernay has many town houses dating in neo-renaissance style or classical style dating from the 19th century, especially around the beautiful Avenue the Champagne, where many prestigious champagne houses are situated.
Sunday: Epernay round tour ( 19 km or 26 km)
The first half day’s cycling 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 wine growers on the southern slopes of the Montagne de Reims. Highlight is a visit of the chapel with the tomb of the monk Dom Pérignon (1638-1715). In charge of the wine cellars of a Benedictine abbey, Dom Pérignon pioneered a number of winemaking techniques, being the first to blend grapes in such a way as to improve regional wines 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 de Reims, the Côte des Blancs and the Vallée de la Marne. Epernay has many town houses 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 and Mercier, are situated. Enjoy a Champagne tasting and take a tour in one of the major Champagne houses.
Monday: Epernay – Dormans – Chateau Thierry (35 km or 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 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. The short cycling tour ends in Dormans, where you can join the ship. The longer option ends at the lock of Mont St. Pierre. Today’s destination is Château-Thierry, 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.
Tuesday: Chateau Thierry – La Ferté-sous-Jouarre (40 km or 44 km)
Enjoy a somewhat challenging cycling 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 WW1 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 to reach La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre in the Marne valley, where you will meet the barge and spend the night.
Wednesday: La Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Meaux ( 30 km or 52 km)
After breakfast you will start your cycling tour that will lead you over the hills and slopes of the Marne valley through forests and small villages on the southern and northern banks of the river. After just a few miles (uphill !) you will enjoy a very nice presentation and tasting of the famous Brie de Meaux and Brie noir cheeses at the family-run Fromagerie Ganot. Then you will hop on the bicycles again and you can opt for a longer or shorter ride to Meaux. The short option will lead you over the hills and slopes of the Marne valley on the southern bank of the river through forests and small villages. The long tour follows a few large curves of the river to Lizy-sur-Ourcq and Trilport. Today’s destination is the city of Meaux, famous for its “Brie de Meaux” cheeses and the magnificent Cathedral St.-Etienne. Visit the historical city center of Meaux. Today there is no dinner on board. You can select one of the local restaurants in town.
Thursday: Meaux – Lagny-sur-Marne (24 km or 45 km)
Visit the beautiful city center of Meaux. Then you can take your bicycle for a last ride, mainly along the Marne river and its parallel canal. The longer option leads along the Canal de l’Ourq, that was built by Napoleon to transport wood, grain and drinking water to Paris. In the afternoon you will meet the barge in Lagny-sur-Marne, an outskirt of Paris, where you will stay for the night.
Friday: Lagny-sur-Marne – Paris (38 km or 51 km)
Today we will bike further along the river Marne. After about 10 km you will pass the castle of Champs-sur Marne. The Château de Champs-sur-Marne is characteristic of the residences of leisure built in the countryside in the 18th century, giving rise to a new style of living. It is one of the most magnificently furnished châteaux in the Ile-de-France. You will bike all the way along the rivers Marne and Seine to the mooring in the heart of Paris.
End of your tour: Disembarkation after breakfast until 9.30 a.m.