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Paris-Epernay Champagne 7-day Bike & Barge Tour (ZW)
Paris to Epernay, 7-day/6-night Marne River Valley and Paris tour onboard a barge 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 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 centred 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. The cycling tours are fully guided, but cannot be rated as easy: you need to be a fit and competent cyclist. Every day you will cycle small country roads (short distances: unpaved or semi-paved roads and tracks) that go up and down the beautiful slopes of the wide river valley, through the hills and the Champagne vineyards. Cycling distances vary from 30 – 50km per day.
On the lower deck are 12 cabins: 10 twins and 2 doubles. All with a bathroom, a window (can open only in the double cabins) and individual air conditioning. On the main deck, you can have a seat and a refreshing drink in the lounge corner of the cozy salon with its large panoramic windows. Or enjoy your breakfast and delicious three-course dinner in the adjacent restaurant area. And with a little bit of sunshine you should take a seat on the sun deck.
The cycling tours are fully guided, but cannot be rated as easy: you need to be a fit and competent cyclist. Every day you will cycle small country roads (short distances: unpaved or semi-paved roads and tracks) that almost all day have inclines and valleys through the hills and the Champagne vineyards. Cycling distances vary from 30–50km per day. This tour therefore is more challenging than tours in (flat) Holland or Flanders.
Slow Tours offers a number of other Bike & Barge tours in Europe
Paris – Lagny-sur-Marne (38 km/23 mi.)
Embarkation and check-in at 11 a.m. on the Seine, in the center of Paris. After a welcome by the captain, crew and tour leader you leave Paris by bike via the river Marne. A bike path leads all along the river. You pass the chateaux of Champs-sur-Marne and bike through the surrounding gardens. 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. Destination of today is Lagny, a nice little town along the Marne.
Lagny-sur-Marne – Meaux (22 km/13 mi. or 42 km/26 mi.)
From Lagny-sur-Marne there are 2 bike options. The first kilometers of both options are uphill. In case you opt for the short ride, the first challenge is the hill near Chalifert. The barge will take the tunnel through the hill, but cyclists can test their fitness and muscles for the first time by climbing and crossing the hill by bicycle. Also on the longer option the first part is quite hilly, because you have to leave the valley of the Marne. Later you will follow the small Canal de l’Ourq that was built by Napoleon to transport wood, grain and fresh water to Paris. Today’s destination is the city of Meaux, famous for its “Brie de Meaux” cheeses and the magnificent Cathedral St.-Etienne. Night in Meaux.
Meaux – La Ferté-sous-Jouarre (27 km/16 mi or 52 km/32 mi.)
There are a few cycling options today. The shorter option will lead you over the hills and slopes of the Marne valley on the south bank of the river through forests and small villages. The longer option stays in the valley of the river in the morning with a ride through Trilport and Lizy-sur-Ourcq. Later you will have to climb a few challenging hills, leaving the valley in the direction of Jouarre. In Jouarre, all cyclists can enjoy a very nice presentation and tasting of the famous Brie de Meaux and Brie noir cheeses at the family-run Fromagerie Ganot. Dinner on board and night in La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre or a village nearby.
La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Château-Thierry (40 km/24 mi. or 44 km/26 mi.)
Enjoy a somewhat challenging cycling 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 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 WW1 American War Cemetery and Monument near Belleau on the D82. Start your descent to reach Château-Thierry. Dinner on board and night in Château-Thierry. Château-Thierry 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.
Château-Thierry – Dormans – Epernay (35 km/19 mi. or 50 km/35 mi.)
During breakfast the ship will take us to the lock of Mont St. Pierre or even a bit further upstream to Dormans. Today we will enter the official Champagne area. Dormans is 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 intense battles. 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. During the cycling tour you 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. Today there is no dinner on board. You can select one of the local restaurants in town.
Epernay round tour (19 km/11 mi. or 26 km/16 mi.)
The last 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 ascent 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.
End of your tour: Disembarkation after breakfast until 9.00 a.m.
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Shows in English in Paris: Paris offers a wide variety of shows accessible to English-speakers. One-man shows, classic & modern theatre, musicals, cabarets and more are all performed in the city every night. You can get the full programme of shows in Paris to fit your city break dates by emailing [email protected]