Itinerary

Cycling Holiday: Champagne, Marne Valley and Paris

8 days / 7 nights | Ship: MS Zwaantje | From Paris to Epernay or from Epernay to Paris

During this new tour you will follow the beautiful valley of the river Marne. Along the way, you will have plenty of opportunities to taste the delicious Brie cheese and Champagne wines. In 2015, UNESCO granted the Champagne area the status of world heritage; the vineyards, wine cellars and sales houses where champagne is produced and sold are considered culturally significant. You will meet the barge in Paris, the capital of France and one of Europe's most beautiful and beloved cities. Discover the "City of Light" and enjoy many highlights during a full day guided excursion.

After leaving Paris, you will visit the city of Meaux, well known for its Brie cheeses. The barge will also spend a night in Château-Thierry, scene of major battles in World War I. You will cycle through the vineyards on the rolling banks of the Marne river. When cycling, you will visit some small champagne producers, who will be proud to let you taste their best Champagne wines. The tour ends in the city of Epernay, the real capital of the Champagne region. Here you will visit one of the immense champagne cellars. On Saturday: bus transfer Epernay - Reims.


The cycling tours are fully guided, but cannot be rated as easy: you need to be a fit and well-practiced cyclist. Every day you will cycle small country roads (short distances: un- 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 – 50 km (19 – 31 miles) per day.

Route from Paris to Epernay

Day 1 (Sat): Paris: embarkation

Embarkation and check-in between 05:00 and 06:00 PM 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 (Sun): 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 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.

Day 3 (Mon): Paris – Lagny-sur-Marne | Lagny-sur-Marne - Meaux (Cycling 35 km / 21 miles)

During breakfast the barge will sail on the Marne river through the outskirts of Paris to Lagny-sur-Marne. On this first part of sailing, the barge will pass the tunnel near Saint-Maurice, which is a very impressive experience. In Lagny-sur-Marne, you can take your bicycle for a first ride, mainly along the Marne river and its parallel canal. 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 (Tue): Meaux – La Ferté-sous-Jouarre (Cycling 35–40 km / 22 or 25 miles)

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 (Wed): La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Château-Thierry (Cycling 50 km / 32 miles)

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 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.

Day 6 (Thu): Château-Thierry – Dormans – Epernay (Cycling 30–50 km / 19–35 miles)

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 (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. Dinner on board and night in Epernay.

Day 7 (Fri): Epernay round tour (Cycling 25 km / 16 miles) | afternoon: visit Epernay and Champagne houses

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 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. 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 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 are situated. Champagne tasting and tour in one of the major Champagne houses.

Day 8 (Sat): Epernay

After breakfast: end of tour and disembarkation; around 10:00 AM bus transfer via the Montagne de Reims to the TGV train station Champagne-Ardennes near Reims and to the center of Reims.

Route from Epernay to Paris

Day 1 (Sat): Epernay: embarkation

In the afternoon: (optional, included) bus transfer from Reims city center via TGV train station Champagne-Ardennes to Epernay. Embarkation and check-in between 05:00 and 06:00 PM. Welcome by the captain, crew and tour leader. Dinner on board. First briefing about the barge, bicycles and tour program.

Day 2 (Sun): Epernay round tour (Cycling 25 km / 16 miles) | afternoon: visit Epernay and Champagne houses

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 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. 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 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 are situated. Champagne tasting and tour in a Champagne house on the famous Avenue de Champagne.

Day 3 (Mon): Epernay– Dormans – Château-Thierry (Cycling 30–50 km / 19–35 miles)

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 (Wed): Château-Thierry – La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre (Cycling 50 km / 32 miles)

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 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 along the small river Ru de Bouillons to reach La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre, where you meet the barge. Night in La-Ferté-sous-Jouarre or one of the villages nearby.

Day 5 (Wed): La Ferté-sous-Jouarre – Meaux (ca. 35–40 km / 22 or 25 miles)

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 (Thu): Meaux – Lagny-sur-Marne (Cycling 35 km / 21 miles) | Lagny-sur-Marne – Paris

In Meaux you can take your bicycle for a last 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. The barge will sail from Lagny-sur-Marne on the Marne river to Paris. On this last part of sailing, the barge will pass another tunnel, the tunnel near Saint-Maurice, which is a very impressive experience. Dinner on board and night in Paris.

Day 7 (Fri): 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 (Sat): Paris

After breakfast: end of the tour and disembarkation in Paris.

Please note: All cycling distances stated above are approximate only.