The Bike Ride
The bike ride takes us along country roads, towpaths, paved forest trails and occasionally a cobblestone road. In Belgium we’ll cycle through relatively flat country and a large part of the tour will take place along tow paths that were best described by Dan Gamber on his website: “If you like to ride on good pavement but away from car traffic, the towpaths of Belgium offer some of the best cycling in the world. Much of the way is through pleasant farmlands or nature reserves, with the loudest noise bird songs or the engine of a barge.” In the French countryside we will follow the country roads and the occasional bike path and towards Paris the terrain will get more hilly.
1) Sunday Bruges 10 Miles
Arrival on board the Elodie in Bruges where the crew will welcome you with a nice cup of coffee or tea. Introduction to the crew, explanation of the rules on board, information on the program. After the introduction we will make a short tour to Damme, a small historical town in the area of Bruges. Now you can get comfortable with your bike and make the necessary adjustments. Bruges can be considered an open air museum in every aspect. An evening stroll through this beautiful town is worthwhile.
2) Monday Bruges – Gent 27 Miles
Your first tour day begins along towpaths, green pastures and picturesque little towns of the Flemish countryside. An excellent track to warm up the muscles for the days to come. It is also part of the Santiago the Compostela pilgrims route that we will more or less follow all the way to Compiegne where this route takes another course.
Gent, also called the pride of Belgium honors, and its title walking through the medley of intimate and grotesque architecture. A university town with a great atmosphere!
3) Tuesday Gent – Oudenaarde 21 Miles
From Gent we will continue upstream on the Schelde/Escaut to the south and southwest With the exception of Gent and Oudenaarde, the river towpaths that we follow lead us through farmland with the occasional nature preserve or harbor. The route is essentially flat the whole distance, with the occasional lock (there are six in all) having in most cases a rise of only about a meter. The route is mostly a well paved towpath, with short sections of street riding in Gent and Oudenaarde
Oudenaarde is the capital of the Flemish Ardennen. Centuries old it is famous for its beer breweries and wall carpets.
4) Wednesday Oudenaarde – Tournai 29 Miles
The cycle path to Tournai follows for a large part the tow paths that we are already used to. We will now enter Wallonie, the French speaking part of Belgium. The difference in culture will be immediately noticeable. The Wallonians not only speak the French language but have also adopted the French culture.
Tournai, the oldest city in Belgium is considered to be one of the most important cultural sites in Belgium. The mixed Romanesque- and Gothic-style cathedral of Notre Dame de Tournai and the belfry, the oldest in Belgium, have been designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Inside the cathedral, that can be visited until 6 pm, the Châsse de Notre-Dame flamande, a beautifully ornated 12th-century reliquary, gives witness to Tournai’s wealth in the Middle Ages.
5) Thursday Tournai – Marquion 26 Miles
Straight through the national park regional scarpe – escaut we cycle towards Denaing. The park was created in an old coal mine area. Cycling through this park it is hard to realize that after WWI this was a black and desolated country with no tree left.
We are passing the famous cycle race tracks of Paris – Roubaix and the notorious Wallers – Arenberg trench. This tour is called “the hell of the north” because of the extremely bad conditions of the road the race was held on. Of course we will let our wheels touch the grounds of this famous race but we will not follow the paths that gave the name to this tour. A little bit further down the river at Arleux we will find the Elodie.
6) Friday Marquion – Peronne 25 Miles
Early in the morning the Elodie will start heading for the locks and as you are ejoying your breakfast the first locks will be passed. The small and narrow locks at the “canal du nord” are a special experience.
This day the Elodie will pass 12 locks and a 3.5 mile tunnel to get to Peronne. Each lock will take the Elodie about 11 meter higher. At one of the locks you will cycle away from the river and head for Peronne the town where we will spend a whole day.
7) Saturday – Peronne 0 Miles
Today is the perfect day to make you own plan as the Elodie will stay at the nice and interesting town of Peronne. Peronne has a lovely town centre, a big park and a very interesting museum.
Situated in a 12th century castle you will find the museum of the Great War right in the middle of town. Together with cities like Albert en Bapaume , Peronne formed the triangle in which the battle of the Somme took place. Peronne and its museum have therefore been appointed by the French government as a historical monument in the military history of France.
On this day there will be no dinner at the boat so there is no need to go back to the Elodie. If you want to stay a little bit longer in another town and enjoy a French meal in one of the local restaurants you will not miss one of our chef’s meals.
8) Sunday Peronne – Pont l’eveque 31 Miles
Today a cycle trip along the canal du Nord and the country side towards Noyonne, the French capital of the red fruit. We will follow the valley and the towpaths as the country around us gets more hilly.
Noyonne has also been the birth place of Calvijn, a clergyman that has been of great influence particularly in Holland
Picardie has been the cradle for Gothic art and architecture. In Noyon you can find a beautiful example of this period in the form of a Gothic Cathedral that can be admired and visited.
9) Monday Pont l’eveque – Compiegne 25 Miles
Through the forest of Dom Dourscam and dom de Laigue we will continue through a more hilly terrain. Our first goal is the railway carriage where the first world war was ended and Nazi Germany forced France into an armistice treaty during the second world war. The Armistice site was demolished by the Germans on Hitler’s orders and the carriage was taken to Berlin and destroyed by SS troops. A replica of the carriage can be seen together with the restored site.
From here it is not very far to our second and final goal for this day, the interesting town of Compiegne. This town is famous for its horse races and its Castle, a preferred summer residence for French monarchs, built for Louis XV, and restored by Napoleon.
We will spend the night in this town.
10) Tuesday Compiegne – Creil 26 Miles
In the morning we will start cycling towards Chateaux Pierrefonds to pay a visit to this remarkable Castle. Continuing our tour we will cycle through the park regions Pays de France. This park belongs to a “community” of 45 parks all over France. The parks are a mixture of natural and cultural sites combined with local community life. This way you will not be clearly entering a park in the traditional way but more so a green inhabited region that is particularly beautiful and pleasant to pass through.
Thus forests, hills small towns and rivers will accompany your trip this day. In the town of Creil we wil spend the night
11) Wednesday Creil – Auvers sur l’oise 26 Miles
“A hilly day” lies ahead of us but the reward will be great. Chateaux de Chantilly is one ofthe most beautiful castles we will visit. The castle as well as its surrounding terrains are very scenic and sometimes even breath taking. We will spend some time here so you will be able to admire the Castle from the inside and possibly visit the museum de Conde.
We will spend the night in Auvers-sur-l’Oise. Throughout the 19th century a number of painters lived and worked in Auvers-sur-Oise, including Paul Cézanne, Charles-François Daubigny, Camille Pissarro, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and of course, Vincent van Gogh. Vincent made a number of his famous paintings here and spent the last days of his life in this town. After his death he was buried in the local graveyard that can be visited.
12) Thursday Auvers sur l’oise – Bougival 26 miles
Today we will ride through the banlieux of Paris. Unexpectedly close to Paris you will find a “green” path that will lead us to our next stop in Bougival.
Along the way we will pass St Germain en Laye, the birth place of the famous composer, Debussy.
A glimpse of the great city that lies ahead of us can be seen from a terrace near the chateaux de St Germain en Laye (the national museum of archeology)
A nice panoramic view over Paris with its remarkable Eiffel tower before we get back to the river and the little town of Bougival where we will spend the night.
13) Friday Bougival – Versailles – Paris 24 Miles
On our last cycle track before we reach the centre of Paris we will visit Versailles. This day we will cycle up hill to one of the biggest palaces in the world.
This unbelievable Palace ,once inhabited by French kings, is now a museum. Although it can be very bussy we will try to spend enough time here for you to visit the palace.
If you do not want to go inside you can visit the magnificent garden and admire the palace from there.
After Versailles we will “descend” to the river Seine to embark on the Elodie for a boat tour to the centre of Paris an absolute highlight of the tour.
14) Saturday Paris 0 miles
The cycle tour has come to an end and you can now enjoy the wonderful city of Paris. You can be sure that you belong to the very few that came to visit this city on a bicycle. An experience normally reserved for the Tour the France riders only!.
Your visit to Paris will never be the same.
15) Sunday Paris
We take leave of you after breakfast.