Casual Barge Biking Cruises in Holland, Belgium, Germany and France
The cruises listed below are for those passengers that are looking for a very laid back experience at an affordable price. These cruises are multi language. Your cabin consists of your own private toilet and shower, though you take care of cleaning your room. You are given clean linens during the cruise and you make your own bed. Lunch is a packed bag each day. There is no formal meals such as a Captain's Farewell dinner. No alcoholic beverages included in the rates.
These are a great value and great fun if the above features appeal to you. The 20 passenger Fleur (built in 2001), is a Dutch barge, practical and comfortable with a friendly appearance.
Paris to Bruges
Rate includes: 15 days, breakfast, lunch package, dinner, bed linen, bike rental, tour guide.
You can book this trip as a bike & barge trip or as a cruise. If you book a bike & barge trip, you can make a bike tour of 20 - 40 km per day, accompanied by an experienced guide. If you book a cruise, you sail with the barge and you use public transport, accompanied by another experienced guide.
Itinerary: Paris – Coflans – Compiegne– St. Quentin – Cambrai – Oudenaarde – Ghent – Bruges.
Highlights: Paris – Royal palace in Compiegne – battlefields of the Somme valley - basilica ofSt. Quentin – tunnel of Riqueval – Belfort in Ghent - round trip of the canals of Bruges.
French scenic beauty and Flemisch history
We start our tour in Paris, the famous capital of France, not far from the Notre Dame. We follow the Seine downstream passing the Louvre and the Eiffel tower into Conflans. From here we cruise through the valley of the Oise to Compiegne. From the Middle Ages on, this part of France used to be the centre of the French kingdom. A visit to the palace of the French kings is included in our program.
Later we follow the wonderful old canal of St. Quentin to the historical city of St. Quentin, where the gothic basilica and the town hall are worth a visit. And then we sail through the tunnel of Riqueval heading for Belgium. There we visit Doornik, once an important halting-place for the pilgrims, and Oudenaarde which has a beautiful town hall. Another important highlight on the program is our visit to Ghent, where, in the old town center with its imposing Belfort and the St. Baafs cathedral, you can still taste the atmosphere of days gone by. Here you can admire the beautiful triptych by the famous painter Jan van Eyck.
Final destination is Bruges, with its picturesque town center probably the most beautiful of the historical Flemish cities. You will get the opportunity to visit one of its many museums and to have a look at the famous hand-made Bruges lace.
Day 1 (Sat): Paris
You find the Fleur in Port d’Arsenal right in the middle of Paris, next to the Place de la Bastille. Borading starts at 4pm. Welcoming drink, followed by dinner. Afterwich your cruise guide will offer a walking tour of the area - Montmartre and the Sacré-Coeur.
Day 2 (Sun): Paris – Conflans
Cruising time: 6.5 hours. Cycling distance 35 km
After breakfast we sail or cycle right across the center of Paris, along famous points of interest like the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Eiffel tower. We follow the Seine downstream passing the suburbs of Paris, along the industrial suburbs Gennevilliers and Bologne-Billancourt. Also situated here is Ile Sequin, where the old Renault factories are located.
If you prefer to start biking outside Paris, you can start at St.Germain-en-Laye. There you climb to the palace and from the palace-garden you have a splendid view over Paris.
Finally we arrive at Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, where the Oise and the Seine merge. From the 19th century Conflans has been an important center of navigation in Northern France.
Day 3 (Mon): Conflans – Creil
Cuising time: 7.5 hours. Cycling distance 55/45 km
9.00 h Starting at Conflans , we follow the Oise upstream. We pass along Auvers-sur Oise, where Vincent van Gogh spent the last days of his life and where he and his brother are burried on the cementary. For many impressionist painters this was a favourite area. Not far from here we pass the abbey of Royaumont and soon thereafter Chantilly, with its famous castle. The castle is also well known for the horse-racing circuit and royal stables.
Today’s destination is Creil, a country town, which in the 19th century was famous for its fine pottery. In the museum Gallée Juillet you can admire a collection of this pottery.
Day 4 (Tue): Creil – Compiegne
Cruising time : 5 hours. Cycling distance 45 km
9.00 h Not far from Creil we pass Pont-St-Maxence. This town owes its name to the fact that in very olden times there already was a bridge over the Oise and so Pont-St-Maxence became the place to stay the night for kings and merchants who were on their way to Flanders. Not far from here we pass the abbey of Moncel, which in 1309 was founded by king Philips de Schone.
Before we reach Compiegne, where we will spend the night,we cycle through the forest south of the city.
This beautiful town owes its architectural wealth to the proximity of Paris and the enormous woods in which the French kings loved to wander. The Chateau de Compiègne with its magnificent gardens are most worthy of your visit and so is the town hall (1498 – 1530), the national stud-farm and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc.
Day 5 (Wed): Compiegne – Noyon
Cruising time: 6 hours. Cycling distance 35/50 km
9.00 h Today we leave the river Oise to continue our trip by way of the canal system connecting France and Belgium. The cycling goes through the forest of Compiegne where we visit the “Clairière de l’Armistice”, the place where the french and german generals signed for the end of WWI. We can visit the small but interesting museum overthere. Later we cross the river Aisne and cycle through the forest of Ourscamp. We spend the night in Noyon, the place where Calvin (famous protestant reformer) was born. This city, where Charlemagne was crowned king, later became an important cathedral city. The 12th and 13th century cathedral is surely worth a visit. As well as the medieval library next to it.
Day 6 (Thu): Noyon – St Quentin
Cruising time: 8 hours. Cycling distance 45 km
Today we continue the cruise on the old canal of St.-Quentin. Via the towns of Chauny and Tergnier we arrive at this beautiful old canal with many locks. Here the Fleur feels at home and for the first time this tour the size of the locks are just right for her. The cycling goes through the Somme-region, quiet country side with small villages. Our destination today is St. Quentin.
St. Quentin arose in the 2nd century on a junction of roman roads. The lively provincial capital of the Aisne flourished as a destination for pilgrims around the grave of St.-Quentin. The gothic basilica was built between 1230 and the 15th century and has a unique double transept and windows from the 13th and 14th century. The city hall from 1500 in flamboyant gothic style, shows Flemish characteristics.
Day 7 (Fri): St. Quentin
9.00 h Today the Fleur stays in St.-Quentin. You can participate in a day excursion by bus to the battlefields of World War I in the Somme valley. But it is also possible to use the day for exploring the city of St.Quentin further and for shopping.
Day 8 (Sat): St. Quentin – tunnel of Riqueval - Honnecourt
Cruising time: 7 hours. Cycling distance 30 km
9.00 h The Canal de St.-Quentin was dug under the government of Napoleon. Because the differences in height were sometimes big, it was necessary to dig some tunnels. The longest one is the tunnel of Riqueval, which is 5670 meters long. Today we go through this tunnel with the Fleur. Like in former years, ships are still pulled through the tunnel in two hours by an electrically driven towboat. Above the tunnel there is the watershed between rivers Escaut (Schelde) and Somme.
Either just before or right after this tunnel the bikers disembark. At the tunnel is a little museum. From there we go downhill again and we spend the night in a little village called Honnecourt.
Day 9 (Sun): Honnecourt - Cambrai – Pont Malin
Cruising time: 6 hours. Cycling 30 km
Today we continue our trip over the old canal de St. Quentin.
The canal still breathes piece and quiet and reminds of a rich shipping history. Coals from the mines needed to be transported to the north, so Napoleon decided to dig the canal in 1801.
9.00 h We start cycling to the ancient abbey of Vaucelles (which can be visited) and later we continue to the city of Cambrai , once a roman provincial capital and an important destination for pilgrims. First in 1677 Cambrai became French. Worth seeing are the impressive restored buildings of the city fortress, built under Charles V. The old city gate dates from 1300, the so called Spanish house and the cathedral next to it. In the afternoon we leave leave the old canal de St. Quentin and we continue on the Canal du Grand Gabarit to Pont Malin, where we spend the night.
Day 10 (Mon): Pont Malin – Doornik
Cruising time: 8 hours. Cycling distance 55 km
Today we follow the canal du Grand Gabarit for quite a few hours passing through a former industrial area of France. Old mines and steel sites boarder the canal.
9.00 h We start our todays-bike-ride which follows the old pilger route to Santiago de Compostela.
The Fleur crosses the French frontier in Mortagne and a little later, in Bleharies, we cross the Belgium frontier. We sail through the so-called ‘white land’. The charming little fortress town Antoing lies at the heart of this region and since the Roman days limestone has been mined here. Our today’s destination is Doornik (in French: Tournai), one of the oldest cities of Belgium. Here we are in Wallonia, where all towns and villages have both a French and a Flemish name. Up till the beginning of the 17th century Doornik was ruled by the French. Here, tapestry weaving gained in importance, while the cloth industry became less important. In the various musea of the town, excellent examples can be seen. In 1940 the entire city center was destroyed after a German air-raid. However, the town has been renovated splendidly. Especially the cathedral the Notre Dame (12th and 13th century) is worth seeing, as well as the Belfort, which was built at about 1200.
Day 11 (Tue): Doornik (Tournai) – Oudenaarde
Cruising time: 5.5 hours. Cycling distance 45 km
9.00 h Now we sail downstream the river Schelde and crossing the language barrier we enter the Flemish region. From here onwards Flemish is the spoken language.
Our target is Oudenaarde. In former days this little town was situated on the border of the French and German Empires and as a result it was involved in wars frequently. Since Oudenaarde was right in the firing-line, there was always someone on the look-out. The statue of the most famous watchman, Hanske de Krijger, is on the splendid city hall. In the first half of the 16th century this city hall was built of sandstone in Brabantine late Gothic style and it is one of the most beautiful city halls of Flanders. Oudenaarde is also known as the town of the tapestry weavers. Their tapestry is famous all over the world. We might have to quench our thirst at one of Belgiums famous beerbreweries called Liefmans.
Day 12 (Wed): Oudenaarde – Ghent
Cruising time: 7 hours. Cycling distance 45 km
9.00 h We continue sailing on the Schelde in the direction of Ghent, but before we arrive there we may visit an interesting archeological site (of an old Abbey) Ename which is located at the east-side of the river Scheldt.
Ghent is a lively university town with a rich history. The town arose on the spot where in Roman days the rivers Leie and Schelde merged. This favourable location brought on quite some wealth with a peak in the late 13th and early 14th century. The cloth industry was a source of great riches. In the city many patrician residences have been preserved. In the Lakenhalle (1425) the cloth traders gathered. The most important church is St. Baafs cathedral, which was constructed in different centuries and in different styles. In the cathedral several masterpieces of mediaeval painting are to be found. “The worship of the Lamb of God” by Jan van Eyck is the most famous of all.
You might want to take a city tour by boat or visit the old castle Gravensteen.
Day 13 (Thu): Ghent – Bruges
Cruising time: 6 hours. Cycling distance 45 km
9.00 h Today our bike tour goes through the pleasant country side of Western Flanders to Bruges. Bruges, also called the Venice of the North, maybe is the most beautiful of all Flemish cities. Its old center, which dates from the Middle Ages, is almost completely intact. At the time Bruges was a metropole, center of trade and art, which we can still fully enjoy.
Day 14 (Fri): Bruges
9.00 h Today the Fleur stays in Bruges.
Day 15 (Sat): Bruges
9.00 h Departure from the barge after breakfast.