With thousands of kilometres of bike trails, beautiful scenery and so many cultural sites to explore, Europe is a bikers paradise. So no wonder that many cycle groups choose to go on trips by bike and barge. They can indulge in doing what they love best with the added pleasures of sailing and discovering a new country. We interviewed Mary Maraggio, a member of Bay Area Senior Cyclists in Cape Cod, about her and her club’s experiences of cycling through Europe with Boat Bike Tours.
When did you first get hooked on taking tours by bike and barge?
My first trip was from Amsterdam to Bruges. I loved it! It was very scenic and you get to cycle through very nice towns. I’ve now been on eight barge trips with the senior bicycle club I belong to. We started with just a few of us, but it became so popular that all my friends want to go. It’s become a tradition! People from the club even organize extra trips in smaller groups. Once you’ve done it you’re hooked!
What’s it like to travel as a group?
Going as a group means that there’s no language barrier. Everyone makes their own way over and then we meet up for dinner the night before the tour begins. It’s a community thing all the way through.
The tempo is geared to the group, and the tour leader is good at adjusting for different people. If some people want to go especially fast he’ll send them off ahead. We can all cycle around 20 kms a day. If one day we don’t feel like going out we can stay on the barge and relax or read on the deck.
How does the planning and organization of the trip work?
When I’m planning a trip I’ll choose a destination I want to go to, like France, Italy or Germany, and e-mail Jossie [charter tour manager] to let her know I want to rent a whole barge. Then I’ll send a mail round to the bicycle club asking if anyone is interested. It’s always sold out within a week! Sharing the costs mean that it’s very affordable. Everything’s included, and the meals are wonderful.
We have to book around a year ahead, especially in the summertime. The next trip we’re doing is in August, and we booked it last July.
What are the highlights of the trips for you?
We love doing the trips so much because we all love traveling. And this way, everything’s organized for you. You get to cycle and get a tour while you’re biking, see beautiful scenery and learn about new places. I once tried to organize a barge and walking trip, but it’s not the same. By bike you can really cover a lot of ground and see a lot of the countryside.
The other thing I really enjoy are the nightly walks we sometimes have after dinner.The tour leader calls them digestif walks. If the barge is docked near a town we’ll go and explore, and sometimes stop and have a glass of wine.
We love it! The food is phenomenal, the personnel has always been very nice and caring, and everything is organized for you.
What are some of your favorite routes?
We did the Moselle twice in the fall. Its my absolute favourite! With the changing foliage, it’s so beautiful. And the vineyards! We’ve also done several trips in France and been to Italy. A great trip we did in Italy was from Venice. That was the first time we had a female captain!
One of my favourite barges is the Fleur. I love that you can sit up on the covered deck.
Are you inspired to start planning your own tour?
At Boat Bike Tours you can charter your own ship and receive a group discount to make the tour even more affordable. Read about all the details of “booking your bubble” here, or sign up for our 6-part e-mail charter tour course.