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A 7 day cycle tour in France

8 Dec 2017

Marcello Vicenzoni

In June 2017 a couple of friends and I took a 7 day barge and bike tour though the Champayne region in France. We arranged our trip through Girolibero. The trip began in Epernay and travelled through Dormans, ChateauThierry, La Ferte-sous-jouarre-Meaux, Meaux-Lagny-sur-Marne and ended in Paris. Everything was just so well organised and absolutely above and beyond my expectations. And, better still, whilst the tour usually accommodates up to 24 persons we were fortunate enough to have had a small group of 6 people; four Australians, and a couple from the US. It was a fun group to be with and being so small it felt very private and exclusive. The bikes were great. Very comfortable to ride, with high handlebars, fenders, and all had the option of a pannier. There was also an option to use an E-bike. All were good touring bikes and well maintained. A typical day began with breakfast at 7.30am. We would then make our lunches and be on our bikes by 8.30am. We would cycle till about 12ish and then have lunch. Following lunch we would cycle on and meet with the boat further down the river usually around 4.30ish. We would have morning and afternoon tea breaks and stop to see historic or local sites along the way. Dinner was at 6:30pm. We rode about 40kms a day and for the most part it was easy cycling. The route took us through vineyard countryside, small towns, and along canals. Some in the group could cycle faster and longer, but our tour guide, Marianne kept the pace moderate and everyone stayed together. As a result everyone was able to look around and enjoy the country as we pedalled. Our boat was the MS Zwaantje, a 40 meters barge that can accommodate 24 passengers. It was very comfortable, clean and well crewed. I loved it and one of the best features of this tour was at the end of a day’s ride our rooms were ready and waiting for us on the boat. No packing or unpacking each day. Fantastic! I thought the food was great. Our cook prepared enjoyable and generous freshly home cooked meals each evening. She came out every night before dinner was served and announced what she had prepared together with a history of how it related to the local area. I thought that was a real nice touch. Our guide was a lovely lady named Mijntje Janssen Steenberg (better known to us as Marianne). She was awesome. She travelled with us each day and was very knowledgeable, helpful, charming and (amongst other languages) spoke excellent English. Any crises’ along the way she was able to resolve with minimal disruption to the daily program. She knew the route like the back of her hand and was well versed in the history of the sights we saw along the way. In the evenings she recapped the day’s travel and briefed us on the next day’s itinerary and weather. She would then (for those amongst us who were keen enough) take walk tours of the town we were moored in. I would highly recommend her. I really enjoyed her company and we all agreed she made us feel secure and safe throughout the tour. I/we had a great time on the barge/bike tour. I guess the best recommendation I could give is that that I’d love to do it again.

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