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French Bike & Barge Tour / Cycling Barge Cruise

Between Paris and Joigny

Enjoy a Northern Burgundy bike and barge tour, cycling cruise on the Seine and Yonne rivers between Paris and Joigny, France. Aurora's tour guide accompanies guests on bike rides. For lunch, packed lunches or stopping at a nearby bistrot will be arranged or, if Aurora is in the vicinity, lunch will be aboard the barge. Experience the best that France offers with a barge charter aboard Aurora. Great tours, awesome cruising, and delicious cuisine make this a week to remember.

French hotel barge Aurora - itinerary map Northern Burgundy Paris Joigny cruise

Daily distances:

Sunday, Day 1 - Paris to mooring at Samois-sur-Seine (16 or 35 km / 10 or 22 miles)

You are met in Paris and travel by private minibus to Samois-sur-Seine. This charming village on the banks of the Seine River is surrounded by the forest of Fontainebleau, one of the most beautiful French forests. Upon your arrival, the crew greets you with a Champagne welcome and petits fours. If you arrive early enough, test out your bikes with a cycle in the forest.

Today’s cycling route will lead you to the picturesque town of Fontainebleau. Visit the world-renown Château de Fontainebleau, one of the largest royal castles in France, and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the Chateau is a national museum.

Our short cycling route comprises a loop into the town of Fontainebleau, via the forest, a visit of the Château, then back to the village of Samois-sur-Seine. This bike trip is approximately a 16km, 90-minute loop. [ MAP ] Factor in an additional 2 hours to tour the Château itself. The Château closes at 5pm, so it is important to begin your ride soon after arriving at Aurora in order to visit.

If you prefer a longer ride, you may choose a 35km, 3-hour bike trip. [ MAP 1 ] [ MAP 2 ] This route begins in Samois-sur-Seine, past Fontainebleau, with a brief stop at the Château de Fontainebleau, for a quick look. Continue to Barbizon “the village of painters” with Impressionist school roots, then to Chailly en Bière, Fay, Brolles, Bois le Roi, and finally arriving back in Samois-sur-Seine.

Monday, Day 2 - Samois-sur-Seine to Montereau-Fault-Yonne / Cannes écluse (35 km / 22 miles)

After a delicious breakfast, this morning’s cycling route begins at Samois-sur-Seine. Start by cycling south of last night’s mooring spot towards the village of Samoreau, then to Thomery, a village with the Church of Saint-Amand in the town center, and the Rosa Bonheur workshop museum dedicated to the famous wildlife artist. Continue your ride to Vulaines-sur-Seine and finish at Moret-sur-Loing. Approximately 20km, 90-minute ride, without counting stops in Thomery.

Moret-sur-Loing is a charming medieval town favored by the Impressionists where they once lived and took their inspiration. You will have ample time to visit Villa Sisley, the Moret Barley Sugar Museum where the Moret Nuns Barley Sugar has been well-known and appreciated for over 300 years, and the Grange Batelière, house of George Clemenceau, named “Père la Victoire”, a statesman during World War I. The most prominent landmarks are: fortified gateways, half-timbered houses, the Priory of Pont Loup and the Notre Dame Church, the Town Hall, Porte de Bourgogne, Municipal Museum, and the façade known as “Francois 1er” - a Renaissance house with interesting history. This postcard pretty town is very photogenic. The best view is from the old bridge on the right bank of the Loing river.

After some sightseeing, cycle north about 3km to the village of Saint-Mammès, where Aurora will have lunch waiting. [ MAP ]

After lunch, there are several options: 1) Relax and enjoy the short cruise on Aurora past Montereau-Fault-Yonne where we stop for the night in front of the Cannes écluse. 2) Take a 17km, 90-minute ride from Moret-sur-Loing straight east to the Cannes écluse. [ MAP ] 3) Want a longer bike trip? From Moret-sur-Loing, head south and follow the canal past Montigny-sur-Loing, La Genevraye, Épisy, Écuelles arriving back in Moret-sur-Loing. Turn east and follow the route to the Cannes écluse. This beautiful ride is part of a EuroVelo route. Approximately 34km, 3 hours. [ MAP ]

Today’s destination is Montereau-Fault-Yonne, a beautiful town, small, charming, and authentic France. It lies at the confluence of the Yonne and Seine rivers and has a quaint river port. Aurora’s evening mooring is 4 km outside of the town in a calm and secluded spot right next to the lock.

Tuesday, Day 3 - Montereau-Fault-Yonne/ Cannes écluse to Courlon-sur-Yonne (43 km / 27 miles)

The Yonne River is today’s waterway. We have chosen this route to highlight the areas away from the crowds and the industrialized stretch close to Paris. Aurora cruises along the Yonne until we reach the end of our cruise in Joigny. The partially canalized Yonne has stretches of peacefully flowing, open river with many beautiful nooks and crannies, along with some narrow canals mixed in. The locks alternate between small & narrow to wider, deeper ones with sloping sides.

Today’s cycling route begins with a ride towards Montereau-Fault-Yonne to discover the town at a peaceful pace and to admire the most prominent highlights of its rich historical past. The Notre-Dame-et-Saint-Loup Collegiate Church, classified as a historic monument, is of a flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance style. Visit the Faience Earthenware Museum with a collection of over 400 pieces unveiled since its beginnings in the 18th century. See the old houses in the city center such as the former home of the Grand Cerf, the former salt granary of Preuilly, the 17th-century Hospice de la Charité, the priory of Saint Martin built in 908, and the equestrian statue of Napoleon I with reliefs depicting the Battle of 1814.

As we leave the town, we can stop to purchase delicious Brie de Montereau cheese and some chocolates: pebbles of Montereau and boulets of Napoleon. We cycle onwards to the south towards Esmans, then to Montmachoux, where you can visit the ostrich farm in the center of the village. Continuing to La Brosse-Montceaux, we see their 18th-century castle and the memorial for the 5 Oblates killed during the Resistance in 1944. We ride to Villeneuve-la-Guyard and cross the river to Misy-sur-Yonne. Finally, we travel towards Vinneuf and reach Courlon-sur-Yonne, Aurora’s mooring spot for the night. Total distance of 32 km, taking approximately 2hrs 45minutes without counting a stop in Montereau. [ MAP ]

This afternoon after lunch aboard Aurora we visit Provins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Champagne region. Provins is a magnificent medieval fair town with 12th and 13th century fortified walls, medieval ramparts, historic Upper town, and typical picturesque wooden houses. Stroll around fortified walls with its many gateways and towers. Enter the old town and admire Caesar’s Tower, Collegiate Church Saint-Quiriace, Tithe Barn, Romanesque house, Holy Spirit Cellar, and the Old Hospital. A visit to the medieval and Renaissance Museum is also possible. There are many opportunities for shopping. Spectacles, such as equestrian falconry on the ramparts or a show of Chivalry, are available in the summer.

Wednesday, Day 4 - Courlon-sur-Yonne to Sens (40 km / 25 miles)

This morning Aurora cruises the peacefully meandering river Yonne while we enjoy a pleasant bike ride from Courlon-sur-Yonne to Sens. Cycle via Champigny to Pont-sur-Yonne that specializes in the production of medical glassware such as lenses. Admire the Vieux Pont (Old Bridge), the vestiges of fortification, and the Notre-Dame Church from 1180. We then head towards Saint-Serotin, Villebougis, Nailly, and Saint-Martin du Tertre; cross the river Yonne and head for Sens. Aurora is waiting by the bridge. It is a 5-minute walk to the town center.

At the confluence of Yonne and Vanne Rivers, Sens was important before Caesar came to Gaul in 390 BC. The Cathedral of St-Etienne is Sens’ outstanding glory. Construction began before 1140 and it is the oldest of the great Gothic cathedrals with flamboyant facades. The exquisite stained-glass windows from the 12th-16th centuries show biblical scenes, including a tribute to the exiled Thomas Becket. His liturgical robes are in the Treasury (part of the Musées de Sens and Palais Synodal). Both Cathedral and Palace were former bishops’ residences and they house a magnificent collection of religious and private art collections. Here you can also see beautiful Byzantine reliquary, tapestries, chalices, and impressive Gallo-Roman archaeological treasure. The Orangerie garden with colorful flowers on the south side of the cathedral is not to be missed. The 19th-century covered market hall is located opposite the cathedral. Market day is Wednesday, so it is a great place to stock up on local goodies. The charming Italian-style theater, dating back to 1882, is also worth a visit.

Shopping opportunities are plentiful. With many stores in the town center, it is easy to find a gift to take home with you. Following the Brennus trail, marked with arrows on the ground, one can admire the splendid Abraham House; a 16th-century half-timbered house carved with many motifs tracing the genealogy of Christ.

Once in Sens, bike to the unmissable 10-hectare Parc du Moulin. The streams of Vanne and Lingue cross here. The Parc du Moulin à Tan is a precursor of the town’s project for a green belt, which should ultimately go right around Sens. It’s named after an obscure type of mill that dates back to 1887. It was used to grind oak bark to make tanbark, a powder used in leather tanning. The Parc du Moulin à Tan includes a rose garden, a mini-farm, an arboretum, and a playground. [ MAP ]

Thursday, Day 5 - Sens to Villeneuve-sur-Yonne (16 or 55 km / 10 or 34 miles)

The village of Villeneuve is on the banks of the river. Its houses are nestled together around the bell tower of Notre-Dame Church. Inhabited as early as the Palaeolithic period, the houses date back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The Joigny Gate to the south of the ancient fortress is from the late 13th century. Today part of the Museum of Villeneuve exhibits are on display. On the second floor, you can visit the Knight’s Room which holds temporary exhibitions.

Next to the Joigny Gate you can visit the art gallery museum, including paintings and sculptures from the 19th century. Sens’ Gate is a north gate almost identical to Joigny Gate to the south. Eventually, the Museum of Villeneuve will display its entire archaeological and historical collections with these walls.

A rich army contractor built the town hall on the vestiges of the town’s ramparts. Down by the banks of the Yonne river, one can see the ruins of the Rousson Tower, one of seven original cylindrical defense towers along the walls. Impressive fortified towers and a moat still guard the village.

We have two options for today.

Friday, Day 6 - Villeneuve-sur-Yonne to Joigny (22km / 14 miles)

Our last day of cycling begins with a morning bike tour to the town of Saint-Julien-du-Sault, just outside of Villeneuve. Here you can visit the 13th-century Saint-Pierre church with magnificent stained-glass windows. We then head south towards La-Petite-Celle, followed by La-Celle-Saint-Cyr, Cézy, Saint Aubin-sur-Yonne, to our final destination of Joigny. This bike route is approximately 22km and about 90 minutes, without taking sightseeing into account. [ MAP ]

Joigny is a picturesque town, spilling down the terraces and slopes of Côte St-Jacques, overlooking the river. Joigny was mostly destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 16th century. Some houses have kept their carved wooden decorations. It is a lively Burgundian town with a good market, a contemporary art museum, and plenty of waterway activities. The Lorain family of restaurant fame, have done much to resuscitate and promote regional wines. Their three-star Michelin restaurant in a lovely setting on the river brings much renown to the town. For golf-lovers, the Domaine du Roncemay at Aillant-sur-Tholon is nearby. Among the oaks, maples, and beeches in the neighboring forest are much sought after mushrooms. In autumn, it is a glorious area for all nature lovers for hiking, walking, cycling, riding, and birdwatching.

Aurora arrives in Joigny around 1pm. After lunch aboard, we visit Auxerre at about 2pm to give guests as much time as possible to explore. It is a highlight of the trip and not to be missed.

Auxerre is a beautiful medieval city and the capital of Yonne. It was once a busy port on the wine route. Auxerre has timber houses, church spires, an impressive 15th-century clock tower, and a pleasant port on the Yonne river. The old town starts right behind the quay. From there, the narrow, steeply cobbled streets guide visitors to the newly restored Cathedral of St-Etienne; a Gothic masterpiece and historic monument. The Tour de l’Horloge, an impressive sundial clock tower formerly called Gaillarde, leads into the pedestrian shopping area. This city of Art and History boasts exceptional heritage, with many majestic religious buildings and treasures such as the 12th-century Church of St Eusebius with its bell tower, renaissance choir and stained glass windows. There are also museums that tell the story of the city and the region. The St Germanus Museum has a fine collection of Leblanc-Duvernoy faience. Not to be missed is the Place Saint-Nicolas in the marine quarter with beautiful houses, shops, and restaurants. Close by is a footbridge over the Yonne that offers a stunning view of Auxerre. Of course, we mustn’t forget the gastronomical specialties of the region: Gougères, Chablis sausage, Burgundy snails, Boeuf Bourguignon, Kir, and Burgundy truffles.

Saturday, Day 7 - Joigny

Breakfast on board followed by a late morning return to Paris (hotel or airport) by private minibus.

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