This brand new tour is the result of extensive research and planning Bill Higgs, who have worked in Burgundy tourism for over 20 years. The concept is quite simple: to add the magic of barging to road biking. By combining the very best bikes available with expert local knowledge and technical support plus the experience of the longest established barging company in France, we believe we have a winning formula. No more packing bags and moving on every day; instead, your own exclusive hotel, ʻLe Papillonʼ, will cruise with you for the entire trip.
Your guide - Tim is a life-long naturalist and bird enthusiast with an unparalleled knowledge of the cycle routes of Burgundy. He will bring alive the rich natural heritage of the region and help you explore parts of the Côte dʼOr that so many visitors would overlook. In order to show you the very best of this region, we must negotiate the undulating countryside as we hop valleys and climb hills. Each significant climb has been graded based on the UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) criteria for road racing with category 5 the easiest and 1 the toughest. Youʼll have 27 gears on our hybrid bikes, so the plan is to choose a comfortable gear, adopt a relaxed cadence and enjoy the views! We wonʼt be racing anywhere. Each day, we aim to bike about 40 km (25 miles), but will also propose one challenging 100km day. The support vehicle will always be nearby providing refreshments en route, plus the chance to return and cruise with Le Papillon in the glorious Ouche valley west of Dijon.
The Bikes - We use very comfortable lightweight (25 lb) hybrid bikes with an aluminum frame and a 27-speed Shimano Deore LX equipped groupset – ideal for road riding whilst giving us the flexibility to cycle through vineyards and short sections off road on gravel paths. You are welcome to bring your own pedals and shoes if you are more comfortable with a clipless pedal system.
Specialist road bikes (optional extra) - We also offer an itinerary for specialist road riding enthusiasts using Cannondale carbon-frame road bikes equipped with Shimano 105 groupsets. The itinerary will be similar, but weʼll keep to metal roads and will do on average an extra 10 miles per day. For these bikes, you will need to bring along your own pedals and shoes.
Cycling Itinerary for Le Papillon Barge
All of the bike rides will be in the department of the Côte dʼOr of Burgundy, to the west of Dijon and north of Beaune. During the tour, your hotel-barge ʻPapillonʼ will cruise from Pont de Pany near Dijon to Marigny-le-Cahouet near Montbard. This really is a rare opportunity to combine a serious bike tour with an authentic barge cruise, making you feel like you’re in the lap of luxury. Each day, when the pedaling is over, what better way to relax than with a book, on deck, sipping a glass of Burgundy wine as you cruise the waterways of France?
Day 1, Sunday: meet in Paris en route to Pont de Pany
A member of the crew will meet you at your hotel in Paris at 1pm for the drive to Burgundy. On the way, we will visit the magnificent château of Vaux-le-Vicomte – a mini rival to Versailles. Le Papillon will be moored in the village of Pont-de-Pany to the west of Dijon and upon arrival your crew will welcome you aboard with a champagne reception. Time to take a stroll and settle into your cabin before dinner.
Day 2, Monday
22 miles with one category 3 climb (2 1/2 miles)
After breakfast, Papillon will start cruising along the Canal de Bourgogne. Tim will join us this morning for a chat about our biking program. Lunch will be on the early side, so that we can be in Beaune when shops re-open to get fitted out with our bikes. Pedaling out of town, we will head straight into the vineyards of Savigny-les-Beaune before steadily climbing up the delightful valley of the river Rhoin with its dramatic limestone cliffs, and on to the quiet village of Bouilland. You might want to take a drink in the café prior to attacking our main climb of the day, the meandering ʻCombe de Naltʼ. Having conquered this hill, we can relax as the countryside opens out to some magnificent views. We will pass through St Jean de Boeuf and then head down into the Ouche valley before rejoining Papillon moored near the village of Gissey-sur-Ouche.
Day 3, Tuesday
27 miles with one category 5 climb (1 mile) & one category 3 climb (2 1/2 miles)
We’ll take an early morning breakfast cruise before we step ashore at one of the locks and bike along the canal towpath to the village of La Bussière. We’ll now leave the canal and climb towards the village of Commarin, where we can refuel with the locals in the bar beside the château. Our next stop will be the lake at Panthier, one of several reservoirs completed in the early 1840s to supply the canal with sufficient water for the then heavy commercial barge traffic; today, it is an oasis for sailing and anglers. Then, the time will come to pull out all the stops and tackle our most challenging climb of the day! We’ll head up to the imposing hilltop village of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois, rated as one of the most beautiful villages in France. From here, the views of the Auxois are splendid, and there is the perfect spot to enjoy a gourmet picnic, delivered and served by Papillonʼs chef. After lunch ,we will descend to another château, St Sabine and continue through several villages before rejoining the barge for a stretch of cruising. Cocktails and dinner will be served on deck.
Day 4, Wednesday
AM – 29 miles with three category 5 climbs (each about 1 mile)
PM- 33 miles with one category 4 climb (3 miles) & two category 5 climbs (each 1 mile)
Today we’ll offer ʻle Crunchʼ, a 100-kilometre monster! Itʼs your chance to cycle through virtually the entire wine cellar of the Côte de Beaune and the Côte de Nuits with all the famous names along the way. This morning’s ride will start in the charming riverside village of Lusigny-sur-Ouche. We will follow the route taken by the 2007 tour de France (Wiggins break away) to Ivry-en-Montagne, then onto Nolay and the fabulous views from the ʻmontagne des trois croixʼ before dropping down through the Maranges appellation vineyards of the Côte de Beaune. The rest of this ride reads like a wine list from one of the finest cellars in the world….Santenay, Chassagne Montrachet, Puligny Montrachet, Auxey-Duresses, Monthélie, Volnay; and in case thatʼs not enough to work up an appetite, we’ll have a bistro lunch waiting for us in Pommard! After lunch, we’ll circumvent Beaune by biking a scenic route through Bouze-lès-Beaune in the Haute Côte. There will be two significant hills to negotiate; after the first, we’ll drop down through Ladoix-Serrigny and then to Pernand-Vergelesses before approaching the gentle four-mile category 5 climb up to Echevrone and Meuilly. The following descent to Nuits-St-Georges will put us en route for the very best of the Côtes de Nuits vineyards: Vosne-Romanée, Chambolle-Musigny, Morey-St Denis, Gevrey-Chambertin, Fixin and Marsannay. Weʼll complete our ride on the outskirts of Dijon and celebrate an achievement to be remembered! The minibus will transport us back to Papillon and civilized living.
There is the option of biking just in the morning, or in the afternoon, or not at all if you prefer to use this middle day as a rest day. Le Papillon will be covering some interesting ground, climbing to the summit level of the canal and then passing through a 2-mile tunnel!
Day 5, Thursday
28 miles with one category 4 climb (2 miles)
This morning you can either take it easy and enjoy cruising along the canal, or head out in the minibus to visit the châteaux of Châteauneuf and Commarin. There is also the option of playing a round of golf at the 18-hole course at the château de Chailly. After lunch onboard and following the heroic exploits of yesterday, we’ll embark on a gentle ride towards the Morvan National Park. We’ll start with some delightful villages, Chailly-sur-Armançon, Mont St Jean and La Motte Ternant. The landscape then changes to the extensive conifer forests so typical of the Morvan; this is a slightly wild agricultural area, which during the last couple of centuries provided Paris with all of its firewood and a convenient supply of wet nurses! As we head back to Papillon, weʼll pass through Thorey-sous-Charny where a small but vivid revival of traditional wine making is underway. There are currently only 3 vineyards in the Auxois, and whilst the one at Thorey is the smallest, itʼs also the best – and not many people know about it! Weʼll walk amongst the vines, help with the picking if itʼs harvest time and then enjoy a sample back in the village amongst the barrels. Papillon will be moored nearby and dinner will be in the oven.
Day 6, Friday
35 miles with two category 5 climbs (each 11/4 miles), one category 4 climb (2 miles) and one category 3 climb (2 miles)
Soon after breakfast, Le Papillon will approach Pont Royal where we will begin our final ride. Our first hill will take us to the picturesque village of Saint Colombe before we descend to Marigny-le-Cahouet. It’ll be time to skip valleys from the Armancon to the Brenne and then ride up to Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, another one of ʻles plus beaux villages de Franceʼ. Chocolat was filmed here and the village still produces the little oval tins of ʻAnis de Flavignyʼ now found the world over. One shouldnʼt leave without visiting the 8th-century crypt. Outside and if weʼre lucky, weʼll catch a glimpse of the current monks in their black cassocks playing football! Weʼll pedal on to our picnic spot below the statue of Vercingetorix, the leader of the Gauls who was defeated here in 52BC by Caesar. After lunch and another climb, there will be time to pause and visit the ʻpotagerʼ/vegetable garden at the château of Lantilly. And then we’ll take a wonderful ride down to an undiscovered gem – the walled medieval town of Semur-en-Auxois – experience the cobbled streets as did the French road cycling championships in 2008. Weʼll leave town in style riding the same route that the horses take each year for the ʻFête de la Bagueʼ, the second oldest horse race in Europe! The last few kilometres are along the canal towpath – just far enough to find Papillon and celebrate!
Saturday: transfer to Paris
After breakfast, you’ll receive a transfer by minibus to your Paris hotel, train station or airport arriving during the traditional French lunch hour of 12 to 2pm.