2013 Provence and Burgundy Bike Tour

Here’s a trip worthy of any cyclist’s bucket list: A combination river cruise and cycling tour of France’s two most colorful regions: Burgundy and Provence. Better yet, this adventure is timed to coordinate with the historic 100th running of the Tour de France. It was custom designed for riders with a wide range of abilities. Your daily choice of activities can be as demanding as you wish. Routes are as easy as a 20-mile downriver spin or as challenging as an ascent of Mont Ventoux. The tour includes enough variety that even non-cyclist spouses can fill their week non-cycling activities. After our tour, you can even join us to toast the final stage of “Le Tour” from the Champs-Élysées!
River travel is an ideal way to enjoy cycling and other activities in the South of France. There’s no packing and unpacking each day (with excellent shipboard laundry service). Use of a ship lets the tour concentrate on the finest and most interesting parts of southern France and bypass more ordinary areas.

Please don’t confuse our 5-star cruise ship with a barge. The Amadeus Symphony features sun deck, splash pool, spa, library and lots of space to relax. A river cruise, with castles, locks and ever-changing scenery is never boring. On a flat-bottom river cruiser, motion sickness is never a problem. Since this is a tour keyed to cyclists, the lifestyle is casual, but the food and service are first-class.

When and where? We’ll meet flights into Geneva’s airport as early as July 8, 2013. On July 12, after two days of optional rides and activities in Switzerland, we’ll cross into France to board Lueftner’s Amadeus Symphony for a wondrous 8-night voyage along the entire navigable lengths of the Saone and Rhone rivers. At the Mediterranean Delta our final ride through the fabled Camargue includes pink flamingos and wild white stallions. On Saturday the 20th you can fly home from Marseilles or continue with us for a 3-hour TGV ride to Paris, where you can toast the finale of the 100th Tour de France the following afternoon.
River travel is the ideal way to experience two Europe’s finest regions. Using a ship instead of hotels avoids the daily drudgery of packing and unpacking. Each morning this floating resort will deliver us to the perfect ride start before cruising downriver and pausing two hours to serve lunch. The afternoon cruise ends at the center of an interesting town where the ship will linger until dinner. To include superior cycling and scenery, the ship can move up to 100 miles while we sleep, to skip past the less-interesting areas that normal cycling tours are obliged to include. On this cyclists’ charter there’s no need to pack heels or neckties (and the ship’s laundry can take care of your lycra). While the experience is casual for us, the ship’s crew of 40 provides friendly yet impeccable service. Dinners are especially memorable. There’s a new menu nightly, and each has a range is choices. Because it’s France, expertly prepared cuisine is accompanied by wine.
Each day starts with a hearty breakfast and pre-tour talk that reviews excellent route materials. There is always a choice of at least three carefully chosen routes. The shortest routes are flatter, and follow the river downstream. The longest routes climb away from the river to reveal spectacular vistas. On most days you can ride in the morning, the afternoon, both or neither. Although the ship provides five meals per day (!), foodies may want to sample the local fare. One night our ship docks at the front door of Restaurant Bocuse — the world-renowned birthplace of Nouvelle Cuisine. Other historic tie ups include Chalon Sur Saone, Macon, Lyon, Avignon and Arles. Gorgeous rides allow you to reach and explore the great winemaking and historic areas surrounding the river.
Most bike tours include plenty of miles and not much more. Beyond some of France’s finest cycling and scenery, we’ll include a number professionally guided events. In a candle-lit cave beneath a 12th century chateau, for instance, you’ll learn the ancient Burgundian art of swirling, sipping and spitting. Local experts will also guide you through a Medieval hospital, a recently unearthed Roman city, France’s version of the Vatican, and the asylum where Vincent Van Gogh painted Starry Night. Additional admissions include a massive cut-in-stone castle and a uniquely non-Spanish bull-fight (in the South of France the bull can win and the only blood might be that of the matador). The highlight for many is certain to be the supported ascent of Mont Ventoux, using the classic route included in 14 Tours de France.
Is it expensive? As a rule of thumb, an epic European cycling vacation costs as much as a really good bike. Actually, this particular 9-day cycling cruise through France, which starts at a bit over $4,000 per person, costs no more than a popular Backroads.com bicycle tour in the same country. The difference? Their justifiably popular 5-day inn-to-inn tours visit either Burgundy or Provence—but never both. At about the same price this 9-day tour through both regions includes twice as many miles and attractions, a scenic cruise and all meals. Optionally, our tour includes the finish of the 100th Tour de France and a chance to visit Geneva and Paris.

While I’d love to tell you we “built” this adventure in Waterford’s workshop, in actuality we’ve teamed up with Santana Cycles, a California-built bike brand founded by Jan and Bill McCready. I’ve known the McCreadys for decades, in addition to being lifelong cyclists Jan and Bill traveled extensively in France. On behalf of Santana’s customers they produced dozens of traditional cycling tours prior to 2005, the year they chartered their first cruise ship. In 2013, the year of the 100th Tour de France, Waterford is proud to co-host Santana’s 10th ship-and-bike adventure—a Tour de Force vacation that blends energetic cycling with a luxurious river cruise.