Following up on fantastic trips in 2022 and 2023, we’re delighted to offer a group cycling tour from Calais to Besançon. Participants will have the option of using their own cycles or renting a traditional or electric bike. The cycle ride takes you from the opal-tinted beaches of the English Channel through the historic cemeteries and battlefields of World War I. Ride through historic cities of Arras, Laon, Reims, Langres, and Besançon on bike lanes, quiet roads, and forested pathways. At the heart of the group cycle is the Champagne Wine Region, renown throughout the world. This is an ideal way to experience the scenic wonders of the Via Francigena in France, without spending six weeks to journey on foot!
Itinerary for Calais to Besançon:
Sunday, June 30, 2024
– Gather in Calais for our orientation dinner
Monday, July 1, 2024
– Ride along the beautiful Côte d’Opal to Wissant, then turn inland toward Guînes and Licques, with an overnight at Tournehem sur-la-Hem
Tuesday, July 2, 2024
– From Tournehem-sur-la-Hem we head through the coal-mining city of Bruay-le-Buissière and then to the outdoor adventure park Parc d’Olhain.
Wednesday, July 3, 2024
– A short day of riding, through the WWI cemetery of Lorette and across the valley to lovely Arras, rebuilt after WWI to its original Flemish style. Enjoy refreshment in the Place des Heroes and take an elevator up to the Belfroi d’Arras to overlook the city.
Thursday, July 4, 2024
– Today we head straight south, through the historic towns of Bapaume and Pèronne, before traversing the woods to come out to the farms surrounding picturesque Saint-Quentin, our overnight.
Friday, July 5, 2024
– From Saint-Quentin it is first along canals and then through rolling hills and forests to the spectacular medieval town of Laon, with its immaculately well-preserved 12th c Gothic cathedral.
Saturday, July 6, 2024
– We enter the Champagne region today just after the village of Berry-au-Bac to make our way to Reims, largest city on the Via Francigena. Nearly every French king for 1000 years was consecrated at Reims Cathedral, one of the most cherished and beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Europe.
Sunday, July 7, 2024
– Rest day in Reims. As capital of the Champagne industry Reims is worthy of a rest day, and we’ll spend the day in option wine cellar tours to find our favorite vintages.
Monday, July 8, 2024
– A late breakfast allows us to be out the door in plenty of time to take flat canal roads to historic Châlons-en-Champagne, which edged out the larger city of Reims to be administrative capital of the Champagne region. Châlons is a beautiful town, full of historic buildings and quiet squares bordered by half-timber buildings.
Tuesday, July 9, 2024
– We diverge from the official Via Francigena track to enjoy one of its variants, the “Coole/Donnement Route,” an excellent bike itinerary through farmland. We stop in at Rosnay l’Hôpital to see the 15th c stained glass windows, then continue on to Brienne-le-Château, site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s military schooling and home to a museum of his memorabilia.
Wednesday, July 10, 2024
– From Brienne-le-Château it is a flat, comfortable ride through fields and forests to the delightful village of Bar-Sur-Aube, one of the hidden gems of the Via Francigena. It’s old buildings and lack of tourist crowds give an image of life in a midsized French town.
Thursday, July 11, 2024
– After Bar-sur-Aube we find French wilderness on trails and roads through the National Forest Park. Overnight beside the historic Abbaye Mormant at a quiet B&B and enjoy home cooking of our host.
Friday, July 12, 2024
– Now we make our way through forests and fields to the hilltop fortress town of Langres, birthplace of Enlightenment philosopher, Denis Diderot, and one of Europe’s few towns still fully enclosed in its medieval walls.
Saturday, July 13, 2024
– From the Marne/Seine river system we head into the Salon/Saône/Rhône system in a remote region of pastures and forests punctuated by small villages. Our overnight is at Dampierre-sur-Salon, a town known for its agriculture and metallurgy.
Sunday, July 14, 2024
– The farms begin to spread out just before the foothills of the Jura Mountains and the last city on our itinerary, beautiful Besançon. Home to the famous French author, Victor Hugo (Hunchback of Notre Dame, Les Miserables), historic Besançon is tightly compressed into a “boucle” (buckle) of the Doubs River with its Renaissance-era fortress looming above. Tonight we celebrate our successful ride with a farewell dinner and toast – celebrating a glorious ride through France on the Via Francigena.
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
– Depart Besançon