When Mac Tichenor, a close friend of Trek Travel, wanted to celebrate his birthday in style, he put together the guest list and we took care of the rest. What followed was a floating party, an unforgettable bike-n-barge vacation from Paris to Champagne. Together, Mac and nine of his closest friends cruised the Marne River and set a new bar for the ultimate birthday celebration.
What inspired you to take a bike and barge vacation?
The inspiration came from the Trek Travel trip designers. I presented them with a nascent idea, and, very creatively, they came up with a spectacular trip. Even after the idea was hatched, we weren’t certain what we were getting into. But our previous experience on a Trek Travel trip made us confident that it would be well done and fun, and our expectations were far surpassed.
Tell us about your favorite day of the trip.
It is really hard to pick a favorite. Each day had its own flavor, with different intensities of riding, different types of scenery, and different kinds of off-the-bike activities, all of which made each day interesting and exciting. But the first full day was probably the most memorable. Our group of 10 was already wowed by the elegance of our accommodations on the barge, the conviviality of its crew, and how our guides were almost giddy about the plans for the week. The excitement of starting off that first morning still sticks with me.
How does a bike and barge trip compare to a classic cycling vacation?
1. A big benefit was that we did not have to pack up and move out of our rooms for the whole week. After we departed the barge each morning on our bikes, it would motor on to the next port of call, where we would meet it at the end of the day. We had the same room but a different view every day.
2. The barge had a great bar, wine cellar, and an extraordinary chef. It was particularly nice to stay aboard after a long day of riding and be treated to a Michelin-quality meal.
3. When someone in our group didn’t want to ride on a given day, they had the option of staying on the barge to read and relax on deck during a pleasant trip down the Marne River.
What made the bike and barge trip a unique travel experience?
I think the true uniqueness of this trip was the melding of two activities, either one of which makes a great trip in itself – a Trek Travel bicycling adventure and a river barge excursion. It led to a confluence of magic ingredients: good friends, engaging and helpful guides, gorgeous scenery, great bikes, the novelty and unexpected luxuriousness of the barge experience, and some of the best food and wine in the world. The excitement and camaraderie generated among our group, our guides, and the crew grew over the week and made it especially enjoyable.
“The barge experience was a perfect complement to biking. The barge crew was exceptionally fun and helpful. The food and wine were fabulous. Our Trek Travel guides were immediate friends, it couldn’t have been better!” – Mac Tichenor
My wife and I had recently been introduced to bike touring on a Trek Travel trip to Vermont, which we loved. Some friends on that trip had been on Trek Travel trips in Europe that they raved about, so we filed away that idea. Somehow the idea of adding in the barge element surfaced, and the Trek Travel trip designers took it and ran with it.
Do you have an especially memorable story from the trip?
On our first full day of riding, our guides told us we would stop at a French country inn for lunch. That sounded fine, but we didn’t really have any idea what we were in for. It turned out to be a charming spot in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by an apple orchard, with a great outdoor dining area. We were fêted with too many courses to count of delicious food (for which we had built up big appetites by riding all morning). The meal lasted almost two hours and, after a brief recovery period (i.e. naps on the grass), we set out to ride it off and be ready for dinner. That day brought us to realize what a highly civilized experience was in store for us.