VBT’s Bike and Barge Vacations: A Day in the Life

Barge Lead
In 2014 VBT is offering four “Bike and Barge” vacations throughout the Netherlands, Belgium, France & Germany. With the ease of unpacking only once, this alternate way of travel transports you through some of Europe’s most art- and history-rich destinations and immerses you in fascinating cultures, easily and comfortably.  By barge, you’ll be able to cover more territory and gain different views of the countryside than on your bicycle alone. From your private island in the river, you enjoy a constantly changing panorama of sights and sounds, and views of your mooring points from both far and near. Once ashore, you see it all again from the other side—on your bicycle.

Step aboard our private Barge and away you go! Settle into your comfortable cabin, unpack your bags and prepare for Travelers on Bargenights of uninterrupted relaxation. Your barge captain and crew pride themselves on exceptional quality service—after all, you are a guest in their private home on the water! As always, VBT’s bilingual Trip Leaders will join you for the ride, sharing their secrets for the best cultural discoveries that await on land, at each mooring point.  On the barge you’ll enjoy breakfasts and many dinners prepped by our onboard chef, who will create delicious meals using fresh, local ingredients, with regional wines and a selection of cheeses served at dinner. Enjoy evenings mingling with your new friends on the sun deck, or in the barge’s salon and bar. At night, you’ll retire to your cabin with twin beds and private bath with a shower. To get a feel for a Bike and Barge vacation read this typical “day in the life” of a barge vacation and watch the travel videos posted below.

A Typical Day on VBT’s Barge Bicycling Vacations

8:00am—Holland and Belgium Bike & Barge (Brussels)
Windmill crop
It’s important to start an active vacation off with a hearty morning meal. On Day 9 of our Holland and Belgium (Brussels) vacation we’ll enjoy our chef-cooked breakfast onboard as we cruise along the tranquil river Noord and admire an unfolding landscape. We are en route to Kinderdijk, where 19 of Holland’s famous windmills—some more than 260 years old—decorate the horizon. We’ll spend the morning exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site, and we’ll learn how these iconic structures were used well into the 20th century.

10:00am—Holland in Springtime Bike & Barge—New for 2014!
A mid-morning ride is a wonderful way to start the day. On Day 5 of our new Holland in Springtime vacation we’ll cycle Flowersto the Hortus Bulborum, a unique garden museum dedicated to the preservation of rare and historic bulbs. More than 4,000 tulips, daffodils, hyacinths and other flowers are planted in the museum’s five-plus acres of flowerbeds, and each spring, they burst forth in a profusion of fragrances and colors, as we’ll discover during a guided tour.

12:00pm—Heart of Europe: Bike & Barge
tunnel bike
Cultural interactions are a huge part of any VBT vacation—what better way to learn about the country you are visiting than from the locals themselves? On Day 5, after a morning riding on an old rail trail in Eifel, Germany—through tunnels, over bridges and past small lakes formed from collapsed volcano craters—we’ll meet a local German family. We’ll visit them at their rustic cabin in the woods for a delicious lunch of simple, home-cooked German fare and to learn about life in this beautiful valley.

3:00pm—Heart of France Bike & Barge
After riding from Neronville on Day 7, we’ll hop off our bikes for a mid-afternoon cultural experience in Chateau Landon—a fortified commune. Perched on a rocky spur, its ramparts and towers make for a dramatic approach. Once we arrive a local VBT friend, Gillian, will lead us on a personal guided walk where we’ll learn all about the town’s history.

6:00pm—Holland and Belgium Bike & Barge (Amsterdam)
dessert bargeBack on board our barge on Day 5, we’ll relax before dinner while enjoying a tasting of Belgium’s favorite beverage, beer. Although Belgium is quite a small country, it has more than 178 registered breweries that produce an infinite number of outstanding beers. Originally the domain of monks, Belgium is known for its classic “Trappist” varieties like dubbel and tripel that are “Abbey brewed” in a monastic style. Our tasting culminates in a delectable dinner made with fresh, local ingredients prepared by our onboard Chef.

10:00pm—Holland in Springtime Bike & Barge
All of our Bike and Barge vacations end with a night in a hotel in the tour’s final city. On Day 10 of our new Holland in Springtime trip you’ll have the night free to stroll along the magnificent city of Amsterdam’s endless canals lined with charming gable-roof houses. Perhaps you’ll enjoy a night cap at one of Amsterdam’s pubs and toast to another successful active vacation before retiring to your hotel for the evening.

To hear about the experience from our travelers themselves, please watch these short tour videos:

Longtime VBT Travelers Take Their First Walking Vacation to Peru

Helen and Ken
Ken and Helen B. are avid active travelers hailing from the Midwest of the US. Although bicycling is their main passion, they said they’ve been getting into hiking a lot more recently. After 5 memorable biking vacations with VBT they decided to go on our Peru: Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley walking tour last March. “We have enjoyed all of our biking vacations with VBT so much that we wanted to see how VBT handled a walking tour and we’ve always wanted to see Machu Picchu”. The couple enjoys taking vacations on their own in the summer months so the fact that a warm winter vacation with VBT allowed them to escape the cold of a Michigan winter while not breaking the bank appealed to them.

OrchidThey were able to reserve pass for the Inca trail which made the approach to Machu Picchu a hike they would never forget. Helen also recalled the beautiful flora—particularly the renowned area orchids—as well as how interesting the locals’ relationship with their animals were. “The alpacas used as pack animals—which we knewAlpha Alpaca—were given offerings and decorated,” Helen said. “We saw one local farmer turn his alpaca into an ‘alpha alpaca’ by giving it their homemade beer and then dressing hit’s ear with red ribbons.”

Besides Machu Picchu, what really resonated with Helen was the walk through the Visiting Nursesvillage of Cuyuni. “Being able to witness some of the ceremonial processions—the ceremonies thank Mother Earth— where they would offer items that would be burned, buried or floated down a stream was really a great experience that I won’t forget,” Helen recalled.  She was also introduced to a local woman who was also a nurse and they had a lively conversation comparing nursing in Peru vs back in the US where Helen is a nurse herself.

Helen and Ken finished their vacation with the VBT post-trip extension to the Peruvian Amazon where Helen conquered a fear of heights on a canopy walk in the jungle. She added, “at first I thought to myself ‘why did we decide to go to the jungle’ after being at Machu Picchu, but  in the end I wished we had more time there to do more great adventures with the rangers!” .

Their recent adventure to Peru was just the tip of the iceberg with the couple’s travels. Helen and Ken first began Canopy Walkorganized group trips with a Bike Riders tour almost 12 years ago. After a couple of tours they wanted to check out some other companies to see what different destinations and experiences they could find. It turns out that a simple internet search lead them to VBT and back in 2006 the couple took our Ireland: Galway & Connemara Coast vacation. Helen said the pricing was the first thing that caught her eye—as well as how easy the flight and travel arrangements were—but it’s been the attention to detail and the amazing Trip Leaders that have brought them back to VBT year after year.

Since their first trip, they have also biked with VBT in Holland, Acadia, The Czech Republic, Germany & Austria​ and Croatia. As avid cyclists they are more inclined to seek out a more challenging rated trip. Helen mentioned Croatia was somewhat hilly but it was a “fun challenge”. She only wished the early May departures left her more time to prepare back at home. “We only got about 3 rides in before that vacation,” Helen recalled. “Ken was able to do all the rides but I stuck to some of the flatter seaside rides in the last few days of the tour.”

Ancient Terraces at Moray

Helen and Ken are off to Italy for the first time on our Sicily: Biking the Southern Coastal Villages​  for 2014 as they wanted to visit Italy and chose Sicily due to its price and moderate rating. Looking forward they said they planned to stick to biking but want to “sprinkle in” some walking vacations. “We want to go to Hawaii, National Parks and Vietnam in the future” Ken said, “During this time of year we’re really like the idea of another warm winter escape!”