A romantic long weekend... bicycling
Feel like planning a getaway just for the two of you? When explored from a bicycle, the banks of the Seine are surprisingly well suited to a bucolic retreat. History-rich villages, architectural treasures, spa treatments… Why limit your pleasures?
Head for the capital of inland navigation
At the Saint Lazare train station in Paris, load your bicycles onto the TER (line J) to travel directly to Conflans-Sainte-Honorine: you are sure to relax and unwind in this tiny town perched at the confluence of the Seine and the Oise rivers with wharves that evoke vintage post cards. Fascinating sightseeing itineraries will help you explore its long history as a river town, as will a visit to the Museum of Inland Navigation and Waterways.
For lunch, there’s no question of staying on dry land: hop aboard the Bateau Chocolaté, a restaurant barge that showcases the flavours of the Caribbean. Let your taste buds do the travelling!
Continue on to Poissy
It’s time to hit the saddle: Poissy is only 11 km away by bicycle with a ride along the Seine and no steep climbs in sight! Be sure to stop in Andrésy, where a free boat will take you to Île Nancy, an island that has promoted contemporary art for over 20 years with its Sculptures en l’Île sculpture event (from mid-May to November).
Following in the footsteps of Le Corbusier
When you arrive in Poissy, make a beeline for the famous Villa Savoye, a masterpiece of 20th century architecture that is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
In the centre of the historic district, the magnificent Notre Dame Collegiate Church is also a must-see. Keep in mind that the tourism bureau organises regular guided tours of the Noyau de Poissy distillery, which are perfect if you want to learn all about the local spirit – one of the oldest in France – made from apricot kernels.
For your night in Poissy, treat yourself to a dinner overlooking the Seine at L’Esturgeon restaurant – which has an unbeatable location above the river – prepared under the direction of Chef Olivier Grémillet, “Master Chef of France”. And to stay on theme, spend the night in a barge converted to a bed and breakfast: L’Enclave de Monsieur Fogg.
In pursuit of a stand-out village
Head back to the TER train (line J) to journey down the Seine to Bonnières-sur-Seine, where you will pedal up the right bank of the river (7.5 km) to La Roche-Guyon, ranked among the most beautiful villages in France. Linger among its flower-bedecked alleys and troglodyte caves carved into the limestone hillside, and leave time to tour the elegant Château de La Roche-Guyon, which backs up to a cliff and features a tunnel that leads to a medieval keep. Below the château, the vegetable garden and French-style gardens complete the gorgeous vision…
Lunch on the wharf
There’s no need to take your eyes off the water at lunch: the liveliness of the aptly named bistro Les Bords de Seine is a welcome sight, as are its copious traditional dishes.
Next stop: Vétheuil
As you hug the Seine, it’s only 6.5 km from La Roche-Guyon to Vétheuil, along a remarkable chalk cliff that gleams in the sun. At the mid-point of your ride, don’t miss the unexpected troglodyte church at Haute-Isle, which is built into the rock.
In search of Claude Monet
As you arrive in Vétheuil, the view is captivating: Claude Monet, who lived in the village from 1878 to 1881, repeatedly immortalised the houses at the base of the church and steeple against a spectacular green background. A nostalgic image of the French countryside! Note that the house where the painter once lived is now a bed and breakfast
Canoe on the Seine
Set your bicycle aside for a spell and hit the water with Canoseine, which offers canoe outings on the Seine (1.5 hr trip to and from the village of Chantemesle). Monet himself had a boat fitted out so he could paint these pastoral banks and their sparkling chalk cliffs.
When you return to terra firma, grab your bicycles and ride the ferry that links Vétheuil to Lavacourt, on the opposite bank, then roll along the river to Rolleboise (9 km) and drop your bags at Domaine de la Corniche. Your effort will be rewarded with the most delectable comforts in this charming property overlooking the bends of the Seine. For dinner, take in the views at Le Panoramique, a Michelin one-star restaurant, and savour an unforgettable meal.
Morning at the spa
Domaine de la Corniche has more pleasures in store: its spa, Cinq Mondes (indoor swimming pool, whirlpool, steam room, sauna and more). It offers a special couples treatment: an outdoor massage in the “Temple of Love” with its views up and down the Seine.
Return to Paris?
There are only 4 km between Rolleboise and Bonnières-sur-Seine, where you can board a train back to Paris.
But if you want to extend your journey into the afternoon, why not push on to Giverny (via the Vernon station train, then 5.5 km by bike) to discover the uber-famous house of Claude Monet, with its fabulous flower gardens, lilly pond and legendary Japanese-style bridge. They will leave a lasting impression!
- Copyright image: CRT IDF/Sierpinski