Biking, boating the Loire

My wife, Nel, and I took a bike and boat trip in the Loire Valley in May ’05. Arranged through Pack & Pedal Europe (Springville, PA; phone 877/956-2064 or visit, the tour included airfare to Paris from the East Coast via Icelandair; seven nights on board the Anna Maria IV; three meals a day; 21-speed hybrid bikes; a tour guide, and bus transfer to and from Paris-Nord rail station and the boat.

On the Anna Maria there are six cabins each with shower and WC. These cabins, which are small but well organized, with one fairly large lower berth and a smaller upper, cost $1,499 per person in low season (spring and fall) and $1,838, high season (summer).

In addition, the Maria has four cabins with shared facilities offered at a $70 discount. The young couples who occupied two of these cabins appeared to handle the situation without problem. I’m not sure how it would work if all four of these cabins were occupied.

Since Pack & Pedal also offered this tour on a ground-only basis and the connections on Icelandair from the West Coast to Paris were unacceptable to us, we elected to use some of our United Mileage Plus balance to fly nonstop between San Francisco and Paris. Therefore, our cost was $1,124 each.

After I returned home, I discovered that this tour may be available, depending on the euro/dollar exchange rate, at a lower cost directly from the ground tour operator overseas, HAT Tours (Purmerend, Netherlands; phone ++31 [0] 299 690 771, fax 475 951 or visit In addition, they offer last-minute bookings at a considerable discount on their website. (Another website that appears to offer this tour at lower cost is It may be best to find the lowest ground-only price plus the lowest airfare compared to the best total package price.

We have made 10 or 12 biking trips to Europe in the past few years. Two of these have been bike-and-boat tours. This tour of the Loire Valley on board the Anna Maria was the best by far.

The first day of the tour started at Châtillon-Coligny with a short morning walk along the Loire followed by a buffet breakfast on board. About 9 a.m. we started our day-long bike ride while the Maria sailed to our next overnight stop at Rogny. Our tour leader got us back on board in time for a shower followed by a 3-course dinner. This left time to explore the surrounding countryside on foot before bedtime.

The tour continued with daily 30- to 35-mile-long bike rides as the boat moved to the next overnight stops at Briare, Beaulieu, Menetreol, Montlinard and La Chapelle Montlinard until our final stop at Plagny.

These daily bike rides were most enjoyable. They included stops at many French towns and villages, several châteaus, a vineyard and much more. Biking and the French countryside were the main object of the tour; however, one pleasant surprise was the food. On our previous bike and boat tours the food was fair to slightly above average. On board the Maria it was truly excellent and with generous portions.

Our thanks to the 2-person boat crew, Martin and Marjorie, and to Rob, our biking leader, for a great seven days.

Medford, OR