Art aboard AMALegro – Day 4

The author biking along the Seine  — Photo by Timothy Leland
The author biking along the Seine — Photo by Timothy Leland

ABOARD THE AMALEGRO-When my husband and I were biking in Dresden five years ago we saw riverboats passing by on the Elbe River. “Thank goodness we’re not on one of those,” we thought, “we’d much rather be biking.”

When we were biking from Vienna to Prague two years ago, we saw riverboats passing by on the Danube River. “Thank goodness we’re not on one of those,” we thought, “we’d much rather be biking.”

Yesterday, while floating down the Seine River on an AMAWaterways riverboat in Normandy, we thought: “Wouldn’t it be nice to go biking?”

And that’s what we did.

On this first riverboat cruise of ours, we’ve discovered that they do not prevent passengers from biking. In fact, most riverboat cruise programs encourage it. Our boat, the AMALegro, has 20 shiny blue bikes lined up on its decks to use whenever desired.

The Abbey at Jumieges  — photo courtesy Jumieges Abbey
The Abbey at Jumieges — photo courtesy Jumieges Abbey

When we docked in Caudebec-en-Caux yesterday morning almost all of the 79 passengers signed up for an excursion to see the WWII beaches where the Normandy invasion took place or for the Pays d’Auge countryside cider route for tastings at a Calvados distillery. We’ve already biked to both destinations – 10 years ago on a guided bike tour. In all, we have taken 12 such tours over the past 30 years and are working on a book about our experiences.

All that time, we thought river cruises were for couch potatoes.

But banish the notion that they are only for sedentary types. This morning, after the last bus excursion had left, we hopped on two of the AMALegro’s hybrid bicycles and headed along the banks of the Seine for the famous Jumieges Abbey 12 miles away. Once again, we were pedaling along a quiet little path –two salami and cheese sandwiches in a bag tucked in a carrying rack over our rear tires — totally free to go wherever we wanted and do whatever we wanted. That includes getting lost, of course, part of the fun of biking.

The author relaxes in AMALegro’s hot tub overlooking town of Chaudebec  — Photo by Timothy Leland
The author relaxes in AMALegro’s hot tub overlooking town of Chaudebec — Photo by Timothy Leland

It was just like the good old days – riding down a road from Milan to Venice, or along a bike path past the vineyards of Burgundy, or through the rich farmland of Rioja Spain. As always when bicycling in Europe, we met several interesting locals, including an elderly man who came out from his garden to ask if we’d like him to take our picture together, and a group of women who were housed in a chateau near the abbey taking a week of “cleansing out the stomach” by restricting their food and drink to only water and vegetable juice for seven days. They insisted we share a glass of the deep green concoction before heading back to the boat. It tasted like a green grass smoothie, but seemed to give us new energy. (For new energy, we’ll stay with the incredible cuisine of Normandy, thank you.)

There is an advantage to taking a bike trip off a cruise boat, it turns out. When you return, you can jump into a hot tub on the top deck to soothe your tired muscles. In our case, the other passengers had not yet returned from their excursions, so, we had the hot tub all to ourselves. We luxuriated in the bubbling water overlooking the village of Caudebec where the boat was docked, sipping a glass of Normandy cider laced with Calvados.

And we didn’t have to take a long bus trip to get it.

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