Romance

 
 

Try Oenotourism by Bicycle in Bordeaux

Regardless if you are an oenophile, a vin lover or just getting your feet wet in the wine world, Bordeaux is the most renowned region for wine. Exploring wine, understanding the vinification process and sampling wine, Bordeaux is known for high quality, aged wines, and being  the world wine capital. Here you can enjoy some of the world’s most expensive reds and deliciously sweet white wines.

Wine’s existence in Bordeaux began with the Romans who occupied the area in the 1st century. Today Bordeaux is one of the oldest continuously producing wine communities in the world. The key success to the wines of this area is the combination of the maritime climate, the calcium rich soils, and the rivers, the Garonne and Dordogne that provide irrigation year round for continued vine growth.

The heart of the region, centered around the town of Bordeaux, is well known not just for their wines, but as an international destination filled with history and medieval architecture and for its connection to the rivers that flow through the area. The famed Cabernet Sauvignon producing Medoc region is where you will find some of the most esteemed wine villages along the left bank of the Garonne river. And the popular Saint-Émilion region on the right bank of the Dordogne produces Merlot with a reputation for superior wines. But this is not all Bordeaux has to offer, the region is also established for White Bordeaux wines produced from Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadet grapes. Vinified in the cooler parts of Bordeaux, sweet dessert wines are fermented naturally using a process called Botrytis. Botrytis concentrates the sugars in the grapes as they ripen and develops unique flavors that can only be found within this part of the region.  

In a nutshell, Oenotourisme is the purpose of traveling that centers around wine. Exploring and enjoying the production of the region plus the cultural heritage that unites it all together is a wine traveler’s dream. With almost 300,000 acres of vineyards and a multitude of wine options, Bordeaux is a top destination. So one might wonder the best way to explore the vast and largest wine growing region of France. The answer is by bicycle. Bicycles will take you on the streets that create Bordeaux’s iconic towns, past the historical monuments, along the rivers, and through the villages that are home to the wineries locally known as châteaux. It is within these villages where you will taste the most respected wines in the world and venture into the vineyards that grow the famed blends.  

City of Bordeaux 

The heart of the wine region is a bike friendly city offering paths of approximately 400 miles of bicycle trails. Traveling by bike through the walled city centre, you can explore sites like the grandiose Place de la Bourse square with a grand reflecting fountain and the iconic Bordeaux Cathedral. You may also find yourself stopping along the way to enjoy dining in a local cafe, popping into a shop on the Rue Sainte-Catherine or even finding unexpected historical treasures throughout this UNESCO World Heritage city centre. 

Within the city of Bordeaux, there are many paths to take you on adventures well beyond the wine regions. Bike through forests, into the outer regions to visit one of the many beautiful parks, like the nature reserve in Barails and you can even cycle all the way to the beaches on the Atlantic coast. Jumping onto one of the many paths available, you never know what hidden discoveries you will find as you explore the area guided or on your own. 

A relaxing hour-long ride is all it takes to lead you along both sides of the Garonne river. Start from the bell towers at the Place Pey Berland, cross the Pont de Pierre stone bridge to the right bank of the Garonne. Ride along the shores of the right bank, admiring the views of the city of Bordeaux across the river until you reach the Chaban-Delmas bridge which will take you back to the left bank. Crossing the river, you will find you are near the popular Chartrons district, the perfect stop to enjoy one of the many bistros or taverns before continuing along the river back to the bell towers where you began your ride. 

Left Bank

Within reach from the historic centre are the prestigious appellations of the Médoc region. Following “La Route de Vins des Bordeaux” by bicycle, you can enjoy a relaxed ride along the Garonne river into the countryside and through the villages where you will find yourself upon the famed vineyards of Bordeaux. 

Traveling from the city of Bordeaux in just 3 hours each way, you pass through some of the highest respected elite first growth wine producing château in France.  Château Margaux, Château Pichon Longueville, Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild and Château Mouton Rothschild, produce Bordeaux’s most valuable and esteemed wines. By bike, you can leisurely stop along the way and visit the vineyards of these most prestigious wine producers with plenty of time to sample some of the most expensive wines in the world. 

Alternately starting in the city, you can head south along the “Route des vins” into the birthplace of the region. The city of Graves is home to the only Premier Cru château outside the northern Medoc region, Château Haut Brion. Continuing on this path, you will pass some of the oldest château, and historical castles as you ride along the vineyards leading you into the Sauternes region to the Château d’Yquem whose vineyards are famed for its sweet White Bordeaux’s. 

Right Bank

Although not as accessible as the Left Bank from the city of Bordeaux, with the superb public transportation that Bordeaux offers, visiting the right bank is just a train ride away. Starting from the Gare de Bordeaux St Jean, a 30 minute ride will take you to the city of Libourne, the second largest city center in the Bordeaux region. Located in Saint-Émilion, Libourne is the main city of the Right Bank along the Dordogne river and the commercial location for the wines of the Right Bank and the Entre Deux Mer region. 

Saint-Émilion is the prime wine region of the Right bank and along with its neighboring area, Pomerol, as Grand Cru vineyards, produce the highly desired Merlot based blends of Bordeaux. 

Embarking on your two and half hour bike ride (without stops) will start from the train station in Libourne. Cycling northwest along the Right Bank of the Dordogne, you will find some of the largest castles, smallest villages and most approachable wines from world famous vineyards as you enjoy your ride to the town of Fronsac. Exploring Fronsac you will find historic sites dating back to Charlemagne and the Roman Empire as well as some highly reputable château vineyards. 

From Fronsac, moving east and passing through the French countryside vineyards of the picturesque Pomerol region you will  find yourself traveling to the rustic village of medieval St-Émilion, a UNESCO World Heritage site and another historic center for Bordeaux wines. Arriving in St-Émilion, explore the beautiful hilly town, visit the historical church and stop in at a local bistro to enjoy a meal with some locally produced Grand Cru vin before traveling on. 

Entre-Deux-Mer

Making your way back towards Libourne from Saint-Emilion, you will reach the Dordogne, and cross the river into the Entre Deux Mer region on your way to Graves de Vayres. Graves de Vayres is known for its terraced vineyards that produce both red sweet Merlot wines and dry white wines produced from Sauvignon Blanc. A reward for your biking travels will be reaching one of the most prestigious medieval castle’s built in the region, the Château de Vayres. Sitting on the left bank of the Dordogne river, a visit to this historic location will offer you a fantastic view into the past royal presence within the Bordeaux region. Exploring the beautiful château and the French and medieval gardens will be the perfect stop before your 30 minute ride traveling back to the Libourne train station. 

As the premium wine producer in France, Bordeaux offers many opportunities to fully explore the famed region as a wine traveler. However biking through Bordeaux will offer an immersion that you can not otherwise experience by motor vehicle and is a way to connect with Bordeaux on a more personal level, path by path. 

Did you know, many of these biking adventures, in addition to others, are provided excursions on a Bordeaux river cruise starting at the city of Bordeaux. What better way to enjoy seven days of vinitourism on both the Garonne and Dordogne rivers visiting the many châteaux along the way. Familiarizing yourself with the region and sampling some of the finest wines are all expected when visiting Bordeaux. But imagine your experience when you explore on one of the bicycles included onboard, guided or on your own. Spend your time cruising the rivers, bicycling the beautiful French countryside and enjoying the wines that have made this the most famous wine region in the world. Wine travel doesn’t get any better than this!

If this sounds like your perfect vacation, join us starting on June 9, 2022 for a 7 night Bordeaux river cruise. Let us guide you through this fantastic wine experience. Space is limited. Learn more about Traveling the Rivers of Bordeaux and inquire for more information here

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Beyond Wine in the City of Bordeaux

Bordeaux, a world renowned wine region and for good reason. Within the total area are many wine appellations filled with over 8,000 chateau and vineyards all produce some of the most sought after, best aging, highest quality and most expensive wines in the world. 

Chateau Margaux Grand Cru

Wine and Bordeaux’s relationship date back 2000 years, since it’s time as a commercial center for the Roman Empire. Today Bordeaux provides one-fourth of the production of the best wines in France. 

The greater Bordeaux region is located in southwestern France where crescent shaped land surrounds and is surrounded by the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and the Gironde river, respectively. 

Within the region of Bordeaux, on the left bank of the Garonne river you will find the port city and capital of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region, similarly named, “Bordeaux”. 

A popular location as the starting point for a wine experience, the city of Bordeaux also offers history, architecture, culture, dining, shopping and so much more. When taking a break from your “wine travels” or completely venturing out to see all that the city of Bordeaux has to offer, the best place to start is within the seven districts of the city of Bordeaux that each has its own flair, its own history and offers its own unique Bordelais experience.

Old Town

Porte Calihau

The birthplace of the city of Bordeaux started here as the Roman city of Burdigala transforming over 2000 years into the primary city centre and heart of the downtown area. The location of the port entrance and where the economy that developed Bordeaux into a major city was built upon. It is here that you will find some of the oldest architecture and history of the city. Visiting the local landmarks of the Porte Cailhau, the Pont de Pierre, Saint-Pierre church, the iconic and recognizable Place de la Bourse along the Garonne river and its modern counterpart the must see Miroir d’eau reflecting pool which is the most photographed location in Bordeaux. The Old Town is also the location of the Rue Saint-Catherine, the longest pedestrian shopping street in France. 

Grand Hommes

Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux

The upscale region of the city, known as the “Golden Triangle” of parishes offering beautifully elegant stone buildings and boulevards featuring well maintained city squares like the Place des Quinconces, the Place Tourny shopping district and some of Bordeaux’s top restaurants, luxurious boutiques and the Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux, Place de la Comédie. Grand Hommes is the area to see and be seen as you explore the city and outer regions of Bordeaux.  

Saint Seurin – Fondaudège

Jardin Botanique de Bordeaux

The residential district northwest of the Grand Hommes, named for the oldest cemetery in Bordeaux, Saint Seurin, is within walking distance to the old town. A quiet upscale area featuring a mixture of modern architecture with old stone buildings and beautiful gardens. This where you will find the Jardin Botanique to venture out for a local experience. However if mixing with the locals is not of interest, the area is still visit worthy for the Palais Gallien, a former Roman arena and one of the only remaining forms of architecture from the Gallo-Roman era in Bordeaux and the Natural History museum located at the edge of the Jardin.  

Town Hall District

Bordeaux Cathedral

South of the Saint Seurin district and west of the Old Town, you will find the district with both visitors and locals enjoying the centrally located and symbolic Place Gambetta square. Other visitors may be searching out the once medieval residence, Palais Rohan that today is Bordeaux’s Town Hall (Hôtel De Ville) home of the Museum of Fine Arts. Not far from there is the most beautiful and primary Cathedral within Bordeaux, Saint Andrew and the adjacent and popular Pey – Beland bell tower. Within this district is also where you can discover the antique district and the Museum of Decorative Arts and Design located in one of the most beautifully decorated 18th century mansions of Bordeaux. 

The Saints District

Gare Saint-Jean

In the southernmost district of the city is the Saint – Jean train station the neighborhood of Saint-Michel and the Saint-Croix church. As the central location where train passengers are passing through all day long, this area is filled with local immersion. Le Marché des Capucins is a local market open early morning until early afternoon and is worth exploring for fresh regional and popular items to sample and bring home. Come back to the area in the evening for a truly Bordelaisen experience heading to one of the many restaurants, bars and clubs where you will find an energetic and animated crowd of both travelers and locals.  Also located within this district is the Quai de Paludate popular with the locals for music and nightlife. 

La Bastide

Pont de Pierre Bridge to La Bastide District

The city of Bordeaux is not completely limited to the left side of the Garonne river. On the right bank is the recently gentrified neighborhood of La Bastide. The former industrial area has been built up with restaurants and movie theatres in a newly developed urban area and features fantastic views of the historic Old Town from across the Garonne. Within the district you can find a newly developed botanical garden. The Jardin botanique de la Bastide features six different garden areas including a water garden and an arboretum. 

Bassins a Flot

Crossing back across the Garonne via the Chaban Delmas bridge is the district of Bassins a flot. The most northern area of the city is the location of the city’s river commercial docks, once home to the largest port in Europe. Despite it’s maritime history this is where you can now find the most modernistic and futuristic architecture in the world, better known as the wine tower, the La Cité du Vin museum. Walking the paths along the river quay you will pass barges and other relics of the area’s river past and eventually you will reach the Bordeaux Submarine base. One of five sub bases built by the Italians during World War II, the bunker has been repurposed into a multicultural building with the Bassins de Lumiere art museum, and offers various concerts throughout the year.

Chartrons

Saint-Louis-des-Chartrons

Last but not least is the most eclectic of Bordeaux districts. North of the Old Town district is the original home of the 14th century Chartreux Abbey. The historic neighborhood has been restored from its dilapidated existence into a chic bohemian experience offering a centrally located public garden and featuring the Place du Marché Chartrons marketplace filled with local merchants offering river and locally sourced food like oysters, foie gras and macarons. Explore the nearby Saint-Louis Cathedral and also within this district you will find riverside dining and the Quai des Marques shopping area filled with cafe’s and boutiques for the hipster in all of us. With all the activity that happens here, it is not surprising that this is the location where the quays for river boats dock making it a popular location for tourism and travelers looking for a Bordeaux experience.  

Looking beyond Bordeaux’s wine presence, you can see that the city of Bordeaux is abundant in culture and experiences and offers an internationally cosmopolitan vibe. The many areas throughout the city are vibrant and yet each offers its own unique reasons for visiting. The city draws a romance of it’s own. Read more specifically to find Romance in Bordeaux. 

If the vins of France are on your menu, read more about Traveling the Vins of Bordeaux and its relationship to wine travel or Sample the Flavors of Bordeaux comparing the wines of the Right to the Left Bank and with the Entre deux Mer regions of Bordeaux.  

No matter how you choose to explore the region, one of our very favorite experiences that brings all of these experiences to you in one amazing week is by river cruise. Learn more about river cruising from our website

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Travel the Vins of Bordeaux

Find Romance in the The City of Bordeaux

Bordeaux is the world’s most famous wine region as the world capital of wine. So much so that generally 4.3 million visitors travel to the region each year.  The Gironde department of Southwest France is the most popular wine tourism destination in France for attracting both French and foreign visitors. 

Separated into 3 distinct regions, the Left Bank along the left bank of the Gironde Estuary and the Right Bank on the right side of the Gironde. Between the two, the central island of sorts named Entre-deux-Mer (between to tides) is separated by the Garonne River of  the Left Bank and the Dordogne River of the Right Bank which confluence into the Gironde. 

Most visitors are drawn to the main city of the region, Bordeaux, a port city, the capital of the Nouvelle – Aquitaine region and the fifth largest city in France. Located on the Left Bank of the Garonne river not far from the Atlantic Coast, Bordeaux is not just as the hub of wine production and distribution but also a UNESCO World Heritage site. The main city offers many opportunities for exploring beautiful architecture and historical monuments, is famed for its gastronomy and yes this is the perfect place to start your journey into the vins of the famed region with a visit to the Cité du Vin museum. 

Traveling from the City of Bordeaux

We could go on and on just about the city of Bordeaux but today we are focusing on the entire region of Bordeaux and its relationship to the world of vinology and travel. The Bordeaux wine region is about 30 miles in length and 6 ½ miles in width as the crow flies which means you can get almost anywhere from the city of Bordeaux in less than an hour. 

The majority of wines produced in the Bordeaux region (85%) are medium to full bodied reds made from Merlot, the number one grape grown primarily on the Right Bank and Cabernet Sauvignon the number two grape, primarily grown on the Left Bank. Although less than 15% growth of white grapes can be found in Bordeaux, the region is known for its Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc & Muscadelle grape blends that can be found growing in the Entre-deux-Mers and southern Bordeaux regions. 

The key to exploring Bordeaux red wines is to know that the primary wines are blends of the main Merlot and Cabernet grape growths with additional vintages like Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carmenere to produce some of the highest rated and most expensive wines in the world. 

The Left Bank

This is where the city of Bordeaux is located, the Médoc and Graves regions make up the area primarily known as the Left Bank. Gravel soils promote the growth of Cabernet Sauvignon led blends that are highly tannic which is the component that allows for the aging of the wines for decades. The primary area for the wines of the 1855 Classification for first growth Château producing most of the best wines of Bordeaux can be found in the Left Bank.

The Médoc areas create these most prestigious Premier Cru (top rated) wines which can be found in the sub-regions of Pessac – Léognan south of the city of Bordeaux, Margaux, Saint-Julien, Pauillac and Saint-Estephe which are all located north of the city of Bordeaux along the Gironde Estuary. 

Château Margaux

Following the Médoc route and visiting these Premier Cru will not only provide you with a deep understanding of some of the world’s greatest red wines but how they are made from growth through vinifying, aging, bottling, distribution and taste.  

Graves in the southern Bordeaux region along the Garonne river with its forests, is a cooler region of Bordeaux where you can find dry white wine blends surrounding the city of Graves and some sweeter dessert blends in addition to some popular historic sites like the Château de Roquetaillade a former fortress that was converted to a castle. 

The Right Bank

Within the Right Bank the regions of Libournais, Saint-Émilion, Fronsac and Pomerol are some of the prestigious appellations of the area. The location of the Right Bank closer to the Atlantic Ocean combined with the red clay soils are perfect for the growth of the dominating grape, Merlot. Some of the top quality long aging Bordeaux Merlot leading blends can be found around the town of St.Émilion. Although the grapes are less heavily structured, the combination of the soil and the climate create enough tannin’s that these wines can also age for many years also producing high-end wines.

The town of Saint-Émilion and it’s eight villages can be found on the right bank of the Dordogne River. A UNESCO World Heritage site for it’s 2000 years of viticulture history among historical relics dating back to Paleolithic tribes. From early man to present day, you will find many sites to explore among the town and cathedrals of Saint-Émilion. 

Visit St.-Émilion

Further east you can travel into the main city of the Right Bank, Libourne who the Right Bank region is named for where you will find a fortified medieval town and Gothic church, French markets and of course locally sourced wines. The commune of Fronsac just west of Libourne features beautiful landscapes and wine Château featuring Merlot and Cabernet Franc. North of Libourne is the Pomerol wine region. A smaller and more modern region for wine vinification, Pomerol is an up and coming area that is producing many notable quality wines from Merlot and Cabernet Franc. 

From Pomerol as you move west along the Dordogne, you will reach the beautiful historic village of Côtes de Bourg where you will find Merlot and a small amount of white wines. Visit the Citadel and then travel on to the rolling hills of the Gironde Estuary, more archaeological sites, churches and the vineyards of the Côtes de Bordeaux commune of Blaye. Sample traditional Red and White Bordelais blends and you can also enjoy some of the locally produced rose’. 

Entre-Deux-Mers

The misty Entre-deux-Mers conducive to late harvest dessert wines

The largest region of Bordeaux is located between the Garonne River of the Left Bank and the Dordogne River of the Right Bank. Mostly filled with forests, the Entre-deux-Mers is where you will find the smallest production of both red and white wines. With the most fertile lands and coolest weather of the Bordeaux region, the Merlot grape is prominent, but it’s the approved white blends from the Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle grapes that the area is most known for. This is also where you will find the famed sweet Sémillon based wines of Bordeaux that are produced as a result of the Botrytis fungus that grows in the foggy and humid river regions.  

Filled with small villages, some of the highlights are visiting the beautiful port town of Cadillac, along the Gironde river, it’s many communes filled with historic ruins, stately Château, cathedrals, medieval villages and famed sweet white wines under the Cadillac AOC. Also along the Gironde, Loupiac, is known for its late harvest sweet wines from Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon which can be sampled at one of the wine Châteaux while also visiting the castle/abbey and church located here. 

On the opposite side of the Entre-deux-Mers, the Graves de Vayres wine region has been traced back to the Roman age of Octavius. Home to the Château de Vayres medieval castle along the banks of the Dordogne here you find both dry reds and white wines to sample as you explore the area.   

Explore the Château de Vayres

Visiting the Bordeaux region of France is a learning experience. A popular tourism destination with many attractions, but for the wine expert or the novice looking to improve their Oenology skills this is the perfect opportunity to experience the vineyards, wineries and tastings throughout each region and its sub-region. 

The best way to travel Bordeaux and discover its red, whites, rosés and sweet wines is by river cruise roundtrip from the capital city of Bordeaux along the Garonne, Dordogne and cruising through the Gironde Estuary. Visit the Châteaux, historical landmarks, the countryside and sip your way through the Bordeaux vineyards without missing a thing on a 7 day journey.  

Find out more about Sampling the Flavors of Bordeaux!

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Where is the best dining in Amboise within the Loire Valley?

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Chateau d’Amboise

The Loire Valley in France is known for the Chateaus within the region and the small commune’s along the Loire River like the town of Amboise. Within central Loire Valley, Amboise offers some of the top sites of the area including the 15th Century home of King Charles VIII, Chateau d’Amboise and the last home and tomb of famed artist Leonardo da Vinci at Clos Lucé.

The beautiful streets are dotted with medieval timbered homes, cathedrals and shoppes with the Royal Chateau overlooking. But visiting the Loire Valley is not just for the Chateau, the region is well known for its wine and gastronomy that can be found within and around the city. 

As you will find throughout France, there are many options for dining experiences within Amboise. Here are some recommendations for dining experiences in and around the “Royal City” of Amboise:

L’Ecluse

While visiting Amboise and the Royal Chateau, you will want to stop in for lunch or dinner at this farm to table local restaurant that is just a quick 3 minute walk. Featuring the best locally sourced products one can enjoy dining in the intimate and modern dining room or on the grassed terrace for a relaxing dining experience.  

Serving authentic French cuisine sourced daily from local suppliers, the menu will regularly change with seasons. Expect to enjoy seasonal fruits, cheeses, meats, handcrafted breads and pastries. 

The menu offers various options with appetizer, main course and dessert or an additional cheese option both for lunch and dinner. L’Ecluse welcomes guests Tuesday – Saturday for lunch from noon – 1:30pm and 6:30 – 7:30pm for dinner, reservations are recommended. 

The House Bigot

A popular location within the old town is The House Bigot. Also a stones throw from the royal Chateau a local chocolatier, patisserie and glacier (ice cream) house that has been serving since 1913. 

Established and well known for 50 years as a bakery, for its breads, in the early 1970’s a tea room was added and so launched La Maison Bigot into the chocolate making business. It was not unexpected when the popular French ice cream (glacier) was added to the menu. 

Serving daily house pastries, donuts, eclairs and traditional local favorites from house recipes older than the shop itself. The chocolates are made using 100% pure cocoa to create seasonal treats, ganaches, pralines and local favorites like Amboisine which is made with almonds, chestnuts and hazelnut crushed into a paste and rolled in chocolate. If those don’t suit you, then the house crafted glaciers made with pure and local ingredients will treat you to enjoyable frozen dessert. 

If you need a break after exploring the town, you can enjoy the fare from the traditional bakery within their tea room or on the terrace offering views of the nearby castle. Also serving breakfast and lunch, a stop in is a great way to start off your day in Amboise. 

Chateau du Pray

Just a quick 5 minute drive along the Loire river on the south bank, surrounded by chateaux you will reach Chateau du Pray. A 13th Century chateau that sits on 5 acres of wooded beauty overlooking the river Loire. Featuring French gardens, the medieval chateau has been converted into a hotel featuring a Michelin rated restaurant, L’Orangerie.

The restaurant offers chef designed seasonal menus, each dish is a piece of art, custom created for the guest and delivered to their table to accompany the locally featured wines to pair for a culinary journey. 

For an added treat, spend the night enjoying one of the 15 castle rooms of the family owned chateau with historic accommodations in an intimate boutique hotel and enjoy the night as the royals did hundreds of years ago while overlooking the beautiful Loire river.

Chateau du Petit Thouars

For a more unique experience, about an hour and fifteen minutes west of Amboise between Amboise and Angers, along the River Loire, you will find the family owned Chateau du Petit Thouars. A 17th century chateau and winery offering local experiences that will fulfill both romantic and gastronomic desires. 

For the gastronomic experience, Chateau du Petit Thouars has almost 40 acres of vineyards featuring vins that range from free run juice aged in stainless steel vats to pressed wines aged for up to 24 months on oak. You can enjoy a visit to the cellar with a tour of the Cabernet Franc and Chenin Blanc vineyards along with a tasting of their award winning vintages. For the complete epicurean discovery, wine pairings are available to enjoy the wines with locally sourced products. . 

For a romantic experience,  you can extend your wine experience by enjoying your favorite wine relaxing within the Cabernet Franc vineyards with a custom prepared picnic lunch including some locally sourced seasonal specialties and a private view of the Loire Valley countryside. Or extend your stay at the 4 bedroom farmhouse surrounded by the vineyards for a relaxing stay within the grounds of the vineyard. 

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The Loire Valley known as the “Gardens of France” is just 2 hours from the city of Paris and offers a fantastic extension for additional time immersing in the beauty and history of the region. Explore some of the 1000+ chateaux that live there, or indulge in a fantastic wine experience sampling the grapes and terroir of the local Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc vines that are found throughout the central Loire Valley region. Discover our choices for Chateau to visit in the Loire Valley from the link.

You can also combine your visit with a 7 night river cruise along the nearby Garonne and Dordogne rivers in Bordeaux. For more information on river cruising through France or Central Europe check out our website

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Top 3 Château to visit in the Loire Valleys “Land of Châteaux”

The Loire Valley surrounds the Loire river, the longest river in France that flows from the Massif Central mountains northwest towards the Atlantic Ocean. 

A popular wine region for its four very distinct wine growing areas along the river, the area is also well known for the numerous chateau of the region built using the same soils that also vinify some of the best wines in France. (See more about Loire Valley wine on Instagram)

With upwards of 300 Château scattered throughout the Loire Valley that range in size and style from simple 10th century fortified castles to massive residences, the structures were built for nobility and royalty who were drawn to the area to build their dream residences, during the renaissance. The one commonality between the many châteaux within the central region of the valley is their locations near the rivers of the region. 

Town of Blois on the Loire River

Within the Loire Valley, there are many options for towns and villages to visit and experience. From small market towns to large cities, Amboise Angers, Blois, Chinon, Nantes, Orleans, Saumur and Tours are each communes filled offering architectural experiences in the form of splendid residences. 

While visiting the Loire Valley and so many choices of Château to visit, these are three royal Château that offer not just stunning beauty and architecture, but also feature some of the best stories which are why they are on our not to miss list:

Château de Chenonceau 

Located in the town of Chenonceaux, Château de Chenonceau is the most visited Châteaux in the Loire Valley. The attraction to the property is more than just its stately appearance, but the stories behind the residence. The history reflects on the women who contributed to the building, rebuilding, protection, restoration and philanthropy of the property. If the walls of Château de Chenonceau could talk, the tales would be filled with famous historians, architects, royals, dignitaries, authors and artists.

Originally built in the 12th century in the medieval style, the current complex was rebuilt between 1513 and 1517 by noblewoman Catherine Briçonnet who was influential in the design of the current Château.  

In 1559 the widowed Queen of France, Catherine de Medici took control of the property further improving its magnificence by adding and enhancing beautiful gardens that are seen today throughout the property. Making it her primary residence, Catherine used the property as a showground with some of the best celebrations in France. 

The home remained in royal control until the 18th century when it was purchased for Louise Dupin by her husband who welcomed many popular French literary figures to the property. Louise was responsible for saving the Château from destruction by the Revolutionary Guard during the French Revolution. 

In 1864 Chenonceau was purchased by Madame Marguerite Pelouze who bankrupted her finances refurbishing the property to how it shows today. Passing hands multiple times, until it was sold in 1913 to a member of the Meunier family of French chocolatiers, Henri Meunier who opened the property to visitors. Proudly welcoming guests until World War 1 when it was used as a military hospital, treating 2,254 wounded soldiers led by Simone Meunier, grand daughter in law of Henri at her own expense. Then again in World War 2, because of its location at the border of the “free zone” on the river Cher and Nazi occupied France, the property was used as a safe zone for those who were fleeing the Nazi’s. But not without damage as the Germans occupied the residence in 1944 and the Allied troops bombed the chapel in efforts to retake the region. 

If the history alone is not enough to draw visitors to this remarkable location, the magnificence of the Château, the gardens and the stately property makes a visit top of our list. 

Château d’Amboise

Located along the river Loire in the commune of Amboise, this luxurious Château is most notable as the residence of French kings starting in the 15th century up to the 19th century. 

The property was acquired by King Charles VII in 1434 and later rebuilt by King Charles VIII starting in 1492 in the French Gothic style. After the loss of the Italian war in 1495, and his fascination with Italy, Charles hired Italy’s top designers to create an Italian palace in France. Charles died in 1498 before completion of the palace and without heirs his cousin Louis XII continued the process of completing the property.

Towards the end of the 1500’s King Francis I, who was raised there, made it his royal residence, which continued through the next hundred years. Some other notable residents were King Henry II and his wife Catherine de Medici who raised their family and Mary Stuart (Mary Queen of Scots) who was betrothed to their son Francis II. 

There was a period of time during abandonment of the property that the château was used as a prison under Louis XVI for noble prisoners of the French civil wars from 1648 – 1653. 

After almost complete destruction during the French Revolution, King Louis Phillipe began restoration on the property until his abdication of the throne in 1848 when the property was confiscated by the French government. In 1873 the property was returned to Louis Phillipe’s family and rebuilding commenced. Still maintained by the descendants of Louis Phillipe, the Château had been opened for visitation and still is today.

Standing on the balconies overlooking the Loire, the terraced gardens and the surrounding countryside, just as many French royals had for hundreds of years draws visitors to explore the history and beauty of Chateau d’Amboise. 

Château de Chambord 

The third Château also of royal commission is one of the most recognized of the region for its Renaissance architecture. Unlike the other two previous royal Châteaux, it was not designed as a residence, since he lived at his beloved Château d’Amboise, but as a holiday home for King Francis I. 

Located off the river Loire in the marshlands of the central Loire Valley, Château de Chambord is the largest of the Châteaux in the Loire region. Built by Francis I as a hunting lodge it was within a days travel from his royal residences in Amboise and Blois. The design of the property was Italian with rumoured influences from artist Leonardo de Vinci.

The property was built over a period of 28 years with the intention to dazzle sovereigns and foreign ambassadors with architecture unlike anything that had been seen before in France. The rooftop was designed with 11 different towers and 3 chimneys to reflect a townscape with a resemblance to Constantinople in the distance rather than that of a château. Featuring 800 sculpted columns and an open 274 step double spiral staircase that climbed three floors in the main building without ever connecting, was the centerpiece of the château. 

Francis passed in 1547 before completion of his showpiece château, so furnishings and wall coverings were not present at the time of his death. The property remained abandoned for 80 years, falling into ruin until 1639 when the Duke of Orleans was given Chambord by his brother, King Louis XIII. 

Gaston d’Orleans directed the renovation and restoration of Chambord, acquiring new land to add the 20 mile boundary walls and a park within the grounds. Construction continued until 1680 when then King Louis XIV added the stables and temporarily furnished the royal apartments to use Chambord as originally intended, a hunting lodge and entertainment facility until 1685 when the Château was once again abandoned.

Used sporadically between 1725 and 1750 by King Louis XV, the château mostly sat abandoned.

Spared from destruction during the French Revolution, in 1792 the property was pillaged and vandalized by revolutionaries and post war, the revolutionary government sold off the remaining furnishings, including the woodwork to raise money for the government endeavors. 

Final ownership of the property was given to the Count de Chambord who in 1871 oversaw the restoration of the Château, opening it to public access. Upon his death in 1930 when the home once again became government property and a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Town along the Cher River in the Loire Valley

The Loire Valley châteaux stand as monuments of the Medieval and Renaissance periods featuring extensive grounds, exquisite decor, colorful gardens and beautiful chapels and each has a different history and elaborate story to tell. 

When visiting the Loire Valley, we recommend staying in the commune of Amboise for easy access to the above châteaux, the local vineyards of Vouvray and the towns of Tours and Blois in the central Loire Valley. 

You can combine your visit to the Loire Valley with a 7 night river cruise along the Garonne and Dordogne rivers in Bordeaux for a full French experience. For more information on river cruising through France, check out our website

Categories: Experience, River Cruise, Romance, Travel Bucket List, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment
 
 

Find Romance in Bordeaux

A UNESCO World Heritage site for its eighteenth century city-scape that still looks as it did hundreds of years ago, Bordeaux presents many experiences for finding romance within the city and others within an hours drive of the city.

Just 2 hours by train outside Paris (the city of love), the capital city of the Nouvelle Aquitaine region of France, Bordeaux is most noted for its association to the highest quality French wines. One of the most important wine producers and exporters in the world with the largest number of AOC “controlled designation of origin” classification vineyards in France. She is often referred  to asla perle d’Aquitaine” (pearl of the Aquitaine) and “Petit (mini) Paris”. This port city along the Garonne river offers as much as other urban cultural centers provide, but also leaves a small village impression in her old city. A gorgeous well maintained medieval city is perfect for couples looking for or celebrating romance to indulge and lose themselves within her boundaries.

Here are 15 opportunities to find romance in Bordeaux and the Bordeaux region: 

1. Fairytale Romance at Porte Cailhau

A must see stop when visiting Bordeaux, Porte Calihau will give you the best views of the city. The impressive castle-like architecture was built in Gothic-renaissance cross over styles with both decorative and defensive features in 1494. The building has not changed in its many hundreds of years in existence when it was re-created as the entrance to the city from the Garonne river. The triumphal arch stands at almost 115 feet, climbing the stairs to the top floor of this beautiful building is where you will find an exhibition of her existence and most importantly where you can enjoy the romantic river views with sightings of the oldest bridge in Bordeaux, the Pont de Pierre. 

2. Cross the Pont de Pierre Bridge 

Connecting the left and right banks of the Garonne river, Pont de Pierre means “mason bridge” which is the French translation for stone bridge. The 1600 foot bridge was designed by Napoleon so his troops could easily cross the Garonne. Not surprisingly, the bridge has 17 arches for the number of letters in the name Napoleon Bonaparte. To maintain the structure of the bridge, it is closed to automobiles and only accessible by foot, bicycle or tram. The perfect opportunity to take a romantic walk or bike ride along the footpath of the bridge to enjoy the scenery. Depending on the time of day and the tides the day that you cross the bridge, you will have different views of the river. 

3. Have a Secular Experience at Bordeaux Cathedral

Even if you are not religious, a stop at the Cathedral Saint Andre is worth the visit especially the Tour Pey-Berland bell-tower. A UNESCO World Heritage site in the heart of the old city, the Notre Dame d’Aquitaine started as a Romanesque church originally built in 1096 AD and then modified in the Gothic style between the 12th and 16th centuries. Some highlights of the church are the exterior spires and the bell-tower that was built in the early 15th century. Separated from the rest of the cathedral, the bell-tower is a historic French monument. Tour Pey-Berland named after the archbishop who commissioned it, features three monumental bells, named Marie, Clémence and Marguerite that ring next to a larger 8 ton tenor bell named Ferdinand-André. A climb up the 231 step spiral staircase to the second terrace at the top offers romantic picture-worthy panoramic city views. 

4. Journey into Wine together at La Cite du Vin

Before embarking into Bordeaux’s wines and local vineyards, immerse yourself in the fun and educational wine experience of Bordeaux’s Wine museum. The highly sensory experience starts as you enter the contemporary design of the building and continues with a one of a kind complete wine experience. Taking you into the world of wines from their creation in 6000BC to the modern day mechanics and innovation that makes up the wine industry with exhibitions, wine tasting workshops and pairings, seminars and events held throughout the year. Located on the West bank of Bordeaux between the historic districts for local vintage production and wine manufacturing, the museum was designed to focus on the worldwide wine culture instead of the local wine experience. On the romance side, there is a fantastic wine bar called Belvedere on the top floor, with a wide selection of wines from around the world to be enjoyed with a panoramic view of Bordeaux.

5. Visit one of the Most Romantic Restaurants in Bordeaux  

Centrally located in the old town of Bordeaux, La Tupina is a small country inn style restaurant that will offer you a romantic and intimate dining experience. Centered around the fireplace within the dining establishment, in the fireplace sits a cauldron (La Tupina in French) that is used daily to create their signature soups, roasted meats and other traditional hearty dishes from the region. Offering both Prix Fixe menus including wine and mineral waters or a la carte options, the farm to table experience is traditional South-West French cuisine at its best. Michelin rated, reservations are highly recommended.

6. Shop the Marche des Chartrons

A highlight of a French experience is the local markets. Happening each Sunday The quay Market is located along the Garonne river. An outdoor market has sixty+ stands with a variety of local specialties, meats, cheeses, olives, breads, pastries, plates of local seafood’s in addition to crafts, flowers  and other products that are not found anywhere else. If you are not in Bordeaux for the popular Sunday market, head to Marché des Capucins which is Bordeaux’s main market hall noted as one of the largest halls in the southwest region of France.

7. Relax at the Bordeaux Public Garden 

If you have visited France before you know the parks and gardens offer an experience unlike any other. Providing your usual park amenities like walking paths and playgrounds, it’s the additional amenities that make this experience the perfect venue for a romantic outing. Located in the center of the city of Bordeaux and made up of 2700 acres with a central pond and many open spaces with trees and beautiful landscaping. Here is where you can take cue from the locals and stop to enjoy a bottle of wine and plate of local cheese from the market while relaxing on a romantic Bordelais kind of day. You can also find within the park a botanical garden, 19th century carousel, cafe/bar terrace and the Museum of Natural History. 

8. Take Selfies at the Place de la Bourse et Miroir d’Eau

Bordeaux’s most iconic symbol is the Place Royale and Water Mirror reflecting pool. Built over 20 years in the mid 1700’s, facing the Garonne river, the classical French architecture of the Place Royal was built as a town square. She played a major role in the city’s development, trade, and reputation throughout its years of existence. Originally built as hotels, the buildings today are used as government offices and event venues. Across from the palace along the quay of the river is the iconic Water Mirror the world’s largest reflecting pool. Built in the early 2000’s locals will tell you that the pool with the Place Royal in the background at dusk is the perfect  photo spot to commemorate your romantic visit to Bordeaux. 

9. Enjoy a Concert at the Bordeaux Grand Theatre

The Bordeaux Opera House was built by wooden-frame in the 1780’s as a opera house but also became the home to the origin of the ballet in the region. One of the oldest opera houses in Europe, she was designed in the neoclassical style. The building exterior features Corinthian columns and statues representing the nine muses and three Greek goddesses, Juno, Venus and Minerva. A highlight of the interior is the grand staircase and fresco painted on the ceiling of the auditorium that pays tribute to the city of Bordeaux in a neoclassical style. Still in use today you too can enjoy a sophisticated and romantic adult evening of opera, ballet, symphony or musical concert while visiting. With a tram stop just out front, you can easily get to/from other parts of the city for an early dinner, late bite or a night cap.  

10. Cycle the Vineyard Countryside

Bordeaux is famous for the dry, sweet red wines and sparkling whites grown here. Grab an e bike and head out on your own at your own pace or jump onto a half day or full day tour and cycle through Bordeaux’s famous wine region with an English speaking guide. Did you know 22 bottles of wine from Bordeaux are sold every second all over the world? A must do Bordeaux tour will have you riding romantic country roads, enjoying tasting wines from the vineyards and visiting some of the historic chateaus along the way. Purchase a bottle of wine and find an intimate spot to enjoy it before riding back to Bordeaux.

11. Pamper your Senses at Chateau Margaux.

Located on the left bank of the Garonne river in the Medoc region, Chateau Margaux holds the highest classification of Bordeaux wine classifications as a Premier Cru vineyard for its historic wine-making and growth innovations. Sampling the wines themselves is a real treat since the Premier vintages grown and sold are some of the most expensive in the industry. A highlight of a visit is walking the romantic property which is one of the most beautiful chateaux in the Bordeaux region. If you decide you would like to purchase wine, there are other lower cost vintages, note they don’t adhere to the high appellation directives as the Premier Cru but are still highly respectable and enjoyable. 

12. Get Lost in Saint-Emilion

A medieval town 45 minutes from Bordeaux in the wine hills is the center of wine making in the region. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town offers romantically picturesque “cultural landscape” and equally romantic experiences. Saint-Emilion is made up of 8 villages each notable for its vineyards but also offering impressive historical sites and local gastronomy from recipes passed down from generation to generation. Here is the perfect location to explore and sneak into a small local restaurant or cafe for a romantic meal with some local vin.

13. Launch your Relationship to New Heights in the Arcachon Basin

Just under an hours drive southwest from Bordeaux is the Dune of Pilat. A popular attraction for visitors as the tallest sand dune in Europe, it sits along the Arcachon Bay. The dune runs parallel to the shoreline behind the beach and blue Atlantic waters. Add some adventure into your vacation, due to the steepness of the dune, paragliding is a popular activity here and a way for you both to check it off of your bucket lists. 

After gliding high above the dunes or taking a dip in the bay, head on to some of the local towns along the bay to enjoy sampling the amazing Arcachon Oysters. The bay has almost 30 oyster farms and produces upwards of 8,000 tons of oysters annually. There are four growing regions and each region produces its own oyster to sample the various local flavors and enjoy a romantic aphrodisiac with some local wine. 

14. Take a Personal Spa Day

The Vinothérapie Spa at the Les Sources de Caudalie hotel offers unique spa rituals in a beautiful and rustic setting. Featuring a natural hot spring, the same minerals that help create the best wines in France are the ones that offer properties for an invigorating spa experience. Featuring treatments that include grape and vine extracts for relaxing baths and purifying wraps, scrubs, facial, hand and foot treatments and grape seed massages to indulge in every moment. Located just 20 minutes outside of Bordeaux’s city center, the hotel offers a perfect and romantic balance of exploration and relaxation for a day or as your base for your Bordeaux experience. 

15. Cruise the Rivers around Bordeaux

Photo From AmaWaterways River Cruise

The best way to experience the Garonne and Dordogne rivers and admire Bordeaux’s waterfront is during a seven night scenic river cruise round-trip from Bordeaux. A romantic cruise tour offers boutique accommodations with the opportunity to explore the sights, enjoy the tastes and immerse in the culture of the region while traveling. Inclusive in your experience are many of the experiences and others that have been mentioned above. 

For more information on river cruising and to find out if it is the right fit for your luxury travel experience, take our quiz.

Categories: Experience, Food, River Cruise, Romance, Travel, Travel Bucket List, Vacation, Wellness, Wine | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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