Wine, Culture & Castles of the Loire
Bordeaux – Saint-Emilion – Fronsac – La Rochelle
Nantes – 5-Night Loire Valley Cruise – Paris
September 19 – 28, 2018 (10 days)
Explore the magnificent wines and châteaux of Bordeaux and the Loire, cruise the beautiful Loire valley, and delve into the rich culture and history of France's western coast.
Departure for Europe.
We transfer to the hotel. After check in there is time to relax before dinner. (D)
Place de la Bourse, Bordeaux @ Loïc Graniczny
Our exploration of the famous wine capital begins with a tour of the town, classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. After Paris, Bordeaux "La Belle Endormie" (Sleeping Beauty) has the highest number of preserved historical buildings of any city in France. A jewel of 18th-century design, Bordeaux boasts a remarkable unity of architecture, the longest pedestrian shopping street in Europe and the largest plaza as well as Roman and Medieval buildings. The magnificent curve of waterfront along the Garonne river beckons with markets, plazas, boutiques and heritage façades. We'll see the Cathedral SaintAndré in the City Hall district with our guide, the elegant neoclassical Grand Theatre, and the old marketplace Place du Parlement and the former royal square Place de la Bourse in the beautiful Old Town. We'll enjoy time at leisure for lunch and continue our tour in the afternoon with a visit to the spectacular Cité du Vin, including wine tasting in the Belvédère with a breathtaking view of Bordeaux and the Garonne. The Cité du Vin is an interactive museum, 3,000 square metres of immersive and sensory exploration of wine culture and heritage. Twenty engaging thematic areas invite you to discover the depth and diversity of this surprising and ancient industry. Then we will embark on a short cruise along the Garonne's Port de la Lune. We'll enjoy the local beverage while hearing the history linking the river and the wine trade upon which the city thrives. Finally, we'll retire for dinner. (B,D)
Cite du Vin, Bordeaux @ Sophie Duboscq
We leave Bordeaux for the vineyards and village of Saint-Émilion, perhaps passing through the vineyards of Pomerol, home of the famous Château Pétrus en route. We'll visit SaintÉmilion, a scenic town dating back to Roman times, famed for its prestigious wines and wealth of underground monuments. Most striking is the 12th-century Monolithic Church, carved into the limestone hillside and the largest church of its kind in Europe. Further hidden from view below the city we'll see the Catacombs, and the oldest monument, the 8th century Hermitage of the saint. The Benedictine monk Émilion spent the last 17 years of his life in the grotto, in which you can still see the spring, and his bed and meditation chair carved from the rock. The Trinity Chapel dedicated to the town's patron saint is a magnificent testimony of the 13th-century architecture with remarkable restored frescoes. We'll then proceed to the Château La Dauphine in the nearby Fronsac appellation. 40km from Bordeaux, the ancient Gaulois marketplace came under rule by Rome and then Charlemagne 865 years before this ancestral duchy of Fronsac was bestowed upon Cardinal Richelieu. The lands supplied the wines most favoured by Louis XV, and thence became the most sought-after wines in the kingdom, ahead of Pomerol and SaintÉmilion. The Château de La Dauphine also commemorates this royal past, named for an 18th-century visit by Marie-Josèphe de Saxe, wife of the Dauphin of Louis XV and mother of the last kings of France. The Château de La Dauphine, nestled in an arch of the Dordogne, is in the heart of a 53Ha BIO & BIODYAMIE vineyard of merlot and cabernet franc. The meticulous care of the vineyard is accented by state of the art facilities for the production of two great wines: Château de La Dauphine & Delphis de La Dauphine. We will explore the Park, with its views of the Château, vineyard and winery buildings, before enjoying lunch. Later in the afternoon, we return to Bordeaux and the evening is yours to enjoy one of the many notable bistros and brasseries. (B,L)
Chateau La Dauphine, St. Emilion © Bordeaux Tourism
We depart for La Rochelle and upon arrival, we will enjoy a guided tour of the city and its Old Port District. Oft besieged, this city reveals a fascinating history pre-dating the Romans, vital as a virtual free port and as the largest French port throughout the Middle Ages. At the intersection of the Cours des Dames and Quai Duperré stands the Rochelais Gothic style clock, used to define the boundary of the Port de la Cité. Through this gate, we will explore the Old City and its arcaded streets, enjoying time at leisure for lunch and a stroll. Following lunch, we will proceed to Nantes and board the Loire Princesse. Before dinner, we’ll meet the crew and enjoy a Welcome Drink. (B,D)
Terrasses du Vieux Port, La Rochelle
MS Loire Princesse © CroisiEurope
We begin with a guided tour of Nantes and the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. In the afternoon we’ll visit Saint-Nazaire, one of the most prominent seaports for the region. We’ll visit the Escal’Atlantic and Saint-Nazaire shipyard to learn more about the maritime history of one of the largest shipyards in Europe. We rejoin the ship in Saint-Nazaire for the night and enjoy an evening of music and dancing. (B,L,D)
Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne © Patricia Bassen, LVAN
The vessel sets sail early this morning, cruising until we reach Ancenis in the early afternoon. We’ll visit the Muscadet Wine Route and the charming medieval town of Clisson. (B,L,D)
Optional: Loire Fly Over
Admire the Loire from above by helicopter. Leaving from Ancenis, experience an unforgettable flight over the Loire River.
We spend the morning cruising toward Bouchemaine. This afternoon we will visit the town of Angers, capital of the Anjou region. Visiting the 13th-century fortress, we’ll be able to see the Apocalypse Tapestry, which is a large and important series of the oldest surviving medieval French tapestries in existence. (B,L,D)
Apocalypse Tapestry, Chateau d'Angers
Optional: Brissac Wine Tasting
Visit the Château de Brissac and the castle cellars and enjoy a wine tasting.
We devote the full day to exploring the most fairytale castles of the Loire. We’ll leave by coach for the Azay-le-Rideau Château. Built on a small island in the middle of the Indre River, the château as it is seen today was built under Francis I by Gilles Berthelot, a wealthy financier who wanted to incorporate its medieval past alongside the latest architectural styles of the Italian Renaissance. The Château is a French National Monument and possesses all the refinement found in the French Renaissance. We’ll continue to Villandry for lunch. After lunch, enjoy a walk through the Château’s famous and extensive gardens. Finally, we’ll continue to Ussé Château, thought to be the setting which inspired Charles Perrault when writing “Sleeping Beauty”. Still inhabited today, this stronghold was rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries. With its iconic fortified towers, turrets and steeples, the castle looks perfectly suited to fairytale romance. Returning to the ship, we look forward to a Gala dinner this evening, followed by an evening of music and dancing. The ship sets sail during the evening for Nantes and continues through the night. (B,L,D)
This morning we arrive in Nantes and disembark. Continue on to Paris for your flight home or extend your stay in the City of Lights. (B)