This is the river cruise for wine lovers!
Starting from Bordeaux, which is situated in southwest France on the Garonne river close to the Gironde estuary (largest estuary in Europe). It is France’s sixth largest city and is considered the wine industry capital of the world!
Day 1 morning – Cazeneuve
This fortress founded, and still inhabited, by the d’Albret family. Its long history includes visits by Edward I (Long Shanks) of England and French kings Louis XIII and XIV. After our tour of the grounds and historic rooms, we had an excellent meal paired with local Sauterne wines.
Day 1 afternoon – Sauterne vineyard: Chateau Guiraud
Wine tasting in the Sauterne region. In 2011 Chateau Guiraud became the First Grand Cru Classé in 1855 to be awarded Organic Agriculture certification.
Day 2 morning – Fort Medoc
This 17th century fort on the Gironde was part of line of defenses on the river (along with the Citadel of Blaye and Fort Pate’) designed by Vauban the renowned military engineer of Louis the XIV.
Now deserted, it is a tranquil place surrounded by trees and meadows. No longer required to protect Bordeaux from their arch enemy the British.
Day 2 afternoon – Pauillac
Pauillac is a small quiet town on the Gironde that is easy and suitable for cycling around and visiting some wineries.
Day 3 morning – Blaye
The Citadel of Blaye (UNESCO World Heritage Site) provides an impregnable addition to the Gironde river defenses constructed by Vauban in the 17th century – indeed it was never taken by force.
Situated on a rocky outcrop in the town of Blaye it overs good views over the it and the Gironde estuary. The citadel contains impressive walls and ramparts as well as the ruins of a medieval castle, Chateau des Rudel.
Day 3 afternoon – Bourg
A small town situated on cliff edge banks of the Dordogne. You can easily take in the sites in a couple of hours and still have time to chill at one of the town square’s cafes.
Day 3 evening – Libourne
Libourne was built as a fortified port at the confluence of the rivers Isle ad Dordogne. It is one of the bastide towns in the region. These are fortified new (…at the time) towns built in medieval Aquitaine, Gascony and Languedoc during the 13th and 14th centuries.
There are many old structures to admire in the town including the old port tower, arcaded square, town hall and stone bridge.
Day 4 morning – Saint Emilion
Undoubtedly the most charming place of our tour! This village boasts an 11th century monolithic church (carved into a cliff face), a 13th century keep, the Cordelais cloisters, numerous gourmet restaurants and shops located in narrow cobbled streets that wind between the old buildings built on this rocky promontory.
The streets and views around St Emilion –
The monolithic church of St Emilion –
Day 4 afternoon – Chateau Ambe Tour Pourret cooking class
A few minutes outside town , this chateau offers an excellent cooking class with Michein star quality chef and of course paired with their wines.
Day 5 morning – Libourne bicycle tour
A frequent option on many river cruises is to enjoy the open air and sites while getting a little exercise by going on a biking tour. With very pleasant sunny weather we were quickly on the edge of town touring alongside vineyards and riverbanks, with a stop to see the beautifully decorated royal Church of Notre Dame de Condat.
We ended the tour in Libourne’s busy market square with an appetite for the local fare.
Day 5 evening – Back to Bordeaux
Back in Bordeaux we walked along the riverfront and took in the musee du vin (wine museum). You could spend several hours here touring the exhibits, wine tasting and the store.
The Jacques Chaban-Delmas bridge is best seen at night as the tall structures put on a light display with the movement of the tides (the Garonne is influenced by the tides this close to the estuary). The blue colour of the pylons corresponds to high tide, whereas the green indicates low tide. It is also the longest vertical lift bridge in Europe making it an eye catching combination of art and engineering design.
Day 6 –
This was our only rainy day, and also the last day of our trip. Since we’d designated it our shopping focus day for gifts and souvenirs it turned out just fine for us. In fact the rain gave things a romantic atmosphere especially in the areas of older architecture with cobbled streets or whilst sipping a cappuccino in the shelter of a French café.
Besides all the awesome sights and experiences you can have on a river cruise, one of the other great aspects is the other cruisers you can meet – with around 100 other guests things never get crowded but I have found there’s always enough other people for you to make a good connection with which magnifies all the joy and fun – especially over dinner and wine in the evening 🙂
A short tribute to some of those great people we met –
…and lastly , just some of the very fine wines we sampled on the journey!