Author – Susie McDonald
My son and daughter-in-law live in Paris and we live in Arizona, USA and none of us had ever visited the Bordeaux wine region. We knew about the wine and we had been told it was a beautiful part of France so we were eager to explore this region with it’s rich history, beautiful landscapes and world famous wine.
One of the main reasons we chose to explore Bordeaux on a CroisiEurope River Cruise was because staying on the boat allowed us to move around the region easily, the excursions were organized for us by top-notch guides and we never had to change our hotel rooms because they moved with us! On the five-day cruise we were able to visit several of the top Bordeaux wine appellations, beautiful cities and towns like Bordeaux, Saint-Emilion and Blaye, and we explored the rivers of the region slowly navigating the winding river coastline.
Adventure One – Wine, Castles and Suites of Armor
Day one on the river we docked in Pauillac and took our place on a bus to visit the Médoc wine region. Even though I am not a big wine drinker I had heard of Médoc and I learned it’s considered one of the most prestigious wine-growing regions in the world. The drive was beautiful; as we weaved though miles of vineyards with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and an estuary on the other. On the tour we traveled through Saint-Julien, Margaux and Haut-Médoc.
The highlight of the day was the Châteaux La Tour Carnet. We were welcomed to the wine estate by Elise who spoke perfect English and was very knowledgeable. She led our small group of English speakers though the 1,000-year-old property that felt like something out of a fairytale. With Game of Thrones popular in our house the collection of knight’s armor and weapons in the Châteaux lead to lots of excited discussions between my husband and son.
Then we were taken into the tasting room where we all enjoyed several different wines from the winery. As a novice wine drinker I really enjoyed the opportunity to taste a wine that was more than 15 years old and the same wine only 4 years old. I was really surprised how different the two wines tasted and looked.
Adventure Two – To the Citadel…on our own
The rivers and canals in Europe served as the main highways and transportation routes for people and goods for century’s. So it makes sense that most city centers are built around river and canal ports.
As we were docked in downtown Blaye on day two, we decided to head out on our own and bypass the guided tour. With no plans and only a sense of adventure we decided to head towards the massive structure we saw when we were coming into port.
As we walked towards the Citadel we stumbled upon a town fair. The fair had food, a petting zoo and a flea market. We all took our time looking at the antiques, crafts and used items on display. I always enjoy a good flea market but walking through one so far from home added a new dimension of interest. Even though we didn’t buy anything we had fun looking!
After a slow walk though the market we headed up the steps to the citadel. The huge stone structure overlooks the Gironde estuary offering an amazing panorama view of the Gironde. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2008, the 400-year-old fortified city had our imaginations running wild. How did they build this? Could you imagine the battles here? What must it have been like to live here during the 100 Year War?
The afternoon ended in a lovely local café sitting in the sun people watching. All in all, a pretty wonderful day.
Adventure Three – Saint-Emilion, My New Favorite Wine and Village
I didn’t know what to expect on day three. We had already visited a winery, a châteaux and a citadel and yet the wonderful staff on the river boat said this was the best excursion of the trip. I understood what they meant as soon as we arrived in Saint-Emilion. My son and daughter-in-law were excited by the Saint-Emilion wine but they didn’t even know about the wonderful mid-evil village with the same name.
The village tour took us to troglodytic cave: the cave of the monk Emilion founder of the city, the Chapelle de la Trinite built in his honor and the catacombs. The visit that really delighted me was l’Eglise Monolithe, a church under the limestone rock, I’ve never seen anything like it! We ended the day sitting in the sun on the roof of the Princesse d’Aquitaine drinking a Garonne Mimosa.
Our travels on the river boat with CroisiEurope were comfortable, fun and full of adventure. It’s a great way to visit Europe and we are already discussing our next river trip.
Find out more about Bordeaux River Cruises.