I now see why the new Bordeaux region river cruises are becoming a fast favorite – it was wonderful (and not just because of wine tasting at 10am !)
There are a couple of different ways to get to the region, one being a pre-cruise stay in Paris and then taking the 3 hour train ride to Bordeaux or flying straight into BDX which is the airport in the region. Since I had previously been to Paris, chose to fly straight in and the representative from Scenic Cruises was there to meet us for the 20 minute transfer to the ship (one of their complimentary inclusions, even if you don’t book your airfare with them)
After settling in our cabin, enjoyed a welcome buffet dinner but due to some jet lag, many turned in early that night.
The next morning we sailed to Bourg and once we were docked, we headed off for our first excursion which was a Saint Emilion city tour where we got our first glimpse of the stunning chateaus that fill the wine region.
On our way back after the tour, we stopped at Chateau Soutard for a “sundowner” drink which was very nice. It is one of the oldest estates in the area dating back to 1513 !Then we met up with the ship in Libourne.
Our next day gave us a choice of three different excursions and I chose to do the wine tasting at Chateau Franc Mayne (we were in Bordeaux after all 🙂 )
The Chateau is not only a vineyard but also a charming little hotel that has a total of 10 rooms, each of them different with a specific theme. Right in the middle of their vineyard, they even have a tree house that you can stay in.
Back to the ship again for a scrumptious lunch and then we did a leisurely sail along the river heading towards Pauillac enjoying the scenery along the way. We also had great talk about “Understanding the Gironde Estuary” from Captain Jeremy followed by a port talk from the cruise director on what to expect for the next day. Then the Captain rejoined us for a his welcome reception before we headed off to dinner.
Another day, another wine tasting ! This time we had a guided tour of the Medoc area and passed so many stunning chateaux, especially on such a beautiful sunny day. Our tasting was at Chateau Lagrange and since we were such a small group, hardly needed to use our “Tailormades” (which are Scenic’s GPS locator guides connected to personal headphones that allow you to wander around while still being able to hear your guide without having to stand right next to them, plus they are also useful when walking around on your own or sitting up on deck listening to the diverse selection of topics)
After lunch we had a free afternoon so took the bikes out for a spin around the Paulliac area, such a nice leisurely way to see the town. The Scenic bikes are so easy to use and don’t like to admit but the power assist boost sure made it easy to go up any hills. For dinner that night, we were treated to a meal off the ship at the famous estate of Chateau du Tertre and it was so special, we felt like royalty.
It was nice to have a leisurely morning the following day as we sailed back to Bordeaux. Since we enjoyed the bikes so much the day before, signed up for the Bordeaux City tour by bike and although there was more traffic, was still a very enjoyable way to see the sights.
I haven’t even talked about the food yet which is another wonderful part of river cruising, you certainly never go hungry ! Dinner every night is served at 7pm in the dining room but there are two other choices available. One is a separate dining area on the ship called L’Amour which is a separate smaller venue that you can make a reservation for. The other one is exclusive for Diamond deck guests and they are treated to a special six course degustation menu dinner called Table La Rive with sommelier paired wines. Only ten guests per evening partake in this so it makes for a more intimate dining experience.
There was a multitude of excursions to choose from the next day which were 1) Hiking tour through Loupiac (which we chose) 2) Walking tour of Cadillac 3) Excursion to Roquetaillade or 4) Excursion to Saint-Macaire.
We were lucky to have another beautiful day for our hike and with our quirky local guide leading us, felt very immersed in the area and had some wonderful views of the river from the ruins of the castle that we hiked to.
That evening because we were still in Bordeaux, took advantage of going for a walk after dinner and we found out why its nicknamed, Breathtaking Bordeaux as the lights that lit up the buildings were just that. We were docked right in the heart of the city and could walk around easily.
Whew, the next day we were back to wine tasting – this time in the Sauternes region with a visit to Chateau de Myrat – run by the Pontac family who have been winemakers for over 400 years !
After dinner, a local guitarist, Jeremy Dupouy came onboard and had most of the crowd singing along with him for an evening of fun.
We had a longer bus ride the next day as headed all the way to the coast to Arcachon where we did a really interesting hike up and down Europe’s tallest sand dune. It is called Dune du Pilat and when we got to the top, (felt like I cheated go up the stairs so walked back down the dune ) had a great time watching this fellow try to paraglide but there wasn’t quite enough wind so he just couldn’t get going.
Stopped for a great lunch (included) before heading back to the ship where we were joined by some amazing musicians called Les Veneurs d’Epernon. They play what is classified as Trunk Hunting which belongs to the family of natural brass and its origin was a church instrument for liturgical songs and concerts.
When we sailed to Blaye/Bourg the next day, we were feeling very brave and signed up for the 30km/18.6m guided bike tour and it turned out to be one of our most favorite ones. The scenery was spectacular, the weather was wonderful and felt better knowing that I was burning off some of those delicious meals!. Scenic even presented all the bike riders with a certificate at the end for our accomplishment.
As we head into our final day, I should mention that Scenic is the only company (currently) who offers Bordeaux as a 11 day itinerary which is why we were able to fit so much touring in, while most others usually do it as an 8 day sailing with pre-nights in Paris or post nights in Amboise/Loire Valley to create a longer trip.
Speaking of our last day, it was also a pretty special one as headed up to Cognac where we had a picturesque walking tour through the town before continuing on to visit the Remy Martin estate and sample a few tastings. The toughest decision was deciding on which bottle to bring home as a souvenir ! (the kind of souvenir that doesn’t sit on your shelf gathering dust 🙂
As we sailed back to Bordeaux, that evening we were treated to a beautiful illumination cruise up to the Pont de Pierre bridge to help create more memories of this breathtaking river cruise.