By Rita Cook / The Ellis County Press
Photos by Guillaume de Vaudrey
Few things go better with a trip to France than a nice little riverboat excursion on Uniworld Cruises. The cruise this past summer on Uniworld was to the very lovely region of Bordeaux in France. I arrived in the bucolic region by way of Paris and a four-hour train ride through the stunning countryside.
The boat was Uniworld’s River Royale, which I have been on before but it never gets old. Through the vineyards in Bordeaux by boat or coach for day excursions I delighted all over again at the chance to drink some of the best French wine in the world. From the vineyards of Sauternes in Cadillac you won’t be disappointed with the grand Cru offering in this region.
For our first day we enjoyed a lunch at Chateau de Roquetaillade, which is said to be the most famous castle in the Gironde area. The castle‘s fortifications were built during Charlemagne’s time and we had a tour after lunch by one of the aristocrat members of the family living there. Actually, there are two castles inside the walls now, but the oldest one dates back to the 11th century. The same family has owned the property for 700 years and the current owners are the ones who produce the fine white wine.
While on the boat you will have the chance to enjoy the Garonne River and that we did as we headed to our next destination. The following day we arrived in Pauillac, the gateway to the Medoc wine region. With a scenic drive along the Medoc Chateaux road for another wine tasting you will have the chance to visit another winery in the area and even better, perhaps take a guided bicycle ride through the Medoc vineyards.
Upon our arrival in the town of Blaye you will enjoy the drive along the Route de la Corniche Fleurie. The road from Blaye to Bourg (your eventual destination) will take you through hamlets like Pain du Sucre, Marimisson and Roque de Thau. You will also see the limestone cliffs and delight at the sight of the still in use fishing huts on stilts that are above the Gironde Estuary.
Remy Martin has been making cognac for five centuries and when you enter the exclusive property you can feel the tradition. It was late in the 19th century that Paul Emile Remy Martin, a fifth generation cognac maker began aging his brandy in oak barrels for years – or decades – either way longer than anyone else in the cognac world. Today, Remy Martin uses the best Champagne to produce its cognac. A tour of the facility will explain the entire process and Uniworld makes sure the tour is beyond perfection.
For exercise and after all that wine tasting there are always bikes and often walking excursions while spending the week on the boat. Later on we stopped in Libourne and on to the nearby town of Saint-Emilion where we took a quite smart cooking class prior to lunch.
Overall Saint-Emilion offers some dramatic architecture and historical vineyards. In fact, the Romans were the first to plant the grapes here and this was the first vineyard region to be protected by UNESCO.
When in Bordeaux
The gourmet Bordeaux walking tour is offered while on the cruise and you don’t want to miss it.
Also the Maison du Vin de Bordeaux will take you through some pretty interesting information about the global wine culture. It is a recently opened building that is shaped like a ship’s prow. It is also the headquarters of the Conseil Interprofessional du Vin de Bordeaux. There is a magnificent little wine bar located on the premises with a selection of local wine and wine from other regions with a diverse look at the wine culture overall.
A magical little Bordeaux by night tour is offered for boat passengers aboard an open bus and you will delight at the lights that twinkle in this lovely city in the evening. In fact, Bordeaux has more protected buildings than any other French city with the exception of Paris and this tour will show you quite a few.
During your free time stop in for a glass of wine day or night at the terrace at the Grand Hotel de Bordeaux where there is also the 3 star Michelin Le Pressoir d’Argent.
To try some local flavor just hop on a tram to get around and head to the Place de la Comedie in the heart of Bordeaux’s Golden Triangle. There are plenty of Gothic churches in Bordeaux and remember this city is also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site too.
On the Boat
Breakfast, lunch and dinners are all served on the boat and quite frankly you don’t ever have to get off if you don’t want to. There is a small spa, which I was able to enjoy and it comes highly recommended. The boat offers bicycles and there is a nice sundeck up top to enjoy the beautiful scenery every day.
In the evenings before dinner guests meet in the main room where there is music and aperitifs and a full description of the following days activities. After dinner, which is always five star service and menu, you can spend some time in the bar enjoying the music and chatting with friends.
The stateroom is luxurious with plenty of light from the windows. For a room on a boat, you will be pleased with the design and the layout. Even the bathroom will give you room to move around. While it’s not the size of a hotel room, the overall ambiance was clearly considered when adding the finishing touches.
When in Paris
Since your trip will begin in Paris where you will fly into before your train ride to Bordeaux here are a few of the typical tourist attractions that first time guests to Paris might want to enjoy.
Louvre – You’ve heard of it no doubt. Now you can visit, but don’t expect to visit the entire museum because it is not possible. For the highlights on the ground floor visit Venus de Milo in Room 16 (better known as Aphrodite), in Room 4 Michelangelo’s Captive and the Winged Bull.
On the first floor Mona Lisa (L. da Vinci) awaits you in Room 6 and the Seated Scribe in Room 22.
Tuileries Garden – This is the oldest largest public garden in Paris. It is connected to the history of the Louvre, which at one time was a castle and then a palace and now museum.
Notre Dame of Paris – A true Gothic masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site you can also follow the steps of Victor Hugo’s characters here. Check out the many gargoyles and mystical creatures, which are part of the architecture and enjoy the atmosphere around the area too.
Arc de Triomphe de L’Etoile – This is one of the most amazing viewpoints in Paris and the Champs-Elysees. It is a monument that was built by Napoleon to commemorate the glory of the Grande Armée. Do not miss the unknown soldier grave and there is also a special exhibition about this topic there until 2018.