Does that word Bordeaux conjure up mental pictures of France and acres and acres of grape vines? Or does it remind you of great evenings by the fire with a glass of wine – sharing a glass of wine with dinner and friends or just relaxing after a long day.
Well, taking a river cruise to the Wine Region of Bordeaux will surpass anything you can imagine.
View of the vineyards at Chateau de la Riviere Estate and Winery
I am the first to admit that before this wine-themed cruise I knew very little about grapes, terroir and the making of wine, but I learned a great deal on this cruise even though I was having a wonderful time doing it. All of our guides were so engaging and enthusiastic, you couldn’t help but soak up some of their great knowledge. For instance, when we visited a vineyard specializing in Sauterne grapes, we learned about the “noble rot” which sounds awful, but is the fungus which produces the great sauternes from that region. I will say that several in our group walked out of there with bottles of wine to enjoy later.
Without being conscious of it, I learned that wines from Bordeaux are a mix of different types of grapes and that each year the mix is different depending on the weather and how it affects the different grape varieties. I found out that all the grapes are hand-picked and that to be an organic wine, they can’t even water the grapes. Mother Nature rules in the vineyards of Bordeaux.
Who Doesn’t Love a Farmers Market?
Almost all cities and towns in France have market days and we were lucky enough to be in Cadillac on theirs. We were able to stroll around and buy bread, fruit and cheeses direct from the people who grow and produce them. The people are so friendly and willing to answer any questions you have and the variety of goods is wonderful. I bought some great cheese and fruit to snack on later. A great way to remember Cadillac.
Did you know they use eggs in wine?
There is a tradition in Bordeaux of using egg whites in the wine casks to help remove sediment during the wine-making process. As you can imagine, this leaves you with lots of egg yolks. The French have solved this problem by creating caneles, which are small pastries made only with egg yolks. I applaud their ingenuity. The cruise director brought several boxes back to the ship and put them out for everyone to try. I had several caneles. Okay, I probably had more than a few.
Not all highlights of a cruise have to be about activity
Here’s a question – how many of us have free time in our everyday lives to just sit back and totally relax. Onboard a river cruise, when you are cruising between ports, you have that opportunity. You can sit in the lounge and just watch the countryside go by, perhaps enjoying a glass of wine from the bar. Maybe you are a card player; there are tables in the lounge set up for whatever card game you would like to indulge in. If you love to read, bring your own book or enjoy one from the library.
Sitting on the sun deck is also an option if the weather cooperates. You could also enjoy that glass of wine in the hot tub or pool. I love early mornings, especially if there is a fog hanging over the river, isolating you from the rest of the world. I shot this picture while standing at the bow of the ship watching a crew member communicating with the Captain by walkie talkie as they steered us safely through this and several other bridges. Our captain was very young, but as you can see, very experienced. What an exhilarating experience to see the bridge emerge out of the fog and to sail gently through. So quiet and ethereal-it was one of the highlights of the cruise.
There are lots of possibilities, but they all have one overriding theme – this is your time to sit back, relax and let someone else steer the boat.
Now is the time to make your dreams a reality. Contact me at www.unique-journeys.com to set up an appointment to book your unforgettable river cruise
Do you Believe in Magic?
I believe in magic and you will too when you board your river cruise and see it decked out for the holidays. The magic and wonder of a Christmas Markets cruise in Europe is one way to re-capture the Christmas magical feelings of your youth and give it as a gift to your children. Take a river cruise to the Christmas Markets of Europe and you can introduce your children to cultures and traditions different than your own. You can expand their horizons and help them understand other societies. You can watch their eyes light up as you wander the various markets with their array of hand-crafted toys, ornaments and delectable treats. This is the true magic of Christmas.
Christmas is still very much a religious and family-oriented holiday in the countries you will visit. While shopping is a theme of your shore excursions, intertwined with every market are Christmas concerts at the beautiful churches and areas for the children to play and have fun.
You and your children will be exposed to traditions that have been handed down in families for hundreds of years and you will be learning about different cultures while you are having the time of your life.
When you board your river cruise ship, you are surrounded by energetic crew members excited to help you enjoy and get the most out of your cruise, a ship that has been transformed into a Christmas fantasy, and the promise of a great experience in some of the most iconic European cities and towns. However, there is one element that is waiting for your special touch – the passengers get to decorate the tree.
WHAT’S A PICKLE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
Another fun activity onboard the ship is the hunt for the pickle. The Legend of the Pickle is hundreds of years old in Germany and your family will learn the legend and will get a chance to “hunt for the pickle”. Will you be the one to find the pickle? Even if you aren’t, it’s a great family activity, that you can take home with you and start your own tradition.
LET’S TALK ABOUT THE INTRIGING CITIES YOU CAN VISIT
Your floating hotel will enable you to see many of the cities you have always heard about at a magical time of year when they are decked out for the Holidays. Some of the greatest cities in Europe are on the rivers, such as Vienna, Budapest, Strasbourg, Amsterdam and many others.
FEAR NOT FOODIES AND PICKY EATERS – YOU ALL CAN “HAVE IT YOUR WAY”
Breakfast and lunch can both be buffets or you can order off the menu. At lunch, you just want something quick so you can make that afternoon shore excursion? There is a shortened lunch menu in the lounge. Tired from all that shopping, exploring and absorbing history, how about a small assortment of sandwiches and desserts to keep your strength up until dinner. While you have been enjoying family time, your chef and his group of talented cooks has been creating food almost too good to eat. I managed and I’m sure you will too. Now, go rest up for dinner – where you have lots of menu choices.
While every city and town is celebrating Christmas, there will be regional specialties in each destination which are steeped in the history of the area. You and your family will learn the traditions that have been practiced for hundreds of years and handed down from generation to generation. Take Regensburg for example. It is the oldest town on the Danube and home to one of the oldest sausage shops, Wurstkuchl. This is a must stop before you start to explore this town which has over 1,000 historic buildings.
DO YOU HAVE A SWEET TOOTH?
Along with the wonderful treats created onboard your ship, you will find great regional specialties in each city. Take Nuremberg for example. Along with one of the largest Christmas markets in Europe, they are famous for their gingerbread. Smelling it is almost as much fun as tasting it, but not quite. And, you will get to taste it everywhere.
While in Vienna, you can taste Sacher Torte. While not a Christmas specialty, you can learn how it originated at the Sacher Hotel. Pull up a chair and you can enjoy it where it was first served. You should also order one of my favorites while there, hot chocolate MIT SCHLAG. This is one of my special treats. In German, Mit Schlag means with cream and in Austria, you get a lot of Schlag when you ask for it.
HOW TO EXPERIENCE THE MAGIC AND WONDER OF A CHRISTMAS CRUISE
If you want your family to experience the magic and wonder of a Christmas Market cruise this year, you need to call me. The earlier the better to insure your family get the perfect accommodations on your first choice of dates. Many times the early you book the better the price. The first step is up to you. I’ll await your phone call.
SIZE DOES MATTER: Most river cruise ships only hold around 160 people. Just enough fellow passengers to give you an opportunity to get to know them over the course of the cruise, but not overwhelming. THIS IS WHY I LOVE RIVER CRUISES-AND YOU WILL TOO. On large cruise ships you might not see the same person twice; not so on a river cruise with less than 200 people. On a river cruise there is a certain camaraderie among the passengers and the crew which I find comforting.
Ever get lost on a large cruise ship? It can’t happen on a river cruise ship. While there are several areas to relax in, such as the lounge or the sun deck, they are easy to find.
DIET? Of course you can maintain your diet on a river cruise. There are always healthy choices and vegetarian options available on river cruises. Just don’t look at the beautiful presentations of the breads and pastries.
However, if you do indulge you can reassure yourself that you will be taking one of those walking excursions soon, so all will be well.
BOWLING ANYONE? (more…)
A Riverboat Cruise in Bordeaux – The Adventure of a Lifetime!
This is going to be an extra special holiday season. I will have the opportunity to share my lovely photos and incredible experiences I had in Bordeaux with family and friends. Of course… I will also share the details of the other regions in France I visited (with family and friends and in other blog posts). If you are one of those folks that would rather look at pictures and not read, scroll down and check out the slide show!
Traveling through the Bordeaux Region of France is a joy to the senses! When one thinks of Bordeaux, France, wine is the first thought that comes to mind. Of course it should as wine making in the region began 2,000 years ago! There are plenty of great wines to taste and wineries to visit, but wine is only one of the many enticements this fairy tale realm has to offer.
My recent travel to France included a seven-day AMA Waterways riverboat cruise along the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde Estuary, through the Bordeaux Region. We visited famous wineries, lovely medieval and renaissance châteaux, a famous citadel along with other UNESCO World Heritage sites. It was easy get swept away by the grandeur, beauty, history, food, and of course, the wines found in the area.
Chateau de Roquetaillade, a castle in Mazères near Bordeaux
The cruise was a highlight of the journey. Riverboat cruises are smaller and far more intimate than the large ocean liners. We traveled with only 120 other passengers, far less than the thousands that travel on an ocean liner. It’s easy to recognize everyone on board and easy to find people to share the experiences of the day with. The food on board is regional cuisine that is beautifully presented, delightfully tasty and paired with the fabulous local wines. It is virtually impossible to go hungry on board. Aside from the three meals served in the dining room, you can always find tasty snacks and beverages in the lounge.
Most people fear they will gain weight on a cruise, but the shore excursions offered on this wine cruise keep you moving. I can say in all honesty, I walked every one of those delicious calories off. I actually lost weight on this trip! There were two or more excursions to choose from daily. One of the daily excursions was to a winery. Other excursions included: a visit to a château, a stroll through a quaint village, or one of the UNESCO sites. Each of the villages has excellent bakeries and unique shops. If you are not in the mood for an excursion, you are always welcome to relax on the sundeck.
Every single person that worked on the ship was joyful, helpful and downright fun to be around. The staff made sure that anything you needed or wanted on board was available. Our tour director, John Riley, an Englishman had an amazing sense of humor and the ability to keep everything running as smoothly as possible.
My mission this holiday season is to convince my family and friends to join me on this trip next summer, as I can’t wait to do it all over again!
My friend Frankie and I depart on the 13th of December for our next adventure. We are taking an AMA Waterways cruise from Amsterdam to Basel. Last time I missed seeing Budapest because our flight was delayed, so this time I decided to arrive in Amsterdam a day early. I have never been there and probably will not get to see everything on my list, but I’m going to give it my best shot
I really enjoy seeing the various Christmas markets. They are so different from the commercialization here that it is great to wander around and see all the handmade gifts that I am sure to bring home. Last time I had to ship a box home, but maybe I will show more restraint this time. Probably not, though.
The cruise ends in Basel, but we’re taking a train to Lucerne to spend two nights. I am hoping to get up Mt. Pilatus. I even bought a coat, which is unusual for me. I hear it’s very cold in the Alps in December,
We are ending our trip in Paris, since that was the only way I could utilize my miles for a free ticket. We fly home on Christmas Day, or at least as far as Philadelphia. I couldn’t get a flight back to St. Louis until the next day, so hopefully there will be a decent restaurant at the hotel. I would love to try an authentic Philly cheese steak, but probably won’t find anyone open. I will just have to go back.
If anyone has been to Amsterdam or Lucerne and has suggestions for places to eat or things to do, let me know and I will pencil it in on my schedule.