Regarding the day-by-day itinerary, here are a few personal notes:
Day-by-day commentary - I am leaving out a lot of the colorful commentary that is usually found in the day-by-day itineraries. The online links will give you much more information (and colorful commentary) about the different places that we are going to visit than I can. Also, the description of the sightseeing during the Bordeaux portion of the tour is strictly from my “Frenchy” counterparts. You can tell it’s not me writing it because there’s no “y’all” in the text.
Trust us…you’re going to love this trip! – I said this about Greece and I’ll say it about this trip...if you have ever dreamed of going to France, but have never made it, then this is your chance to fulfill that dream. If you have visited France, then you will know that this is a very special part of the world and will be looking forward to returning.
IMPORTANT: Reserve your space now! - Because of the space limitations of the Châteauxs for the wine tastings, the trip is based on a maximum of 30 participants and is on a first come, first served basis.
Day 1 – Saturday, Oct. 10
Depart USA for Bordeaux, France
Depart home city via your chosen air carrier to Bordeaux, arriving the following day, Sunday, October 11th.
Day 2 – Sunday, Oct. 11
Arrive Bordeaux, France
Arrive Bordeaux, the “City of Wine.” After clearing customs, you will be personally met by Carl who will escort you to your awaiting transportation which will take you to the Five Star Deluxe hotel, The Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux www.theregentbordeaux.com, your “home” for the next three nights. Anne will meet you on arrival at the hotel and will help you with check-in. The rest of the day is free for you to enjoy a little time to freshen-up, rest and relax, and explore the property. This evening, please join Carl, Anne and your fellow traveling companions for a “Welcome to Bordeaux” wine tasting reception and brief orientation about our Bordeaux-Paris program. Following the reception, we will have dinner at the hotel.
Day 3 – Monday, Oct. 12
Bordeaux / Tour of the wine region of Médoc
After breakfast, we will depart for the Médoc region of Bordeaux. For the wine connoisseurs among us, this is “Wine Heaven!” All of the Bordeaux region is incredibly beautiful. The Médoc peninsula stretches from the Atlantic coast to the Gironde estuary north of Bordeaux. Despite being extensive, the grape-growing area itself occupies only 20% of the land in a narrow strip along the estuary, the rest being made up of forests.
The special virtues of the Médoc region spring from its being successful in creating a subtle balance between the density of vine stocks and the somewhat poor quality of the soil. Additionally, the cellar-masters are skilled at blending the region’s wines from diverse vineyards and different varieties of grapes and they then mature the wine in oak barrels.
The principal varieties used in Médoc wines are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and assorted secondary varieties such as Malbec and Petit Verdot.
The Médoc’s 16,000 hectares (40,000 acres) are situated mainly on gravely hilltops facing out over the Gironde estuary. The locals claim that a good wine needs to have “seen the river”.
The Médoc region consists of six village wines: Margaux, Moulis, Listrac, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe, wines with evocative names that are spread out along the “Médoc wine trail.” It boasts four of the Premiers Grands Crus listed in 1855 (a classification partially revised in 1967): Châteaux Margaux, Latour, Mouton Rothschild, and Lafite Rothschild, as well as over 1200 wine-producing properties, ranging from the “crus bourgeois” to the “Grands Crus Classés”, produced by varying methods and techniques but always with quality as the ultimate objective. During the course of the day, you will discover local examples of fine architecture, which had various sources of inspiration, including the loveliest medieval properties (Château d’Agassac, the Renaissance Château de Lamarque, and Château Clément Pichon) and ranging from the Tudor style to the Neo-Classical.
Our first wine tasting stop is at the world renowned Château Mouton Rothschild www.châteaumoutonrothschild.com to sample some of the world’s best wine.
After the visit to the Château Mouton Rothschild, our next stop will be at the Château Smith Haut Lafitte www.smith-haut-lafitte.com where there will be a wine tasting followed by lunch. Return to Bordeaux in the afternoon.
This evening is free for you to enjoy dinner at your leisure. The Regent Grand Hotel Bordeaux is located in the heart of historical Bordeaux and within steps of some of the finest restaurants that France, not just Bordeaux, has to offer. Your local host at the FoCA Hospitality Desk will be happy to make restaurant recommendations and reservations for you.
Personal note: Anne and I will provide you with a list of nearby restaurants and their website links before the trip so you can have an idea of which ones you may want to consider before arriving Bordeaux.
Day 4 – Tuesday, Oct. 13
Bordeaux / Tour to Saint Emilion
This morning we depart for a very special region of Bordeaux - Saint Emilion. This area has been known since early antiquity for the quality of its wines, which were celebrated by the Latin poet Ausonius. Saint Emilion was classified in 1999 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Grape production was introduced into this fertile region of Aquitaine by the Romans and was intensified during the Middle Ages. The area of Saint-Émilion benefited from its position on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostella and several churches, monasteries and hospices were built there from the 11th century onwards. It was granted its own jurisdictional status during the period of English rule in the 12th century. There is exceptional landscape entirely given over to grape-production and the towns and villages are home to outstanding historical monuments. You will enjoy a visit with wine tasting at Château de Tournefeuille www.chateau-tournefeuille.com in the Lalande de Pomerol appellation OR at Château Laniote www.laniote.com (Grand Cru Classé Saint Emilion) followed by lunch at the chosen Château. (Chateaux site is dependent on quantity of people.) After lunch, we will travel to the medieval town of Saint Emilion. A local tour guide will show us the principle sites of this beautifully preserved village starting with the Tour du Roy (The King’s Tower), which was built in the 13th century by Richard the Lionhearted. You’ll also see the collegiate church and its 14th century cloister and the exceptional monolithic church. Not included in the tour, but an option that you may want to consider, is a visit to the Saint Emilion catacombs, an underground church which was dug out of the limestone cliff between the 9th and the 11th centuries. Its 38 metre (125 ft.) span makes it the largest such church in Europe. After some free time to explore Saint Emilion on your own, we will depart to the Château Figeac www.chateau-figeac.com, a beautifully preserved Château, for a tour and wine tasting.
Return to Bordeaux in late afternoon. This evening is on your own. This is your last night in Bordeaux so make the best of it by having a grand dinner at one of the very special dining venues that Bordeaux is famous for. Ask your local host at the FoCA Hospitality Desk for their opinion of the best restaurant for your farewell soirée.
Day 5 – Wednesday, Oct. 14
Bordeaux to Paris
After breakfast, we will transfer from the Regent Grand Hotel to the Bordeaux Airport for a short flight to Paris, where we will be met by our local guide. Then transfer the centrally located hotel, the Radisson SAS Ambassador Hotel near the Paris Opéra http://www.radissonblu.com/ambassadorhotel-paris. Paris, the City of Light, is home to the Paris Opera House, the Louvre, the Arc de Triumphe, Notre-Dame, and the Eiffel Tower. It abounds with quaint bistros, boutiques, beautiful parks and magnificent bridges, charming sidewalk cafes and quiet bars.
Paris offers it all, so simply enjoy what you want — romance and sophistication, peace and charm, or hectic activity and excitement. Also, don’t forget that Paris is the home of the internationally famous Moulin Rouge and the Lido de Paris...two of the most renowned floorshows in the world!
After check-in, the balance of the day is free for you to start checking off all of those items you have on your “to do” list. You may want to start your “great adventure” by simply strolling the Champs Elysées, one of the world’s most famous boulevards. Be sure to bring your camera because you will definitely want to get a picture of you with the Arch de Triumph in the background! A local host will be at the FoCA Hospitality Desk to help you with any assistance that you may need such as directions, sightseeing options, restaurant and bistro recommendations. Whatever you need, they are there to help you!
Tonight, before you hit the streets for the bright lights of Paris, Carl and Anne invites you to cocktail reception at the hotel and short briefing about our stay in Paris.
Day 6 – Thursday, Oct. 15
Paris, France / Sightseeing tour of Paris
This morning, after breakfast, a half-day Paris city tour has been arranged ... just to help you get your bearings. After the city tour, the rest of the day and evening are free for you to go out and experience the sights and sounds of Paris. Be sure to stop by the FoCA Hospitality Desk to learn about the many optional tours that are available to you.
This evening is on your own to eat, drink, and be merry at one of the “movie set” outdoor restaurants and bistros that line the narrow cobblestone streets of Paris. Or you may want to enjoy dinner and a show at the renowned Moulin Rouge or the Lido de Paris. Remember, you are in Paris and this is not by a cheap imitation…it’s the real thing!
Day 7 – Friday, Oct. 16
Paris / Use your Metro Pass!
Enjoy a leisurely buffet breakfast. Today would be a good day to use start using your two-day Metro Pass to explore the city. The Metro pass allows you unlimited use for two days. You’ll be armed with maps, schedules and city sightseeing brochures to aid you on your great adventure, so don’t worry about getting lost! Just take your map and head out. You can always ask for directions!!
Tonight is open for you to have dinner on your own. Paris…The City of Lights… awaits you! You can choose a flashy night club or a quiet bistro to finish the night off…it’s up to you!
Day 8 – Saturday, Oct. 17
Paris / Use your Metro Pass!
This is your last day in Paris...make the most of it! This can be another great Metro Pass day...so get organized and cram in as many of the “to do’s” as you can! Again, please feel free to visit with our local FoCA hosts for any help or information that you may need.
This evening, an incredible experience is on the agenda for you! Join Carl and Anne for an extraordinary Farewell Dinner on the Bateaux Parisiens (Parisian Boats) quietly cruising on the Seine River. Tonight will be one of those “once in a lifetime” experiences that you will cherish forever.
Day 9 – Sunday, Oct. 18
Paris to the USA
After breakfast, transfer from the hotel to the airport for check-in. Depart from Paris for the USA and home city via your chosen air carrier. Arrive the same day.
Au Revoir…see you next year!