We just returned from a fabulous river cruise in France. We began this amazing vacation with a two-night stay in Paris, the magical “City of Light,” enjoying a panoramic tour of the city’s top sights and an evening tour of Montmartre and Sacre-Coeur.
Montmartre has long been known as the premier artist’s enclave in the city, very Parisian. During the mid to late 1800s, artists also began calling Montmartre home. Pissarro and Jongkind were two of the first to live there, followed by such greats as Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Pablo Picasso, just to name a few. And still today artists continue to set up their easels and tempt passers-by with their works of art.
Highlights of our Paris stay included Notre Dame, the Eifel Tower, and the wonderful sidewalk cafes scattered throughout the city. What an incredible city! With only two days, we just couldn’t see it all.
Following our stay in Paris, we took the AVG bullet train to Bordeaux, to indulge in a flavorful epicurean journey through one of Europe’s most renowned wine regions. where we boarded our ship, the AmaDolce,
The custom-designed AmaDolce was introduced in 2009 and features spacious staterooms, most with French Balconies, the Chef’s Table specialty restaurant; fine wine, beer and soft drinks with lunch and dinner; Internet/WiFi access, walking track along the Sun Deck, and bicycles that you can use to explore on your own or join our guided bike tours—all included in the base price of the cruise. What an amazing value!
The ship was beautiful, the food delicious, the service superb, and the staff amazing. Our incredible cruise manager Helene Teboul was truly awesome—a one of a kind dynamo. She had an immediate connection with all passengers and she was there for us at every step of the entire journey, before, during, and after the cruise.
On arrival, our luggage was already in our cabins so we were able to settle in quickly. That evening we attended the Welcome Cocktail party with our Captain Dany Baucher, the Hotel Manger Triin Stimmer, and our Cruise Manager Helene.
The stately chateaux, abundant vineyards and stunning scenery as we sailed along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers were amazing. Our ports of call included some of the most incredible vineyards in Cadillac, Poullac, Libourne, and Saint Emilion.
On day 2, we arrived in Cadillac, a region renowned for its sensational white wines. We visited the Sauternes wine region, where we tasted the highly sought-after sweet wines made here. Even for a red-wine drinker, this white wine selection was still very good. Of note, Thomas Jefferson was an avid connoisseur as well. Afterward, we toured the historic Roquetaillade Castle, which is one of the most impressive castles in Europe. It is almost perfectly preserved and still owned by the original noble family that has possessed it for more than 800 years. The original castle dates to the 11th century but was updated in the 1860’s.
Next, we called at Pauillac on the Left Bank of the Gironde estuary which is formed by the confluence of the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. We tasted exceptional red wines from the famed Médoc appellation, authentic Grand Cru Classic wine. Pauillac’s gravelly soils are renowned for producing some of the world’s finest Bordeaux wines – especially those made from the Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot grape varietals.
The next morning we cruised to Blaye taking in the riverside scenery. Here we visited the 17th-century citadel – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – that was built by famous military engineer Vauban. From the top of this famous fortress, you can admire fantastic views of the impressive Gironde estuary. Returning to the ship for lunch we next cruised to Bourg. That evening we were treated to an exclusive festival of music and wine from the appellation of Cotes du Bourg.
On day 5, we arrived in the winemaking capital of Libourne. Two of Bordeaux’s most elite wine regions are very close by – Saint Emilion and Pomerol. Here we again tasted some amazing Grand Cru Classé reds in Saint Emilion, and Fronsac wine of Pomerol.
The next day we arrived back in Bordeaux where we had free time to explore the city. That evening we attended the Captain’s Farewell Cocktail and Crew Presentation Party where we could thank and say goodbye to all the fabulous crew members. All the members of the crew were very personable and friendly and took time to learn about their passengers.
On September 2, our amazing cruise experience ended, but we extended our stay with three days in the Loire Valley. We took the train the Tours for lunch and to visit the beautiful basilica of St. Martin. We then traveled to Amboise for a most fascinating visit to many historic marvels.
This area of France dissects the country north to south and has a tremendous amount of history from the Middle Ages through the 19th century. We explored the spectacular Renaissance-style Chateau d’Amboise. Its extravagant residences, gardens and Gothic chapel belonged to several French kings in the past. We also visited Chateau du Close Luce, Leonardo da Vinci’s last home. This is where he completed some of his most famous works, like The Mona Lisa, The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne, and the Saint John the Baptist. Following lunch, we had an afternoon tour of the stunning, river-crossing Chateau de Chenonceau.
The next day we had the opportunity to visit the astoundingly massive Chateau de Chambord. Located at the heart of Europe’s largest enclosed wooded park, its 156-meter façade, 426 rooms, 77 staircases and 282 fireplaces make this the largest castle in Loire Valley. Our last chateau was the residence of seven kings and ten queens of France, the famous Chateau de Blois.
Our final night in France was at the beautiful Charles de Gaul Pullman hotel in preparation for our flight home. What an awesome adventure with memories to last a lifetime.