Most people, when they hear the word “Bordeaux” immediately – and with good reason – think of the region’s wines. They are perhaps the finest red wines in the world. But there’s a lot more to Bordeaux. The city itself, looking finer than any time in the last 150 years, is a World Heritage listed area, and is brimming with stately buildings, grand streets, and smaller intimate courtyards. And when you travel just a short distance out, you come to beautiful classic French towns and villages (such as St Emilion, pictured above), and sweeping countryside, commonly covered in vines of course.
Our 2020 Bordeaux and Beyond “land cruise” style tour gives you a lovely long week in Bordeaux, with no changes of hotel to hassle over. There will be plenty of different things to see, do, and experience every day.
Add a pre-tour around the south of France – Marseille to Monaco – and a post-tour up to the lovely Loire Valley and its chateaus – and you’ve a perfect two week French experience.
We’ve carefully chosen the tour timing to beat the rush and crush of summer, and also to enjoy warm comfortable weather in May instead of the stifling hot and humid weather that marks much of the peak summer season.
Note also that immediately after this tour are our English and then Scottish tours, too. Why not do two or all three tours!
The main tour starts on Sunday 24 May, when you arrive into Bordeaux.
If you’re flying from the US, you’ll probably take an overnight flight on Saturday 23rd, perhaps to Paris or connecting on to Bordeaux. If flying to Paris, it is an easy 3 1/2 hour high speed train journey direct from the airport to Bordeaux with no need to change trains on the way.
The main tour ends on the morning of Sunday 31 May. You could either fly home then, probably arriving back in the US the same day, or extend on as you wish.
We’re also offering suggested/recommended pre and post-tour optional extensions. Please click here for full day by day details of the main tour and the pre and post tour options.
For the pre-tour option, we’re offering a three (or longer) day experience on the South of France’s Mediterranean Coast, aka the French Riviera. Based in Marseille (think “French Connection”), we also go to such storied places as Cannes, Nice, and even to Monte Carlo in the separate micro-country of Monaco.
This option takes you through to the morning of Sunday 24 May, and we include the train travel from Marseille to Bordeaux that day to join the main tour. It is a lovely scenic journey with no need to change trains on the way.
After our week in Bordeaux, you have an opportunity to add a whole new dimension to your French experience. The post-tour option features the Loire Valley and the magnificent castles/chateaus that are sprinkled throughout the region. We have arranged a three (or more) night option based in the lovely city of Tours, and will visit some of the region’s finest castles.
The three day extension ends on the morning of Wednesday 3 June. At that time you could stay on as you wish, fly home (it is an easy quick train ride from Tours to France’s main international airport, Paris/CDG), or perhaps come over to England and join first our English and then our Scottish tours.
Why Bordeaux Rather Than Somewhere Else?
It is true there are many regions in France known for their grapes and wine making. Champagne, for example! We may well operate tours to other areas in the future (and particularly the Champagne region). But Bordeaux is one of our favorites, not just because we love the style of their glorious great reds. Bordeaux, itself, is (in our opinion) the finest large city in all of France.
It is large in the sense of having a rich variety of eating and drinking and entertainment options, but it is small in the sense that you can easily walk across the entire historic center of the city and get from anywhere to anywhere else. It is not “too big” such as we feel Paris might be, and doesn’t suffer from Paris’ traffic and other problems. But you’re not being shortchanged – Bordeaux definitely has all the charm of Paris – probably even more so. Bordeaux was once the largest port in all of Europe, and signs of its former grandeur, prominence and wealth abound everywhere you look.
Bordeaux is easy to get to, has a pleasant climate, and it is possible to enjoy an entire week based in Bordeaux with a great variety of sights nearby in the region. It is ideal for an extended city-stay “land cruise” such as this.
As always, we’ve balanced the opposing concepts of including lots of activities and also allowing you free flexible time on this tour.
We’re also reasonably flexible about adding to or varying the tour ‘real time’ as we are traveling. As long as the group as a whole agrees and the schedule allows, we’re always happy to make changes to enhance the experience for all group members.
Accordingly, while including accommodation every night, breakfasts most mornings, some drinks and a couple of dinners, plus touring, sightseeing and admissions, we’ve left plenty of time open for you to choose exactly the experiences, meals, and other activities you personally wish.
Everything is optional, so if you want to spend a lazy day strolling around rather than a more active day out and about sightseeing, that is of course totally possible. It is all up to you.
Some of what the tour includes comprises :
On the Coach
- Large luxury coach so there’s always an average of at least 1.5 seats per person, giving you best views and comfort while touring
- Bottled water available for purchase at modest price
- On-board rest-room, reclinable seats, plenty of space for carry-ons and purchases
- David Rowell (the ‘Travel Insider’ himself) as tour leader
- Local guides and commentary
Where We Visit
- Bordeaux – France’s “second city”, a UNESCO World Heritage listed city, will be our main base for this tour.
- On the first day, we introduce Bordeaux to you on a half day walking tour that morning.
- The first afternoon, we also prepare you for the wine tasting opportunities ahead by taking you to a wine appreciation school where you’ll learn about wine and have a chance to try eight different wines that illustrate some of the differences in style and characteristic. Then, equipped with your knowledge, you become a “master blender” and can create your own style of wine – and of course, yes, then drink it.
- A group welcome function – drinks and dinner – making sure everyone gets to know everyone.
- We visit St Emilion, one of the “great” names in Bordeaux wines. The town itself is charming and delightful, and after time for lunch, we then – well, see the next bullet point.
- Wine tastings around St Emilion at two different wineries giving us an appreciation for some of the classic archetypal great Bordeaux wines.
- A visit to the charming little town of Cadillac on their weekly market day. You can stroll around their farmer’s market just like the locals do and sample/savor the wares on offer.
- A visit to mighty Roquetaillade Castle which has been lived in by the same family for over 700 years.
- A tour around the Sauternes region and a chance to taste its distinctive very sweet white desert wine at one of the local wineries.
- A visit to Blaye where we visit one of the most magnificent and well preserved citadels in all of France, and a World Heritage designated site. It is one of the best examples of a “Vauban” fortress.
- A visit to another citadel town, Bourg, where inside the Chateau de Citadelle, we see a large exhibition of horse-drawn carriages from royal times.
- A trip to the coast, to lovely Arcachon, noted for having Europe’s largest sand dune (2 miles long, 0.3 miles wide, and up to 360ft high). So, yes, lots of lovely sandy beach. We might swap days around if necessary so as to visit it on a day with the best beach-type weather.
- A sampling of fresh oysters from one of the 350 oyster farms that Arcachon is famous for.
- Last – because, yes, something does have to be last – a group farewell function – drinks and dinner – where we have a chance to affirm the new friendships we’ve made over the week.
Plus, on the Pre-Tour
- We base the pretour, for three (or more if you wish) nights in the ancient city and fishing port of Marseille, dating back to about 600BC. Marseille is the sunniest city in France and its main Mediterranean port, with an abundance of character and history running through it.
- We enjoy a walking tour introduction to Marseille through the heart of its historic center.
- We’ll have a welcome drinks reception on either the first or second night.
- We go town-hopping one day, taking the train to Cannes, Nice and Monte Carlo in the separate Principality of Monaco. You could even go to the next stop down the line if you wished, taking you across the border and into Italy too.
- We include the train journey from Marseille to Bordeaux on the Sunday that marks the end of the pre-tour and the start of the main tour.
And, on the Post-Tour
- We include the train journey that goes up from Bordeaux to Tours on the Sunday when the main tour ends and the post-tour starts.
- We base ourselves for the post-tour in Tours. This is a lovely city with a characterful historic center, and located right on the banks of the Loire river which gives the Loire Valley its name.
- Naturally we give you a walking tour to showcase the heart of the town to you.
- We go to what is thought to be the finest formal gardens in France at Chateau Villandry.
- We visit possibly the largest of all the castles/chateaus in France – Chambord, one of the most recognizable of all the French chateaus.
- We visit one more chateau too. Possibly Chenonceau, possibly Amboise. We’ll ask you to help us choose which you’d prefer!
- A final round of drinks on our last evening.
Food and Drink Inclusions
- Breakfasts every morning
- Welcome cocktails the first night
- A group welcome dinner on the second night to accelerate the getting to know each other process, with a drink or two as well (of course)
- Group farewell dinner – a sad experience for sure, but we try to make it as convivial as possible, and, yes, of course there’ll again be a drink or two on offer
- The pre-tour adds a welcome drink
- The post-tour adds another drinks event
Of perhaps equal importance in understanding the distinctive and special nature of this tour is not just what the tour includes, but also what it omits.
What the tour proudly does NOT include!
- NO Early starts
- NO Crowded coaches (maximum group size 24 people on a 40+ seater coach)
- NO Characterless hotels on the outskirts of cities
- NO Checking in and out of multiple hotels
- NO Series of long days of endless travel on a bus
- NO Huge groups being rushed through tourist trap after tourist trap
- NO ‘Shopping opportunities’ at over-priced trashy souvenir shops
- NO Group meals, at fixed times, with limited fixed menus, in generic cafeterias
- NO Regimented inflexible schedules and mandatory events
- NO Obnoxious inexperienced ‘out of their depth’ first time travelers
- NO Crowded schedules leaving no flexible free time
We offer good quality accommodation in all three places we stay, generally of a four star type of standard. We use central city hotels so you have excellent location and convenience, and we prefer hotels with personality and character rather than generic faceless international franchise properties.
We offer a chance to upgrade from regular rooms to superior and deluxe rooms if you wish to treat yourself further.
As we generally do with our tours, we’ve created variable pricing depending on how many people come on the tour. With the small-sized groups we offer, but with full-sized coaches, the cost per person is quite sensitive depending on the people traveling, so rather than set a price that is unfairly high or unrealistically low, we set it fairly based on how many people are traveling.
The prices for the main tour and the optional pre and post tours are shown immediately below. Note that if you choose all three elements – the main tour and both the pre and post tours too, we add a “quantity discount” to the total sum. We will not operate the tour with fewer than ten people, and normally would not accept more than 24 in total (but if you had a last-minute extra person who wanted to come along with you, we’d probably make an exception for that).
So encourage your friends to come, and not only get the special savings (mentioned next) but the growth in numbers also brings the tour price down for you, for them, and for everyone else, too.
To give you an indication for possible total tour numbers and therefore cost, our last couple of French land-cruise type tours each had in the mid-teens. We are hoping to get more than 15 people for this tour because we feel it the best yet of our “land cruise” type touring experiences.
(a) Send in your request to join the tour prior to the end of day on Monday 21 October and you’ll get an early bird $100 per person discount off these tour prices.
(b) Why not bring a friend or two with you, for more shared fun and fellowship.
To encourage you to do this, and your friends to travel with you, we’ll offer a 1% discount for each extra person you bring with you (other than anyone you are sharing your room with).
Bring another couple, and they get a 2% discount – and you get the same discount too! Bring two couples and all of you get a 4% discount, and so on (up to a maximum of ten people and 10%). Plus, of course, every extra person sees the rate per person decrease for everyone, as per the pricing table, above.
As always, we do our best to keep the single supplement to as moderate a cost as possible.
In this case, the main tour single supplement is $995. The pre-tour and post-tour supplements are each $445. If you’re doing all three tour parts, the total single supplement is $1850.
If you’d like to treat yourself to a bit more space and comfort, with sometimes additional amenities or a better view, we offer two levels of upgrades.
Note that not all hotels have upgrades. We do the best we can, and then charge you based on what we can and can’t upgrade, so these upgrade fees are the most you’d pay, and generally you’ll find you will be paying less.
- One level of upgrade + $199 (per person share twin)
- Two levels of upgrade + $299 (per person share twin)
Shorter Tour Adjustments
You are free to join and leave the tour on any day at all. If you’re not doing the complete tour, you get a reduction for each night not taken. This is $200/day.
Air Fare and Route
You can choose whichever carrier, dates, and class of service you wish, and/or arrange for frequent flier mileage award travel. You can fly in and out of whichever cities suit you best. We’re happy to assist you find good flights, of course, and there are lots of airlines flying across the Atlantic these days.
For the main tour, you need to get to Bordeaux (BOD). You can either fly directly there, or to Paris/CDG and take a train from Paris. Or you could fly to other cities and take other trains, too, of course. Similarly in reverse, at the end of the tour, either fly home from there or take a train to Paris or somewhere else and fly from there.
For the pre tour, you need to get to Marseille (MRS). You can again fly there or take a train from Paris – amazingly, it is only four hours by train from CDG to Marseille (it is a very fast train line).
For the post tour, you should fly home (or onwards to wherever else you are going) from Tours (TUF) or perhaps take a train to CDG and then fly from there..
Please ask us if we can help in any way with planning your flights.
Application to Join
Terms and Conditions
Our standard terms and conditions apply to this tour.
In addition, please note these extra terms :
1. Your confirming deposit of $500 per person is required within seven days of your participation being confirmed. Full payment is due on or before Friday 21 February 2020. Please note that pricing includes a 3% cash/check discount, if you’d prefer to pay by credit card, we ask you to accept the passed on extra 3% cost for us to process your credit card charge.
2. US, Canadian, and many other citizens require a current passport that will not expire until at least three months after the date of their planned return from Europe. At some point an electronic visa will start to be required as well, but we don’t think that will happen prior to our travels. Citizens of other countries should check with the airline that will transport them to Euruope to determine what passport and visa requirements may apply.
3. There’s plenty of room in the coach’s luggage bays for as much luggage as you choose to bring. Note that airlines charge massively for extra luggage so we recommend being prudent, but from our point of view, bring as much as you like.
4. Tour price is based on a wholesale EU/US exchange rate in the range of 1.07 – 1.13 (as shown, eg, in Yahoo Finance/Money – on 9 October 2019 the rate was 1.10). If the exchange rate moves outside this range, and prior to full payment having been received by you, we will adjust the price up or down to reflect the change in underlying tour costs. If the tour price increases by more than 10%, you may cancel without penalty and receive a full refund of your deposit. Tour price is locked in place once full payment has been received.
We recommend you should consider travel insurance as prudent protection. Rather than attempt to sell you some policy ourselves that may or may not suit your needs, we recommend you go to this insurance shopping site, which offers comparisons between something like 100 different policies offered by 18 different insurers, giving you all the options you need.
For more information about travel insurance than you probably ever thought you’d want to know, please click the link to read our three-part series on the subject.