Bordeaux and Beyond – Day by Day Itinerary

The Customs Square looking out to the river in the heart of Bordeaux.

Bordeaux is a wonderful stately city on the banks of the Garonne River in SW France.  All around the city are the fabled vineyards and wineries that make perhaps the finest wines in the world – the multi-thousand dollars a bottle stuff from eg Chateau Lafite-Rothschild, etc.  But the local Monop and other supermarkets in Bordeaux also offer excellent wine for €10-20 a bottle, and some for as low as €5.

The region has plenty to see and do, and we have put together a great week for exactly that.  This page tells you more about what we will see and do each day on our 2020 Bordeaux and Beyond Landcruise, and how the main itinerary (with the green border) fits together with the optional pre and post extensions (with the blue borders).

For more information on this tour, and of course, to join, please go to our 2020 Bordeaux and Beyond main page.

As a quick reminder, you can join and leave the tour on any day.  We generally recommend you should enjoy the entire main tour portion, and if time allows, of course the pre and post options too, but it is your time, your money, and so, totally your choice.  Just let us know what works for you, and we’ll make the arrangements accordingly.


Optional Pre-tour Itinerary for 2020 Bordeaux and Beyond Land Cruise
The Palais Longchamp in Marseille. It houses the Musée des beaux-arts and Muséum d'histoire naturelle de Marseille.
Possibly Wednesday 20 May (or earlier)
To arrive in time for the start of the pre-tour on Thursday, you will probably need to leave the US today (or earlier if you want extra days in Marseille before the pre-tour starts).
Choose your preferred airline for your flights to and from France.
The date you leave the US will of course depend on if you wish to spend extra time in Marseille or elsewhere in France/Europe prior to the pre-tour. If time (and budget) allows, you might enjoy an extra night in Marseille.

It is usually an overnight flight from the US to Europe.

Let us know if we can help you choose airlines, flights, and airports to use when flying to Europe, or for other travel as part of your complete vacation.

We're happy to advise and assist any which way.
Thursday 21 May : Arrive into Marseille
A curious mix of old and new in this picture of the Old Harbor in Marseille.
Most flights arrive from the US into Europe in the morning. That gives you plenty of time to either take another flight or a train from wherever you arrive and the rest of the way to Marseille.
Friday 22 May : Marseille - local touring
The fortress guarding the Old Harbor in Marseille.
This morning we'll enjoy a walking tour around the historic center of the city and the inner harbor area.

Marseille is the oldest city in all of France, and you'll see plenty of history and experience the ambience and character that comes with it as we walk around the old town's Le Panier historical district.

This afternoon is free for you to explore as you wish.

This evening we'll meet up for a quick drink or two.
Saturday 23 May : Traveling along the glamorous Riviera
Cannes is known for its film and other festivals.

A vividly colored street scene in Nice.

Monte Carlo in the evening.
We'll travel by train along the French Riviera today, making three stops as we go.

Our first stop is at Cannes, famous for its international film festival in particular.

Next we continue on another 30 minutes by train to Nice for another stop and quick sightsee.

And then we hop across a border on another very short train ride and into Monaco, to our third stop, Monte Carlo, home of the ultra-rich - the 1% of the 1%, perhaps. It boasts the most expensive real estate in the entire world.

We'll have had a guide accompany us to Monte Carlo, but then you are free to do you own thing and return back to Marseille on whichever train you wish, whenever. Maybe you even take a train still further east, into Italy, just for the fun of visiting three countries in one day.
Sunday 24 May : Traveling on to Bordeaux
Today is the end of this optional Marseille extension to your tour. We have arranged for you to travel by train up to Bordeaux this morning.
Please now continue reading the main itinerary (green border) for main itinerary of our Bordeaux and Beyond Land Cruise, which is immediately below. Skip down to the part starting from the same Sunday 24 May date.


Itinerary for the Main Bordeaux and Beyond Land Cruise, March 2020
This is supposed to be a representation of wine swirling in a glass. The building houses the new "City of Wine" exhibition on the banks of the river in Bordeaux.
Saturday 23 May (or earlier): Leave the US
Air France (and its partners KLM and Delta) is an obvious but far from the only choice of airline available to you.
If you are not joining us for the optional pre-tour (see above) you should leave the US today or earlier. It is usually an overnight flight from the US to Europe.

Let us know if we can help you choose airlines, flights, and airports to use when flying to and within Europe, or for other travel as part of your complete vacation.

We're happy to advise and assist any which way.
Sunday 24 May : Arriving into Bordeaux
A slightly whimsical perspective on a typical Bordeaux street scene.
Most flights arrive from the US into Europe in the morning.

That gives you plenty of time to either take another flight or a train from wherever you arrive and the rest of the way to Bordeaux.

We'll meet up this afternoon with the people who were on the pre-tour option in Marseille.
Monday 25 May : City Tour and Wine Tasting Class
Another view of downtown Bordeaux, a city that is much under-rated but which delights when visited.

We'll learn about the art and science of wine this afternoon.
This morning you have a chance to get to know the city you'll be living in for the next week. We'll have an interesting tour through the heart of the city center, and you're sure to marvel, street by street, at the grandeur and beauty that reveals itself around every corner.

After lunch, we go to attend a wine appreciation class. We learn about the different flavor elements in wine, and how a good wine has a balance of flavors within it. After sampling eight different wine styles you then have a chance to blend your own "ideal wine", mixing the different flavor elements in the proportions that you think best.

This evening we meet for our group welcome dinner - a chance for everyone to meet everyone else in a relaxed social setting. Many people on our tours have traveled with us before, and they in particular are usually the most gracious at ensuring that new members feel welcome.
Tuesday 26 May : St Emilion and Two Wineries
Grapes ripe for the harvest, with the town of St Emilion in the background.
Today we travel not very far out of Bordeaux city to the lovely country town and now World Heritage Site of St Emilion.

St Emilion is surrounded by vines as far as the eye can see, and is almost literally a town "built on wine" because underneath it is a labyrinth of cellars, so complex there's no one definitive map of them.

We have time for a lunch in St Emilion and then after lunch we travel to two different wineries to sample their products and use our new wine knowledge from yesterday's class in a practical setting!
Wednesday 27 May : A Free Day
There's a lot to see/do/experience/enjoy in the city itself, as well as, of course, plenty further afield.

If you did wish to go a bit further afield, a visit to the town of Cognac and to one (or more) of the Cognac distilleries might be interesting.
Today's a free day. So if there's something you really wanted to do and which isn't included on the formal itinerary, today is your chance to do that.

Ask David or our local guide if you need help arranging anything, or if you'd like suggestions.

We'll probably offer some type of group option too - perhaps a cruise along the river - depending on the evolving sense of what everyone wants to do.
Thursday 28 May : To Arcachon, the beach, and the oysters
A "belle epoque" house in Arcachon.

Oyster farming at Arcachon, with the sand dunes in the background.
We might swap this day around with another day if necessary so as to have the best weather for our "day at the seaside" day.

We travel to the lovely coastal resort town of Arcachon today. It has been described as the most complete 'belle epoque' town you will find anywhere in France, with an extensive number of grand villas built in the 1860s.

And don't forget the several miles of sandy beach, and Europe's tallest sand dune. If you climb it, you'll have sweeping views all the way to the Pyrenee mountains to the south, the ocean coast, and the sweep of the bay.

We'll arrange to visit an oyster farm as well where you'll see how oysters are farmed and harvested, and get to sample the product in about as fresh a state as is ever possible.
Friday 29 May : To Blaye and Bourg
Part of the well-preserved citadel at Blaye.

Bourg also has a fortress, but not as impressive as the one at Blaye.
Today we head first to the World Heritage listed site in the town of Blaye, close to the mouth of the river, where it is almost two miles wide.

There is a very well preserved fortress designed by France's most famous fortress designer, Vauban, in the 17th century. Vauban's tactics remained in standard use in France until the 20th century. Prior to this fortress the town had been sacked by the British and Spanish.

After a visit to the fortress and town beneath it, we then continue to Bourg, with a delightful village that feels like it stepped out of a fairy tale, and a chateau. Bourg dates back to Roman times, and like its neighboring town of Blaye, has seen its share of conflicts and has changed ownership several times.
Saturday 30 May : To Cadillac, a Castle, and Sauternes
This more "modern" part of Roquetaillade Castle dates to 1306.
Yes, there is a connection between the town of Cadillac and the eponymous GM cars.

We travel to this lovely small market town today, and it is its weekly market day, so we'll get to enjoy a rural French market experience.

After time in Cadillac we go on to the Roquetaillade Castle, probably the best known and most popular castle in the Bordeaux region. It dates all the way back to Charlemagne in the 10th century.

And then we drive through the beautiful Sauternes region to try some equally beautiful Sauternes wine. This is a very sweet dessert wine, very different in style to the other Bordeaux region wines.
Sunday 31 May : Main tour ends
The French TGV trains reach speeds of around 200 mph on their fastest lines.
Our main tour comes to an end this morning. We do hope you've enjoyed your time in lovely Bordeaux, that you've learned about wine, and maybe even, just possibly, had a glass or two of it to drink!

Enjoy one last breakfast at the hotel, and then many people will continue on with us, by train, on the optional post-tour segment up to Tours and the Loire Valley.

If you're continuing with us for the next several nights, please keep reading the next section with a blue border.
Please now continue reading the Post Tour itinerary (blue border) for the optional extension on to the Loire Valley. This is immediately below.


Optional Post-Tour Extension - To Tours and the Loire Valley
This is magnificent Chambord, the largest castle in the Loire Valley; probably in all of France.
Sunday 31 May : From Bordeaux to Tours
Part of the historic district in Tours.
This morning we'll say goodbye to anyone not continuing on with this extension, and travel by fast comfortable train from Bordeaux up to Tours.

It takes us only two hours for this journey, with no changes of train on the way.

That gives us essentially a half day in Tours - or Bordeaux, as well as traveling time. We'll decide where would be the better place to spend the time.
Monday 1 June : Villandry Gardens and Tours city tour
One section of the gardens at Villandry.

Archeological excavations and plenty old buildings above ground too in Tours.
This morning we'll travel a short distance to Villandry where we'll visit the gardens in the chateau there. They have three different levels of gardens - our favorite is the "kitchen garden", others prefer the whimsical nature of the "Love Gardens" and the four representations of love depicted there.

After a visit to Villandry we then go back into Tours and enjoy a walking tour through the city's historic center. You'll see medieval half-timbered houses, interesting external staircases, and much else.
Tuesday 2 June : Castles, of course
Chateau Amboise towers over the town of the same name.

Chenonceau is another iconic Loire Valley castle.
We're for sure going to take you to Chambord Castle (see picture above at the top of this section). As the largest castle in the Loire Valley, and definitely one of the grandest, it is justifiably a "must see".

We've got time for a second castle as well. We'll give you a choice - Amboise or Chenonceau. Both have points in their favor, and you can decide which we'll visit.
Wednesday 3 June : Extension Ends
This is the end of our our Tours/Loire Valley Extension.

You can of course stay on in Tours, or travel anywhere else, or return home.

May we suggest you consider hopping across the English Channel and now joining us for our Scotland's Four Corners tour?
Thank you. We hope you've loved your Bordeaux and Beyond Land Cruise.

Our main page detailing this tour (and booking form) is here.


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