In September, we took an AmaWaterways river cruise on the Garonne and Dordognne in France. Our itinerary was Taste of Bordeaux onboard Amadolce.
Friday, Sept 16 - BORDEAUX
We made it safe and sound to Bordeaux, as did our luggage. We were greeted by Ama reps and driven to the ship. Our room was nice, but on the smaller side. It wasn't a full sailing - the ship holds 148 passengers but there were only 120 onboard.
We had a great cruise manager named John Riley. He was really funny, and gave explanations and directions. He was also very considerate of everyone's needs and different levels of ability when it came to our excursions. Our ship stayed in Bordeaux overnight and sailed early the next morning.
Saturday, Sept 17 - BORDEAUX to CADILLAC
We arrived in Cadillac and started exploring. We toured the castle Roquetaillade and then visited a winery in Sauternes. Our tour guide at the castle was the mother of the man who owns it, and their family actually still lives there!
After a fun dinner with new friends from Atlanta and Houston, we enjoyed the wonderful trio "La Strada" in the lounge.
Sunday, Sept 18 - CADILLAC to PAUILLAC (Medoc Region)
A guide took us on a 7 km walk through the vineyards of Pauillac. We saw Chateau Rothschild from a distance (but were unable to tour the inside). It was a beautiful day, and I managed to get 10,000 steps in before lunch!
After lunch, we boarded buses for a tour of the Medoc region. Our bus stopped at Chateau Gruaud LaRose, which was absolutely stunning. They built a six story tower on the property that you can go to the top of and enjoy incredible views of the valley in every direction. After a great tour, they let us sample 3 wines. The best one sold for 108 euros per bottle...very nice!
After dinner we very much enjoyed the DJ onboard…we danced for 2 hours straight! Everyone had a great time, including some of the staff. It was such a fun group!
Monday, Sept 19 - PAUILLAC to BLAYE to BOURG
We woke up the next morning in Blaye. There is a beautiful citadel built in the 1600s on the edge of the water which our guide took us in and around. We learned all about how this town was an important stronghold during the wars against the English and the French Wars of Relition.
After lunch we biked our way from Blaye to Bourg. The ship has awesome 5 speed bikes with super comfy seats. It was about 11 km and took us a little over 2 hours. There were about 20 of us who decided to be brave. The cruise manager told us that the would be the most challenging ride of the week, and he was not kidding. I had to walk my bike up three of the hills but I definitely wasn't the only one. We rode through sprawling vineyards that were just days away from being harvested, and saw beautiful chateaux and churches along the way. The ship sailed down the river while we biked and met us at the end. It was an exhausting but perfect afternoon!
Bourg overlooks the point where the river Dordogne meets the river Garonne. Ama arranged a "wine festival" at a little winery just up the hill from where our ship was docked. There was a sweet trio of French musicians performing for us while we ate hors d'oeuvres and drank wine. We were really lucky and the weather was absolutely perfect. After a wonderful day, we were exhausted and ready for bed!
Tuesday, Sept 20 - BOURG to LIBOURNE (St. Emillion region)
I couldn’t believe it…we woke up to the sound of the cruise managers voice at 9:30 am telling us the plan for the day - we had slept for over 10 hours! I can’t remember the last time that happened.
We sailed for a couple of hours from Bourg to Libourne. After a tasty lunch of escargots, we were off to see Saint-Emilion and Pomerol. The village of Saint Emillion is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is one of the oldest cities we have seen on our travels. The town dates back to the 8th century but the Romans planted vineyards almost 2,000 years ago. We tasted wines from Chateau de Pressac and enjoyed the gorgeous views that this winery offered.
Wednesday, Sept 21 - LIBOURNE to BOURG to BORDEAUX
The next morning, we took a short bus ride to the farmers market in Creon. The tour guide showed us around for about 30 minutes, and stopped at a charcuterie and then a frommage shop where we got to sample some yummy meats and cheeses. They had live chickens, rabbits and even a turkey for sale at one of the stands (which sort of made me think about becoming a vegetarian). We picked up a baguette, some jambon and cheese from the various stands, and I took it all back to the ship where the waiter brought it to the kitchen and turned it into a sandwich for lunch. It was delish!
That afternoon, we took an optional tour to see the Chateau de Montaigne - residence of the famous philosopher Michael de Montaigne. The property was lovely, and we learned a lot about his life before having a brief wine tasting and heading back.
Thursday, Sept 22 - BORDEAUX
We spent the entire day on a tour to the beautiful medieval town of Cognac. We had lunch on our own and then took a tour of the Hennessey grounds and cellars. We had a fun tasting, but I'm definitely not a cognac kind of girl....give me a nice glass of wine any day.
After that we did a quick tour of Chateau Otard, which offered great history and more cognac. My husband very much enjoyed it, and even bought a very nice bottle of the XO to take home.
Bordeaux was absolutely beautiful. I would love to come back sometime and spend a few days there. We were both craving a pizza so we walked into Bordeaux and found a wonderful Italian place for dinner. It was a lovely last night of the cruise portion of our trip.
Friday, Sept 23 - BORDEAUX to TOURS to AMBOISE
We left the AmaDolce and rode the train to Tours, accompanied by our cruise manager. The bus dropped us at the station and continued on with all of our luggage. After we arrived, we jumped on a bus with our new guide for the next three days, Claude. He was awesome! For his “real job” he teaches French history to students from Georgetown & Wharton who are studying abroad in Paris, so he really knew his stuff.
We walked around the city of Tours and had a nice lunch on our own. What struck me about this city was the timber construction of the homes and the staircases built on the outside of the homes - unlike anything I had ever seen.
In the afternoon we saw the Church of St Martin. His remains are inside the church, and you can actually see part of his skull (that was different...). After that, we took the bus to Amboise and went to our hotel for the evening.
Saturday, Sept 24 - AMBOISE
After breakfast, we took a short bus ride into the town of Amboise. First, we saw the final home of Leonardo DaVinci, Chateau du Clos Luce. We were lucky to be there that weekend because they held a festival celebrating his life - they had a lot of his designs and ideas on display.
The home was incredible, and we learned that it was the former childhood home of the king who had been great friends with DaVinci. Then we visited the Chateau d’Amboise, a beautiful beautiful castle up on the hill, followed by a stop at the chapel where DaVinci's remains are buried.
After lunch we saw the impressive Chateau de Chenenceau, which King Francis I had turned into a palace for his mistress, Diane de Portier. It was stunning, and they told us that the castle at Disneyland was modeled after this one. It is now owned by the Menier family (famous for their chocolates).
Sunday, Sept 25 - AMBOISE to BLOIS to PARIS
Two more castles for our last day! Chateau de Chambord is the largest castle In the Loire Valley, and has the very unique double helix staircase. There are 426 rooms, 77 staircases and 282 fireplaces! Outside there were people in costume parading around on horses to add to the tourist experience. I thought it was a nice touch! Afterwards we saw the Chateau de Blois. Our guide was a great storyteller and everyday kept building on the story of King Francis, Queen Catherine of Medici, and Mistress Diane de Portier. It made it so much fun!
Overall, it was a very nice cruise. The AmaWaterways staff was fantastic, and I would definitely recommend them.
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