Come along with us on a luxurious adventure to the mouth-watering region of Bordeaux, Dordogne and Languedoc, France. During our 13 day journey you will indulge in the finest of haute French cuisine, the most famous wines in the world, elegant but warm and friendly regional accommodations, magical landscapes, breathtaking mountain vistas, medieval villages, flamboyant châteaux, and prehistoric cave paintings over 50,000 years old.
Bordeaux needs little introduction. The wine route takes us to the most famous vineyards in the world, covering the appellation regions of Médoc, Haut Médoc (Saint Estèphe, Pauillac, Margaux), and Saint Emilion. To accompany our fine wines we dine in grand style on such regional specialties as stuffed carp in the Poitou fashion, chevreau (young goat), or tender steaks served with a Bordelaise wine sauce. The exquisite Sauternes dessert wines are a perfect accompaniment to Poitou baked cheesecake, chocolate marguerites from Angoulême or macaroons from Saint Emilion.
An hour east of Bordeaux is the Dordogne River Valley and the region known as Périgord. This is truly fairyland countryside, dotted with ancient châteaux and picturesque “bastides” or medieval walled villages. There is much to see in this beautiful valley, from the prehistoric caves with their stalactites, stalagmites, and authentic paintings, to hill top castles, to tiny Gallo Roman villages with narrow cobblestone streets, half timbered houses, and enticing cafés. From the spectacular mountain village of Rocamadour we are a short drive to the Languedoc region, one of France’s best kept secrets. In following the path of the 13th century Cathar wars, we explore the citadel Carcassonne, the picturesque town of Albi, and the ancient capital of Toulouse.
We arrive at the Bordeaux airport and drive to the enticing wine village of Saint Emilion. We have time to rest or to explore this historic picturesque town before dinner in the old village.
This morning we enjoy a walking tour of the oldest part of town, including the world's largest monolithic (underground) church. We visit one of Saint Emilion's 1,000 wineries and have lunch in the lively village. After some free time to wander, we take a wine tasting class, which will be very useful throughout the rest of our journey! This evening we dine at Saint Emilion's most gastronomic restaurant, complete with view over the valley.
This morning we drive into the city of Bordeaux for a look at her majestic cathedral, Saint André, dating from the 11th century, and the Aquitaine Museum with its sensational collection of Stone Age relics. After a special gourmet luncheon we head up the wine road to visit one of the famous Médoc wine châteaux for a tour and tasting. We return to Saint Emilion for dinner.
Today we head east into the region of Périgord, a fairytale land of castles, prehistoric caves, medieval villages, and unparalleled gastronomic delights! In Les Eyzies-de-Tayac, known as the capital of prehistory, we visit the fascinating National Museum of Prehistory with its world famous collection of prehistoric findings. After a delicious lunch of regional specialties at a local restaurant, we visit a cave with authentic wall paintings dating from the Magdalenian Period. A scenic drive along the Dordogne River then brings us to our new home for the next six nights, a beautiful sheep farm estate in the Quercy Valley. Our friendly host serves us a welcome drink before supper.
After breakfast we drive up the road a few kilometers to the spectacular site of Rocamadour. This incredible ancient ecclesiastical village is built into the side of a mountain and is a fascinating mass of medieval dwellings, oratories, towers, and rocks, all offering a breath taking view of the Alzou River gorge. In the 12th century Rocamadour became an important center of medieval Christianity, and since that time pilgrimages have been made here in hopes of miracles. We'll learn about Rocamadour's history on a guided walking tour, where we can visit the same chapel where King Henry Plantagenet came to pray for a miracle in the 12th century. After lunch at a brasserie overlooking the gorge, we explore the area and visit one of the many historic castles. Each evening we dine in grand style befitting the Dordogne's reputation for haute cuisine.
Today is a fun adventure day. We take an exciting boat ride on an underground river at the famous Padirac Chasm. Our enchanting journey takes us through an underground canyon and an underground lake, passing by striking views of stalactites, passageways, chambers, and a waterfall. Since 1898 speleological expeditions have uncovered 13.5 miles of underground galleries, the most beautiful of which our boat ride takes us by. After a gourmet French picnic complete with foie gras and French pastries, we continue to explore the Quercy valley in the afternoon and take a guided tour of a beautiful Renaissance château. We have time to relax back home before dinner.
If the weather is right we have the option of a spectacular balloon ride floating over the beautiful Quercy countryside. Next we visit Sarlat, the geographical center of Périgord-Quercy and the most important site in the region. Founded in the 9th century by Duke Pepin of Aquitaine, Sarlat grew to be an important city in the Middle Ages and is today one of the most interesting towns of Dordogne. With no cars on its narrow medieval streets, Sarlat is often used in film making. On our last visit we mingled with the costumed actors of The Three Musketeers. Sarlat is also known as the capital of foie gras and truffles, so we'll be sure to wander through the most temping shops. We end our day with our own wine tasting back home by the poolside before a wonderful gastronomic dinner.
This morning we visit one of France's prettiest villages, Collonges-la-Rouge. Its picture perfect medieval houses are all made from the red sandstone quarried nearby. In the afternoon we can relax at our farm or visit a family run duck farm to learn about the ancient tradition of making foie gras. Tonight dinner is on a walnut farm, where we see the ancient walnut press still in use. We taste several delicacies made from the walnut oil and enjoy a feast of courses featuring roasted lamb, duck, and fresh vegetables all grown on the farm.
Today's adventure is a visit to the beautiful Château Beynac-et-Cazenac, which stands on a remarkable site rising from the top of a rock, overlooking the valley winding between hills crowned with castles. Beynac has an exciting history from the Middle Ages, having been captured by Richard the Lionheart during one of the many battles between the French and the English. We have an elegant formal lunch in a beautiful restaurant at the top of a hill in the ancient bastide village of Domme. From our table we enjoy a spectacular panoramic vista over the Dordogne Valley. After some free time to explore Domme, we return home for our last night at our friendly sheep farm.
After stopping for lunch in the charming hilltop village of St. Cirq la Popie, we head into the Languedoc region, named for the ancient language once spoken here. Our hotel for the next three nights is a lovely inn in the center of the beautiful little hilltop town of Cordes. The hotel's restaurant boasts a renowned chef who prepares an unforgettable repast.
Today we visit the ancient capital of the region, Toulouse. Dating from Roman times, in the Middle Ages Toulouse became a great center of learning, and its university today is second in size only to the University of Paris. Our guide will show us the most interesting sights in the old city and will teach us the history of the fighting among the powerful Counts of Toulouse, the Albigensians and the Cathars. After lunch we continue south to the fascinating walled village of Carcassonne. Our morning history lesson comes to life for us in this incredibly restored medieval town. The "Cité" of Carcassonne is the largest fortress in Europe. Over the centuries the city walls with their 52 stone towers were built by the Gauls, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, and Franks. Entering through a 13th century gate you will feel transported back in time. We have time to visit the castle, walk around the massive rampart walls, browse among the shops, and relax in one of the hundreds of sidewalk cafés.
Today we visit the nearby medieval city of Albi, crowned by its great red brick cathedral built in the aftermath of the Albigensian crusade in 1265. After strolling the beautiful terraced gardens of the Palais de la Berbie overlooking the Tarn River, we enter the museum within the palace, containing the most complete permanent collection of the work of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Albi's native son. We return to Cordes for a free afternoon to explore before our gourmet farewell dinner.
In the morning we drive to the Toulouse airport for the return flight home.
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