Vineyards of Bordeaux, Cognac and the Loire Valley
Prices from £1,595 per person
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Discover some of France’s most idyllic and varied destinations through perhaps the country’s most famous export – wine. Beginning in the beautiful city of Bordeaux, take the time to discover both the historic centre and the surrounding vineyards before continuing to Cognac. Sample the world-famous brandy and visit the delightful old town before visiting the Loire Valley. Here you can uncover the secrets of the region’s own celebrated vineyards and glorious châteaux before returning to London by rail.
9 night / 10 day holiday from £1,595 per person (based on two people travelling together) – please note prices may vary at other times of the year.
Day 1 – London to Bordeaux
Your holiday begins as you board the Eurostar at London St Pancras International. Then sit back and relax as the train whisks you across the countryside of south east England and through the Channel Tunnel into France – reaching speeds of up to 186 mph. Enjoy a light meal and drinks, served at your seat, as you continue to Paris. On arrival at Paris Gare du Nord you transfer across the French capital by private taxi to the Gare de Montparnasse. Here you continue your onward journey by high-speed TGV southwards through the ever-changing French scenery to the dynamic city of Bordeaux.
On arrival, make your way to the highly-rated Best Western Bordeaux Bayonne Etche-Ona (4 star) situated in the city centre, for a three-night stay.
Days 2 and 3 – Exploring Bordeaux and the surrounding wine regions
Enjoy two full days to discover the delights of Bordeaux and the surrounding area – using the included hire car which you can collect from the station on Day 2. In Bordeaux itself, you may like to start by exploring the UNESCO World Heritage old town, which is renowned as being “an outstanding urban and architectural ensemble” of the 18th century. Other highlights of the city include the impressive Miroir d’Eau, which at 3,450 square metres is the world’s largest reflecting pool. You may also wish to visit the Cité du Vin, a celebrated museum of wine, which also holds exhibitions and tastings of wine from all over the world.
Of course, should you wish to venture further afield, then make the most of the car and travel inland to visit some of the oldest fine wine vineyards in the world. Both the Médoc and St Emilion (pictured) boast an array of vineyards that have cultivated some of the most celebrated wines in the world. Here you can sample this popular produce.
Day 4 – Bordeaux to Cognac
This morning you bid farewell to Bordeaux as you drive northwards to Cognac. Here you spend three nights at the welcoming Hotel Francois Premier (4 star), ideally located in the heart of the city.
Days 5 and 6 – Cognac and its world-famous brandy
Make the most of two full days to take in the attractions of Cognac. The city boasts a beautiful medieval quarter in a maze of cobbled streets running alongside the River Charente; many of the buildings here date back to the 15th century. A considerable number of them feature sculptures of the salamander – the symbol of King Francis I, who was born here in 1494. Perhaps take a stroll to the Cognac Public Garden (pictured), a beautifully styled English Garden in the heart of the city. Whilst in Cognac, you are bound to want to sample the double-distilled spirit that bears the city’s name. From the famous Cognac houses to the craft distilleries and vineyards a little further out of the city centre, there is a brandy to suit everyone’s tastes.
Day 7 – Cognac to Chenonceaux
Leaving Cognac behind, today you drive northwards through France into the stunning Loire Valley. Here you arrive in the idyllic village of Chenonceaux, for a three-night stay at the charming Auberge du Bon Laboureur (4 star). The rest of your day is then free for you to explore. An unmissable sight during your stay is the Château de Chenonceau, one of the most striking and distinctive in France. Spanning the River Cher, this Gothic masterpiece boasts beautifully ornate rooms and picturesque, neatly manicured gardens. It was also marked the border of occupied France during the Second World War, with many people reportedly escaping from here.
Days 8 and 9 – The Loire Valley
With two full days to explore the Loire Valley, you are bound to want to make the most of the options available to you. There are several châteaux within easy reach of Chenonceaux, among them the Château du Rivau. With its conical towers and drawbridge, this beautiful turreted building appears to be the definition of a ‘fairytale castle’. A stroll around its frescoed rooms and pristine gardens is very rewarding. Even closer is the Château de Clos Lucé (pictured), which was once home to the renowned artist Leonardo da Vinci and now houses some of his works.
Whilst in the Loire Valley, be sure to visit some of the vineyards here – many of these have produced wines since at least the Middle Ages, with several tracing their origins back to Roman times.
Day 10 – Homeward bound
After breakfast, today you leave Chenonceaux and drive to nearby St-Pierre-des-Corps, where you drop off your car and join the train, travelling in First Class back to Paris. Your private taxi transfer takes you from Montparnasse back to the Gare du Nord, where you connect with the Eurostar for the last stage of your journey to London. Let the train take the strain as you stretch out and relax over a light meal and drinks in your Standard Premier Class seat. At 186mph the landscape is a blur at times, though memories abide as you return to St Pancras International and the final leg of your journey home.