In March we had a wonderful chance to explore the Aquitaine region including Bordeaux, Dordogne and Gascony. I would highly recommend a visit to this diverse and beautiful area of France. You will find exceptional wines, quaint villages, wonderful food, friendly people and of course barging!
We started our journey in Bordeaux, which is an 18th Century city and the well renowned for their fabulous wines. It is a nice place to start your exploration of this region. It is very clean and a beautiful city with many things to do. We had an opportunity to visit some hotels in Bordeaux and all of them had their own charm and elegance. If you want luxury accommodations we would recommend The Grand Hotel de Bordeaux & Spa.
They have a full spa, stunning decor all throughout, great restaurants and rooftop Jacuzzi with stunning views of the city. The location allows for walking to all the great shops and wine bistros nearby. Another great hotel that was just renovated and offers a great location is The Hotel de Seze. This hotel had a complete refit and she is looking stunning. The Marie Antoinette suite is a special room with it's own separate living room, great views and canopied bed. If you want hotel with more boutique charm then you would love Le Boutique Hotel. They have a nice courtyard with fireplace and it is a great place to have a nice glass of Bordeaux and some nibbles. All the rooms are different and fun. There is one room with a huge tub in the middle and sky shower that falls down with beautiful drapes surrounding it. Very romantic and unique. It would be a great a great room to spend a honeymoon. The owner must love Marilyn Monroe, as you will see her beautiful face on many of the walls. They have a very nice staff and wonderful breakfast area. It you want to try something completely different I highly recommend L'Hotel Particulier. I fell in love with this place. It is not a hotel it is more of a bed and breakfast type of place. The second you walk into the private entrance you are greeted with friendliness. The owners actually live above the establishment. The decor is tre chic and all the rooms are different. There is one very large room with your own terrace and beautiful stained glass windows. The rates are very reasonable and the neighborhood and location is fantastic. For something a little less ordinary I would suggest giving this place a try.
After my fun stay in Bordeaux our group made our way to the medieval village of St Emilion, which is famous for their wines. Many family operated wineries in this area. They take great pride in what the grow and produce and they should. It is marvelous. St Emilion is a relatively quick drive, about forty five minutes or so. They have a lovey cathedral here and part of it is actually underground. Definitely worth a visit. I have never seen a cathedral underground and one of the saints they worship is Saint Emilion (hence the name). The tourist board in this town is worth it's own visit and great place to stop for some goodies to bring home. They have guides here that can show you around and give you the history of the area. After our stay here we made our way to a another great town called Sarlat, the 13th century gem of the Black Perigord. I really enjoyed our time here. I would highly recommend a visit to this charming town. They have one of the oldest and largest open markets available every Wednesday and Saturday. The aroma's, the wine, the fabrics. It was endless. The town itself is very lovely. I would say stay the night and really take a look around. We stayed at the Hotel Clos La Boetie in Sarlat. Very nice hotel and in a nice location and just walking distance to the center of town. They have all the amenities you could ask for and charming staff. Another nice hotel that is a bit less expensive is the Hotel Plaza Madeleine. From Sarlat we made our way to the Dordogne Valley and Gascony. Our fist stop was La Roque Gageac, a medival village along the Dordogne River and considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. They have houses nestled next to the cliffs and right on the river. Very pretty in deed. Just a quick drive (five minutes) away is Jardins de Marqueyssac where they have one of the largest Boxwood Gardens and all tended to by hand. It is at the very top of the hill and the views are breathtaking. This is a nice way to see the whole area and some amazing gardens at the same time. It is a nice afternoon visit. Another very different and interesting visit we took part in was the prehistoric caves. I found this very fun and a great place to visit on a hot day. We visited the Lascaux caves. There are others in the area as well. I thought there would be one or two prehistoric drawings on the caves. I was happily surprised that they had twenty or so paintings, it was amazing!
After four amazing days exploring, eating and drinking our way through this lovely area we made our way to Toulouse. In Toulouse we stayed at a wonderful hotel that we would highly recommend called the
Grand Hotel Opera. It is located in the Capitol, which is right in the center of Toulouse. You can walk everywhere from this hotel and the accommodations are spot on. We were fortunate enough to have some Champagne aboard the Hotel Barge Rosa. She was moored in the city center and she was looking very nice. The Captain showed us around the vessel and showed off the new bathrooms that have been completely redone this last winter. Much more room with nice new showers. Very nice improvement. From Toulouse we made our way to Montauban and spent a lovely day with the owners Alasdair and Barbara Wylie from the Saint Louis barge. They actually live in a historic lock house along the canal. Barbara made some lovely meals for us and we tried some wines from the region. The Saint Louis wasn't quite ready, since it was so early in the season. However, we had a chance to take a look and she is a beauty even without her makeup on. We found out the Alasdair is a real Scotch connoisseur. I guess coming from Scotland its part of your upbringing. He taught us a thing or two and we had a wee bit of Scotch. He even has a Scotch corner on the barge in the salon..nice addition! It was a wonderful visit and enjoyed our stay with them very much.
We made our way to the Canal du Midi to say hello to Louisa and Roger the owners of the Enchante. What a gorgeous barge with large cabins and demonstration kitchen aboard. They used to be crew many years ago, so they take great care of their crew aboard and offer some of the largest cabins for crew then any other barge. I think that is very admirable. They changed the carpet in the cabins to a nice neutral and it really adds to the decor and spaciousness of this vessel. They also added safes in each cabin, so if you want to put your valuables away while you are ashore they are safe and sound. I was so delighted about the demonstration kitchen aboard. Louisa said the Chef loves to share his knowledge with passengers. What a great way to learn about French food as you cruise along. They took us out for a lovely lunch along the Canal du Midi in Narbonne and we had some laughs and talked about my favorite subject...barging!
We had a chance to have a quick visit with Dannielle from the Athos and a member of the crew for Fandango. It is great to see our friends in the industry and discuss what is new aboard these lovely barges. Our last barge visit was was aboard the Clair de Lune. We said a quick hello and had a nice lunch. They were so kind to offer such a lovely gourmet lunch. It was a wonderful afternoon and we had time to catch up and see all the improvements they made on this charming barge. To finish off our amazing trip we stayed at an amazing Chateau. It is located just outside of Beziers and it is gorgeous. It is called the Chateau Les Carrasses. It is situated on a vineyard on a small hill with spectacular views. They have a pool, tennis courts, bikes to use and a wonderful restaurant.
We are looking forward to our next visit to France to say hello to all our friends in the industry and explore new places to share with you.
Hotels suggestions for Bordeaux
Grand Hotel de Bordeaux & spa - www.ghbordeaux.com
Burdigala Hotel - www.burdigala.com
Hôtel de Sèze - www.hotel-de-seze.com
Le Boutique Hotel - www.http://hotelbordeauxcentre.com
Hotel Particulier - www.lhotel-particulier.com