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The South of France by River: Wine and History From Sarlat to Bordeaux

Program Number: 19359RJ
Start and End Dates:
10/19/2013 - 10/31/2013; 4/21/2016 - 5/2/2016; 4/29/2016 - 5/10/2016; 8/6/2016 - 8/17/2016; 8/30/2016 - 9/10/2016; 10/5/2016 - 10/16/2016;
Duration: 12 nights
Location: France
Price starting at: $3,424.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; River Boats; History & Culture
Meals: 31; 11 Breakfasts, 10 Lunches, 10 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian    

In the South of France, wine is a beloved part of everyday life. It’s also big business. Voyage along the Dordogne and Garonne rivers and explore some of the world’s great vineyards in Saint-Emilion, Medoc and Graves. Learn about AOC’s, microclimates and the development of the French wine industry. From prehistoric cave drawings to Roman times to the Hundred Years’ War, learn this region’s story.

Activity Particulars

Extensive walking along unpaved lanes and cobblestoned streets; some stairs without railings and/or uneven. Participants should be able to stand for at least one hour.

05/07/15 and 09/05/15 program dates are on the MS Cyrano de Bergerac. 9/15/2015 and 10/12/2015 sail on the Princess d'Aquitaine.

Itinerary At-a-Glance

Sarlat, 4 nights; aboard vessel, 6 nights.

Day 1: Overnight flight from the U.S.A.

Days 2-5: Arrival Bordeaux (France) / coach to Sarlat:

Explore the medieval town of Sarlat-la-Canéda. Learn about the region’s cuisine through a cooking demonstration with a grand chef. Lodging: Centrally located hotel.

Day 6: Coach to Bordeaux / embark MS Princesse d’Aquitaine:

Discover how the “black pearl of the Périgord,” a rare and highly desired truffle, is unearthed with the help of truffle hogs.

Day 7: Pauillac:

At vineyards in the Médoc wine region, learn about Bordeaux’s First Growth wines from local experts and go down into wine cellars for tastings.

Day 8: Blaye:

Visit a lesser-known Côtes-de-Blaye winery. Journey along part of the Corniche, a scenic road winding along high cliffs.

Day 9: Cadillac:

On the left bank of the Garonne is the Graves AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée). Here, delve further into terroir, the “sense of place” that the land bestows on wine.

Day 10: Libourne:

Explore the famed AOC of Saint-Émilion and learn about France’s complex system for cataloguing and rating vineyards. Step inside the town’s monolithic church, carved by Benedictine monks.

Days 11-12: Bordeaux / disembark / departure:

Take in the beautiful architecture of Bordeaux’s urban center and learn the city’s history. A founder of the Museum of Wine and Wine Trade welcomes you for a behind-the-scenes visit and private wine and cheese tasting.

MS Princesse d'Aquitaine

Built in 2001, this deluxe two-deck riverboat is 361 feet long and can accommodate 138 passengers. Public areas onboard include a dining room, lounge/bar with dance floor, large sun deck and library. All cabins have windows and air conditioning.


The epicurious and the curious find much to admire in Western Europe’s largest nation, whose agricultural riches and terrain of beaches, mountains and fertile fields have drawn residents for thousands of years. The northern region hosts the nation’s Parisian capital, as well as unique Breton culture, while the sun-drenched Mediterranean coast sports the chic beach-goers and the terraced vineyards of the interior.

Lodging: Centrally located hotel in Sarlat; comfortable cabins aboard deluxe two-deck riverboat.
Meals and Lodgings
   Hotel la Couleuvrine
  Sarlat, France 4 nights
   MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
  Bordeaux, France
Pauillac, France
Blaye, France
Libourne, France
Bordeaux, France
6 nights
   Mercure Bordeaux Aeroport Hotel
  Bordeaux, France 1 night
 Hotel la Couleuvrine
Type: Hotel
  Description: This hotel, located in one of the towers of the old rampart of the city of Sarlat, unites a medieval history with an exceptional art de vivre. In La Couleuvrine, you will find both the charming welcome of the olden days and the well-being provided by modern comfort. Situated within walking distance of the center of the old town, the hotel is ideally located for exploring.
  Contact info: 1 place de la Boucquerie
Sarlat-la-Canéda,  24200 France
phone: +33 (0)5 53 59 27 80
  Room amenities: Air Conditioning, Television, Telephone
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, Wifi access, Elevator, Bar
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes
  Additional nights prior: TBA Please contact Road Scholar Travel Services for rates and reservations.

 MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
Type: Luxury Barge
  Ship Information: The MS Princesse d'Aquitaine was built in 2001 and refurbished in 2011. It is 110 m long and 11.40 m wide. There are 69 cabins which can hold 138 passengers. Facilities include a lounge-bar with a dance floor, dining room, large sundeck with deckchairs, and a gift shop.
  Contact info: 12 rue de la Division Leclerc
Strasbourg,  67000 France
phone: +33 (0)3 88 76 44 44
  Room amenities: All cabins are equipped with shower and toilet, hairdryer, satellite TV, radio, safe. WI-Fi is available on board with supplement.
  Smoking allowed: Yes

 Mercure Bordeaux Aeroport Hotel
Type: Three-Star Hotel
  Description: The Mercure Bordeaux Aeroport Hotel is located at Merignac airport and just 10 minutes from the center of Bordeaux.
  Contact info: 1 avenue Charles Lindbergh
Merignac,  33700 France
phone: +33 (0)5 56 34 74 74
  Room amenities: Each room at the Mercure Bordeaux Aeroport is decorated in a contemporary style and equipped with a flat-screen TV with satellite channels. Rooms also include telephone, radio, hairdryer, free wifi, minibar, and airconditioning.
  Facility amenities: Restaurant, Bar, 24-Hour Front Desk, Newspapers, Terrace, Elevator, Safe, Soundproof Rooms, Heating, Baggage Storage, All Spaces Non-Smoking (Public and Private), Air Conditioning, Restaurant With Dining Menu, Buffet-Style Restaurant, Pool Table, Outdoor Swimming Pool, Room Service, Meeting/Banquet Facilities, Free Airport Shuttle, Business Center, Laundry, Dry Cleaning, Souvenir/Gift Shop, Fax/Photocopying, Free Wi-Fi is available in all areas.
  Smoking allowed: No
  Elevators available: Yes

Travel Details
  Start of Program:
This program begins with an orientation in the early evening at the program hotel in Sarlat, France. You will be staying at Hotel la Couleuvrine that night.
  End of Program:
This program ends after breakfast at the hotel. You will be staying at Mercure Bordeaux Aeroport Hotel the night before.
  Required documents:
The Participant Information Form is required.
  Parking availability:
Transportation (For Independent Travelers)
  Train or bus availability: There is train service available from Bordeaux to Sarlat; the cost is usually between 30 and 60 US dollars.
To Start of Program
  Location:  Sarlat
  Transportation to site: A group arrival transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and arrive on the group date. Independent travelers may take the train from Bordeaux Saint-Jean Station to Sarlat; the price is usually between 30 and 60 US dollars.
  From End of Program
  Location:  Departure
  Transportation from site: A group departure transfer is organized for all participants who purchased an air inclusive program and depart on the group date. Independent travelers can take a taxi from the hotel to the airport or can ask the purser on board for assistance in arranging a shuttle transfer.
Elevation Note: 500 feet is the highest elevation.

The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

Daily Schedule

Day 1: Departure
(Saturday, October 19)
 Depart From: Depart from U.S. for overnight flight to Paris.

Day 2: Arrival in Bordeaux
(Sunday, October 20)
 Morning: Fly from Paris to Bordeaux. Upon arrival meet your group leader.
 Lunch: For those who have already arrived, group lunch in Bordeaux.
 Afternoon: Group transfer to Sarlat. Check into your hotel. Enjoy some free time to settle in and explore.
 Dinner: Meet the group for an orientation, welcome dinner and cocktail.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: La Roque Gageac and Cuisine in the Perigord
(Monday, October 21)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: This morning explore the beautiful village of La Roque Gageac and enjoy a ride aboard a gabare boat on the Dordogne river. Learn more about the history of the region and about gabares, the traditional flat-bottomed boats used for transporting goods between the Massif Central and the ports of Bergerac, Libourne and Bordeaux. Continue on to an on-site lecture and cooking demonstration led by a Grande Toque du Perigord (Grand Chef). Learn about regional cuisine of the region and sample some local specialties.
 Lunch: Lunch features dishes prepared by your chef.
 Afternoon: This afternoon visit the Château des Milandes. Built around 1489, it was the main house of the lords of Caumont who preferred to live in this manor house instead of the uncomfortable medieval castle of Château de Castelnaud-la-Chapelle. In 1940 the entertainer Josephine Baker moved into the château and and lived there until 1968.
 Dinner: At your hotel.
 Evening: Take an evening walk around the beautiful medieval city of Sarlat as your Group Leader points out sites of interest.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 4: The Pilgrimage Site of Rocamadour
(Tuesday, October 22)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at hotel
 Morning: Coach to Rocamadour along the scenic Dordogne valley route and stop a few times to admire the spectacular views. Take time to stop in the village of Martel.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant
 Afternoon: Discover the spectacular setting of Rocamadour, built on the side of cliffs overlooking the valley. Learn about the history of the town and the significance of the Black Virgin and other sites. At a local distillery discover the regional fruit wines, juices and liquors that have been produced here for generations. Learn about the economic impact of this industry while you enjoy some sampling. Return to Sarlat in the late afternoon.
 Dinner: At hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 5: The Market and The Prehistory in the Perigord: Cave Paintings and Les Eyzies
(Wednesday, October 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: First this morning you get to enjoy the local market. Sarlat has an exceptional market that features all the local produce and local products. Start off with your Study Leader before going off on your own. Continue your exploration with a visit to Lascaux to see the world's most famous cave paintings. The Lascaux caves were discovered accidentally in 1940. From 1940 through 1963, more than a million people visited. But they tracked in fungus on their shoes and changed the temperature and humidity with their heavy breathing. In just 15 years, the precious art deteriorated more than during the 15,000 years before that. The original caves were closed. A copy cave showing 90 percent of the paintings found in Lascaux was opened next to the original in 1983. At Lascaux II, the reindeer, horses, and bulls of Lascaux I were painstakingly reproduced using the same dyes, tools, and techniques the original artists used 15,000 years ago.
 Lunch: Continue to Les Eyzies for lunch at a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: At the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies you will have the opportunity to view one of the most important stone and bone tool collections in France, and the premier collection of Paleolithic engravings and sculpture in the world. Travel to Rouffignac to see the "Cave of a Hundred Mammoths" on an electric train ride through the caverns. View over 250 animal figure etchings scattered in this underground maze, made over 140 centuries ago. Return to Sarlat.
 Dinner: On your own.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 6: The Black Pearl of the Perigord
(Thursday, October 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: At a truffle farm in St Amand de Coly, near Montignac, you will learn about the "Black Pearl of the Perigord" and discuss the history of this rare and mysterious truffle that has become a luxury product and a sign of wealth. You will also learn about truffle hunting and uses in cuisine and taste.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own in Sarlat to enjoy some fresh market food or explore local fare.
 Afternoon: Take coach to Bordeaux with a short rest stop in Bergerac. Upon arrival in Bordeaux, embark on your cruise.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Bordeaux AOC and the White Wines of the Graves Region
(Friday, October 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: This morning, we venture out into the vineyards of the Graves and Sauternes regions. Take time to explore two very distinct producers and learn about their art and taste their wines. Along the way explore some of the loveliest villages of the Bordelais.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: This afternoon enjoy a walking tour in the bastide of Cadillac, You will learn about this very special type of towns created during the middle ages by the English or the French Kings. Later, you will learn about the origins of viticulture and the history of winemaking in the region. Discover the appellations (AOC) within Bordeaux and sample some of the wines to develop your palate.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: The Red Wines of the Medoc Region
(Saturday, October 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: This morning we examine the wines of the Left bank wines. You will learn about the importance of the two rivers and the special geomorphology they created.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: Discovering the Medoc: The Medoc vineyards produce some of the best wines in the world. This region of the Bordeaux wine AOC is blessed with unique solid and micro climates. This afternoon we drive through the vineyards of Pauillac, St Julien, Margaux and the Haut Medoc, We stop first at Chateau Kirwanin Margaux appellation, part of the famous classification dated back to 1855 regrouping some 60 chateaux among the greatest of Medoc and then to Château Lanessan in Haut Medoc appellation, a cru bourgeois belonging to the Bouteiller family for several generations.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: The Gironde Estuary / Cote de Blaye / Corniche
(Sunday, October 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: Discover the Corniche, a beautiful scenic road that follows the Dordogne river as it joins the Gironde to form the estuary. The narrow road goes along high cliffs revealing some interesting local architecture. We will also visit a small vineyard to taste the local Cote de Bourg before returning to Blaye to explore the citadel.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: Enjoy the afternoon on deck observing the scenic vistas of the Gironde Estuary and the cliffs of Meschers-sur-Gironde. Your Study Leader using our exclusive listening devices will share some historical commentary.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: The Dordogne / Wines and Underground Sites of St-Emilion
(Monday, October 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: This morning discuss the great wines of St Emilion. By far the most famous vineyards in the world. Learn about the complexe system of cataloguing and rating the vineyards and discover how these unique wines are made. You will have the opportunity to taste some of the wines of the region. Enjoy the rest of the morning on deck observing the scenic vistas of the lower Dordogne as we enter the river just north of Bordeaux. Observe the unique landscapes as your Study Leader shares historical commentary.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: Explore St. Emilion and its many historic sites including the Eglise Monolith, the largest underground church in Europe which was carved by Benedictine monks during the 9th-12th centuries.Visit a vineyard in St. Emilion for a sampling of their wines. Château Laniote, a traditional winery of St Emilion area belongs to the Lafilolie family since the 19th century. The owner, Arnaud, will introduce you to the mystery of wine, from the vine to the bottle. Many of the area growers still keep up the old tradition of planting roses at the ends of the rows, which in pre-pesticide days served as an early-warning system against infection, the idea being that the commonest bug, oidium, went for the roses first, giving three days' notice of its intentions.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: The History of Bordeaux and the Importance of Wine
(Tuesday, October 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: This morning discuss the importance of Bordeaux in French history. Start with the role of wine and the wine merchant on the history of Bordeaux. Discuss the cities close connection with England and its role in the Hundred Year War.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: Arrive in Bordeaux and set off on foot and tram. Enjoy a unique inside visit and lecture to the Museum of the Wine Merchant. Lead by one of the founders of this unique museum explore the final part of Bordeaux History and enjoy a unique tasting of Wine and cheeses. Set off on foot to explore the Chartrons district dedicated to wine business since the Middle Age and where Thomas Jefferson stayed in the 18th century. Led by your Study Leader a native of the city enjoy a unqiue perspective of this district.
 Dinner: Farewell Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Princesse d'Aquitaine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Bordeaux
(Wednesday, October 30)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: Disembark the boat with your luggage which will be taken to the hotel for the night.Then set off on foot and tram and explore some of the great monuments of Bordeaux. Led by your Study Leader, a native of the city, enjoy a unique perspective of this UNESCO World Heritage site.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant
 Afternoon: Enjoy a free afternoon to explore Bordeaux on your own before you check into your hotel.
 Dinner: Dinner at the hotel restaurant
Accommodations: Mercure Bordeaux Aeroport Hotel
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Departure
(Thursday, October 31)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Group transfer to the airport for departure
Meals Included: Breakfast
Important information about your itinerary: Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the information featured on this website. Itineraries are based on our best information at this time. Circumstances beyond our control may require us to adjust itineraries or other details. We regret any inconvenience this may cause and appreciate your understanding. Information will be sent to you from your Program Provider approximately three weeks prior to the program start date. The prices listed for commercial services and facilities that are not included in the program cost, such as airport shuttles or extra nights lodging, are subject to change without notice. Since Road Scholar cannot guarantee the accuracy of these prices, we strongly suggest contacting the companies directly for the most up-to-date information.

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