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

Program Number: 19359RJ
Start and End Dates:
4/21/2014 - 5/3/2014; 10/12/2015 - 10/23/2015; 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: $3,599.00 - 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 Cyrano de Bergerac

The newest vessel in Croisi Europe's fleet, built in 2013, the MS Cyrano de Bergerac has three decks, a lounge, bar and dance floor, large sun deck with recliners, an elevator, and gift shop.


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 Cyrano de Bergerac
  Bordeaux, France
Pauillac, France
Blaye, France
Libourne, France
Bordeaux, France
7 nights
 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 Cyrano de Bergerac
Type: Riverboat
  Ship Information: The newest vessel in Croisi Europe's fleet, built in 2013, the MS Cyrano de Bergerac has three decks and is 110 meters long. It can accommodate 174 passengers in its 87 cabins.
  Contact info: 12, rue de la Division Leclerc
Strasbourg,  67000 France
phone: +33 (0)3 88 76 44 44
  Room amenities: Private bathroom with shower, satellite television, hairdryer, safe, radio
  Facility amenities: Lounge with dance floor and bar, bar with TV, video and terrace, restaurant, large sun deck with loungers, terrace, French balconies, shop, lift. Fully air-conditioned throughout the vessel and in all cabins, central heating, 230V electricity supply, radar, wifi on board (charge applies).
  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 aboard the ship. You will be staying at MS Cyrano de Bergerac 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
(Monday, April 21)
 Depart From: Depart from U.S. for overnight flight to Paris.

Day 2: Arrival in Bordeaux
(Tuesday, April 22)
 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 a welcome dinner and cocktail.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: La Roque Gageac and Cuisine in the Perigord
(Wednesday, April 23)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: This morning 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. 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: 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.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
 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: Prehistory in the Perigord: Cave Paintings and Les Eyzies
(Thursday, April 24)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at 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. Then board the coach to 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. 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.
 Lunch: Lunch at a local restaurant
 Afternoon: This afternoon continue your exploration of prehistoric Dordogne 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.
 Dinner: Dinner on your own to sample local fare.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: The Pilgrimage Site of Rocamadour
(Friday, April 25)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: Coach to Rocamadour along the scenic Dordogne valley route and stop a few times to admire the spectacular views. This morning you will 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.
 Lunch: Lunch in Rocamadour
 Afternoon: 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.
 Dinner: Dinner at a local restaurant
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: The Black Pearl of the Perigord
(Saturday, April 26)
 Breakfast: Breakfast at the hotel
 Morning: At a farm in St Cyprien 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.
 Lunch: Lunch on your own to enjoy some fresh market food or explore local fare.
 Afternoon: Take coach to Bordeaux with a short rest stop in Bergerac.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Bordeaux AOC and the White Wines of the Graves Region
(Sunday, April 27)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: This morning 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.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: This afternoon, 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.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: The Red Wines of the Medoc Region
(Monday, April 28)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: Enjoy a free morning on board observing the scenic vistas of the Garonne and Gironde rivers.
 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 micro climates. This afternoon we drive through the vineyards of Pauillac, St Julien Margaux and the Haut Medoc, stopping at a few exclusive properties for a cellar visit and a special tasting.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: The Gironde Estuary / Cote de Blaye / Corniche
(Tuesday, April 29)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: This morning we examine the wines of the Cote de Blaye. This is a lesser known vineyard that produces some very nice local wines with very little exposure in North America. Enjoy the rest of the morning on deck observing the scenic vistas of the Gironde Estuary and the cliffs of Meschers-sur-Gironde. Your Study Leader will share historical commentary.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: 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 Blaye before returning to Blaye to explore the citadel.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: The Dordogne / Wines and Underground Sites of St-Emilion
(Wednesday, April 30)
 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. 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. 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 Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: The History of Bordeaux and the Importance of Wine
(Thursday, May 1)
 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: This afternoon 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.
 Dinner: Dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Bordeaux / Farewell Dinner
(Friday, May 2)
 Breakfast: Breakfast on board
 Morning: Enjoy a unique inside visit and lecture to the Museum of the Wine Merchant. Led 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.
 Lunch: Lunch on board
 Afternoon: Enjoy an afternoon off to either explore Bordeaux on your own or to stay onboard the ship and enjoy the sites of boats sailing up and down the Garonne.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner on board
Accommodations: MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 13: Departure
(Saturday, May 3)
 Breakfast: Early breakfast on board
 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.

Suggested Reading List

A Traveller's History of France

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A World Lit Only By Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance, Portrait of an Age

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Adventures on the Wine Route, A Wine Buyer's Tour of France

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Bordeaux Map

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Bordeaux, A Consumer's Guide to the World's Finest Wines

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Cadogan Guide The Dordogne, Lot & Bordeaux

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Eyewitness Guide Dordogne

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France, A Traveler's Literary Companion

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Lonely Planet French Phrasebook

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The Autumn of the Middle Ages

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The Finest Wines of Bordeaux, A Regional Guide to the Best Châteaux and Their Wines

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The Food of France

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Description: An evocative and beautifully written survey of French food. First published in 1958 and revised in the mid-1970s, the book covers the important regions of French cuisine by dividing them into domains of Butter (northern France), Fat (Alsace) and Oil (the south).

The Road from the Past, Traveling through History in France

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Wine and War, The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure

Author: Donald Kladstrup

Description: This thrilling account of how the vinters of France saved their crops -- and their bottles -- as the Nazis approached shows that to be French is not just to fight for your country but also for your wine. Kladtsrub, who writes for Wine Spectator, and his wife Peatie, the authors focus on the activities of five winemaking families in Burgundy, Alsace, Champagne, Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.

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