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

Program Number: 19359RJ
Start and End Dates:
5/7/2015 - 5/18/2015; 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: 11 nights
Location: France
Price starting at: $3,896.00 - Price may vary based on date, departure city
Program Type: Adventure Afloat Study Cruise; River Boats; History & Culture
Meals: 28; 10 Breakfasts, 9 Lunches, 9 Dinners    
Meal Options: Vegetarian; Gluten Free; Low Salt; Low Fat    

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.

The 04/21/16 date will sail on the Princess d'Aquitaine. All other dates on the MS Cyrano de Bergerac.

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
   CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
  Bordeaux, France
Pauillac, France
Blaye, France
Libourne, France
Bordeaux, France
6 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.

 CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Type: Riverboat
  Description: The MS Cyrano de Bergerac sails on the Gironde.
  Ship Information: Year Built: 2013 Length: 361 feet Width: 37 feet Total Cabins: 87 (41 cabins on the upper deck, 21 cabins on the middle deck, 25 cabins on the main deck) Total Passengers: 174 Cabin Size: 140 sq. feet
  Contact info: 12, rue de la Division Leclerc
Strasbourg,  67000 France
phone: +0033 3 88 76 44 44
  Room amenities: All cabins have individual controls for AC and heat. Cabins are equipped with satellite television, a radio, a hairdryer and a safe for your valuables. The private en-suite facilities include a shower, toilet, sink, and are provided with towels, but not washcloths.
  Facility amenities: Amenities include: lounge with bar and dance floor, dining room, bar with TV and terrace, sun deck with loungers, terrace, French balconies, gift shop, and free WiFi on board. Also included is central, 230V electricity, and radar.
  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 CroisiEurope 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:  Bordeaux
  Nearest city or town:  Cotes de Bourg
  Nearest highway: A10 & N10
  Nearest airport:  Bordeaux Airport
  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
(Thursday, May 7)
 Depart From: International flight to France.

Day 2: Arrival in Bordeaux
(Friday, May 8)
 Morning: Arrivals in Bordeaux.
 Lunch: Group lunch in Bordeaux for those who have already arrived.
 Afternoon: Group transfer to Sarlat. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and enjoy some free time to settle in, freshen up, and explore before orientation. We will gather in our private meeting room where the Group Leader will greet you with a warm welcome and introduce everyone. We will review the up-to-date daily schedule and any changes, discuss responsibilities, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer any questions you may have. Please be aware that program activities and scheduled times could change due to local circumstances. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding
 Dinner: Welcome dinner and cocktail.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Lunch, Dinner

Day 3: Prehistory in the Perigord: Cave Paintings and Les Eyzies
(Saturday, May 9)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: We will take a field trip to discover the Rouffignac Cave, also known as the "Cave of a Hundred Mammoths." On an electric train, we will ride through the caverns and view the more than 250 animal figure etchings that are scattered in this underground maze, made over 140 centuries ago. Then, at the National Museum of Prehistory in Les Eyzies, there will be an on-site lecture and you will have the opportunity to view one of the most important stone and bone tool collections in France, as well as the premier collection of Paleolithic engravings and sculptures in the world.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 Afternoon: We will take a field trip to the original Lascaux caves which were discovered in 1940 and feature paintings claimed to be 17,000 years old. During a guided visit of Lascaux II, you will discover the faithful recreations of the original Bulls room and central corridor to discuss interpretations of the paintings in this Paleolithic sanctuary.
 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: La Roque Gageac / Cuisine in the Perigord
(Sunday, May 10)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: The coach will depart for La Roque Gageac, where you will explore this beautiful village onboard a gabare boat on the Dordogne River. Learn more about the history of the region and about garbares, the traditional flat-bottomed boats used for transporting goods between the Massif Central and the ports of Bergerac, Libourne, and Bordeaux. There will then be an on-site lecture and cooking demonstration. Led by a Grande Toque du Perigord, learn about regional cuisine and sample some local specialties.
 Lunch: Enjoy dishes prepared by the chef.
 Afternoon: We will take a visit to the Château des Milandes, where you will discover the extraordinary story of Josephine Baker, who was not only an international singer, but also a French patriot during World War II. She helped the resistance, and after the war, she lived there with her "rainbow family." We will then return to Sarlat.
 Dinner: On your own.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch

Day 5: The Pilgrimage Site of Rocamadour
(Monday, May 11)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: The coach will depart for Rocamadour. On our way, we will take the scenic Dordogne Valley route and make a few stops to admire the spectacular views. We will also take time to stop in the village of Martel. Rocamadour, built on the side of cliffs overlooking the valley, attracts visitors for its history and the significant Black Madonna. Learn about the history of the town with an on-site lecture.
 Lunch: At a local restaurant.
 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. The coach will then return to Sarlat.
 Dinner: At the hotel.
Accommodations: Hotel la Couleuvrine
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 6: The Black Pearl of the Perigord
(Tuesday, May 12)
 Breakfast: At the hotel.
 Morning: This morning, enjoy a trip to the local market. Sarlat has an exceptional market that features all the local produce and local products. Start off exploring with your study leader before heading off on your own.
 Lunch: On your own. Take the time to enjoy some fresh market food or explore local fare.
 Afternoon: We will depart Sarlat with luggage and head to a farm in St. Cyprien where we will learn about the "Black Pearl of the Perigord" and discuss the history of this rare and mysterious truffle that has become a luxary product as well as a sign of wealth. You will also learn about truffle hunting and its uses in cuisine. We will then make a quick stop in Bergerac on our way to Bordeaux to board the cruise.
 Dinner: On board.
Accommodations: CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7: Bordeaux and Pauillac
(Wednesday, May 13)
 Breakfast: On board.
 Morning: This morning, you will learn about the origin 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: On board.
 Afternoon: We will venture out into the vineyards of the Graves and Sauternes. 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: On board.
Accommodations: CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 8: Pauillac, Gironde Estuary and Blaye
(Thursday, May 14)
 Breakfast: On board.
 Morning: This morning, we will have a lecture about the wines of the left bank and the different grape varietals used in Bordeaux for the blending,
 Lunch: On board.
 Afternoon: We will depart Pauillac this afternoon to discover the Medoc vineyards, producers of 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, stopping at a few exclusive properties for a cellar visit and a special tasting.
 Dinner: On board.
Accommodations: CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 9: Blaye, Libourne and St Emilion
(Friday, May 15)
 Breakfast: On board.
 Morning: This morning, we will have a lecture aboard; enjoy the explanations from a specialist on the estuary of Gironde and its very special ecosystem. 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 with the help of our listening devices.
 Lunch: On board.
 Afternoon: This afternoon, we will then examine the wines of the Côtes de Blaye. This is a lesser known vineyard that produces some very nice local wines with very little exposure in North America. We will then 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.
 Dinner: On board.
Accommodations: CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 10: Libourne or Bourg - Cadillac
(Saturday, May 16)
 Breakfast: On board.
 Morning: This morning, we will discuss the great wines of St. Emilion and the right bank, by far the most famous vineyards in the world. Learn about the complex system of cataloguing and rating the vineyards, and discover how these unique wines are made. Enjoy the rest of the morning on deck to take in the scenic views or to relax.
 Lunch: On board.
 Afternoon: We will take a field trip to explore St. Emilion and its many historic sites including the Eglise Monolithe, the largest underground church in Europe which was constructed by Benedictine monks during the 9th-12th centuries. We will then 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 end of the rows. You will learn the meaning behind this.
 Dinner: On board.
Accommodations: CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 11: The History of Bordeaux and the Importance of Wine
(Sunday, May 17)
 Breakfast: On board.
 Morning: This morning, we will have a lecture to discuss the organization of the Bordeaux wine market and the importance of the wine brokers and shippers We will talk about how and for how long to keep wine and your lecturer will try to answer all of your questions about Bordeaux wines.
 Lunch: On board.
 Afternoon: We will take a field trip through the Chartrons District. Historically, this is where the wine business started in Bordeaux. You will see the house where Thomas Jefferson stayed when he visited Bordeaux. The visit will lead you to the wine museum where you will learn everything about the great wine merchants.
 Dinner: Farewell dinner on board.
Accommodations: CroisiEurope MS Cyrano de Bergerac
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Day 12: Departure
(Monday, May 18)
 Breakfast: On board.
 Morning: After disembarking the ship we will take a coach transfer to the airport. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Please be in touch via the Road Scholar Social Network, where you can share memories, pictures, and comments. Best wishes for all your journeys.
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

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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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The Autumn of the Middle Ages

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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

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