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All a-Bordeaux - Exploring southwestern France’s wine region by river can make for a vintage holiday

Mirror logo Mirror 12/02/2017 Sarah Whitfield King

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc It’s hard to think of a more attractive way to spend a week in October than taking a river cruise from Bordeaux in France. Travelling along the rivers Garonne, Gironde and Dordogne provides some of the most attractive scenery imaginable.

To join my Saga River cruise I flew from Gatwick to Bordeaux along with 25 other Saga passengers. We were collected and given a short tour of the city before boarding our CroisiEurope ship the MS Cyrano de Bergerac, which was moored in the city.

The Cyrano takes around 170 passengers, and our fellow travellers were mainly French and American. It’s an attractive ship with a large bar area and space for musicians.

Drinks are included in the price so the bar proved extremely popular. Dining room tables are allocated quickly on boarding.

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Cabins are comfortable with en-suite bathrooms and roomy cupboards. There are no balconies but there are large windows that let you watch the world pass by.

After unpacking, I went to the bar for a welcome cocktail with the captain then to dinner with fellow passengers.

Any fears I had about travelling on my own were quickly erased – my table companions were amazingly friendly.

I was always invited to join others for drinks and excursions while Saga rep Sheila was outstanding, offering passengers help around the clock.

The next morning we left Bordeaux for Pauillac, our first port of call, passing chateaux and wine estates on the way.

Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty Excursions were always in the afternoon – a bonus as it meant no early morning panic. At Pauillac there was a trip to the Medoc wine region where huge vineyards groaned with grapes. It was a late harvest due to the poor summer weather and pickers were working frantically.

Passing famous chateaux such as Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild and Chateau Latour, we headed to Chateau Castera to view the mechanics of wine processing and sample its vintage wines.

Arriving at Blaye the next day we saw the mighty citadel which was once the first line of defence for Bordeaux. Here we joined an excursion on the Route de la Corniche, passing old fishermen’s houses along the cliffs. Sailors would rest here after long spells at sea but the houses are now in a sad state, with many abandoned.

Credits: AFP © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: AFP At next stop Libourne we took a trip to the wine-producing medieval town of Saint-Emilion, visiting a wine cave and enjoying another glass or two.

There were more tastings on the slow journey back to Bordeaux. Once there, we explored the Musee des Beaux Arts and newly-opened La Cite du Vin – a wine museum. It’s the ideal spot to learn more about wine as the region sells half a billion litres of the stuff a year, 85 per cent of it red.

Meals on board the Cyrano were top quality with a good choice each day.

© Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Our last trip was to Cognac, where we took a tram tour, visited a brandy distillery and had lunch on the riverside at La ­Courtine – the perfect spot to end a week discovering a corking part of France. Santé!

BOOK IT: Saga has a seven-night Bordeaux and the Dordogne all-inclusive sailing on April 18 from 1,299pp. Includes cocktail party, gala dinner, Saga cruise escort, optional travel insurance, UK travel service, Gatwick flights and transfers. saga.co.uk/rivers , 0800 300 400

TOP TIP: Look out for great coffee shops and food trucks.

MORE INFOuk.france.fr


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