Scotland – France 2020 – update

Bonjour from Port Chalmers.

We are back from our tours in Aquitaine, where we had fabulous weather, good company and some wonderful meals. The highlight was a five course tasting menu at MILES in Bordeaux.  They call it a surprise menu based around the best produce of the season and every course was a delight; both inventive and delicious.  The price (55€) was also a surprise, being significantly more than on their web site, but it was worth every Euro and we cannot recommend this restaurant highly enough.  An added bonus was finding Domaine Templier’s Bandol rosé on the wine list.  This is a wine we have wanted to taste for many years and it was so gorgeous that we ordered a second bottle – with food and wine this good, who cares about the budget?

Our next stop was Scotland, where the weather was cooler and more varied, but we relaxed with old friends on a rental boat and cruised up the Caledonian Canal to Inverness. No Nessy; only glorious landscapes and lots of conversation.  

 Lord Glen canal copy

We also visited the luxury 27 cabin cruise ship, Lord of the Glens (above), before continuing our research for our 2020 tour, which is now finely tuned.  The main change is a six night stay in Collioure (instead of four) and our last night in France will be in Perpignan, allowing us to enjoy the tasting menu at a Michelin starred restaurant.

Scotland-France 2020 explores the Charles Rennie Mackintosh connection between Glasgow and the Catalan region of south-east of France.  It starts in Glasgow on Tuesday 22 September 2020 and ends on Sunday 11 October 2020 in Perpignan, which has good connections north to Paris or south for Barcelona.   We will travel by minibus and ferry to the isles of Bute and Arran, followed by a 5 nights aboard the Lord of the Glens, cruising from Inverness to Mull and Oban.  
 Collioure view from terrace copy

After a night in Edinburgh, we fly to France for a six nights at a rambling old house with fabulous views (above) in the centre of Collioure.  We’ll explore the Mackintosh Trail by foot, minibus, boat and the Petit Train Jaune, as well as relaxing in this charming village and sampling the unique local wines and cuisine.  The price for the 20 day tour is 8695 Euros per person share twin, so send for your brochure and secure your place on this unique small group tour.

 Serenity enter lock
Boating holidays are our specialist area and last March we introduced you to the Serenity; a new affordable six passenger hotel-barge, cruising in Champagne.  It’s owned and operated by a Kiwi-English couple who offer good-value, informal cruises, “providing the welcome and comfort associated with a quality, family-run hotel”.  
Cruises are all-inclusive with transfers from Paris, all meals, drinks and daily excursions and for 2020 the price is just 2,950€ per person for the six-night cruise.  Having three en-suite cabins the Serenity is ideal for small group charters, but they also offer individual cabins by arrangement and currently have the following departure dates available for 2020 – 
6 MAY from Sillery to Chateau Thierry
23 SEPTEMBER from Sillery to Dormans (5 nights only)
30 SEPTEMBER from Chateau Thierry to Sillery.

Phone or email for more information on the above or any of our holidays in France.


Cordialement,
Robert & Barbara

BESPOKE FRANCE
Robert Buchanan & Barbara Keen 
52 George St, PORT CHALMERS 9023, NZ
ph (64) 03 472 7856,  freephone (NZ) 0800 147 856
email info@bespokefrance.co.nz

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Bastille Day newsletter

Bonne Fete Nationale

We currently have several clients in France who will be enjoying the fireworks and celebrations of Bastille Day. Some are cycling in the Loire, others are exploring the canals on rental boats, or driving around Brittany, while one couple is relaxing on a hotel barge and another is on a customised tour around La Rochelle.  
We will soon be departing for Aquitaine and our Taste France tours on the Rosa and are delighted (and relieved) that a last minute booking has made up the numbers on Tour Two.  It will be the third time this couple have joined us in France, so we must be doing something right.  
In fact repeat clients are the mainstay of our business and a record number of them have already booked for next year.  All are going boating: rental boats and two hotel-barge charters.  Chartering a whole barge is great value for a group of six or more, as everything is included and it lets you tweak the cruise itinerary to suit your interests.
 collioure_plage_st_vicens
Our 2020 tour of Scotland and France includes a cruise through the Caledonian Canal and the departure is now guaranteed, with two of the four cabins allocated.  While the cruise is only part of the tour, it is one of the highlights.  We will be researching Loch Ness this September, when we take a rental boat up to Inverness after visiting Collioure (photo above) to check out the accommodation, etc.  Collioure will be the main base for the French leg of our 2020 tour – 22 September to 11 October.
Contact us before 29 July for more information on any of our holidays.  It is never too early to start planning.
Bonne fete
Robert & Barbara
BESPOKE FRANCE www.bespokefrance.co.nz
Tel: 03 472 7856, or 0800 147 856 info@bespokefrance.co.nz
 

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Scotland-France 2020

Bonjour from Port Chalmers.
 
It is 7 months since we tentatively mentioned our ideas for a 2020 tour exploring the Mackintosh connection between Glasgow and the Catalan region of south-east of France.  We are delighted to announce that now the tour is all go with a confirmed booking and so a guaranteed departure. Luckily, we were just in time to secure the last four middle-deck cabins on the 27 cabin Lord of the Glens – photo below.  
 Lord of the Glen
 Scotland-France 2020 will start in Glasgow on Tuesday 22 September 2020 and then we will travel by minibus (and ferry) to the isles of Bute and Arran, visiting Hill House, The House of an Art Lover, Glenarn Gardens, Mount Stuart, Ascog Hall and the standing stones on Machrie Moor, combined with some whisky and beer tasting and great food (naturally).
Stage two is a cruise through the Great Glen from Inverness to Mull aboard the deluxe Lord of the Glens.   Next, on Sunday 4 October we fly to La Belle France for four nights at a rambling old house in the centre of Collioure, followed by three nights at Domaine de la Fauvelle in Thuir.  We’ll explore the Mackintosh Trail by foot, minibus and Petit Train, sampling the unique local wines and the aperitifs and liqueurs at Cave Byrrh.  
The tour ends on Sunday 11 October 2020 in Perpignan, which has good connections north towards Paris or south for Barcelona.  The price for the 20 day tour is 8695 Euros per person share twin, so send for your brochure and secure your place on this unique small group tour.
 
This year has been a mixed season and disappointingly we still have a free cabin on our second Aquitaine tour, but surprisingly we already have several bookings for 2020.  These are all boating holidays, mainly hotel barge cruises and some rental boats, and one is for a whole barge charter for a family get-together.   There are barges sleeping 4 to 12 people, offering a unique holiday that combines boating adventures with sightseeing ashore and delicious food & wine.  Cruises are fully escorted and charter bookings can be tailored to suit the group’s interest – art, wine, history, cycling and walking.  Plus some barges offer ‘family’ cruises which welcome children and can include activities such as canoeing, zip-lining, horse riding, swimming, etc. 
 Randle Nivernais
 
One ideal barge for whole barge charters is the delightful, owner-operated, 4 passenger Randle (above) which cruises the beautiful Nivernais Canal in Burgundy.  The Randle is different in that most dinners are taken ashore at carefully selected restaurants and they offer 13 night cruises, as well as the usual 6 night.  Transfers from Paris are included.
 
What are you waiting for?  Get back to us and we will make your boating dreams a reality.
 
Cordialement,
Robert & Barbara
BESPOKE FRANCE
Robert Buchanan & Barbara Keen
52 George St, PORT CHALMERS 9023, NZ
ph (64) 03 472 7856,  freephone (NZ) 0800 147 856

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Boating in France 2019

Bonjour from Port Chalmers.

We trust you made the most of the glorious weather over Labour Day weekend, as it is rather different now.  Today’s wet and windy conditions remind me of our introduction to hotel barging way back in April 1984.  It was a cold and blustery day in Paris, when we discovered the barge owner drunk and incoherent in her cabin.  This was the first day of our first jobs on a hotel barge and the passengers were due any minute.  Our learning-curves rocketed skyward as Barbara took on the roles of chef and hostess as well as cabin girl and I became the host / waiter / tour guide / matelot.  Thankfully, we had a Dutch pilot arriving next day for the cruise from Paris to Briare.  Somehow it turned out OK, we even got good tips and so began our love affair with boating and the French waterways.

Lord of the Glen

Our boating adventures have continued and we’ve cruised virtually all the waterways of France as well as the Venice lagoon.    Last year we ventured into England to cruise the Kennet and Avon Canal and after next year’s tours, we will be joining friends in Scotland to cruise the Great Glen up to Inverness (photo above).  That will be another new experience, but it is also research;  in 2020 we are planning a tour to Scotland combined with the Mackintosh Trail around Collioure in France!  We do not have a brochure yet, or a price, but we do have an itinerary if you would like to know more ….

Next year’s tours are in Aquitaine, cruising between Toulouse and Bordeaux on the peaceful and beautiful Canal de Garonne.   Tour One filled very quickly but we still have vacancies for three people on Tour Two, 19 to 31 August 2019.  The itinerary consists of 2 nights in Bordeaux and 4 nights in the Dordogne, sightseeing by minibus, followed by 6 nights on the Rosa – a traditional Dutch barge with two double and two twin ensuite cabins.  Most meals are included and the price is 7300 Euros per person, share twin, or 8000 Euros for single occupancy.  The tours are guaranteed to depart, so please request a brochure if you would like to join us.

Our passion for boating has made it our specialist area and we believe that hotel barge cruises, or self-drive rental boats, offer the ideal holiday for a couple or a group of friends/family.

Hotel barges cruise in Scotland, England, Ireland, Venice and Holland as well as in France and they all combine boating adventures with sightseeing ashore and delicious food & wine.  Cruises are fully escorted and truly all-inclusive with prices starting around 3500 Euros per person.   Barges can accommodate 4-12 guests and most can be booked by the cabin, or as a private whole barge charter.

Luciole leaving Auxerre

 

Our favourite barge is the Luciole, cruising the picturesque Nivernais Canal in Burgundy from Auxerre (above).  They offer individual cabins (with no single supplement) for up to 12 guests, or whole barge charters for 8 to 12 which can be themed to suit the group’s interest – art, wine, history, cycling and walking, plus ‘family activity’ cruises including canoeing, zip-lining, horse riding, swimming, etc.

 

Randle Nivernais

On the same canal is the delightful, owner-operated, 4 passenger Randle (above).  The Randle is different in that most dinners are taken ashore at carefully selected restaurants and they offer 13 night cruises, as well as the usual 6 night, for whole boat charters.

 

Waving on Baise River

Self-drive rental boats offer a more informal and flexible holiday and are ideal for get-togethers, comfortably accommodating up to 10 people.  No licence is required and the boats are relatively easy to handle, so an hour’s tuition is usually all that is needed before heading off down the canal.  Most clients favour a one way route and plan for a week on the boat, but we urge everyone to think of the boat as a floating base, rather than as a means of transport.  If you rent the boat for 10 to 14 days, or longer, you will not feel compelled to move the boat every day and can explore ashore at your leisure.  Boating is quite  relaxing  and we recommend an average daily cruising of no more than 4 hours to allow for late starts, leisurely lunches, sightseeing ashore and the unexpected adventure …..    We work with all the rental boat companies, and so will find you the best boat on the best route for your holiday afloat.

What are you waiting for?  Get back to us and we will make your boating dreams a reality.

Cordialement,

Robert & Barbara

BESPOKE FRANCE

Robert Buchanan & Barbara Keen

52 George St, PORT CHALMERS 9023, NZ

ph (64) 03 472 7856,  freephone (NZ) 0800 147 856

email info@bespokefrance.co.nz

website www.bespokefrance.co.nz

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Cycling & walking in France 2019

Bonjour from Port Chalmers.

For us the 2018 season is over and now our travel planning is for next year, and even 2020.

We’ve just revised the routes and the 2019 prices for our Backroad Discovery self-guided cycling and walking holidays so the updated brochures are now available as pdfs or as printed paper copies.

Morgon

 

Changes are minor in the Loire and Burgundy regions and the Beaujolais itinerary has been extended to allow for more time in Lyon – a city which is too often overlooked.

We’ve changed the itinerary in Champagne to reduce the daily cycling distances and the price, but it is still based around Reims and Epernay, using 3 star accommodation.

Alsace-Eguisheim

 

In Alsace we’ve a new cycling route through the Northern Vosges, which is relatively easy and very different to the popular vineyard routes.  However, it could easily be combined with them and also compliments several of our Alsacian walking holidays.

 

bordeaux-bourg-gironde-1024x491

For an escorted cycling holiday consider the MS Bordeaux, which offers barge and bikes cruises around the Gironde estuary and the Dordogne and Garonne rivers.  It has 49 cabins with ensuite bathrooms and breakfasts and dinners are included.  Bike excursions range from 25 to 55kms and the standard bikes are unisex with 21 gears, or electric bikes with 8 gears are available as an extra.  The beauty of a barge and bike cruise is that the cycling is not compulsory, so you can easily take a day off cycling and relax on the barge and explore the sights ashore once the barge is moored. Prices range from 1249 Euros per person for a 7 night cruise, so it is great value.  Get back to us with your provisional dates for more information and prices.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We (and everyone who has been on his walks) are great fans of James of the Walking Party.  He takes small groups on leisurely walks in France and beyond.  James is an excellent leader, both knowledgeable and entertaining, and very enthusiastic about the local food and wine.  The walks are supported by a back up vehicle to carry the luggage and lunch and to rescue any weary walkers.  However, the walks are designed as walking holidays rather than tramps, so are suitable for anyone of average fitness.  Walks start on Sundays, are for six nights and the all-inclusive prices start at 2690 Euros per person, share twin.  They have been very popular with our solo travellers as the single supplement is a modest 390 Euros.  James offers two consecutive walks along the St James Way in April and in September and they can be combined with a rest day in Figeac in the middle.

Please get back to us if you would like a brochure or more information.

Cordialement,

Robert & Barbara

BESPOKE FRANCE

Robert Buchanan & Barbara Keen

52 George St, PORT CHALMERS 9023, NZ

ph 643 472 7856,  freephone (NZ) 0800 147 856

email info@bespokefrance.co.nz

website www.bespokefrance.co.nz

 

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Taste France – 19 to 31 August 2019

Bonjour from Port Chalmers
 
All our 2018 bookings have now been processed, so our thoughts are again turning to 2019.  Can we tempt you to join us in Aquitaine?  We have room for just three more guests on Tour Two of Taste France 2019 – guaranteed departure.
 
The tour starts with a couple of nights in Bordeaux at the welcoming 4 star Hotel Majestic, a guided tour of the Margaux vineyards (including two wine tastings) and dinners at two innovative restaurants.  
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On Wednesday we drive up the Dordogne valley, stopping at gardens and chateaux en route to Sarlat-la-Caneda for a luxury B&B on the edge of the medieval town centre.  During the four night stay we’ll visit more gardens and chateaux, a working nut oil mill, Lascaux for the remarkable cave paintings and enjoy free time in Sarlat on its market day.
 
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On Sunday we head south for the Garonne valley, but first experience a Sunday lunch at a simple country restaurant that we first discovered in 2010  and which is still getting great praise – see the review below.  
 
Later we’ll be welcomed aboard the hotel barge Rosa with a glass of champagne, while the crew deliver our luggage to the cabins.  Rick Stein cruised on the Rosa in the BBC’s French Odyssey TV series way back in 2005, but since then it has changed hands and been completely refurbished.  It sleeps up to eight guests in four ensuite cabins and has a crew of four to move the barge, wine and dine you and whisk you ashore on half day excursions.  While you visit various pretty villages, markets, chateaux and food, wine and armagnac producers, it is the barge that is the star of this second week, as canal cruising is a unique, relaxing experience. The Rosa cruises at walking speed so you can relax on board while the scenery slides past, or stretch your legs along the towpath, or take off on one of the bikes to explore further afield. 
 
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The tour ends with a transfer to Toulouse where we suggest you enjoy at least a couple of nights.  Please get back to us if you would like a brochure with the daily itinerary, inclusions, etc.
 
Best wishes
Robert & Barbara
BESPOKE FRANCE
Robert Buchanan & Barbara Keen
52 George St, PORT CHALMERS 9023, NZ
ph 643 472 7856,  freephone (NZ) 0800 147 856
November 2010 – LA POULE AU POT – Goujounac
Tuesday lunchtime in a restaurant up a side road on the edge of a small village in south-west France.  It could be empty and sad in these recessive times, but it’s busy – mostly locals at a guess, plus an English couple, some heating engineers from nearby Cahors, and us.  The big attraction? A relaxed, friendly atmosphere and good food at reasonable prices, including a 14€, four course menu with wine, which most people were having.  14€ gets you the soup of the day, dish of the day and cheeses of the day, plus a choice of pudds AND a large carafe of the local red.  
 
How do they do it?  There’s a carefully thought-out labour-saving service plan for a start – we sat down to a short stack of plates topped by a soup bowl, and all the cutlery we would need – a soup spoon, knife and fork and dessert spoon. Each course is brought to the table in a large bowl/platter and diners serve themselves. As we finished, the used dishes were cleared and we were ready for the next course.  
 
The soup of the day was bean and vegetable, topped with slices of excellent country bread.  Delicious, but we were pacing ourselves.  It was followed by the plat de jour – a veal and mushroom stew, with rice, until the rice ran out, then it came with pommes sarlardaises – thin slices of potato cooked in goose or duck fat to a chippie-like crispness.  Sometimes they have with bits of truffle added, but not at this price, still delicious though.  The stew was seriously good, with tender meat and lots of tasty fungus in a rich sauce.  We were told to keep our knives and forks for the cheese course.  Surely there’d be just a tiny sliver, but no, a round of fresh local goat cheese, plus three generous wedges – a sheep, a white-crusted camembert style and a chewy comté with more of the great local bread. We hardly did it justice.   
 
Puddings came already plated, or glassed – there was a choice of chocolate mousse, Ile flottante, rum baba, apple or plum tart – a good old-fashioned line up.  Robert had the apple tart, as usual.   I ordered the floating island, thinking it was probably the lightest choice.  It’s a sweetly simple dish – just poach spoonfuls of meringue mixture in simmering milk, then make a custard with the milk and the egg yolks.  Let everything cool, then float a meringue island on a custard sea and finish with threads of caramel and/or toasted nuts. 
 
Whether you were a table of one or a table of six – you got a litre of wine, but most people seemed to have just a glass or two, a couple of tables didn’t touch it at all.  I couldn’t help wondering what would happen in a Kiwi restaurant if every table got a litre of wine with lunch ….. 
 
We loved the relaxed atmosphere and the friendly efficient service.  There’s no hint of meanness, just good cheap French food, well made and confidently presented.  We were shown to a table for three, but the chair in the sun was already occupied by a ginger cat.  He slept on undisturbed right through lunch.  I was very glad that no-one attempted to shift him, and I like to think that if we’d been a party of three, we would have been shown to a different table.    

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Experience France

Art-de-vivre-aerial

As our summer comes to a close why not get your friends/family together and head off to France. Boating is our specialist area as we have cruised virtually all the canals and RENTAL BOATS are our best selling holiday. We encourage everyone to think of the boat as a floating base, rather than a means of transport, so that you can relax and adjust to cruising at 6 kph between locks, villages and moorings. Boat hire can be a week, or two, or longer, and it’s the perfect way to experience a pocket of France (you won’t travel very far). As we are not tied to one company, talk to us and we’ll find you the best boat on the best waterway.

If you are short on time and want to pack more in to your holiday, think about HOTEL BARGES, which offer six night fully escorted cruises with gourmet meals, fine wine and a combination of guided excursions by minibus and free time to relax on board or explore the towpath by bike (or on foot). Barges mostly sleep 4 to 12 guests in ensuite cabins and are available for individual bookings and whole barge charters. The six passenger SAROCHE – https://www.charterbarge.com – mainly takes charter bookings, but has one cabin available for a couple on a Champagne cruise in May (13 to 19) and a Burgundy cruise in August (12 to 18). The all-inclusive fare is US$6,500 per person. Otherwise the barge is fully booked apart from 24 -30 June when it’s cruising the Marne Valley between Vandierers and Beamont-sur-Vesles in Champagne. The six person charter rate is US38,000.

In May our great friends Dennis and Ellie, are offering three day and six day food, and wine, workshops, for parties of six to twelve at DOMAINE DE CROMEY – http://domainedecromey.com/food-and-wine-workshop/ Everyone who has enjoyed their hospitality and expertise, always dream of returning and over half their bookings are from repeat clients. The workshops are ideal for amateurs and professionals as they will tweak the programme to suit your group. For other months they offer their Burgundy House Party weeks for groups of 8 to 12, but food or wine workshops can also be scheduled by arrangement.

James of the WALKING PARTY – http://thewalkingparty.co.uk/trip/ – has just finished his Truffle Hop in Quercy and for 20-26 May he will be on board the Luciole barge in Burgundy for a walking week. Transfers from Paris are included and a twin and a single cabin are available @ GB£3,300 per person. He also has vacancies for the ST JAMES WAY walks from Le Puy-en-Velay to Conques (1-8 September) and from Figeac to Cahors (8-15 September) and would welcome bookings for up to six people on each walk (or combine the two).

Lastly, remember our BACKROAD DISCOVERY self-guided cycling and walking holidays which are ideal for groups of friends. Electric assisted bikes are available in most regions for those who appreciate a boost up the hills.

Phone or email without delay for more information.
Best regards
Robert & Barbara
BESPOKE FRANCE, 52 George St, Port Chalmers 9023 www.bespokefrance.co.nz
Tel: 03 472 7856 Freephone: 0800 147 856 Email: info@bespokefrance.co.nz

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Glorious Burgundy in May

Some years ago we introduced James of the Walking Party to Penny of the Luciole and now they are offering their fourth walking-themed cruise starting 20 May 2018 aboard the 12 passenger LUCIOLE.  

Guests are met in Paris and transferred to the barge for a leisurely cruise along the beautiful Nivernais Canal with optional guided walks with James.   Bicycles are also available for exploring the tow path and further afield – and each day you’ll enjoy gastronomic meals accompanied by fine wines.  Four cabins are currently free – a twin, a double and 2 singles – at GB£3,300 per person (no single supplement).  Don’t delay – request a brochure today, as these cabins could go very quickly.

Luciole-leaving-Auxerre

 

DOMAINE de CROMEY, in southern Burgundy, are offering special food and wine workshops for small groups of six (or more for the wine workshop) from 5 & 12 May (and other dates by arrangement).

Ellie is a chef extraordinaire and Dennis is a professional wine taster and wine merchant, as well as a very entertaining tour guide.  The Gastronomic six night holiday is 4900 Euros per person and the three night Terroir wine holiday is 1950 Euros per person.   Contact us without delay for more details and remember that this delightful six bedroom domain is available throughout the season for small groups on Burgundy House Party weeks, cycling and walking weeks, or a tailor-made holiday especially for you.
Cromey-winemakers dinner
Bonne Année 
Robert & Barbara
BESPOKE FRANCE

 

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Introducing Aquitaine

LB Aquitaine-Nerac-1

 Aquitaine is a nebulous region in south-west France, loosely ranging from the Charente river in the north to the Basque region in the south with Perigord, Gascony, Quercy and Bordeaux in the middle. The rivers Dordogne, Lot and Garonne bisect the countryside and have created rich fertile valleys, scrubby limestone plateaux and rolling moorlands. It is largely a pastoral landscape filled with pretty villages, orchards, forests, vineyards and market gardens. The rich cuisine features duck and goose, but the region is also a big producer of garlic, walnuts, truffles and tobacco, as well as seafood and shellfish along the coast and, of course, the great wines of Bordeaux and the brandies of Cognac and Armagnac.

It boasts two great cities, Toulouse and Bordeaux, which are very different in architecture and culture, but both have impressive historic centres and river walks, and are marvellous places to explore on foot.

Aquitaine’s chequered history is noted for the 100 Years War between England and France, followed by the Wars of Religion, resulting in lots of castles and fortified villages, called bastides. However, it is more renowned for its prehistory as its limestone caves and caverns have revealed some of the oldest human skeletons, as well as tools, ornaments and paintings. La Pech Merle has some of the earliest examples of hand outlines and animal sketches and the famous multi-coloured paintings and engravings in Lascaux can now be experienced at Lascaux IV. This is is the new Centre International d’Art Parietal, which has meticulously reproduced the four caves along with “state-of-the-art experiential storytelling technology”.

Gardens of all shapes and sizes are prolific throughout the region, encompassing the very modern Jardins de l’Imaginaire at Terrasson, the classical French Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac, the sculpted cliff-top Jardins de Marqueyssac and the water lily garden that inspired Monet, Latour Marliac’s Jardin des Nenuphars, plus rambling family gardens such as Sardy, Daille and Chateau de Momas.

Aquitaine has a relatively low population and relatively few tourists, plus a mild balmy climate and a long summer season, so it’s not surprising that many ex-pats have settled there.

English couple, James and Diana, moved to an 18th-century farmhouse in the Quercy region over 25 yrs ago and set up the Walking Party in 1996. With a background in the travel industry and a passion for food, culture and nature, James is the perfect host to introduce you to Aquitaine on gentle walks with a back-up vehicle and donkeys to carry the essentials. As well as walks through the Dordogne and Quercy, they offer leisurely rambles in Catalunya (starting from Barcelona), the Basque Pyrenees (with an excursion to the Guggenheim Museum), along the St James Way between Le Puy and Cahors and in Italy and Suffolk. Plus for truffle enthusiasts there’s a 5 day truffle indulgence leading up to St Valentine’s Day; hunting, cooking and eating the magical black delicacy – 10 to 14 February, 2018.

Ex-pats from Ireland, Wendy and Peter, own and operate the 5 star hotel barge St Louis, cruising the Canal de Garonne. They offer two gastronomic cruises, Gascony and Bordeaux, for private parties of four to six people. The barge has three large en-suite cabins with bath robes and hair dryers, a well stocked open bar, a generous sun deck, a crew of four, a Mercedes minibus for half day excusions and transfers from Bordeaux (or Agen, or Toulouse), and bicycles for independent exploration ashore. As a whole boat charter the itinerary can be ‘themed’ to accommodate your interests, such as wine, cooking, cycling and painting.

The 8 passenger Rosa also cruises the Canal de Garonne and accepts individual bookings. It has two double and two twin cabins with small ensuite bathrooms. Again bicycles are available for independent exploration ashore and the cruise formula is half a day cruising and half a day sightseeing by private minibus. The all-inclusive fares of 3695-4290 Euros per person, share twin, include transfers from Bordeaux, or Toulouse.

rosa_1

For 2019, we have chartered the Rosa for our Taste France 2019 – Aquitaine tours. Tour Two starts with two nights in Bordeaux and an excursion to the Margaux vineyards, then explores the Dordogne, staying in Sarlat for four nights, before joining the Rosa for a six night cruise along the canal that Rick Stein made famous with the BBC’s French Odyssey series. Tour One is fully booked, so the tour departure is guaranteed. It is never too early to start your travel planning ……

Tour TWO – 19 to 31 August 2019 

7300 Euros per person, share twin 

Single – 8000 Euros.

While the Canal de Garonne is the only canal in Aquitaine, both the Lot and Charente rivers are navigable and all three waterways offer rental boat holidays. Le Boat has a very good one way route on the canal between Castelsarrasin (near Montauban) and Le Mas d’Agenais (near Marmande) with an optional side trip up the beautiful Baise River. This is a relatively easy route, with automatic locks, that is achievable over a week, but is better suited to 10-14 day rentals if the Baise river is included. Other rental boat companies only have one base for return cruises, except for Locaboat, which has bases at Agen and Valence-sur-Baise.

Low water levels can sometimes be a problem on the Baise River and on the Charente River near Angouleme, but most of the Charente can be cruised most of the time. It’s a very beautiful waterway with the big attraction of the famous cognac houses in Jarnac and Cognac.

The Lot sometimes has the opposite problem of too much water and strong currents. Only a central 74kms stretch is navigable, but it is a dramatic part of the river, including vineyards, Cahors, La Pech Merle and the cliff-clinging village of St Cirq Lapopie.

Aquitaine also offers several self-guided cycling holidays, ranging from the relatively flat tow-path of the Canal de Garonne from Bordeaux to Toulouse, to the rolling coastal terrain between La Rochelle and Bordeaux, to the more demanding hilly routes in the Dordogne. These are 6 to 7 night holidays, but should be extended with extra nights to appreciate the many sights and charms of La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Toulouse and Sarlat.

Contact us for more information.

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Taste France 2019 – Aquitaine

rosa_1Taste France 2019   –  AQUITAINE

2 to 18 August 2019 and 19 to 31 August 2019 

Taste France 2019 offers a relaxed exploration of south-west France from the luxury of the hotel barge ROSA, which Rick Stein made famous when he cruised the Canal de Garonne for the BBC’s French Odyssey series. Rosa is a Dutch Clipper barge, built in 1907 and completely refitted in 2010 to a high specification. Rosa measures 30 m by 5 m and comfortably accommodates eight guests in two double and two twin ensuite cabins.

Taste France tours are designed for independent people, who enjoy travel, good company, good food and wine with the security of an escort to look after the day to day business of travel.

Taste France tours are a mix of organised sightseeing and free time, allowing everyone the opportunity to pursue their own interests and to relax. Half day excursions are offered from the barge, but they are not compulsory so you can relax on board or explore independently. Most meals are included, but some evenings are free, as we know, from years of over-indulgence, that some nights you just want a simple salad or omelette.

Taste France tours are casual and small with just six guests, accompanied by owner-operators Robert & Barbara.

Taste France 2019 offers a choice of two tours – 

TOUR 1 includes 2 nights in Toulouse, 6 nights on the Rosa, 1 night in Condom, 6 nights on the Rosa and 1 night in Bordeaux – 9600 Euros per person, share twin.

TOUR 2 includes 2 nights in Bordeaux, 4 nights in Sarlat-la-Caneda and 6 nights on the Rosa – 7300 Euros per person, share twin, 8000 Euros single.

Phone or email for your brochure with the daily itineraries, inclusions and terms & conditions. 

BESPOKE FRANCE                                                                                                                       ROBERT BUCHANAN & BARBARA KEEN

52 George St, Port Chalmers  9023 , New Zealand

freephone: 0800 147 856

local phone: 03 472 7856

fax : 03 472 7855

email: info@bespokefrance.co.nz

www.bespokefrance.co.nz

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