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Bordeaux – Wine, Rivers and Chateaux by Boat and Bike Rupert Parker cruises down the Dordogne River and up the Gironde, stopping off every day to cycle around a different Bordeaux wine region. There’s the added bonus of popping into different Chateaux and sampling famous wines like Margaux, Pomerol, Sauternes, Médoc and Saint-Émilion.
The first day’s cycling is an easy 10km to the medieval town of Saint-Émilion, through rows of vines stretching all the way to the horizon. Indeed grapes will be my constant companion throughout the week and the joy of cycling is that it’s easy to drop into a chateau and request a tasting. It’s too early for that so I take a tour of some of the 200 km of catacombs and visit the most impressive underground church in Europe. Emilian was an 8th century Bendictine monk from Brittany who sought refuge in one of caves here. He is said to have performed many miracles and he became so famous they named the village after him. In the evening we sail downriver to Bourg, a fortified village on a rocky outcrop at the confluence of the Dordogne and Garonne. On board I get to do my own wine tasting as they have a selection of Bordeaux wines available by the glass or the bottle. They feature a different wine every night, at a slightly reduced price, although I would suggest that their “happy hour” should take place before the meal, rather than after. Nevertheless the food’s pretty good, hearty enough to sustain even the most avid cyclist. The transfer from Bordeaux airport is less than an hour and I join the boat at Liborne on the Dordogne River. It’s a 78m river cruiser, aptly named Bordeaux and takes up to 96 guests in 49 cabins, all with en-suite facilities. I’m introduced to my bike, fitted out with helmet, lock and pannier and I’m ready to roll. The clever idea is that you cycle by day and sleep on board at night whilst the ship reaches its next destination. The rain’s held off so far but next morning the storm clouds are looming as I meander through the vineyards of Cote du Bourg, then Cote du Blaye to the town of the same name. It now begins to pour, but the immense fortifications of the citadel provide ample shelter. This military complex was designed by Vauban, the famous French military engineer, and was constructed between 1685 and 1689. It was designed to repel attackers coming from the Atlantic and has a tremendous view of the Gironde estuary, the largest in Europe.
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