My French River Cruise
By Sue Feola, Class of 1975
Secretary of the Frankford Alumni Association
I've been a member of AWS (American Wine Society), Philadelphia chapter, for almost ten years and I have come to enjoy learning about the variety of wines from all over the world and appreciate many of them. A friend and I saw the eight day cruise offered by Viking River Cruises, titled, “Chateaux, Rivers & Wine,” and realized this would be perfect!
Our trip began with an overnight flight from Philadelphia to Paris, and then a connecting flight to Bordeaux. Upon arrival there was a bus waiting for us with a trip to the town of Bordeaux and our long ship, the Forsetti, awaited us at the port. It was truly a beautiful ship, with only three floors, and no more than 300 guests aboard.
Sue Feola - Left
The cruise included all the great wine regions of Bordeaux with stops at Pauillac, Blaye, Libourne, and Cadillac. We traveled on two rivers, the Gironde and the Dordogne.
We were blessed with excellent weather throughout the duration, with a little rain one day when we visited the modern Cite du Vin (Wine Museum) in the town of Bordeaux!
A typical day would begin with a full French buffet breakfast on board the ship and then a morning excursion. One day we went off to a privately owned chateau for a tour and lunch on the grounds.
Of course, wine is included with all meals! We then boarded a bus and took a trip to the lovely medieval village of Saint-Emillion, which was a highlight for me!
I love history, and a monk founded this village in the 8th century. It was built on a hillside with an upper and lower town and many steep walkways. They have beautiful old churches and one was a monolith, actually carved into the limestone rock! The village is known for it’s wine-making and we purchased some while there.
Dinners on board our ship had at least three main entrée selections with sides and dessert. Of course wine was included. I enjoyed several fresh seafood dishes, especially the local catch of the day. Every meal was fabulous!
I learned that wine making has been the foundation of this region of France for hundreds of years. There are over 8,000 wine-producing châteaux (estates), each with their own particular varieties of grapes and flavors. Most wines are aged in oak barrels; some are aged in stainless steel.
I would highly recommend anyone considering a river cruise to use the Viking Cruise Lines. The ship was beautiful and spotless, and every staff member we encountered was courteous and helpful.
The only negative experience I had was booking an extra excursion to a resort town on the bay. It had the potential to be wonderful, but the bus ride was way too long, over three hours, and we were rushed and did not have enough time to really enjoy our visit.
So I would not recommend booking any land excursions that take you far from your port. Other than that, I am anticipating my next trip, possibly on the Mediterranean, someday soon.