France: Bordeaux River Cruise

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Until recently, my only real cruise experience consisted of a Disney cruise and a large boat cruise along the St. Lawrence river during a heat wave. To say the least, cruising had not impressed me – until now. My husband and I spent one lovely week aboard the brand-new Uniworld S.S. Bon Voyage with the Brilliant Bordeaux itinerary. A few nights in Paris post-cruise didn’t hurt either.

The SS Bon Voyage is elegant and refined with a decidedly 1930’s French vibe in the décor and some of the most comfortable “hotel” beds I’ve ever experienced. Uniworld is known for their fine cuisine, and we weren’t disappointed during our 7 days dining onboard. Lunch in the café on the sun deck was a favorite. Who can resist a build-your-own nicoise salad bar with local cheeses and freshly baked tarte flambé each day?  Dinner in the main dining room was elegant, and the menu changed nightly.

Excursions were offered every day and were included (along with all gratuities!) with the cruise. A few of our favorite stops:

St. Emilion, a UNESCO World Heritage site whose history dates back to pre-historic times. A tour of Saint Emilion’s cave, the catacombs, and the Monolithic Church is a must. Small shops, restaurants and wine merchants are everywhere. The town itself is worth a night or two to explore and is a perfect base for touring the nearby Chateaux. We found friendly service and a few wines to take home with us at Vignoble et Chateaux, right in the middle of town. Another fun stop is Les Cordeliers, a former Franciscan cloister which still makes sparkling wine that you can taste in their expansive shop/tasting room.

Blaye Citadelle, where we watched Bastille Day fireworks from the top deck of the ship on our first night.

Bordeaux, which I can best describe as a mini-Paris as Baron Haussmann used the architecture and stately avenues as his inspiration for the redesign of Paris. Don’t miss the gorgeous Basilique St. Michel and the imposing Grand Theatre, the charming neighborhood of Les Chatrons and excellent antique shops around Rue Notre Dame or the amazing Cité du Vin, a museum dedicated to the culture and creation of wine the world over.

Chateau Malromé, the home of Henri Toulouse Lautrec’s mother and the place where he spent his summers as well as where he died.

Sadly, our time in Bordeaux was over too soon, but we spent the following three nights in Paris, which is always a good thing. Highlights include:

Ateliers des Lumieres, an exhibit that I hope will be extended into eternity

Musée des Arts Decoratif (both the main museum and the Nissim de Camondo house, both excellent)

Drinks at Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Paris hotel, which might now be my favorite bar on earth (be forewarned, they take their dress code seriously. No shorts please!)

a delightful seafood tower and bottle of Pouilly Fumé with a fabulous view of the Eiffel tower on the terrace at Girafe

the best steak frites of the entire trip at Chez Georges (1 Rue de Mail). Julia Child was not wrong about that place, though if you want to eat with the Parisians, make a reservation for 8:30 or later.

Even with the stifling summer heat Paris was a delight as always and Bordeaux was a real surprise, definitely worth a return to explore more and a trip I won’t soon forget.

Morgan, July 2019

Caroline Travels the World…And So Can You.