For Nora & Mark

June 2015.

French wine country

Dear Nora,

Your knowledge of French, wine, and art make you a dream traveler for French wine country. I have planned a journey for you that will take you a little way off the beaten path, exploring the crème de la crème that the French coast has to offer, as well as hidden jewels. You will have the opportunity to speak with locals, taste the freshest of seafood, and absorb architecture, design, and landscapes to quench your thirst for aesthetic experience.

Day 1: Arrival in Bordeaux

Upon arrival in Bordeaux, you will be met by your guide, Camille, who will bring you to the Grand Hotel Bordeaux, a lovely hotel with rooms designed by Jacques Garcia. Located just across from the Opera where the Orchestre National de Bordeaux-Aquitaine performs in this newly refurbished city, the Grand Hotel is known for its rooftop spa and gourmet restaurant, Le Pressoir d’Argent.

Day 2: Wine day

Though many venture out to various wineries for a tour and a tasting, what I have designed for you is a much more intimate meander through the sublime world of the top Bordeaux chateaux. Based on your wine knowledge and preferences and other interests—architecture, gardens, art, interior design, and music—I have created a day where you will visit two or three of the top chateaux by helicopter. At each chateaux, you will dine either in the cave, in the kitchen, or on a picnic at a trestle table in the vineyard. I also suggest that Camille might take you up to St. Emilion or into the cognac region. One of the real advantages of traveling by helicopter, apart from the ease of access, is the possibility of viewing the geological features of the different terroirs.

Return to Bordeaux in the afternoon and prepare yourself for an evening at the Opera with reserved seats in a private box for your group through a partnership with the Chateau Haut-Bailly.

Day 3: Coast

West of Bordeaux are the wide Atlantic beaches, stretching as far as the eye can see. The Baie d’Arcachon, often referred to as the ‘Maine of France’ is a beautiful region with fishing villages, beautiful sand dunes, the understated but stylish town of Cape Ferret at the northern tip. Here, you can find the oysters for which this region is so well known. We will provide you with a boat and skipper, and you will venture out into the Bassin and run along the coast to Cape Ferret. Your skipper will drop you in a gorgeous spot, Le banc d’Arguin, for a picnic lunch prepared by our chef. The meal will, of course, include oysters and all of the other seafood delicacies you enjoy. In the afternoon you will visit the Criée where fishermen gather. This is a great chance to get to know the locals. After greeting the fishermen, spend some time here chatting with the ostreïculteurs, who grow oysters.

Dine tonight at the Corniche that stands on the Dune du Pyla. Decorated by the designer Philippe Stark, it has an unparalleled view of the Banc d’Arguin and the Bassin.

Day 4: The Dordogne

Head east this morning in to the Dordogne, a lovely area with hills and hilltop villages, prehistoric caves, and markets, the most famous of which is the market of Sarlat, which dates back to the Middle Ages. Depending on your interests today, you may wish to visit the magnificent painted Paleolithic Cave of Lascaux (the original is now closed entirely to the public, but the remarkably identical replica of the cave, Lascaux II, is well worth a visit). I have reserved a late lunch so that you can have a long morning of sightseeing and an afternoon to enjoy slowly. When you’re ready, enjoy a splendid meal, and then take your afternoon at a slower pace, with a leisurely drive through the impressive landscape of Rocamadour before returning to the hotel.

Day 5: Market visit

For your last day, I have built in some flexibility. The delicious edibiles you’ve enjoyed may inspire you to spend another day in Bordeaux, delving into the cuisine. If so, I can arrange for a local market visit and a cooking lesson. If you would like to continue your journey, drive southeast along the coast towards the Spanish border. Stop in Bayonne and walk along the river to view its iconic red and green painted timber and plaster houses and then continue on to Biarritz.

Nora, it has been my pleasure to plan this itinerary for your trip to Bordeaux and the French coast. Please feel free to contact me at any time, should the need arise.