8 nights and 9 daysDiscover the food and wine of south-western France, staying in four different hotels in the regions of Aquitaine and Midi-Pyrenees. Start near Bordeaux, a city whose name is synonymous with fine wine, before driving to the Lot river valley, the vineyards of Tarn, and finally a coastal town in the Basque Country. Stay for two nights in each location, with the option to dine in each hotel’s gastronomically excellent restaurant.Click here to download a pdf with information about some of our suggested French touring holidays.Fly from London to Bordeaux, where you collect your hire car. Drive under half an hour to Le Saint-James, a unique Relais & Châteaux property on a hillside perch in the village of Bouliac. As the largest wine-growing area in France, the Bordeaux region is home to numerous high quality wine merchants who offer cellar visits and wine tastings, whilst seven Michelin-starred restaurants can be found in the city of Bordeaux itself. Following a two night stay at Le Saint-James, drive around ninety miles south west to the charming town of Villeneuve-sur-Lot. Here you will find Le Moulin de Madame, a peaceful hotel occupying a converted 18th century mill in a plot beside the River Lot. Spend two nights enjoying the local specialities at Le Moulin de Madame before continuing further east to Le Château de Salettes, a superb wine-making hotel which is located amidst the rolling countryside and fertile vineyards of the Tarn Valley where you will stay for two nights. Drive southwards through Toulouse towards the Spanish border, before turning west and heading to Saint-Jean-de-Luz in the French Basque Country. Here you stay at Parc Victoria, an intimate four-star hotel which is set in stunning landscaped gardens and just a short walk from the golden sands of the Bay of Biscay. After two nights at Parc Victoria, head northwards to Bordeaux airport where you return your hire car and catch your flight back to the United Kingdom.
PRICESPrices from £1250 per person for 8 nights on a bed and breakfast basisWhat’s included:Two nights’ bed and breakfast at Le Saint-James in BouliacTwo nights’ bed and breakfast at Le Moulin de Madame in Villeneuve-sur-LotTwo nights’ bed and breakfast at Le Château de Salettes near GaillacTwo nights’ bed and breakfast at Parc Victoria in Saint-Jean-de-LuzScheduled return flights from London Gatwick to BordeauxHire of a Group A car for 8 daysSupplement for half board for 4 nights: £250 per personHalf board supplement includes 5 course dinner with 2 glasses of wine at Le Saint-James and dinner at Le Moulin de Madame.
Day-by-Day itineraryDAYS ONE TO TWOFly into Bordeaux and spend two nights in Bouliac at the Le Saint-James hotelPerfectly situated for tasting the best of the Bordeaux wines, Le Saint-James is the ideal first stop for this touring holiday. Its elegant restaurant boasts floor-to-ceiling windows that take full advantage of the rural views which form the backdrop for the fine dining offered by the hotel’s Michelin-starred Chef, Nicolas Magie. Here you can enjoy dishes inspired by the Aquitaine region and wines from throughout the country which are featured on the extensive wine list. You can also try the house wine which is produced using grapes from the vineyards to the west of the hotel, and take tours of the wine cellar with the sommelier, sampling the numerous wines and champagnes. At harvest time, you also have the chance to learn about the process of wine production from start to finish, from the picking of the grapes by hand to winemaking in the hotel’s cellar. The Château Rauzan Gassies and the Château Mouton Rothschild are very popular locations for tasting the local wines; the best of which are the fruity Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. If the opportunity arises at a wine-tasting session, be sure to smell the aroma of coffee and vanilla that long-aged barrelled wines from this region develop. Follow the Gironde Estuary north to find the likes of Margaux and the Médoc Peninsula, among other smaller vineyards, or head east out of Bordeaux to find the internationally renowned vineyard of Saint-Émilion and its many prestigious châteaux. The best wines of the area really are ripe for the tasting, with the exquisite cuisine of Le Saint-James to accompany them. For a brief taste of the heritage of Bordeaux, we would highly recommend the Château de Lanquais, reputed to be one of the greatest historical monuments of the area, or the Amphithéâtre de Bordeaux dit Palais Gallien, as well as the Opera House, Cathedral, and Basilica.DAYS THREE TO FOURDrive from Bordeaux south to Villeneuve-sur-Lot, and spend two nightsThe chic and contemporary Le Moulin de Madame plays regular host to a number of live performances of music, positioning it as a hotel of great cultural involvement, and an all-round enjoyable place to stay. The restaurant’s outdoor terrace appears to overhang the river, offering a very unique and atmospheric dining experience; alternatively, sit inside to take advantage of the wall-to-wall windows. Opt for the ‘chef’s surprise,’ comprised of dishes based on your personal tastes that use the freshest produce available, in order to discover a whole new palate of tastes and flavours. Visit local markets to buy the prunes from nearby Agen, the ‘black wine’ of Cahors, and other locally grown ingredients such as saffron, walnuts and melons, or head into Villeneuve-sur-Lot itself to discover the produce of the local bakers. Travelling east out of Villeneuve-sur-Lot will bring you to the Cahors wine area, with the famous estates of Château de Chambert in Floressas and the Château du Cèdre in Bru, the latter producing wholly organic wine from grapes that are still picked by hand. To sample some veritably fine wine from the region, seek out the Clos Triguedina wines. Should you desire to experience some of the history of the area first-hand, head either to the Bonaguil Castle near Duravel to see its impressive military architecture and one of the largest towers in France, or to the Millau Viaduct which crosses the Tarn Valley, linking the Causse du Larzac with the Causse Rouge.DAYS FIVE TO SIXDrive to the Gaillac vineyards and stay for two nightsSet in the heart of the Gaillac vineyards, Le Château de Salettes produces its very own red and white wines which can be sampled along with a selection of other wines from the cellar. The Michelin-starred restaurant serves creative and refined cuisine, with a tasting menu that allows guests to sample an assortment of dishes, accompanied by matching wines. Cahuzac-sur-Vère, the official home of the Château des Salettes, is known for its sugared almonds, biscuits with jam, and the excellence of its chocolatiers, making it the ideal gastronomic stop-off point for any food-lover with a sweet tooth. Drive out to the Musée de l’Art et du Sucre in the Maison Prunet at Cordes-sur-Ciel to see the high quality sugar products and chocolate turned into works of art. As home to some of the most renowned wine estates in the area, Cahuzac-sur-Vère itself has much to offer. To whet the appetite, perhaps, visit the Domaine des Tres Cantous and sample the Vin d’Autan and Vin de Voile. Venture out into the Gaillac vineyards to discover the fairy-tale, fortified villages and their particular wines. Famous as the area is for its dry and sweet white wines, look out for Mauzac, Ondenc, Muscadelle, Sauvignon, and Loin de l’Oeil on your travels. For a concise overview of everything wine-related that Gaillac has to offer, head into the town itself, and the Maison des Vins de Gaillac, to learn more about the wider variety of grapes grown in the area and to taste more of the wine available.DAYS SEVEN TO EIGHT Drive southwest to Saint-Jean-de-Luz, and stay for two nightsThe Parc Victoria is a small, art-deco hotel, perfect for exclusive and luxury getaways. The hotel’s poolside restaurant offers its guests the chance to sample traditional Basque cuisine with a modern twist in-keeping with the hotel’s contemporary style. The seaside town is home to a whole range of outstanding dining options, with an emphasis on fresh fish and seafood, whilst just over the Spanish border is San Sebastiàn, known as being one of the great food capitals of Europe and home to seven Michelin-starred restaurants. Local specialities, and therefore dishes to look out for, include Ttoro, a type of Basque fricassee featuring cod, tuna, and angler fish, as well as Chipirons, which are small stuffed squid served with tomatoes. Specific to Saint-Jean-de-Luz are the small, light macaroons called Mouchous, named after the Basque word for kisses. Kanouga, a black chocolate or coffee caramel, is, like Mouchous, a local invention and another treat for those with a sweet tooth.DAY NINEDrive north back to Bordeaux for your return flightLeave Saint-Jean-de-Luz after one last meal in the poolside restaurant, ready for the flight back to the UK from Bordeaux. Driving times for this touring holidayBordeaux airport to Bouliac: 20 minutesBouliac to Villeneuve-sur-Lot: 1 hour 45 minutesVilleneuve-sur-Lot to Gaillac: 2 hours 15 minutesGaillac to Saint-Jean-de-Luz: 3 hours 30 minutesSaint-Jean-de-Luz to Bordeaux airport: 2 hours
Below is some information regarding each of the hotels featured in this touring itinerary. Alternative hotels are available in some destinations - please contact us for full details.Le Saint-JamesBouliac, near BordeauxThis Relais & Châteaux property is a unique find on a hillside perch on the borders of the sleepy village of Bouliac, just outside Bordeaux. Le Saint-James’ unusual architecture was designed by Jean Nouvel to resemble the tobacco-drying barns of the region, where the original 18th century farmhouse buildings contrast industrial-style pavilions – home to the guestrooms. From here the views are spectacular, sloping through orderly vineyards across the fields to Bordeaux. The 15 rooms and 3 suites feature a sparse décor with white walls and bed linens allowing the colours of the landscape to stand out. A marvellous feature of the rooms is that the beds stand elevated to the level of panoramic windows, allowing sunrise views to greet you when you wake. You can opt to take breakfast in bed to make the most of your unique accommodation. At the restaurant, floor-to-ceiling windows take advantage of the hotel’s westward-facing aspect, and sunlight and rural beauty becomes the backdrop for fine dining from Michelin-starred Chef Nicolas Magie. Here you can enjoy dishes inspired by the Aquitaine region, filled with market ingredients. For more low-key dining, it is a short walk to the authentic village cafeteria Le Café de l’Espérance for hearty, home cooked goods from specials lists chalked onto blackboards. Both venues are run by Le Saint-James and serve the home-grown house wine, Vin du Jardin. Food and wine is central to the Le Saint-James experience with a service that includes tours of the wine cellar’s 2000 labels, wine tasting and the exclusive addition of a cookery school. Côte Cours operates a schedule of events that is suitable for all ages and abilities, with thematic classes led by the sous-chef to Nicolas Magie. The pristine conservatory setting of the teaching kitchen even hosts a ‘Little Chefs’ package for youngsters to be introduced to the French Classics. Le Saint-James is perfect for guests seeking a rural lifestyle with emphasis on good food and good wine, while access to urban Bordeaux is just a stone’s throw away.Find out more here.Le Moulin de MadameVilleneuve-sur-lotOccupying a converted mill built in the 18th century, Le Moulin de Madame offers a peaceful atmosphere and beautiful views from its riverside plot. Erected in 1769 and in operation until 1977, the structure once held the bustling energy of a thriving industry. Now the atmosphere is intimate and personal, and the service is geared towards ensuring that guests enjoy a special stay. Guestrooms range from Single Rooms to Deluxe Suites spread over nine different houses, each holding a country-style décor that is quite contemporary. With a soft colour scheme and cosy furnishings, the environment is both comfortable and romantic. Many expand into individual gardens through French windows. Wherever you go within Le Moulin de Madame, the locks are made a feature. Nowhere is this more so than at Restaurant L’Écluse, where the outdoor terrace appears to overhang the river, while the restaurant interior boasts wall-to-wall windows. Here you can indulge in the freshest local produce from an exciting and enticing menu in a stylish setting with exposed red brick and dramatic, contemporary fittings. Homemade cocktails are available in the bar and the wine cellar is an intimate nook for two to enjoy a romantic tipple. Hidden away is a spa, where a full range of spa and beauty treatments are available. Other facilities include a fitness centre, hammam and whirlpool bath.Le Château de SalettesGaillacThe delightful four-star Château de Salettes is set in the heart of the Gaillac vineyards on a chalk outcrop, just a 15-minute drive from Cordes-sur-Ciel and 30 minutes from Albi. The hotel dates back to the 13th century and seamlessly blends a traditional château exterior with a modern interior décor. The Château de Salettes occupies an idyllically rural setting amidst the Tarn countryside, with far-reaching views over pastoral landscapes of rolling hills clad in vines. The outdoor swimming pool and sun terrace sit atop a rocky spur, affording the ultimate in privacy, tranquillity and panoramas whilst, indoors, a range of beauty treatments are available. The 13 rooms and five suites at the Château de Salettes are contemporary in design, with a minimalist feel and a light, neutral colour scheme. Varying in size and outlook, the rooms are situated in the main château and tower, featuring air conditioning, mini-bar, WiFi, telephone, television and king-size beds. Some also have a Jacuzzi bath. The Château des Salettes in Tarn boasts a Michelin-starred restaurant with al fresco dining on the shaded terrace in warmer months, accompanied, of course, by some of the finest local vintages.Find out more here.Hôtel Parc VictoriaSaint-Jean-de-LuzAbout 5 minute’s walk from the seafront in a quiet residential area is the charming Hôtel Parc Victoria, surrounded by a beautiful park and gardens. Built in the 1880s the villa has one of the most remarkable authentic interiors ever seen in an hotel. Almost entirely in art deco style, the Hôtel Parc Victoria is full of antiques and has retained the feel of an elegant private house. There are just 20 rooms and suites, all with private bathroom and air conditioning. There is a charming lounge and breakfast room in the main villa and a very pretty garden dining room in a separate building near the swimming pool. The dining room serves a menu of the day from about Euro 38 in the evening as well as lunch time lighter meals, ideal if you’re spending the day by the pool. Almost as outstanding a feature as the villa itself is the wonderful garden. In the English style, the garden is the piece de resistance of the Hôtel Parc Victoria, bursting with trees, shrubs and flowers, it is cared for with as much individual love and attention as the villa itself. The Hôtel Parc Victoria is a member of Relais and Châteaux. Early booking recommended.Find out more here.
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