What better way to start your cruise than with time strolling the sandy beaches and delightful ocean promenade of Biarritz. Travel on the pretty La Rhune Mountain railway as it winds its way through the Pyrenees to rise above the low clouds in the dramatic mountains. Then swap the sea for the Garonne and Dordogne, two of France's most scenic rivers, as you enjoy a relaxing cruise through one of Europe's most famous wine regions.
Meet your group and Tour Manager at London St Pancras ahead of our journey to Paris on the Eurostar. Once in Paris we continue by rail through to Biarritz, checking into our hotel on arrival.
Your first full day in Biarritz is free to begin exploring. The resort, with its sweeping promenade and vast beaches, offers a range of activities for you to enjoy. You might like to try your luck in the casino, or visit the town's lighthouse. If you're feeling energetic, you could perhaps take a stroll past the atmospheric Old Port to Rocher de la Vierge, a statue on a rocky headland said to protect the safe return of local fishermen, now connected to the town by a footbridge.
On today's excursion we travel by coach to Col de Saint-Ignace, where we connect with the superb Petit Train de la Rhune. This classic rack-and-pinion railway takes us through the dramatic Atlantic Pyrenees in lovingly restored wooden carriages - overcoming a height difference of 2,415 feet during the journey. The route takes us through steep-sided rocky valleys, with a fabulous panorama over the rolling meadows and impressive foothills of the nearby Basque region. Before long we arrive at the summit of La Rhune, which not only marks the border between France and Spain, but at 3,000 feet also offers a magnificent panorama over the Bay of Biscay. After time to admire the views, we descend the mountain then continue to the lively fishing port of St Jean-de- Luz.
Here you have a little time to explore; perhaps take a stroll along the promenade and watch the charming fishing boats bring their catch back to the sheltered harbour. Otherwise, the medieval centre is a delight to wander around. We enjoy a 3-course lunch with wine in a local restaurant before returning to Biarritz.
Following breakfast in the hotel, we make our way back to the railway station in time for our train to Bordeaux - the centre of one of the world's most famous wine regions and set on the banks of the Garonne. Here we transfer to our floating hotel for 6 nights, the MS Cyrano de Bergerac. After time to settle in, we are greeted with a welcome cocktail before tonight's 3-course dinner is served, accompanied by free-flowing wine and followed by an evening of entertainment on board.
This morning we cruise into the scenic Gironde Estuary, passing the scattering of traditional wooden fishing huts dotted around the attractive inlets, such as Cazeau Island and pretty Patiras Island. After taking in these charming scenes at a relaxed pace, we arrive in Pauillac, a sleepy port whose quayside is lined with grand stone houses. Following lunch on board we visit the renowned Médoc wine region on an included excursion. Here some of the world's most celebrated red wines are cultivated, grown in sloping vineyards overlooking the river.
The excursion follows the famous Châteaux Route, with views of the area's noted stately homes, including the spectacular château of Lafite- Rothschild which is owned by members of this wealthy and famous family since the 1800s. Back on board, this evening we enjoy a dinner of scrumptious French cuisine.
After another delicious breakfast, we board a coach bound for Rochefort. It's position on the banks of the Charente River have made it an important maritime destination for centuries, and during our time here, we take a tour that delves into this intriguing past. Entrance is also included to the Corderie Royale, an historic rope-making factory that was the very first industrial building in the country and supplied the French navy for over 300 years.
We continue to one of the most historically important seaports on the European Atlantic coast, La Rochelle. After a lovely lunch at a local restaurant, we set out on a tour exploring the natural and man-made architecture that makes this destination so unique. This is followed by some free time, during which you may like to explore the Old Town and harbour area or visit one of the city's many museums. Back on board, we begin sailing along the Dordogne River to Libourne.
Early this morning leave Blaye and join the peaceful Dordogne River on the way to the wine town of Libourne. Disembarking, travel to St Emilion for a guided tour before visiting the exceptional Troglodyte cave of St Emilion himself. You'll then call at a family-run vineyard for a tasting of the popular regional wine.
Arrive in the marvellous walled town of Cadillac on Day 8, boasting a rich history dating back to the 13th century. Here you have a choice of excursions. You could take a tour of Roquetaillade Château, a magnificent medieval monument, followed by a tasting of the local Sauternes wine and a guided tour of Cadillac, or head for the hills on an energetic hike through the distinctive countryside surrounding the town. Admire panoramic views of the Garonne River alongside landscapes of lilting vineyards before stopping at a family-run farm for a wine paring session.
Following a relaxed morning on board, this afternoon we arrive back in Bordeaux, a beautiful city brimming with 18th-century grandeur. With its broad boulevards and quaint Old Town, the UNESCO-protected city boasts an exciting diversity that's palpable in many of its attractions. We embark on a city tour for some deeper insight into Bordeaux's history. Alternatively, you are free to explore at your own pace. Back on board this evening, we enjoy a gala dinner, the perfect end to our holiday.
After a final breakfast on board, this morning we disembark and transfer to Bordeaux station. Here we take the high-speed train to Paris, where we connect with the Eurostar service back to London St Pancras International.
Whether you are planning a holiday in the UK, mainland Europe or further afield, a Rail Discoveries tour offers you a superb way to experience some of the world's most beautiful destinations. You can watch the wonderful and ever-changing scenery glide past; after all, rail journeys often go where no other form of transport can.
Rail Discoveries believe that experience counts – and as part of the Great Rail Journeys group, they have over 45 years of it. They create interesting and exciting holidays, combining the best or most scenic rail journeys with conveniently located hotels and inclusive excursions so that you enjoy the journey out and back as much as your time exploring each new destination.
One of the most important features of a Rail Discoveries holiday is the added value that the friendly, helpful and knowledgeable Tour Managers bring to every tour, allowing you to sit back, relax and enjoy your holiday with the knowledge that everything is in capable hands.
You have the peace of mind of 100% financial protection when you book with Rail Discoveries. Their price promise provides transparency and ensures once your booking is confirmed, they won’t increase the price of your holiday, even if their costs go up. They are members of the Association of Independent Tour Operators and flight-inclusive holidays are ATOL or ABTOT protected, while non-flight-inclusive holidays are protected by ABTOT.
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