Tour de France 2018 Hotel Barge Savannah Canal du Midi

Join a unique cruise with Hotel Barge Savannah dedicated to the 2018 Tour de France. Cruise on the Canal du Midi and enjoy all the action with luxury accommodation and service aboard a 5 star hotel barge.

Savannah’s week-long cruise for a party of up to six guests will be from 22 – 28 July 2018. The tour itself will spend 3 days in Carcassonne, the world famous medieval city, the most intact in Europe, and a must-see destination.

Tour de France hotel barge savannah Canal du Midi 2018

Stage 16 of the Tour de France starts from Millau and wends its way south-westwards to Carcassonne and on towards Pau. The stage is 2,375km in length covering varied terrain along valleys and up into the Pyrennées.

Tout de France 2018 hotel barge savannah Canal du Midi

Savannah’s cruise will be from Bram towards Carcassonne. Two to five days will be spent there and the cruise will finish at Puicheric or Trèbes.

The Cruise itinerary will include excursions to the Chàteau Pennautier, the ancient Cité de Carcassonne and the historic and bustling city of Narbonne. See the standard itinerary here.

Savannah’s Tour de France cruise offers you the chance to cycle the same route with a professional guide in safety, with the added incentive of delicious meals and superb accommodation on your cruise – with fascinating excursions along one of the most iconic waterways in the world. Included in the cruise:

  • Professional Carbon racing cycles on board, adapted to each guests exact requirements
  • Guided cycling tours with a professional cyclist on sections of the tour course (with back-up technical support). One outing of up to 2 – 4 hours every day.
  • Visit either the BMC or TREK cycling team during the Tour de France rest day in Carcassonne on 22 July.
  • Branded Cycling gear (guests to bring only their shoes, pedals and helmets)

Tour de France hotel barge Savannah cruise Canal du Midi 2018

Savannah will be delighted to adapt the cruise according to your requirements. Of course, this needs discussion well in advance.

Price, for a charter for 6 guests: 30 000 EUR / 36 000 USD

For more information and to book this Tour de France cruise, email us or call 0044 7590 287 178

SS Catherine Uniworld Avignon french-waterways
The SS Catherine cruises past the Pont d’Avignon, river Rhone, Provence

Join a small party for an all-inclusive escorted cruise through Provence aboard the SS Catherine from Uniworld. See the sights and enjoy all the pleasures of French wining and dining as you float along the majestic river Rhone.

The Cruise: Avignon to Lyon on the River Rhône, 6 – 13 May 2018

Explore ancient cities, iconic landmarks and gorgeous countryside, with excellent cuisine and wine-tastings. This cruise includes transfers from Marseilles to Avignon and Lyon, all meals on board and daily excursions to remarkable sights in Provence and the Burgundy wine-region.

SS Catherine Uniworld Route Map

Your Escort: Clare Dudley, CEO, Ponders Travel

Clare Dudley cruise provence

Clare is a delightful and highly experienced cruising expert and will be your escort throughout the cruise. Clare will meet you at Marseilles and travel with you to SS Catherine to be your on-board guide for the week, advising on excursions, making sure that all goes smoothly and that you get the most out of every glorious second. And her services won’t cost you a penny more!

Clare Dudley has 30 years of experience and achievement in the travel industry, recently winning the prestigious CLIA Cruise Manager of the Year Award.

The SS Catherine
5 Cabin Categories – cruise in your own style

With accommodation on three decks and a huge partly-shaded sun-deck, you’ll cruise gently through the Provençal region in luxurious style and great company. All the suites and cabins are spacious, with comfy beds, stylish furniture and sumptuous fabrics. The social areas, with exquisite furnishings and original art, are designed to be as inspiring as the destinations you’ll visit. All the modern luxuries combine with Uniworld’s renowned top quality hospitality and cuisine on this high-value 5* cruise.

Uniworld SS Catherine Stateroom suite

SS Catherine Uniworld Cezanne restaurant

SS Catherine Uniworld Van Gogh lounge provence burgundy

The Itinerary

DAY 1: Avignon (Embark)
Arrive at Marseille international airport to be met and transferred to SS Catherine moored in Avignon.

DAY 2: Arles or Avignon
A choice of two sun-drenched Provençal towns to explore today. Arles, founded in 6th century BC by the Greeks, was where the Romans built their first bridge across the Rhône to link Italy with Spain. The Provençal sunlight of Arles so inspired Van Gogh that he painted some 200 paintings there. Tarascon has many medieval sites include a 12th-century church and a 15th-century castle rich with tales of a beloved ruler.
A special Captain’s Welcome Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

DAY 3: Avignon or Pont du Gard walking tours
The walled city of Avignon is one of the most fascinating towns in southern France, home to the medieval bridge immortalized in the folk song “Sur le Pont d’Avignon,” as well as the mighty Palace of the Popes.
Alternatively, take the discovery tour to the Pont du Gard, part of an astonishing 30-mile aqueduct from Uzès to Nîmes bult by the Romans to transport spring water over the River Gardon. Dating from the 1st century and still standing, this is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Or, for the more active, try a kayak ride on the river Gardon itself, spotting trout and river birds on its clear waters. Paddle from Collias to Remoulins, ending with a fabulous view of the tri-span Pont du Gard (May to September only).

Medieval village of Viviers, river Rhone, Provence - SS Catherine, Uniworld Cruise
Medieval village of Viviers, river Rhone, Provence

DAY 4: Viviers
An excursion today to an authentic riverside village which curiously claims the smallest cathedral in France. Viviers was founded over 1,600 years and your guide will lead you through its fascinating medieval streets, some narrow enough to touch both sides, and introduce you to local artisans for an inspiring step into the past in this historic and charming community.

DAY 5: Tournon and Tain-l’Hermitage
Today, your choice of excursions to towns on either side of the river in this Côtes du Rhône region, known for its wonderful wines made from the Syrah grape.
Tournon is steeped in history, founded with a hilltop castle and home to wealthy merchants in times past.

Or, just across the pretty flower-decked Marc Seguin suspension bridge take a guided tour of Tain-l’Hermitage its sun-drenched vineyards and the local wine cellars. You’ll taste the region’s famous Saint-Joseph and Crozes-Hermitage wines and have time to browse the shops – and the Valrhona chocolate factory is always a popular stop.

DAY 6: Lyon

As the epicenter of French gastronomy, Lyon has plenty to offer with its bouchons and specialty food shops and the legendary main market, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. Discover its culinary riches with a guided tour.

Uniworld SS Catherine Cuisine 2

Or,
Lyon’s history is entwined with silk, which dominated the city’s economy for centuries. Discover a Jacquard loom still in use and explore the secret passage-ways (les traboules) of the Old Town with your guide.

And/or
The confluence of the Saone and the Rhone provide Lyon with excellent cycle paths beside the rivers. Take this opportunity to explore Lyon on two wheels and at your own pace.

SS Catherine Uniworld Beaune Burgundy

DAY 7: Mâcon and Beaune

As the cruise approaches Burgundy take a walking tour of Macon, an ancient riverside town and an important trading centre since the Celts founded it 2,200 years ago. It’s also famous and as the birthplace of photography with a must-see museum

Or,
Take an excursion to Beaune in the heart of the Côte d’Or and the capital of the region’s wine trade. It’s renowned for its history, beauty, highly-prized wines, open-air farmers market and its medieval hospital, the Hospices de Beaune with its famous multi-coloured tiled roof, typical of Burgundy.

A special Captain’s Farewell Reception and Dinner will be prepared for you this evening.

Uniworld SS Catherine Chefs provence burgundy

DAY 8: Lyon and Departure

Disembark the ship for transfer to Lyon–Saint-Exupéry airport for your flight home. Alternatively, you can continue your adventure with an extension to sparkling Paris.

Pricing

1 – Open Air Balcony   4,549 GBP pp
2 – French Balcony      4,249 GBP pp
3 – French Balcony      4,049 GBP pp
4 – Riverview               3,449 GBP pp
5 – Riverview               3,349 GBP pp

PLUS, EXCLUSIVE TO THIS ESCORTED CRUISE, 100 GBP per person to spend on board.

For more information and to book this cruise, contact Clare Dudley on 0044 954 232 802.

 

A festive recipe for a French Christmas filled with fine food and wineWith Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to start shopping and preparing for perhaps the most important meal of the year: Christmas dinner. In France, it takes places on Christmas Eve and lasts well into the small hours of Christmas morning. Known as Réveillon, a traditional French Christmas dinner always includes good company, a table dressed for the occasion and groaning with lots (and lots) of rich and delicious food. Read on to discover what’s on the plates and in the glasses.

Festive recipes for starters

Christmas and oysters are practically synonyms in France, especially in Paris where no discerning host or hostess would dare entertain for the festive season without a sizeable platter of huîtres. They’re served on a bed of ice and with a twist of lemon, and the French consume kilos and kilos of them at Christmas.

Serving suggestion: some connoisseurs claim that the only drink for oysters is brut champagne. Others opt for a dry white Sancerre. Bubbly or not, perfect pairing is guaranteed.

No respectable French table at Christmas would be without foie gras either. Some families go for the extremely rich pan-roasted fresh foie gras, but it’s more commonly served as a terrain with toast and an onion confit.

Serving suggestion: while iodine-rich oysters cry out for something dry on the palate, foie gras craves a touch of sweetness serve yours with a sweet wine such as Sauternes.

Scallops, known under the much more glamourous Coquilles Saint Jacques in France, also make a grand entrée at Christmas. The bigger the better and they usually come with a creamy sauce.

Other types of seafood – lobster, langoustines and crab, along with smoked salmon, are favourites for a Christmas meal in France. Smoked salmon is usually served on blinis while the seafood tends to come on platters.

Serving suggestion: as long as it’s not red, you can’t really go wrong with wine for scallops and seafood. Sauvignon blanc pairs a treat as does champagne. If you’ve gone for a herb and garlic sauce with the scallops, try pairing them with a Rhône Valley rosé.

French Christmas main courses

After several rounds of starters, it’s time for the main course. Poultry takes centre stage in most French households for Réveillon. Top favourite is chapon (capon), although turkey, chicken and duck make the list too. Traditionalists buy a capon wrapped in cloth, which is left on while the bird cooks. The delicate, tender result is more than worth the extremely high price tag.

But whatever your bird and whether you cook it clothed or unclothed, the stuffing can only be chestnut. The chapon, dinde, poulet or canard must be aux marrons. Some recipes mix the chopped chestnuts with pork, others leave out meat and combine them with herbs, but chestnuts rule the roost in this dish. Traditional festive recipes also add roasted chestnuts and mushrooms as a side to the meat.

Serving suggestion: bird aux marrons needs a robust red to bring out its flavours. Pair with a rich Burgundy or Bordeaux.

Cheeses for Christmas

In most countries, you’d be thinking about dessert at this point in the Christmas meal. But not in France. Next up is the cheese. And in true French Christmas spirit, like the seafood platters and plates of dinde aux marrons, the cheeseboard too is groaning.

Serve a minimum of three cheeses – one soft, one hard and one blue or goat’s cheese. Although French families tend to go for five or six for Réveillon. Don’t forget to put out one knife per cheese type – use the same one for all and risk ruining everyone’s Christmas.

Serving suggestion: cheese and wine are a match made in heaven and nowhere pairs them better than France. The good news is that the best pairings are often down to personal preference so experiment before you serve. As a general rule, a mild cheese needs a robust wine while a strong cheese goes best with a simpler wine.

For some inspiration on what kind of cheese to put on your festive cheeseboard, read our dictionary of French cheeses

Christmas desserts in France

Several hours and copious amounts of food and wine after you sat down for your huîtres it’s time for dessert. Just as they agree on chestnuts, the French are pretty unanimous on their festive pudding choice too. Bûche de Noel is it and almost countrywide.

The Yule log comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and is usually topped with plastic figurines – reindeer, Christmas trees, Santas… Made of rolled sponge cake, it comes filled and covered with a butter cream filling. Vanilla, chocolate or, again, chestnut are traditional favourites but nowadays, almost anything goes. Patisseries sell bûches with pistachio, raspberry, brandy or violet-flavoured filling.

Bûche de Noel is anything but light on your stomach so some French families go for a slightly less rich version known as bûche glacée. This Christmas log uses ice cream instead of butter cream.

You’ll find bûche on your dessert plate almost everywhere in France except for Provence where traditionally they serve not just one dessert at Christmas but a full baker’s dozen. 13 dishes make up the traditional festive pudding in this part of France, supposedly representing Jesus and his 12 disciples.

Not all 13 components need a recipe – nougat (dark and light), dried fruits and nuts make up most of them. Pompe á l’huile, a flat round bread made with olive oil, also joins in along with typical Provençal pastries such as Calissons d’Aix, made in Aix en Provence with almonds.

Serving suggestion: if there’s any left, champagne or Crémant if you’re in Burgundy, and Sauternes work well with chocolate log. If not or you fancy something different, crack open a Burgundy Pinot Noir. It combines nicely with white and dark chocolate. Or if you’re feeling the need for a digestif at this stage, it’s time to reach into the drinks cabinet and get out the Cognac. 

Tempted to host a French Christmas somewhere else in the world? Bon appetit!

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French Christmas food - a festive recipe for feasting on fine French food and wine

Burgundy wines - our brief guide to this small region producing huge volumes of fine French wine. Some of the best wines in the world hail from Burgundy and we introduce to them hereBurgundy, where size doesn’t really matter

In Part 2 of the French Waterways guide to French wine, we go east to Burgundy, one of the country’s finest wine producing regions. It might be small in size, but Bourgogne as the French call it comes very big on quality and reputation. Producing some of the world’s finest wines and most expensive bottles, Burgundy wines are often top of the table.

In this article, we take a look at the history behind Burgundy wine, the different regions that produce it and offer some tips on how to drink it at its best. Join us on a tour of arguably one of the best places to drink the local wine.

Burgundy wines – a history

As they did in most wine producing regions in France, the Romans were responsible for planting the first vineyards in Burgundy. Fine wine therefore goes back over two thousand years, but it wasn’t until several centuries later that production started in earnest. Monks produced the first proper wine for the Dukes of Burgundy in the Middle Ages and since then the region has never looked back.

Did you know? Burgundy is one of the smaller wine-producing regions in France with just over 70,500 acres under vineyards.

Burgundy terroirs

Burgundy lies in the east of central France. Within it, wine is produced in five areas or terroirs. The land is predominantly limestone giving a strong mineral component to all the area’s wines.

Unique to Burgundy, the wine areas are also divided into climats, a plot of land growing vines. Each climat has specific geographical and climatic conditions, all exclusive to a particular plot. A description of a climat may include the plot’s incline, aspect and elevation as well as information about the soil type.

Beaujolais

Beaujolais is a region to the south of Burgundy that some would say isn’t Burgundy at all. Climatically different to its well regarded neighbouring regions, the Gamay Noir grape accounts for 99% of the vines grown here, which flourishes to produce light red wines brimming with summer fruits. The secret to this wine’s fruity flavours is the unusual carbonic maceration method.

The nine Cru Beaujolais wines identified for their superior product are a darker and more complex wine. Familiarise yourself with the nine villages producing these as they use labels reflecting their village name *. The most well-known of which are probably Fleurie AOC and Brouilly AOC or Cote de Brouilly AOC.

There are 39 more villages producing Beaujolais-Villages from granite-rich soil. Often these villages share grapes to produce a blended wine. Those labelled AOC Beaujolais-Villages belong to just one village.

And then there is Beaujolais Nouveau. In some quarters probably the most well known product of the Beaujolais wine region because of the traditions*surrounding its production and release. Although overproduction impacted its quality and popularity such that by the 21st century sales had plummeted.

Chablis

Synonymous with white wine, Chablis barely needs introduction.  It lies to the north-west of the rest of Burgundy and isn’t physically joined to the other four terroirs. Chablis is closer to Champagne in both soil type and weather – this is a land of freezing winters and scorching summers, which feed the Chardonnay grapes.

Chablis produces white wine – 61% of all wine produced in Burgundy is white – and it’s known for its unique crisp and zesty taste. The green-gold colour is another defining characteristic. Perfectly paired with a freshly shucked oyster, it’ll also suit your sushi supper.

Côte de Nuits

Côte de Nuits lies at the northern end of Burgundy, just south of the city of Dijon. Vineyards cram into the eastern side of the narrow valley along the river Saône. Together with the Côte de Beaune, it forms the wine-producing area known as the Côte d’Or.

Pinot Noir grapes predominate in Côte de Nuits, which produces mostly reds. Home to no less than 24 Grand Crus, this region boasts some of the best wine in France and the most expensive. Wines tend to have earthy tastes with a touch of spice and strong fruity undercurrents.

Côte de Beaune

South of Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune centres around the historic village of Beaune, itself the centre of Burgundy wine. The area grows Pinot Noir grapes, particularly in vineyards around Beaune, but the predominant grape is chardonnay.

White wines from Côte de Beaune have a bouquet of apples and pears with a taste of dried grasses, reminiscent of the area’s warm summers. The buttery chardonnays of Burgundy are also known, more broadly, as White Burgundy and the Bourgogne Blancs of the Côte de Beaune are said to be the finest.

Côtes Chalonnaise

Sandwiched between Côte de Beaune and Mâconnais, Chalonnaise is the only one of the five Burgundy regions without a Grand Cru. However, titles aside, the wines are often just as good as those produced by its neighbours and have the advantage of being slightly cheaper.

The area around the village of Bouzeron grows Aligoté grapes, whose white wine is less zesty than Chablis and with strong floral tones. Further south is Ruilly, the centre of Crémant de Bourgogne, which is a sparkling whites or rosé produced with a method similar to that of Champagne, although often producing a sweeter finish you’ll find it served with dessert in Burgundy.

Mâconnais

The southernmost area of Burgundy, when not factoring in Beaujolais, Mâconnais is quite unlike the others in climate and feel. You can sense the influence of the Mediterranean in both the warmer temperatures and in the architecture. The chardonnay grapes grown here are harvested a full two weeks earlier than those in Chablis.

Pouilly-Fuissé is the most famous wine-producing part of Mâconnais. Its whites are fruity and pale gold in colour. The perhaps more prolific Macon Villages is one of the most recognisable White Burgundy exports.

Did you know? Climats are a unique phenomenon to Burgundy and gained UNESCO World Heritage Status in 2015.  

Burgundy classifications

Most Burgundy wines fall under the Burgundy scale of classification with the exception of Chablis whose wine has its own classification table. At the top of the Burgundy wines are the Grand Cru, representing just 1.4% of production and 33 vineyards. Big names here include Charmes-Chambertin, La Tâche, Montrachet and Romanée Conti, and bottles with these labels attract the biggest bids at auction. Premier Cru wines account for just over 10% of all Burgundy wines. Some of the best-known labels are Santenots and Volnay 1er Cru.

Next down the list are so-called vins de villages, almost 40% of production. These wines are often very good and have the advantage of being cheaper than those in the Cru categories. The rest of Burgundy wine falls under the regional wines umbrella and has the generic name of Bourgogne Rouge or Bourgogne Blanc. These are best drunk young and make good table wines.

Chablis wine too has four categories. At the top, there’s just one Grand Cru and the best-known labels include Blanchot, Bougros and Les Clos. Grand Cru Chablis is aged in oak and therefore tastes different. Next down is the Premier Cru category, accounting for 15% of production. Most Chablis wine falls into the next category, simply called Chablis before the last, Petit Chablis, whose wines are best drunk young.

Did you know? In Burgundy an oak barrel is called a pièce and holds 228 litres except in Pouilly-Fuissé where a barrel has capacity for 212 litres.

Best Burgundy vintages

The last few years have been good for Burgundy wine, although to find an exceptional vintage with the highest ranking you have to go back to 1990 (and spend a small fortune). For more recent good years try the following:

Good years for Burgundy reds – Côte de Beaune had two outstanding vintages in 2009 and 2014. Côtes de Nuit highlights include 2010, 2012 and 2014, all with the highest ranking ‘classic’ vintage label. Outstanding years were 2011 and 2013.

Good years for Burgundy whites – 2014 and 2015 were both ‘classic’ vintages for whites. All the years between 2007 and 2013 were outstanding with the exception of 2009.

Did you know? Burgundy runs La Grande Route des Vins, consisting of five wine trails through the region taking in the best of landscape, vineyards and wine tasting. Find out more

Storing and serving Burgundy wines

With the odd exception, Burgundy wines from most years are suitable for drinking or keeping. How long you keep the wine depends on its quality. As a general rule, only Grand and Premier Crus will improve in flavour after five to seven years; others are best drunk within five years of production.

The correct temperature for Burgundy wines depends on their type:

Sparkling Crémants taste best at 6-8 degrees.

Most Burgundy whites are best at 12-14 degrees.

Aligoté whites like a slightly cooler 10-12 degrees.

Reds come into their own at 16-17 degrees; any higher and they lose their bouquet.

Did you know?  Both young and old Burgundy wines benefit from transferring to a carafe or decanter. Pour a young Burgundy slowly into a wide-based carafe and leave to ‘relax’ for two hours. Decant an older Burgundy two hours before you plan to drink it.

Taste Burgundy vintages for yourself

Enjoy the very best of Burgundy scenery, cuisine and wine from the comfort of a luxury hotel barge. Visit the area and savour its charm as you glide down the Saône River and the Canal de Bourgogne

Step by step guide to French wine:

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Burgundy wines - our brief guide to this small region producing huge volumes of fine French wine. Some of the best wines in the world hail from Burgundy and we introduce to them here