After a successful visit to Paris, our four travellers headed to Bordeaux, capital of the Aquitaine area in the south-west of France. Famous for its wines, it also has splendid Gothic cathedrals and 18th-century mansions. If you love history, wine and cycling, this is the place.
Quartier Saint-Eloi is a beautiful area and is the place of the old town hall's Great Bell. The town hall is now elsewhere but the bell remains and is a symbol of the city.
Bordeaux has 116,000 hectares of vineyards, 57 appellations, 10,000 wine-producing chateaus and 13,000 grape growers. Annual wine production is around 850 million bottles. The region produces quaffing wines right through to some of the world's most expensive vintages.
Wine lovers drool at the chance of seeing some of the world's oldest and most respected wine-producing chateaus: Lafite Rothschild, Mouton Rothschild, Margaux, Latour and Haut-Brion. Their vintages are way beyond most people's budget, but it's always interesting to see where these superlative wines come from.
Château de Beauregard is an elegant 19th-century bourgeois mansion on 2.5 hectares of grounds. It has 10 bedrooms, each named after a great French writer. Modern comforts have been added to traditional rooms. The south-facing rose garden has a pool and barbecue and the old stables have been converted into a spa. Guests are treated to a bath infused with donkey's milk.
The restaurant Auberge d'Antan has rediscovered the flavours of days gone by with cuisine prepared over an open fire.
In the same wooded park, the former hunting lodge has been transformed into accommodation for up to six people.
Château du Cros produces exceptional quality wines and is a charming place to visit and do tastings. The present owner's grandfather acquired the domain from the Count de la Chassaigne, a 16th-century philosopher, in 1921. The 90-hectare vineyard overlaps Loupiac and Sainte-Croix-du-Mont. You will not only learn about the wines but before you leave, you'll know a little more about local history. A fortress hidden in trees on a ridge is associated with Eleanor of Aquitaine and Richard the Lionheart.
There are affordable tasting options around Bordeaux, and it's a good idea to take one of the many tours available with a local and knowledgeable guide.
Canoeing and kayaking down the Dordogne River is a special thing to do. You drift gently passed Beynac, La Roque-Gageac and other small villages in beautiful sections of the river seen only when you're on it. Boat and equipment hire is good value, and along the way there are plenty of places for a picnic and a swim. There is good accommodation to suit all budgets, and it is quite possibly a place you will want to linger.
Bordeaux in France's south-west.
Château de Beauregard Traditional Rooms start at around $100 a night and Prestige Suites around $300.
Prices correct at November 12, 2009.
For further information
Château de Beauregard
Avenue de la Résistance
Ph: +33 5 6166 6664
Fax: +33 5 3414 0793
Chateau du Cros
Ph: +33 5 5662 9931
Visas: No visas are required for stays up to three months.
Electricity: 220V at 50Hz and European two-pin plugs are standard.
Time zone: GMT+2.
Currency: The euro.
International dialling code: +33.