Visiting French Chateaux from a 5 Night Loire Paddleboat Cruise

The picturesque views of the Loire Valley are truly enticing enough to make you want to experience the romance and heritage in a Loire paddleboat cruise. There’s not a minute wasted in these cruises as you explore one chateau after another discovering their secrets and hearing stories about their past.

Aptly so, Loire may be referred to as France’s Valley of the Kings. The French court has been held in different areas within this location on several periods in Loire history. Art consequently flourished along this European waterway as well as evidenced by the extensive collection of privately owned works housed in royal chateaus.

New for 2022 is a 5 day Loire River Cruise aboard the Loire Princess – a 88 passenger paddle boat, cruising round trip Nantes, in addition to the current 6 day cruise.  Some of the most popular chateaux that you are likely to visit on a Loire paddleboat cruise or barge cruise are:

Château d’Azay-le-Rideau – built on a small island in the middle of the Indre River, the château as it is seen today was built under Francis I by Gilles Berthelot, a wealthy financier who wanted to incorporate its medieval past alongside the latest architectural styles of the Italian renaissance. The chateau is a French national monument and possesses all the refinement found in the French Renaissance.

Gardens of VillandryChateau de Villandry — the renaissance gardens are the most popular attraction of this chateau, known even throughout the world as Jardins a la Francaise. To get to this chateau, guests get off at Larcay as the cruise barge moors beneath a canopy of weeping willows. French heritage is distinct in the decor, art, and furnishings throughout the interior. Outside, the gardens are lush and beautifully arranged in patterns combining water gardens, flower gardens, as well as vegetable gardens.

Chateau UsseChâteau d’Ussé – rebuilt in the 15th and 16th centuries, this stronghold with fortified towers, turrets and steeples looks like something out of a fairytale. The castle is still inhabited today and takes visitors back to a time of legends and fairytales. It is thought to have inspired Charles Perrault when writing “Sleeping Beauty”.

Château de Brissac, known as the tallest royal residence in France, it contains 204 rooms, monumental staircases and never-ending hallways. Acquired by René de Cossé in the 16th century, Château de Brissac is still owned by the Cossé-Brissac family. (Click here for more information on this interesting history of this family – you will need to click on the British Flag for English) Its park contains some magnificent shady spots under centuries-old trees, and the castle’s spectacular decorations and the breathtaking Belle Époque theater are definitely not to be missed!

Loire Paddleboat CruiseIf you are looking for a laid back getaway that puts romance and history together, booking a barge cruise and going on excursions from a Loire Valley cruise is one of your best vacation options.   The 5 day cruises start at $1400 for 2022.  Rate includes the cruise, all meals, beverages and Wi-Fi.  As these ships are smaller capacity, departures will sell out quickly.  Call  now to book a great scenic river cruise.  888-869-7907

AmaWaterways Bordeaux Wine Cruise Hosted by Messina Hof Winery

NEW DATE FOR 2021 BORDEAUX RIVER CRUISE
AND A $750 PER PERSON DISCOUNT

Due to the Covid-19 virus, we have moved our March 2021 wine cruise to August.

Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo from the Messina Hof Winery are hosting a Bordeaux wine cruise aboard AmaDolce.  Messina Hof is the most awarded and renowned Texas wine in national and international competitions. In a community steeped in tradition, Messina Hof Winery & Resort holds its own

Grapes on theVine

Lush, Ripe Wine Grapes on the Vine Ready for Harvest.

with a 200- year history of award winning wines. Although the winery itself was officially established when with the first vintage release in 1983, the rich wine heritage of Winemaker Paul Bonarrigo dates back six generations to Messina, Sicily. Merrill Bonarrigo’s family originates from Hof, Germany. Together they have pioneered the Texas wine industry in creating premium wines of distinction and a landmark wine country destination.

“In addition to the $750* per person discount off the cruise, Europeanbarging is offering each cabin a $25 on board credit.” Jan Baumgartner, Europeanbarging

Ama cabin with French Balcony

Ama cabin with French Balcony

 

The AmaDolce was built in 2009 and spans 360 feet long and 38 feet wide. There are 73 Staterooms aboard the ship and could accommodate a total of 199 people – 144 passengers and 45 crew members. The ship guarantees a comfortable cruise with plenty of room to socialize and enjoy the time aboard.

AmaWaterways 7 night Bordeaux Wine Cruise starts at $3,349 per person. (This includes the $750* per person discount). This fare is good for 7 nights’ stay in an river view stateroom. Those who will opt to join the cruise will enjoy the following: Fine dining at The Chef’s Table and Main Restaurant, and Sip & Sail Daily Cocktail Hour. Experience and socialize at a Captain’s Gala Dinner and Cocktail Reception Unlimited wine, beer, and soft drinks with lunch and dinner. Complimentary Wi-Fi access on board A variety of tours, guided shore excursions, wine tastings, and discussions. Free use of helmets and bicycles are also provided during shore tours and excursions while the ship is in port.

The AmaWaterways Cruise departs on August 5th and will disembark on August 12th, 2021. The 7- day cruise promises a great time aboard the ship and on land during each scheduled porting. There’s no more fitting starting point for this sailing along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers than Bordeaux, an undisputed wine capital. Enjoy exquisite tastings just as unforgettable as the wines you’ll sip. Visit the renowned vineyards of Saint-Émilion, Pauillac and Libourne, discovering timeless wine-making traditions, and visit the Bordeaux Wine Museum, a spectacular sensory experience with the power to turn even the most hesitant wine drinkers into connoisseurs. Various cities and sights are part of the AmaWaterways Wine Cruise destinations that includes: Bordeaux, Libourne, Saint-Emilion, Blaye, Bourg, Pauillac and Cadillac. Each day promises a new experience that should not be missed.

The following Multi-Choice excursions are available: in Saint-Emilion, choose from a tour of Saint-Emilion and Grand Cru Classe wine tasting OR Saint Émilion bike tour and wine tasting OR Château de Vayres; in Libourne choose from a Walking Tour OR Bastide town and market visit OR Château Boutinet hike with wine & tapas tasting OR Bike tour; in Blaye, a visit to the Citadel OR Blaye bike tour towards Les Etauliers Blaye to Bourg bike tour. Bourg offers a walking tour, Carriage Museum and WWII Petrol Cistern, as well as an Exclusive wine festival. In Pauillac Medoc Grand Cru Classé wine tasting and scenic vineyard tour; Cadillac features the Roquetaillade Castle with Sauternes wine tasting and in Bordeaux a Illuminations cruise in the evening and Bordeaux UNESCO city tour and Wine Museum OR Bordeaux bike tour.

The wine cruise promotes a wide range of activities throughout the whole trip to appreciate wine heritage more through a series of tastings, discussions, and tours around each port. Also included in the cruise are special tours and tastings at local wineries and private cellars where passengers can get to appreciate and learn more about wine making in renowned vineyards. There are also on board wine pairings with award-winning cuisine, and a wine expert who will be leading the tastings and discussions.

Uncork local traditions, savor intense flavors and enjoy palate-pleasing adventures during AmaWaterways Wine Cruises. The cruise promotes a great way to meet new people and fellow wine aficionados as they enjoy a 7-day cruise from Bordeaux along the Garonne and Dordogne Rivers. Book Now – as these wine cruises sell out.

*The $750 per person discount applies to bookings made by December 30, 2020.

For more information on the cruise and its activities, contact Jan Baumgartner of Europeanbarging.com at 888-869-7907, or send an email to jan@europeanbarging.com.

Getting Your Fill of San Sebastián, Spain

It’s a smorgasbord of sights, sounds, and tastes that you can feast on in San Sebastián, Spain. An interesting mix of activities can be enjoyed by tourists in this Spanish town known for its beaches, cultural events, local cuisine, and architectural landmarks. It’s a treat to stay here for a short vacation or for a few days right before a cruise.

San Sebastián, also known as the Basque city of Donostia, stretches 20 kilometers from the border of France through the coastal area of Bay of Biscay. The donostiarra population goes up to about half a million, with thousands more adding as tourists arrive. With everything that it offers for people of all ages, it is no wonder that this town is one of the most visited tourist destinations in Spain.

To satisfy you palate, local cuisine can be enjoyed in the many eateries in town. San Sebastián, Spain is also known for its Michelin-star restaurants, so don’t forget to make room in your budget and schedule for a meal or two in these dining places. At night, have a unique gastronomical experience at a Basque cider house and enjoy tapas and drinks in local pintxos bars.

Known as the ‘City by the Bay of Biscay,’ a trip to San Sebastián will not be complete without spending time lazing on the sand and basking under the warm sun. Try the La Concha Beach. It is touted as one of Europe’s most beautiful urban beaches. It lies on the edges of a shell-shaped bay, with its sands stretching one thousand three hundred fifty meters. Here, you can enjoy a host of activities like sea kayaking and swimming. Or, you can choose to simply relax, lounge around, and sunbathe.

For a bit of local flavor, a visit to the Mercado de la Brexta is a must. This is a fresh market with an assortment of bright colors as well as the sounds and smells that stimulate the senses. This market, conveniently located at a shopping center’s basement, is were many of Spain’s best chefs buy their ingredients. If you are looking for local treats that you can bring back to your home country, check out their oil and wine, olives, and Iberian ham.

Good-Shepherd-Cathedral-of-San-Sebastian

You also have to see the San Sebastián Cathedral right off Old Town’s southern area. Built in neo-Gothic architecture, this monumental cathedral boasts of richly colored stained glass windows that let ample light in and create an ambiance of reverence and solemnity.

When you’ve had your fill of San Sebastián, there’s more in store for you just an hour away in Bilbao, Spain. Travel through historic Guernica, be amazed at the works of art at the Guggenheim Museum, sample Bilbao’s brand of pintxos, and have a romantic stroll through the historic streets of Old Town.

With a little more time in your hands, it would be ideal to visit San Sebastián, Spain along with other destinations as Bilbao in cruise that takes you from one town to another. You can have a fixed itinerary for your cruise, yet have the freedom to explore each town at your own pace and doing the things that interest you most.

AmaWaterways offers a 7 night Taste of Bordeaux, which features a pre cruise land program with 2 nights in San Sebastian as well as 2 nights in Bilbao. The land program highlights will feature a tour of the town of Blboa and visit to the Guggenheim Museum. After your morning Guggenheim Museum visit, you will continue to Guernica, known throughout the world due to the painting by Pablo Picasso that bears the same name. Two of the most important political symbols of the Basque Country can be found in Guernica – the Biscayan Assembly House and the Guernica Tree. Afterwards arrive in San Sebastian where your stay will feature a visit of the great architecture of the town, including stops at spectacular Good Shepherd of San Sebastián Cathedral and breathtaking Mount Igueldo, as well as the Basilica of St. Mary of the Chorus and the Gothic St. Vincent’s Church, the oldest church in the city.

AmaWaterways offers several wine themed departures during the year and regular cruises on some other dates. Rates start at $3199 per person for a lower deck cabin with window and $4098 for a cabin featuring a French Balcony. Rates include: all sightseeing, meals, wine with dinner, daily happy hour before dinner, free internet and use of bicycles on board. Contact Europeanbarging for information on either the wine themed Bordeaux cruise or the Taste of Bordeaux cruise itinerary at 888-869-7907 jan@europeanbarging.com

Experiencing History from a Loire Valley Paddleboat Cruise

The Loire Valley is a treasure trove of historical attractions and architectural marvels to discover and explore. The Loire River is a little over a thousand kilometers long making it the longest among France’s waterways. It runs from the area of Mont Gerbier de Jonc through Nevers and through Tours then into Nantes before it empties out into the Atlantic at Saint Nazaire. It has several tributaries that can also be traversed by paddle boats or barges.

Excursions from a Loire Valley cruise give travelers a close look into French historical and cultural heritage. The beautiful landscape have attracted a good number of royals and aristocrats. Over the years, the Loire Valley has grown to be a favored spot for castles and chateaus that served as homes for the rich and powerful.

Croisi Europe Loire Princess Paddleboat

Saumur

The city of Nantes is the starting port for the Loire Princess paddleboat cruises. Nantes is known as Europes’ most livable city and is a convenient access to the Loire chateau attractions as well as the lush pastures and forests. The history of this city, spanning the 15th to the 18th century, is housed within the walls of the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany. Outside, the castle stands magnificent with its Renaissance facade. Inside, it is teeming with historical heritage meticulously curated in a museum.

A collaboration of the old and new, the Saint Machines of the Isles of Nantes is another must-see when you go on a Loire paddleboat cruise. Artistic machine builders took inspiration from Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical world and combined it with the industrial heritage of Nantes. Some parts of the exhibition are interactive and can be operated by the guests. One of the popular attractions is the 12-meter high Gigantic Sultan’s Elephant.

Cruises and tours of the Loire may also include a guided tour of Angers. This is quite a modern city, but rich in history and culture. At the Chateau de Angers, you will find one of the most important pieces from the locale, the Apocalypse Tapestry. Other Loire chateau attractions that can be found in the Chateau of the Loire Valley include: the master piece of the first French Revolution, the Chateau d’ Azay-le-Rideau; the centenary trees and vineyards of Chateau de Brissac; the colorful patterned gardens of Chateau Villandry, and the fairy tale-like Chateau d’ Usse.

Chateau_Chaumont_sur_Loire

Many of the attractions and destinations in Loire Valley take you down memory lane into the pages of Loire history as far back as the Renaissance. The flourishing of arts and culture during that period is evident in the design and construction of the chateaus and structures all around the Loire Valley. The management of many of these chateaus is now in the hands of current generations of royalties.

The French and English language 96 passenger Loire Princess paddleboat offers 6 and 8 day cruises.  A pre cruise package visiting additional chateau is available on limited dates.  As the Loire Princess is the only passenger cruise ship on the Loire, and with her small size, she books up  well in advance.  The upper deck features private balconies.  Rates start at $2248 for the 8 day lower deck and $2700 for the upper deck.  The 6 day cruise starts about $2000 for the lower deck and  $2372 for the upper deck.  The per person rate includes the cruise, all meals, a beverage package, port taxes and Wi-Fi.  Sightseeing packages are not included and can be pre ordered or booked on board.

Contact  Europeanbarging.com for availability, pricing and special offers.  888-869-7907  Jan@europeanbarging.com

Basque’-ing in Bilbao, Spain

A mix of excitement and laid back is what you can find in Bilbao, Spain. There’s a vibrant vibe of shopping in the trendy marketplaces and the nightlife in lively bars. On the other hand, there’s a historic and relaxed feel in the contemporary art and architecture of the museums and old buildings. Exploring this city in the northern part of Spain’s Basque region gives you a versatile selection of activities to engage in for the best European vacation.

 

Here are some of the places you can visit in Bilbao, Spain:

Museums — the museums in Bilbao are globally acclaimed. The Guggenheim is one of the world’s most popular both for its shape and structure and for the contemporary art work that’s exhibited within its walls. The Museo Bellas Artes chronicles a hundred years of history and ten centuries of art. It showcases works of such artists as Picasso and Goya as well as of more contemporary local artists. Other museums that deserve a slot in your must-visit list are: the Archeological Museum, the Maritime Museum, and the Bullfighting Museum

Local Scene — Bilbao is a great place to wine and dine. One Michelin restaurant, Restaurante de Mina, can be found right across from Mercado de la Ribera. It would be necessary to call in for a reservation since the restaurant can only seat less than thirty guests. The gustatory experience is truly extraordinary with meticulously prepared courses using the freshest local ingredients. Those specifically looking to feast on authentic Spanish paella, however, can go to either one of La Barraca’s two Bilbao locations. They offer a dozen paella variants for you to choose from based on your preferred ‘star’ ingredients.

For shopping, there’s Mercado de la Ribera for fresh products and a good dose of local flavor – both food and culture. This is an interesting visit for food lovers and people watchers alike. Fashionistas, on the other hand, can delight their hearts at Choses de Femme and Veritas. To wind up your day after shopping, don’t forget to sample Bilbao’s pintxos too.

Architecture — one of famed architect Frank Gehry’s masterpiece is the Guggenheim in Bilbao. It’s unique shape and titanium construction is a display of the post modern disjointed style that Gehry is known for.

Another architectural work of art is the Azkuna Zentro commercial center. It traces a rich history from its roots as Alhondiga Bilbao, a corn exchange, to a thriving and dynamic multi-purpose venue today.

The old churches are always on the list when it comes to places of architectural curiosity is concerned. The Bilbao Santiago Cathedral is one of the must-visit places when it comes to 15th century architecture.

Nature — Bilbao has its own share of beautiful landscapes and sceneries to enjoy with its mountains and beaches. Just a short 15-minute drive from the city center will give you a picturesque countryside trip and take you to Azurmendi, a three-star Michelin restaurant set right on the mountainside. Those who have visited this restaurant describe the experience of walking through its interiors and being handed extraordinary unique treats – like edible cotton topped with asparagus and gold leaf covered hazelnuts – as being like Alice in Wonderland.

A quick outdoor escape can be enjoyed with a hike in Artxanda Hill and surfing at Sopelana Beach. You can also head on north to marvel at Bilbao’s unique geography and landscapes.

The Best of Basque

Bilbao, Spain is truly a destination for everyone. You have a choice to explore cities that match your own personality or go out of your comfort zone to try something different. Whatever road you take, you will never run out of options to delight your senses and give you the best vacation that you deserve.

AmaWaterways offers a 7 night Taste of Bordeaux, which features a pre cruise land program with 2 nights in Bilbao. A March 25, 2021 departure will be a wine themed Bordeaux itinerary hosted by Award Winning Texas Messina Hof Winery owners – Paul  and Merrill Bonarrigo.  These wine cruises sell out quick, so contact Europeanbarging for information on either the wine themed Bordeaux cruise or the Taste of Bordeaux cruise itinerary at 888-869-7907  jan@europeanbarging.com