Articles Tagged with: senior travel france

SUNDAY COFFEE WITH JEB


Seniors Are Attracted To France’s Dordogne Valley

86a26012f8b25c93fb9c739b04e0b1bbThe Dordogne Valley, a department in southwestern France, that senior travelers will find between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees, is named after the great Dordogne river that runs through it. My travel hero Rick Steves takes on an exciting visit to the Dordogne River Valley.

There is so much for senior visitors to take in, like the Cabanas de Breuil, La Roque-Gageac, a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, canoeing on the Dordogne River, the famous prehistoric caves of Lascaux, the Château de Beynac and the capital city Périgueux.

The beautiful countryside lies in all directions and attracts visitors from all over the world. Foie gras is a luxury food product of this area, made of the liver of a duck or goose that has been specially fattened. I’d make a point to spend some quality time in Sarlat that is undoubtedly one of the most attractive and visited medieval cities in France.

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Seniors Enjoy Medieval Jewel, “Sarlat”

The capital of the Black Périgord truffle, on the edge of the Quercy causses (limestone plateaus), Sarlat is a major tourist site, renowned for its large historical center containing countless buildings dating mainly from the medieval and early Renaissance period, 13th to 16th century. Over a million visitors discover or rediscover this medieval jewel every year.

I have lost count of the number of times I have visited France, somewhere  over three dozen, and this region has always fascinated me. There are more than 1,500 castles in Dordogne, making it “The Other Château Country”, meaning all those along the Loire Valley.

Forty eight parks and gardens allure gardeners like me to the area and some “grands étangs” (ponds) are teeming with birds and other wildlife. The Grotte at Lascaux II is an exquisite 39m-long replica museum of the renowned prehistoric cave paintings of animals, discovered in 1940. Lascaux is the most famous cave in the world.

Take Note Senior Bikers and Hikers

Perigueux_Cathedrale_Saint_FrontThe Valley of the Dordogne developed because of the importance of the river as a transport route, and trade originally developed around the wood and leather industries.

The landscape consists of steep wooded hills climbing up both sides of the river valley, with small picturesque villages both in the valley itself, like Brivezac and Saulières and also nestling deep in the ‘side valleys’ for example, Neuville and Albussac.

The countryside is largely unspoiled with traditional houses and smallholdings to admire as you explore. It is a great place for senior bikers and hikers. The Dordogne is without doubt the most diverse region in France, and perhaps even all of Europe.

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Beautiful medieval towns and villages, castles and forts are perched high above both the Dordogne and Vézère River. The Prehistoric Vézère Valley offering caves and cave art, help to make this area a popular destination. 

Seniors, head your rental car to southwest France and the Dordogne Valley. Enjoy, do some research and planning and it will pay off big dividends.  -jeb

SENIORS LIKE FRANCE


Seniors Enjoy Historical Montluçon

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Montluçon (pop. 40,000) is a commune in central France on the Cher river. This senior recently discovered that it is listed among many famous sites to see in France, a “Must See”. Montluçon is called “A Town Of Art and History”.

Your visit to Montluçon will focus in the narrow streets of the historical center around the Chateau of the Dukes of Bourbon. Senior visitors can enjoy strolling around the historic center, a highlight of which is the House of the 12 Apostles (Maison des Douze Apôtres).

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Montluçon has several parks and public gardens that also make for great strolling. It is a  beautiful city in any direction you look.

 Seniors Discover MuPop Museum

The Canal de Berry and the presence of coal in the region aided the industrial activity in this walled city.  Montluçon is loaded with a wide variety of ancient monuments and abounds in culture.

The MuPop Museum is big in Montluçon. The disco is the archetype of the dancing popular music from the mid 70s to the 80s. Just imagine a museum where you can compose your own soundtrack while discovering the sounds and images of the pop music collection at MuPop.

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Visitors have individual headsets, to compose their own musical program. The museum houses more than 3,500 instruments and musical items, dating from the 18th century to the present time.

France This Way notes that in the area below the castle, senior visitors will walk medieval streets with numerous half-timbered buildings and a 12th century roman style church.

You can also visit the 12th century Church of Saint-Pierre and the 15th century Church of Notre-Dame, the 19th century Church of Saint Paul, unusual in being built around an iron structure, and the Chapel of Croix Verte – unremarkable on the outside but step inside to see the decoratively painted interior.

Seniors Enjoy The ‘Flower City’

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The town has a nice selection of parks and public gardens great for just  strolling, like the well-maintained Jardin Wilson and the extensive English style gardens of Jardin Breda. The castle and park of Saint-Jean are another popular place to take an afternoon promenade.

You will soon discover, as with many small French towns, that most of the important sites in town can be viewed simply by wandering around.

The walled city was once strategically important, located on the border of two great entities. It was first held in the lordship of Bourbon who later became the Duchy and then attached to the crown of France in 1531. Situated in the west of this region, it was long a rival of Moulins, who was much more populated city and more influential.

Montluçon enjoys the “Flower City” distinction attributed by the National Council of the cities and flowered villages of France in the contest of cities and flowered villages. Senior visitors will find that the peaceful Cher Valley  with its villages, castles and churches, is well worth a visit.  -jeb

Filed under : Europe, Family Travel

SUNDAY COFFEE WITH JEB


Seniors Enjoy Historic Courthézon, France

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This senior recently tapped a bottle of Le Prince de Courthézon, 2013, Côtes du Rhône. It is/was very tasty, but with Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah combined, it should be. I read on the label that their cellar was founded in 1925 in Courthézon, a historic town rich in medieval history that was once governed by the Princes of Orange.

Like so many villages in Provence, Courthézon is built on and around a hill. Courthézon is one of the oldest peasant villages in Europe. I was impressed with that, so today we will go to Courthézon and check out the commune to see what else is there besides fine wine.

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Courthézon is a commune in the Vaucluse department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in southeastern France. I know the area well having been a tour group leader to food and wine tours in France over the past several years since my retirement.

Provence…This Senior’s Favorite Place

Those three grapes are the major varieties of the region. I learned that it is the clay and sand soils (terroir) that bring the local wines such complexity, but enough of that. You’ll just have to go to your local wine store and try a bottle yourself. Incidentally, 2013 was a very good year for oenophiles.

I have told my wife time and time again, “if you can’t find me…look for me in Provence.” It may be my favorite place on the planet. TripAdvisor likes two chateaux…Chateau de Beaucastel and Chateau du Mourre du Tendre. Like many towns and villages in Vaucluse, Courthézon lives off tourism.

It is in the municipality of Courthézon that the oldest Neolithic site of France was discovered in 1971, “Mourre de Pradel” Baratin. It has been dated to the sixth millennium BC and is located on the western edge of the plain of the Ouvèze.

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 A River Runs Through It, Another Around It

A small river the “Seille” calmly flows through the village whereas another river, the “Ouvèze,” borders the village. Courthézon offers senior visitors the tranquil and soothing pleasures of its fifteen fountains. It is one of the rare villages in the Vaucluse which has conserved a large part of its 12th century ramparts.

The Château Val Seille, nicknamed “Petit Versailles Provençal” with its magnificent park, canopy and winter garden, houses one of the finest hôtel de villes (town hall) in the region. If you enjoy a fine B&B, check out the Mas des Papillons (Butterfly Farm).

So set your sails for Courthézon and plan to spend some quality time. There is a lot to discover and more to enjoy. Have fun. -jeb

SENIORS ENJOY FRANCE’S CHAMPAGNE COUNTRY


Seniors Journey to Hautvillers, France

746550215 Many seniors enjoy a glass of sparkly champagne from time to time. If we trace the history of the bubbly beverage, a visit to Hautvillers in France is a must.

Hautvillers (pop. 864) is a commune in the Marne department in north-eastern France. The Abbey of St. Peter which existed in this town until the French Revolution was the home of the famous Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk who, back in 1670, developed the process for making champagne. The legend of Dom Pérignon adds an intangible yet real halo to Hautvillers.

Called “Hautvillers” (high), it is indeed up on the slopes. The French feel strongly that “authentic champagne” comes only from the champagne region in France.  I learned that the Romans were the first to plant vineyards in this area, so its history goes way back.

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 This Senior Spent Two Weeks In The Region

This Abbey of St. Peter warmly greeted Dom Pérignon, whose life was  closely associated with the creation of champagne. Dom Pérignon collaborated with another Benedictine monk to a develop a process called “méthode champenoise.” The bubbles in the bottle did indeed create this well-known effect.

Dom Pérignon’s tomb lies today in the chancel of the Saint-Sindulphe abbey church. Senior visitors find Hautvillers to be a charming wine-producing village lined with old houses decorated with a wide array of forged iron shop signs.

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Moi, I did not think I liked champagne until I spent two weeks living in the champagne vineyard region. I served as a tour group leader with  Elderhostel (now called Road Scholar). The program was called Food and Wine of France. Sampling a variety of champagne daily, I discovered it to be quite tasty. The Guardian suggests  you consider following the Champagne Wine Route as we did.

 Seniors Learn About Wine Making

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At harvest time, grape pickers in Champagne begin the month long harvest called les vendanges, sometimes even hiring seniors to help with the task.

The winemakers will then do a single press of the three grape varieties used to make Champagne —Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier—bottle it, and wait until the carbon dioxide builds into a delicate fizz through a two-step fermentation process known as the méthode champenoise.

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Three years makes a nonvintage bottle. Vintage Champagnes—meaning those of a particular year, such as the famed Dom Pérignon, can take much longer, often at least a decade. The oldest champagne-world record was set by an 1825 Perrier-Jouet and it was still good.

The winemaker hospitality in this region is as legendary as is the surrounding landscape that overflows with vineyards. The Abbey of Saint-Pierre is a major attraction in Hautvillers.

TripAdvisor has been to the region and lays out seven things to do, four restaurants not to be missed and suggested lodging and vacation rentals. Seniors, plan to stay a few days in Hautvillers: Le Berceau du Champagne, the Cradle of Champagne. -jeb

SENIORS VISIT PERPIGNAN, FRANCE


Seniors Find ‘Another South’ Of France

1024px-Gare-de-perpignanI just had to do this blog sooner or later.  When I was a graduate student at the Sorbonne, as my wife would say “150 yrs. ago”, I was told that I had a French accent like I was from Perpignan. That was a complement to this senior. I remember passing through the city with Jack and our motor scooter… we traveled all over the country. So where is Perpignan?

Perpignan is a commune and the capital of what is called the Pyrénées-Orientales (Eastern Pyrenees) department in southern France with a population of 120,000.  Perpignan is located in the center of the Roussillon plain, 13 km west of the Mediterranean coast, with a Mediterranean climate like most of southern France.

Although essentially Mediterranean, it represents “another South”, different from the world of Provence, the Languedoc country or the French Riviera. Perpignan marks its geographical and cultural identity with Spanish Catalonia.

 Seniors Enjoy A Medieval Town

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The ancient settlement goes back to Roman times, however as I discovered, the medieval town of Perpignan seems to have been founded around the beginning of the 10th century. Soon after, Perpignan became the capital of the counts of Roussillon. And for you senior historians, it was part of the region known as Septimania (you will just have to Google that one!).

Perpignan is the bridge between the Iberian Peninsula of Spain and the South of France. Today Perpignan is the intellectual, cultural, political and economic capital of the southern region of France and northern Catalonia.

Lonely Planet notes that.. “ in the foothills of the Pyrenees, in many way Perpignan feels as much Spanish as French.” It’s known as the “Crème de Languedoc” and loaded with tourist attractions.

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As the former capital of the Kings of Majorca and the Counts of Roussillon, Perpignan changed hands repeatedly during the medieval period until finally becoming French territory with the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659. Always too far from the coast to become a port, the town developed into a cloth-making center by the early middle ages.

 Seniors Find Wine, Corks and Rugby

Traditional commerce has been wine and olive oil, corks (the coal oak Quercus suber grows in Perpignan’s mild climate), wool and leather, and iron. The major sport in town is rugby. Seven times champion of the Top 14 in a Super League, they go by the name Catalans Dragons. Senior visitors will keep well occupied in Perpignan with an awesome castle, cathedral, palace and city hall (Hôtel de Ville).

Check out this “one stop” link that provides information on the city. Be sure to bring up the Christmas in Perpignan portion of the link. Enjoy Perpignan. -jeb

SUNDAY COFFEE WITH JEB


Senior Wine Lovers Discover Provence

about-us-ps2I am pleased to introduce Emilie & Guillaume THYEBAUT to our Senior Citizen Travelers. Emilie and Guillaume are organizers of self-guided tour packages, especially for senior citizen travelers. Grab your coffee and   enjoy Emilie’s thoughts on wine tasting in Provence. 

The Provence region, located in the South East of France is a true marvel for gourmet and history lovers. Independent senior travelers will find there everything they need to have a real taste of France.

From the Mediterranean Sea, in Marseille and the nearby Calanques Creeks in Cassis…to Montélimar area – half way to Lyon – Provence is not one single region but a medley of many different landscapes, wine terroirs and local traditions.

Senior travelers who may stay in the main tourist roads, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Arles, Marseille might miss the ambiance, the colors and flavors that make this region so special. It is really important to drive in Provence and get lost in the little roads weaving in gorgeous sceneries to really feel the beating heart of this part of France.

Seniors Meet Côtes du Rhône Wines

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In the strict sense of the term the Provence wines includes 9 different AOC (protected appellation of origin) : Côtes du Ventoux (near Bedoin, Carpentras), Costières de Nimes (in Nimes area – Western Provence), Côtes du Luberon (East of Avginon), Côteaux de Pierrevert (near Sisteron), Côteaux d’Aix en Provence, Côteaux Varois (East of Aix), Bandol and Cassis (both nearby the Mediterranean Sea, East of Marseille).

When visiting the area, wine lovers should not miss the neighbor protected appellation of Côtes du Rhône – including Chateauneuf-du-Pape wines which are among the best red wines in the world. Chateauneuf-du-Pape town is only 35 minute drive from Avignon.

Chateauneuf du Pape specific soil with pebbles

There are many different ways to taste Provence wines and wine makers have developed a lot of different tools for travelers to discover the regional products.

Seniors Walk in the Vineyards

Many Provence wine makers have installed signs in their vineyards so senior travelers can discover the terroir before tasting the wines. It is very important to understand the features of a soil to better taste a wine.

For those who don’t want to walk, they can also drive a sand dune buggy 2 seat vehicle in the vineyards – following a local guide.

Some wine estates have found a nice solution to the drink & drive issue: after the tasting, they offer a great picnic in the estate – often with tables in the vineyards – so travelers can eat local cold cuts, cheeses and fruits – and rest – before driving. This is a simple activity but it might be one of the best memories of your trip!

Some local guides are very knowledgeable and take travelers to wineries they could not find by themselves. That’s a great way for wine connoisseurs to taste some specific wines they have identified in advance…or for wine “apprentice” to get introduced to wine tasting in several cellars – to be able to compare different types of wines.   Emilie

 

 

SUNDAY COFFEE WITH JEB


Seniors: A Tour de France Major Stop

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Get your coffee, senior friends and let’s catch the last day of the Tour de France. I was watching this years Tour de France on TV and up came Gérardmer, one of the major stops (Stage 9) which is a commune in the Vosges department in Lorraine in northeastern France.

The city is home to 9,336 inhabitants and abounds in a plethora of things for senior visitors to see and do all year long. Favorites for my wife and me would include several high quality B&Bs plus le Manoir Au Lac. Gérardmer offers a rich and vibrant life right in the heart of a stunning natural setting between lake, forests and mountains making the area a ski paradise.

Gérardmer is nestled between lake and mountain forests. It has an exceptional life, sitting on industry and tourism, with the numerous sports and cultural events making for a dynamic and vibrant environment. As the French say, “Gérardmer à vivre Grandeur Nature”.

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Gérardmer was the first town in France to have a tourist office, in 1875, indicating the culture of hospitality prevailing in this winter sports resort area… which is also popular in summer on account of its three lakes, Gérardmer, Longemer et Retournemer.

 Seniors, Charlemagne Voted ‘Yes’ For Gérardmer

Even Charlemagne, it seems, was taken with the place and came to stay. Good enough for Charlemagne, good enough for most of us, I’d say. Beautiful Jonquils are celebrated with an annual flower Festival.

Two theaters offer a rich and varied program with dance, theater and concerts. Gérardmer has several major events: Fantastic’Arts (the Fantastic Film Festival), the Rencontres du Cinema, the Festival of Daffodils, Ironman (triathlon world), the fireworks on the lake and the market Christmas exhibitions.

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Gérardmer  is a paradise of cultural relaxation. The city is not only a well-known health and summer resort, but also a large winter sports resort boasting a variety of installations.

Set in the heart of a luxuriant, well-protected natural site, nestling between lake and imposing woods, Gérardmer  shows the winter tourist what skiing for pleasure really means and it is situated only 1.5 miles from the valley of lakes.

 Seniors, when you are tooling around Les Vosges in northeast France, stop by this fascinating city and spend a few days. Any time during the year you will find fun things to see and do. jeb

SENIORS ENJOY CENTRAL FRANCE


Seniors Discover Sancerre and Its Wine

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Sancerre is a medieval hilltop town, in the Cher department of central France overlooking the Loire River. On a map of France, it is dotted right in the middle of the country. Sancerre is most noted for its wine. In and around Sancerre there are more than 300 vineyards and many have ‘wine caves’ where senior visitors can sample and purchase the local wines. Sancerre is more than one village, it is an entire region.

The village of Sancerre is not large, around 1,700 in all. There always has to be some history or particular reason for towns’ names in France. The name Sancerre is possibly derived from “Sacred to Caesar” and later Christianized to “Saint-Cere”.

Senior Oenophiles Enjoy Sancerre

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Do you enjoy white wine? Sancerre is one of the most famous white wines in France. Sancerre wine is often called ”white Beaujolais” and the two wines have much in common. 16 million bottles a year come from the region. The grape is the Sauvignon Blanc.

Sancerre white wine is more delicate than close-by Pouilly Fumé, which I personally prefer. Sancerre matures a little bit faster than its neighbor. Sancerre wines come from marlterroir, called white soil, or from the more common limestone vineyards. The first are fruity and well balanced, the second are full flavored but less stable.

NY Times notes that…“The dry, flinty white Sancerre is a wine with backbone, one that is simply for drinking and enjoying rather than pontificating about. The food of this easternmost region of France’s Loire Valley is plain and pure.  Fresh river fish, fruits and vegetables, and chalky goat cheese make for a natural mate for this uncomplicated wine.”

Castle, Hilltop Village and Goat Cheese

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Sancerre is a neat village with a typical castle of the Loire Valley. The village originally developed around the  medieval castle. At one time it was among the most important chateaux in the region, but like so many, was largely destroyed early in the 17th century.

At the top of the hill above the village, senior visitors can still see the castle keep known as the Tour des Fiefs. Another historical landmark in Sancerre is the belfry, now the bell tower for the Church Saint-Jean de Sancerre, that dates back to 1509. The Church of Notre-Dame in Sancerre is more recent, mostly dating to the 18th century. The village stands on a low hill from where you can view miles and miles of the surrounding vineyards.

TripAdvisor has it lined up for you already, including some suggestions for a hotel or B&B as well as what senior travelers will want to see and do in and around Sancerre. You will discover that the village’s fame comes not only from the white wine to which it has given its name, but also from the goat cheese. In Sancerre, the land that’s not good for grapes is good for goats. jeb

SENIORS TRAVEL THROUGH PROVENCE


Seniors Tour Tourtour

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This senior has been to France over two dozen trips and many of those to Provence. However I have never heard of Tourtour, a member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (The most beautiful villages of France).

The village, population 500, is a commune in southeast France. I just read about it in my Condé Nast Traveler (May 2014, p. 62). Now I want to go there.  I have told my wife many times…”If ever you can’t find me…look for me in Provence.”

I totally adore Paris, but I’ll always be in love with Provence.  That started as a college graduate, 21 years old when I spent three weeks in Aix-en-Provence.  There is no place in the world that can compare to Provence.

I’ve always admired Peter Mayle who wrote A Year in Provence. Incidentally, I met Mayle in a bakery in Cavaillon. He was gathering information for his new book, Our Daily Bread.

 Seniors Find Another Very Old ‘Old Town’

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Tourtour is called “Le village dans le ciel de Provence” (the village in the sky of Provence“). It is just to the east of Le Mont Sainte-Victoire, a favorite subject of Cézanne. The town is north of the famed Côtes de Provence, a wine growing region that stretches south-east to the coast.

As with so many tiny French villages in Provence, the old town dates from the middle ages and it is the most interesting part of a visit to Tourtour. Tiny narrow streets are lined with picturesque Provencal houses. Nearby is the old oil mill (still in operation), the clock tower and the remains of two old castles.

The most pleasure for senior visitors comes from simply strolling along the streets. I recall meeting three ladies who were spending a full day in a different village in Provence for one week. What fun.

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There are two parts to the old town, the earlier dating from the 11th century, and the latter, around the square, from the 14th century. The beautiful old olive trees in the central square were imported from Italy to replace the elms that long stood there but died.

The town hall, the post office (housed in an old chateau) and the Chapel of Saint Trinity are later additions, dating from the 17th century.

Lavender Fields, Vineyards and Medieval Castle Draw Seniors

View for yourself the stone houses topped with round tiles, Place des Ormeaux and its fountain, the arched passageways and narrow streets bathed in sunlight amid a countryside of vineyards, lavender and pine trees! The walls of the medieval castle tell tales of the village’s past.

A dominant feature on the outskirts of Tourtour is the 11th century Romanesque church of Saint Denis. On a clear day, you can enjoy breathtaking views from up high down to Fréjus on the coast.

Enjoy one of the most beautiful villages of France.  jeb

SUNDAY COFFEE WITH JEB


Senior Visit to Saint-Emilion Wine Region

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Senior oenophiles will enjoy exploring this southwest wine region of France near Bordeaux. Of all the satellite appellations, Puisseguin-Saint-Emilion has the strictest laws regarding the production of wine. My wife and I had a family reunion at our home recently and the Chateau Guibeau wine (watch the video)  came across as a favorite for everyone.

Saint-Emilion is a key wine town in the Libournais district of Bordeaux, important in terms of both quality and quantity. It lies just a few miles north of the Dordogne, in the final stages of the river’s journey from the hills of the Massif Central to the Gironde estuary.

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The town is renowned as much for its beautiful buildings and scenery as for its wine. Its steep, narrow, cobbled streets, overlooked by its Romanesque church and the iconic 13th-century Tour du Roy tower are a reminder of the town’s long history.

 Seniors Find Old and Famous Vines

The white wine from this region is among my favorite French wines. When senior travelers arrive at the beautiful Chateau Guibeau in the village of Puisseguin, population 1,000, you will be greeted to the warm smiles from Brigitte and Eric, who run the winery (the first link above).

So to complete some specifics for those among you who enjoy fine wine, you will find Chateau Guibeau to be rustic and full-bodied with tart black fruit, smoke and tar. A big piece of steak would be divine with it. Food pairings: grilled lamb chops and oven-roasted potatoes. In addition, it won the Grand Gold Medal winner at Concours Mondial Bruxelles 2011.

There have been vineyards around Saint-Emilion since Roman times, and today the Saint-Emilion wine appelation is one of the most prolific in the Bordeaux region, generating more than 250,000 hL of wine each vintage.  Appellation is the official title given to a product made in a specific place (or set of places), in a style particular to that place.

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France is home to the world’s most famous appellation system, a model which has been adopted as a model for Europe-wide regulations. Chateau Guibeau has several labels but they all rate very high among the many great French red wines.

We hope that seniors who enjoy fine wine enjoyed this travel blog.  The Beckers

Filed under : Editors Choice, Europe, Wine Trips

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