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Walking the quiet beaches of Normandy, enjoying a romantic cruise on the Seine through Paris, climbing the Eiffel Tower for a bird’s eye view of the “City of Lights,” sipping famed wines by their vineyards, hiking through alpine meadows, shopping in the open markets of aix-de-Provence, exploring hilltop towns, strolling on the glittering promenades of the French Riviera, and the food, food and more food. We’ll put you in contact with the beauty and charms of France.
France, roughly the size of Texas, is an easy country to explore.
Independent Exploration: We’ll be happy to craft your independent travel through France with an itinerary designed to fit your interests and your own pace, including hotels, rental cars, rail tickets, private transfers, guides, daily excursions, culinary and viticulture experiences, villa rentals and more.
Escorted Tours: For a deeper connection consider an escorted tour. We can match you up with the best tour for your interests and budget so you can benefit from the perspective of professional guides, let someone else worry about the logistics of getting you from place to place, and share special moments and discoveries with others on your tour.
Adventure Tours: France is a mecca for bicycle tours and trekking across alpine meadows and passes.
River Cruises: The 7-day river cruise is becoming the most popular way to experience France close-up. All of the major river cruise lines offer French cruises on the Seine from Paris to Normandy and back, the Rhone as it snakes north from Avignon through spectacular scenery to Lyon, deep into the heart of gastronomic France, and roundtrip from Bordeaux through the leisurely Dordogne, Gironde and Garonne Rivers in the Bordeaux wine region. Most of our clients bookend a French river cruise with independent stays in Paris or Nice.
Mediterranean and Atlantic Cruises: Most western Mediterranean and a few Baltic/North Sea cruises call on French ports. Day excursions allow travelers to visit the “must-see” sights of the region and some offer enriching cultural experiences that connect their passengers with local artisans. Typical ports of call include: Atlantic: Cherbourg, Le Havre [Paris/Normandy], Bordeaux, Montoir de Bretagne [Nantes], St Malo, Le Palais; Mediterranean: Marseille, Toulon, Antibes, Cannes, Saint Tropez and Nice.
There is no way you can do it all. You’ll want to explore the highlights including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay, Notre-Dame, Musee Rodin, Pere-Lachaise Cemetery, Versailles Palace and Paris’ famed districts.
Visiting the D-Day beaches and war cemeteries in Bayeux, Caen and Colleville-sur-Mer, especially the nearby Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial with its over 9,000 graves overlooking Omaha Beach, is a humbling experience. Overall there are 18 military cemeteries in Normandy. Beyond the war, be sure to see Mont Saint-Michel Abby, one of France’s most toured sites outside of Paris – just be sure you time the tides correctly so you don’t find yourself surrounded by the sea at high tide! Don’t miss Rouen – “city of a thousand sires” - and Giverny – home to Monet.
No visit to France is complete without a deep appreciation of French viticulture here on the mid-Atlantic coast. The historic Aquitaine region around Bordeuax on the mid-Atlantic coast is home to some of the world’s most highly rated wines. The renown Medoc wine route is a popular bicycle tour. Take time to enjoy the picturesque scenery, visit the cellars and meet the winemakers.
Chamonix is the gateway for high mountain adventures in the French alps in the shadow of 15,781 foot high Mont Blanc. Be sure to ride the Chamonix Luge Alpine Coaster or take a helicopter ride over the dramatic French alps.
Perhaps our favorite region in France. In this compact area visit Aix-en-Provence, a city north of the Mediterranean city of Toulon, Aix is great for people watching as you stroll the tree-lined Cours Mirabeau with its three fountains or indulge in café visits as well as the obligatory museums. The Le Grand Marche, the many outdoor markets that fill the squares, offers fresh food, treats, clothing, art-works, flea-market discoveries and more.
One of the surprises will be how mountainous the area is as the maritime mountains fall into the blue Mediterranean Sea. The coastal towns hug the shores, each with its own style. Stoll Nice’s famed Promenade des Anglais or head to the beach. Climb to the top of Castle Hill for a panoramic view of Nice. From Nice you can take the train east to Monaco or west through Antibe to Cannes. Off shore from Cannes, accessible by ferry, are the popular beachy islands of Ste Marguerite –where the you’ll find the Fort de I’lle where the real-life “Man in the Iron Mask” was imprisoned - and smaller St. Honorat.
Calling all AmaWaterways’ Fans…..Ama is expanding in France.
AmaWaterways is repositioning two ships to France: the 443-foot AmaKristina to the Rhone River and the smaller AmaDante to sail the Seine.
AmaKristina will take on the “Colors of Provence” itinerary between Lyon and Avignon allowing the AmaCello to sail an expanded “Essence of Burgundy & Provence” itinerary into the Burgundy region on the Saone River between Chalon-sur-Saone and Arles. This cruise will include a French cooking lesson at a culinary school in Valence.
On the Siene, AmaDante will share duties with AmaLyra between Paris and Le Harve on the “Impressions of Paris & the Seine.”.
Please call us for 2021/22 sailing dates and prices. Go Bucket List Travel is your AmaWaterways expert. 804-557-3006.
pic courtesy of AmaWaterways
Wine makers speak with passion about their creations and we especially appreciate the opportunity to share in their enthusiasm. Our special thanks to our gracious hosts, Signore Antonio Deltetto and his lovely daughter Claudia , for their time and insights as we spent over three hours with them yesterday at the beautiful Deltetto family winery in Canale, Italy. Antonio happily explained the challenges and joys of the family wine business, now in its 60th year, and how the soils and hills of neighboring Piemonte Roero and Langhe regions lend themselves to different styles of wines based on the local Nebbiola and Barbera grapes as well as Arneis, Moscato, Pinot Nero, Chardonnay and other varietals.
Over 50% of the Deltetto label of elegant whites, fruity Pinots, noble reds and delightful brut and rose spumanti sparkling wines are exported to northern Europe and Scandinavia, Japan, Canada and the USA.
Antonio is especially proud of his Spumanti line which he started in 2000 and produces in the “Classic Method” of in bottle fermentation. We sampled Spumanti Brut Rose vintages going back to 2005 and were fascinated by the subtle differences. The 2007 was especially wonderful.
Overall, we lost count at how many bottles of the Deltetto line of fine wines we sampled through the morning. Antonio took us back to school for a morning well spent at the foot of a wine master about the great wines of Piemonte. We left with a notebook full of thoughts and look forward to our future shipment of Deltetto whites, reds and sparking wines.
A Passion for Hazelnuts
We are in the Piedmont region of NW Italy, close to the town of Alba, famous for its white truffles and home to Nutella, the hazelnut dynamo that has taken the world by storm.
Throughout this region countless hazelnut trees fill the valley floors and entrepreneurs such as Stefano and Isabella Barroero in the hamlet of Cortemilia have turned the nut into a thriving family business producing nearly 20 types of coated hazelnuts, creams, confectionery products, baked goods and more on their farm Cascina Barroero.
Stefano graciously spent a few hours with us this morning explaining the hazelnut business from grove management, harvesting, shelling, sorting, roasting and how the little nut gems are transformed into taste tempting products that he and his family ship worldwide, including to the United States. Isabella, meanwhile, was busy in the production kitchen and we learned the manic business of cookie production….and a little taste testing along the way.
Thank you Stefano and Isabella!
With Spring coming to Italy the festival season is underway. This weekend lovers of artichokes will be flocking to the town of Ladispoli on the Mediterranean coast north of Rome for a weekend of culinary fun highlighting artichokes, remarkable artichoke art works and music.
Harvest time brings out festivals around the world from apple picking here in Virginia to olive pressing in Italy. The annual Alba Truffle Fair, held each October to early November in the village of Alba in northwestern Italy, is ground zero for celebrating some of the world’s finest “tartufi bianchi,” or white truffles, considered by many as one of the world’s richest flavors. Even if you didn’t get an invitation to the auctions where fanatics will bid up white truffles into the tens of thousands of euros, you can join the happy crowds and browse the weekend town markets for truffle oils, cheeses, and more or settle into a local café for menus celebrating mushrooms in more ways than you thought possible. Naturally, no Italian celebration is complete without medieval costumes, parades and contrada – neighborhood – contests. In Alba they race donkeys in the annual competition for neighborhood bragging rights.
Please check out our website for a comprehensive list of Italian festivals.
Think a vacation or honeymoon in Italy is all about visiting art museums or churches? How about combining a vintage Fiat 500 road rally tour with a Tuscany wine experience! You’ll travel from Florence in a convoy of fun-loving fellow explorers as you drive a classic FIAT 500 right out of the 1960s. Just follow your expert guide into the picture-perfect hills of Tuscany for an afternoon adventure - he’ll stay in touch with you by radio so you won’t get lost. After arriving at a 15th-century villa and wine estate, you’ll participate in one of two wine tours: either a wine-tasting session and vineyard tour, or a winemaking experience where you’ll meet the head winemaker and stomp on the grapes! The entire afternoon of rally driving and wine experience lasts over five hours. pic courtesy of Our Friends at Viatour.
Top Chef and Tel Aviv
What fun! The excitement and fun of Top Chef is featured on each Celebrity cruise and today onboard the Celebrity SILHOUETTE we had the unique opportunity to participate. My husband Tony was selected from the audience to be a contestant chef while I was chosen to be a judge. Tony and his partner won the Quick Fire contest against another team and then Tony, assisted by the head chef for the wonderful Murano Restaurant, cooked up a tasty steaks. He won a bottle of French Blanc de Blanc for his dish.
Later this afternoon we landed in Israel and headed to the old city of Jaffa and then to Tel Aviv for the day. We learned so much about the history of this land and saw the church honoring where St Peter sailed west for Rome. We found Tel Aviv to be a vibrant, youthful city. Tomorrow we are off to Jerusalem.
In Italy wine tasting can seem to be more like a meal then the “here’s a few tiny glasses, drink up and leave” experiences we often have back home. Be patient and enjoy!
Italian agriturismo (farmhouse) – working farm holidays, farm guest houses, B&B’s, farm restaurants and wine and olive farms draw thousands of visitors each year. Nestled in view of the beautiful Renaissance town of Pienza and overlooking the farmlands and estates in the Tuscan Val d’Orcia we found the Podere Il Casale cheesery and farm restaurant. Sandre and Ulisse, the owners of this 170 acre farm, have established a reputation for crafting wonderful goat and Pecorino cheeses and their private olive oils and wines. Following our meal featuring delectable products from their sustainable farm – such as chestnut pasta over lentils and kale and various cheeses, of course, Sandre escorted us through the farm full of baby goats, peacocks in full plumage, donkeys, chickens, sheep and pigs. In the cheesery she gave us a thorough understanding on the processes they use and what it takes to be a recognized sustainable farm in Italy.
We have met up with four close friends and seasoned Italy fans. Our host, Niek, from Holland, owns a lovely, spacious villa near Perugia that we are delighted to offer to our travel guests. (see our Italy itineraries). Our goal is to develop an itinerary for guests who would wish to rent Niek’s beautiful villa. Yesterday we toured the cellars of the Lungarotti fine winemakers. Last night was cooking lesson night as Letitia and Lydiana of the Agriturismo Malvarina near Assisi put us through our paces. We learned how to prepare authentic Umbrian farmhouse dishes including stuffed rabbit, gnocchi, fried artichokes, fresh pasta made with spinach, fried dough with mushrooms, dough-wrapped spiced pears and more. Following two hours of cuisine prep we enjoyed our farmhouse meal by the warm glow of the fireplace….a perfect evening.