Unique garden spaces, stunning countryside, world class wine and local foods in Bordeaux & Dordogne/Perigord Noir
7 days from Bordeaux
A feast for all the senses!
This tour begins and ends in Bordeaux, France. Bordeaux has an international airport and is approximately a 2-hour, 10-minute train ride from/to Paris. SGT is happy to assist you with pre and/post tour plans in either city or both if you wish, please just ask us!
Arrival into Bordeaux at your leisure OR the option of a group arrival transfer. You have the day to explore as you choose independently.
Bordeaux is the traditional seat of the Dukes of Aquitaine with a history stretching back 2000 years – it has seen Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Saracens at its gates. Called the “city of art and history,” about 1810 hectares of the city centre is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Bordeaux is home to two world class art museums, several scenic bridges, a Roman arch, a lovely botanical garden, top shopping and amazing architecture. Cathedral of St André, which is comparable in size with Notre-Dame in Paris, dates to the 12th century. One of the many scenic squares is Place de la Comédie, on the site of the Roman forum, home to one of the finest theatres in Europe, built in 1780 and designed by the same architect as Chartres Cathedral and Palais Royal in Paris.
For garden lovers, Bordeaux has ten public gardens, parks, and nature areas. These vary from the vast Parc Bordelais to the romantic Jardin Public, to the adorable Maison du Jardinier at the Parc Rivière and the very discreet Square Vinet with its spectacular green wall in the Saint-Pierre district. Two gardens and seven trees in Bordeaux were officially designated as "remarkable” by the country’s preservation org.
The Bordeaux Botanical Garden was envisioned as early as the 1600s but the modern version was conceived and planted in 1997. The garden has six different sections and a field comprising 44 plots. One part is devoted to the soils and flora typical of the Bordeaux region. The spectacular and well-designed water garden features collections of water lilies and other aquatic plants. In addition, an arboretum has a wide variety of trees and magnificent glasshouses containing Mediterranean-type vegetation.
For those that wish to get a jump on our culinary/wine theme, there is Ecole du Vin in the centre of Bordeaux, the ‘school of wine’ where one can get acquainted with some of the local varieties. Of course, the local cafes and restaurants have no shortage of delights to sample!
Stay: Bordeaux (accommodation included in the package)
Meet your driver/guide in the hotel lobby at 09:00. The famed Bordeaux vineyards, the rich grape growing countryside around St Émilion, are on the doorstep and are our focus today. We will meander the vineyards, sampling the local wineries and grounds as we choose.
St Emilion town provides almost a perfect summary of this tour – medieval, narrow, cobbled streets, ancient ramparts, historical buildings, shopping and a chance to taste a local delicacy, in this case macaroons. Absorb life with a glass of fine wine beside you. Bliss!
During our day, see the Vayres Estate, in the great Albret family since the middle ages; this is the family of the kings of Navarre (1300 to 1580) including Henri IV, King of France. The medieval castle was renovated during the renaissance period and around 1690. Explore the formal gardens and medieval garden.
Also today, tour the gardens and vineyard of Chateau Fombrauge, located in the small town of discrete Saint Christophe des Bardes, nestled in the landscape listed as World Heritage by UNESCO. Hear about the illustrious history of Château Pape Clément. Visit the vineyard and discover the impressive wooden vat room and wine storehouse, and the cellar, which conceals a chapel, the recumbent effigy of Pope Clement V and very old vintages of Grand Cru Classé. Yes of course our tour will include a tasting!
Stay: Bordeaux, same property as above
Today make the way into the Périgord Noir, home to dense forests of oak and pine criss-crossed by the Dordogne and Vézère rivers, where open meadows host wild orchids and pretty butterflies and birds. A rich region, here mediaeval castles blanket the hilltops and prehistoric caves feature some of the oldest known cave paintings in the world. There are exquisite local culinary specialties, the region is famous for foie gras, walnuts and black truffles. We will explore the natural wonders of the area, taste some local treats, and sample the best of the local gardens.
On the way from Bordeaux, visit the lovely Jardin de Sardy, a “Remarkable Garden of France” in an Italianate style. Various plants in barrels decorate the courtyard as does a large container of lotus flowers. The spectacular pond is the highlight of the garden, a large rectangular space with water lilies.
Caviar farm Domaine Huso and Jardin de Neuvic are also on our day’s agenda. Siberian sturgeon fish were introduced into the Aquitaine region in the 1970s, and is today the capital of French caviar production. We will tour one of the best, an environmentally friendly 19 hectare fish farm located on a scenic 200-year-old farm. For the adventurous among us, there’s the opportunity to put on waders and get into the water to ‘inspect’ the fish! We will of course have a tasting of the caviar during our visit. Also in the nearby town of Neuvic, a 16th-century island château and lovely botanical garden to explore.
Sarlat, the capital of the Périgord Noir region, is our base for these few days. During our time here, see the old town’s exceptional townscape, which reflect the riches of the early landowners. Nestled in a hillside, Sarlat-la-Caneda is a well-preserved mediaeval village full of narrow cobbled streets, ‘hidden’ courtyards, turrets and old stone buildings.
If we’ve time during our stay in the area, subject to availability, perh
aps we may choose go ‘truffle hunting’ on a local truffle farm to experience how they seek out these delicacies. There are also opportunities to pepper in farm shop stops or a brief visit with a local food purveyor such as a semi-wild boar farm walk or fruit based apéritifs distillery, as time and interest permits. Spoilt for choice in this lovely region!
Chateau des Milandes fell into ruin after the French Revolution but it was famously restored by the legendary dancer/singer/war hero/philanthropist Josephine Baker, where she lived with her 12 children from 1946 until the late 1960s. The chateau is one of the prettier of the chateaux in this area and is surrounded by an attractive garden. The exterior of the chateau has everything – turrets, pointy roofs, mullioned windows, stained glass, gargoyles – all put together in a beautifully harmonious way. The interior is maintained in the Art Deco style in which Josephine Baker decorated it. Inside there are exhibitions commemorating her life, including displays of famous stage costumes like the infamous banana skirt worn at ‘Folies Bergère’ in 1928 and others from her career appearances at ‘Olympia’ and the ‘Casino de Paris.’ Les Milandes also puts on birds of prey shows featuring falcons, hawks, owls and a white-headed American eagle so you can see these magnificent birds in action.
Also see the interesting Jardins de Marqueyssac, offering spectacular views over the chalky cliffs of the Dordogne Valley. Kleber Rossillon restored the gardens to their 17th century character, full of uniquely trimmed boxwoods, and added some new features including an alley of santolina and rosemary. Since 1997, these gardens have been classified amongst the Notable Gardens of France. Guests can wander the hedge mazes and enjoy the pictureque views! Note that there are several steep inclines and uneven steps at this location.
The Water Gardens of Carsac is another special place set in the magnificent countryside. Here is over a half kilometre ‘water labyrinth,’ walk along the wooden bridges over a variety of ponds and small lakes full of a wide range of water lily and lotus flower species. Among the beautiful flowers and waterscape, admire the wildlife - koi carp, frogs and the dragonflies zipping from pond to pond.
Wednesdays in summer offer a special experience after nightfall, with the ponds lit up, a colourful display with fountains and jets of water should the group choose to linger here.
Stay: Sarlat-la-Canéda, same property as above
This will be another day to remember as we explore more of the Dordogne, placing particular emphasis on the breath-taking array of prehistoric sites. And, yes, of course more stunning gardens! There are over 200 separate pre-historic places of interest in this region. Many are concentrated around the vicinity of Les Eyzies, easy access to view a sampling of the astounding cave paintings, particularly seeking out famed Lascaux Caves.
Château de Hautefort is an ancient castle flanked by beautiful sculpted formal French gardens. The Count de Choulot replaced the formal park with a landscape garden in the 17th century. This park, made up of winding avenues, boasts varied views over the surrounding countryside and the Château. The 20th century update by the Baron and Baroness de Bastard further enhanced the grounds. On the esplanade, a green avenue of Canadian thujas is flanked by a box parterre. The parterres designed by Choulot have been preserved, and box hedges and topiary added.
Les Jardins de l'Imaginaire is a very modern creation. These contemporary gardens were designed by the landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson. Stroll through 13 different scenes tells the story of mankind through sensations and feelings. Features here include a long tunnel covered in wisteria, clematis, jasmine and other climbers; a contemporary rose garden with over 1800 roses; a wonderful fountain trail, a topiary garden and the gabion greenhouse with an exhibition on the art of niwaki, the Japanese art of trimming plants. This garden enjoys the "Jardin Remarkable" and "20th Century Heritage" labels.
Stay: Sarlat-la-Canéda, same property as above
Explore more local treasures around our base of Sarlat today! Les Jardin du Manoir d’Erignac is a beautiful 18th century garden collection of over 300 topiary sculptures and about 50,000 yew, hornbeam, box and ivy mixed with colorful border plantings. Covering many hectares, the space is divided into roughly 5 main areas – the box labyrinth, the plant sculptures kingdom, manor French garden, Capucine’s gardens and the white garden with the flower meadow.
A small but notable gem is Jardins de l'Albarede, another classified as a "Remarkable Garden of France." The garden has been built in an area with very poor soil but the owners have created a beautiful garden with lots to see and inspire cleverly using careful plant selection and mulching. They have used their experience to write a number of books about gardening with poor soil. The property is entirely organic with a collection of perennial plants, grasses, old roses and a vegetable garden.
Jardins de Cadiot is a quaint country garden of 10 ‘rooms’ featuring various styles such as French, Italian and English. This space hosts big collections of ancient roses, peonies, grasses, sages, hemerocallis, hydrangeas and Japanese acers.
Stay: Sarlat-la-Canéda, same property as above
This morning we stay local to enjoy the weekly Sarlat Saturday morning market, this market dates back to mediaeval times and is famous throughout the region. Several streets of olde town fill with vendors with their colorful tents, many featuring the local culinary specialties. Meander the market as you choose, you can usually find foie gras, confit, fresh breads, cured meats, walnut cakes, cheeses, truffle and walnut oils, a selection of antiques, quirky gifts and other sundries.
This afternoon, we make our way back to Bordeaux via even more lovely garden spaces! If we haven’t already, our route can take us past one of the famous fortresses Castelnaud and/or Beynac, clinging above the steep pretty stone village of the same name.
Les Amis du jardin de Planbuisson is a unique inclusion, a space created of bamboos and grasses in the heart of the French countryside. Some of the bamboos are massive, both in height and diameter; this garden features approximately 250 species of bamboo and 430 species of grasses.
Our finale garden is the water lily garden in the village of Le Temple-sur-Lot. This garden boasts "Remarkable Garden" status and is the oldest and most prestigious water plant nursery in the world. Established in 1875 by botanist Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, this magical place is today home to over 250 species of water lily. It was his hybrid water lilies that provided famous Impressionist painter Claude Monet with the inspiration for his Water Lily series. Here enjoy collections of tropical and hardy lotuses, water lilies, historic pools, an exotic greenhouse, a rose garden, a bamboo garden and natural pond crossed by a Japanese bridge.
Our tour concludes this evening back in Bordeaux.
Why not extend your stay? Next Bordeaux Wine Festival should be in June, 2020.
Please note: All attraction opening times are correct at time of printing this website. While we will do our utmost to include all of the properties mentioned as central visits, we reserve the right to change an attraction should it become impossible to deliver a planned visit due to changes in opening days or times beyond our control.
Oft imitated, never duplicated! This itinerary is an original SGT itinerary, property of Special Group Tours and to be used only with express permission/in conjunction with SGT.
6 touring days with driver/guide companion, accommodation for 6 nights while on the tour including breakfast daily, entrance fees to listed attractions, transportation and all taxes and tips other than those you may wish to give your guide.
Dinners, beverages and any items of a personal nature are not included in the package price.
Airport transfers, accommodation pre and post tour, Paris/Bordeaux city tours or day trips, transport passes and theatre tickets are not included but can be added to your package as you wish for a supplemental fee. Please discuss your needs with us, SGT is at your service!
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