Thursday, January 29, 2015

Kristie Viking River Cruise - Chateaux, Rivers, and Wine!

Day 1:  Super excited about our arrival to Bordeaux.  I arrived at the airport and several Viking representatives where ready and waiting for us.  The transfer was seamless.  When we arrived at the ship, there weren’t any crowds or lines for boarding.  We quickly checked in to our staterooms and where ready to go on our first excursion, Bordeaux by night.  It was an amazing sight to see.  I loved having this excursion offered complimentary by Viking to help keep us awake after a major time change. 

Day 2:  Today we departed from Bordeaux and arrived in Pauillac, France. Our Program Director gave a presentation about the history and culture of Bordeaux before we departed the ship for a complimentary shore excursion. While on shore we visited a Chateau, experienced wine tasting and enjoyed a scenic drive through Medoc region. The evening ended with a dinner at Chateaux Kirwan. After dinner we boarded the ship for drinks and live music
Day 3: This morning our ship moved on to Cadillac. Around lunchtime we ventured off the ship for a Sauternes Chateau visit and wine tasting. The drive was beautiful and I couldn’t believe how many vineyards.  If there is place where grass should be it has a grape vine on it.  We departed back to the ship in the late afternoon and enjoyed a French lesson from our program director.  After dinner we attended a class to learn the art of food and wine pairing from the French.


Day 4: This morning we arrived in Blaye and adventured on a walk around the historical citadel. It was incredible! After lunch we departed for Libourne and enjoyed French afternoon tea in the Lounge on the ship. We also watched a live cooking demonstration that taught us how to make traditional French macaroons. We ended the evening with a lovely meal on board, drinks, and live music. 

Day 5: Day five of our river cruise offered the option between two all-day excursions in Libourne. The first, the world of truffles, hunting and tasting. And the second, home-hosted visit Chateau Siaurac. We decided to do the Chateau visit, with a guided walking tour of Liborne and a visit to Saint Emilion. This was the best decision for sure!  At Chateau Siaurac we had a personal tour from the owner, Paul Goldschmidt. He was such a pleasure to meet and definitely a highlight of the trip. We did a wine tasting and had a fantastic lunch on property.  After the Chateau we visited Saint Emilion and toured the underground church, which was an exclusive entrance for Viking only.  It was incredible.  So much history in Saint Emilion!  My favorite city we visited.  I wish we could have had a bit more time to walk around.   After our busy day, we boarded the ship and enjoyed dinner on board. After dinner we attended a wine tasting presentation to learn the basics of wine tasting. This was my favorite day of the trip with beautiful sights and lots of memories made!


Day 6: Today we departed Libourne and headed to Bordeaux. We watched a cooking demonstration before lunch and then enjoyed lunch on board the ship. After lunch we went on a coach tour combined with a short walking tour of the City of Bordeaux. In the evening we dined on the ship and enjoyed the musical performance “Un Voyage Musical throughout France.”

Day 7: Day seven offered another option between two excursions. One choice was to spend the day at the bay. The second choice was to visit a local market with the Chef.  I chose the local market.  It was very interesting and I recommend having your peppermint oil with you to rub under your nose.  It amazes me how fresh everything is and was a great experience to see all the locals shopping.  The afternoon offered us some much needed free time to do some Christmas Market shopping.   In the evening we enjoyed a farewell dinner and toast with the captain and other guests.  It was hard to say goodbye to my new friends!

Day 8: This morning we sadly departed our ship. 

Viking acknowledges that many passengers have very early flights and offer breakfast on the last morning starting at 3am. They also help you arrange taxis and airport transportation so that your departure is seamless. 

Overall the Viking River Cruise experience was excellent. It really is a great way to cover many sights in a small amount of time. I loved that you dock in the heart of each city and the bus or city are just a short walk away.  Do to the small size of the ships, you really get to know everyone onboard and feel as if you are part of a private group.  I look forward to embarking on another Viking River Cruise in the near future!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Kathy B in Paris with Starwood Hotels & Resorts

Kathy went to Paris on a hosted trip with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. She was able to see the three high end Starwood properties throughout the city and wanted to share her experience with you.

This meticulously restored 1928 art deco hotel is perfectly located on George V.  I loved the art deco prints throughout the hallways and in each room. The hotel offers entry level rooms that are very comfortable in size with great beds and several great suite options. The top of the line is an apartment with rooftop terrace offering stunning views all around Paris.  La Scene is a Michelin starred restaurant featuring French cuisine and a unique twist with the kitchen right in the middle of the restaurant. Breakfast, light meals and drinks can be served in the interior courtyard open to the sky. This was my favorite spot for a quick bite. Staying here you would be a short distance to the all the fabulous high end shopping on the Champs Elysees or in the opposite direction you are a short walk to the Seine river and the Bateaux Mouches river cruise dock.

The Westin Paris
Located near the Place Vendome so very close to the Seine River this is an excellent location too.   It is a much larger hotel with very comfortable rooms and great suites. We had dinner in the Winter Garden – and open air (interior courtyard) terrace restaurant. This hotel had the most beautiful room for weddings or special events called the Imperial room. I would highly recommend holding your next international event here. This property is more moderately priced than the Prince de Galles yet still offers excellent service.

W Hotel Opera House
Keeping with the W theme, this small hotel is a little more edgy and artsy than others. It attracts a fun and lively crowd at the bar and restaurant. Take note the rooms start off really small so I recommend staying in a suite here. Located near the opera house, this location is not as ideal as the Westin or Prince de Galles. Personally liked the vibe of this hotel just not the location quite as much.

Thinking of going to Paris? Contact Kathy at or your Sanders Travel advisor. We can even help you creatively use Starwood points to ensure you the best possible stay on top of our Virtuoso and Luxury Privileges program amenities.