Valley: This is America's premier wine producing
region. All the big names are here and so are all the
tourists. You can visit the Napa Valley as a day trip
from San Francisco but you will do better to spend one night
in the valley.
The Napa Valley runs generally north-south with highway 29
running along the west side and the Silverado Trail along
the east side. The wineries with the biggest names and
the longest history are along highway 29. It has more
towns and more traffic than the Silverado Trail. I suggest
that visitors to the valley plan on going north on 29 in the
morning hours. If you are in or near Calistoga by 2:00
pm, you can cross over to the Silverado Trail to run back
down the valley. This allows you to miss much of the
afternoon traffic that exists on highway 29.
tours, try to mix things up between the larger wineries (Sterling,
Mondavi & Beringer especially), and smaller producers;
and be sure to see one of the sparkling wine makers (Mumm
Napa Valley or Domaine Chandon).
the Napa Valley, Robert Mondavi's subsidiary up the Oakville
Grade, La Famiglia di Robert Mondavi has a very nice picnic
area, which must be reserved in advance. Also, Chateau
Montelena has a beautiful picnic area, which also must be
reserved in advance. V. Sattui is another picnic choice.
in the valley runs from the Comfort Inn in Calistoga to the
Marriott in Napa and higher prices at the Vintage Inn in Yountville,
the Silverado Inn, the Meadow wood Resort and Auberge du Soleil.
from some terrific wineries, visitors to Sonoma should stop
on their way to or from San Francisco to see Muir Woods.
This is a state park that protects a stand of giant redwoods.
You need to see this truly remarkable place.
Bordeaux This is a must
visit for most true wine lovers. Bordeaux
is the largest region in France in the production of A.O.C.
quality wines in France. Winery names in Bordeaux form
a who's who for the wine world. Many wineries have tours
but almost all require that you arrange an appointment well
in advance. Some of the chateaux only give tours for
individuals in the wine trade.
a good visit, plan to spend 3 days with about 2 of those days
visiting the wine country around the city of Bordeaux (1 day
in the Medoc, 1/2 day in Saint
and 1/2 day in Graves
The town of Saint Emilion is especially picturesque and you
should plan on having lunch there.
you are in the wine trade, you should avoid Bordeaux in the
3rd and 4th weeks of March. Those weeks are traditionally
reserved for showing the new vintage to the trade. One
week is for importers and key restaurant/retail buyers and
the other week is mostly devoted to showing the wines to the
press. You may still be able to visit some of the chateaux
but many of the better ones will be pre-occupied.
a modest but comfortable (by American standards) hotel in
Bordeaux, I've had repeated consistent good luck with the
Hotel St. Catherine. It is a Best Western affiliate
in the heart of Bordeaux. The hotel is very well located
just 25 yards from a pedestrian mall in one direction and
75 yards from a plaza in the other direction. The only
caveat regarding the hotel is that the clerks have not always
had strong English language skills. Always enough to
get the job done, but with a bit of a struggle.
pedestrian mall is a road that has restricted automobile traffic.
It is lined by shops and cafes, and is a great place to walk
off the jet lag on a Sunday afternoon. The plaza comes
alive in the evenings as three good restaurants extend their
seating out into the square.
any visit to Bordeaux of 3 or more days (especially if the
weekend is involved), you should visit Arcachon which is an
hour away on the coast. Have seafood at one of the close
to the beach restaurants and go watch the sunset from the
Dune du Pyla. The Dune is 15 miles from Arcachon so
allow 30 minutes to get there from Arcachon. Take a
bottle of wine and glasses to toast the sunset. It's
a spectacular event as the sun sets across the water while
you view it from atop a 385 foot tall sand dune. Do
not miss this. Tennis shoes, no skirts. You get
to the dune from the inland side and are already 2/3 of the
way up so getting to the top is easier than it sounds.
A stairway takes you to the top.
you are going to be traveling from Paris to Bordeaux, the
TGV train is a nice alternative to flying. The TGV is
a French high speed train that is clean and very fast.
The price is not much different than taking an Air France
flight but the train is almost as fast and is a pleasant change.
Champagne This region can be a great day-trip
from Paris or a trip that lasts longer. There are trains
that run from the Paris - Est station that will take you within
walking distance (or a short taxi ride) of some of the finest
Champagne houses in Reims or Epernay. Travel time by
train or automobile is about 1 1/2 hours.
is the largest city in Champagne (just under 200,000) and,
in addition to being the home of some of the finest Champagne
houses, has a spectacular cathedral in which the kings of
France were crowned for centuries. Epernay is the other
key city. It is smaller then Reims but has some equally
personally suggest Reims based on the other things to do.
Aside from the wineries and cathedral, this city of just under
200,000 has a large pedestrian mall (street closed to automobile
traffic) that is lined with shops and sidewalk cafes.
buffs may wish to visit the Lycée Roosevelt where General
Eisenhower had set up his general headquarters and where the
Nazi forces gave their unconditional surrender on May 7, 1945.
This took place in the map room of what was once a technical
school. The map room continues to receive visitors.
is also the home of some wonderful restaurants including Boyer
Les Crayères. This is one of the rare Michelin restaurants
in France and is worth the special journey.
you decide to stay overnight in Reims, Hotel de la Paix is
a well-located, comfortably priced clean and modern suggestion.
This is the heart of the Port trade. Well at least it's
across the river from the heart of the Port trade. This
municipality is split by the Douro River. On the right
bank of the river is Oporto, an ancient city with a wealth
of sights for a visitor. On the left bank of the river
is Vila Nova de Gaia, the traditional home of most major Port
lodges. Most well-known Port companies have regular
tours but it is best to call or write in advance.
is a tremendously interesting city to visit but (like most
places) you do need to guard against becoming a victim of
petty crime. Don't let cameras or purses get out of
your sight and don't wander unknown streets alone at night.
actual vineyards are located many miles upstream in the Douro
river valley. The slopes are steep and the vineyards
are terraced. The views are beautiful and impressive.
If you make it to Oporto, be sure you get up into the Douro