TRAVEL TO BORDEAUX
What is the best way to get to Bordeaux from Paris? If you arrive in to Paris by air and want to get directly down to Bordeaux, then come down by air. If you are staying overnight in Paris before coming down then we recommend that you come down by train – it will be quicker overall and GT has access to exceedingly good fares. Let us take the strain and book your train travel for you.
WHO WE WILL DEAL WITH WHEN WE ARRIVE?
Is Gourmet Touring run by French people? No. We have lived permanently in France, for over 13 years, so we have the knowledge of locals, but we are British. Our first language is English and we understand the subtle nuances of communication that are required to translate English-speaking people’s needs into their ideal itinerary. These things are often otherwise overlooked in translation! We also have a very British way of working that revolves around a true understanding of customer service.
Will the GPS give me verbal instructions in my language of choice? Yes indeed. We have never yet come across a language that a client asks for that is not pre-loaded into our machines.
How is the GPS returned to GT at the end of my stay? We want you to find your way back to the airport or train station without any problems so rather than leave it at your hotel we provide you with a stamped addressed envelope to post it back to us when you are at the airport. The envelope even shows you where the post box is situated.
Is it safe for me to drive after a tasting at a vineyard? A lot of misinformation is circulated about driving after vineyard visits. What you have to remember is that vineyard visits in Bordeaux are very different to those in Napa and certainly bear no resemblance to a pub-crawl! You will receive a small amount of wine to taste at the end of an hour’s tour and can use the spittoon to reduce consumption if you wish. GT obviously does not condone driving under the influence of levels of alcohol above the legal limit, but at the same time we do not shy away from the fact that any responsible person is well able to manage things in order that they can taste wine and legally drive a car afterwards.
Can I upgrade to an automatic transmission car? Yes, no problem. A small price supplement does apply. Other car types, such as convertibles and luxury cars are also available.
Can I pick up the hire car at Bordeaux airport and drop it off at Bordeaux railway station or vice versa? Yes of course we will happily arrange this and there is no additional surcharge for this service.
How easy is driving in the Bordeaux region? Thankfully not all the French drive like the Parisians do!! The drivers are well mannered and the roads are generally speaking very empty. The pre-programmed GPS makes driving a pleasure rather than a chore. The French drive on the right-hand side of the road and your hire car will have its steering wheel on the left-hand side.
Can I pick up the hire car in Bordeaux and drop it off in another city or vice versa? Yes of course we will happily arrange this and local fee for the one-way drop off charge will be billed to you directly by the rental agency.
Is there any difference in cost depending on when I pick up and return the car? Providing you collect and return the car on the allocated days it makes no difference to the price what time of day you collect or return it.
Can I add in an extra night’s accommodation to one of your ‘TO GO’ itineraries? Yes we can do this and a supplementary charge will apply. Please let us know your specific requirements and we will do what we can to oblige.
Are parking costs included at hotels? Outside of Bordeaux city centre parking at places of accommodation is all free. If your itinerary includes accommodation in Bordeaux city centre private parking will be included in all our ‘BESPOKE’ itineraries and is excluded in all our TO GO itineraries. Public parking locations are numerous and they will be pre-progammed in to your GPS.
VINEYARDS & WINE
Will my pre-organised vineyard visits and tastings be pre-paid? Definitely. You will never be asked to pay for a vineyard visit that has been pre-booked for you. The reason many other operators do not pre-pay for visits is that they are legally not insured to take your monies up-front to make these bookings. We are a fully bonded tour operator so take care of all the admin for you and pass back the benefits of preferential rates that we have with suppliers.
Can I visit some of the 1st growth Châteaux? We can organise tastings of 1st growths (in a wine shop), however requests to actually visit them will only be considered for our ‘BESPOKE’ itineraries. The likely success of being able to visit one or more 1st growths is not guaranteed and will depend very much on how far in advance you make your booking with us. For some of the 1st growth Châteaux (like Latour and Lafite) our success in getting you an appointment may also depend on how serious a collector you may be. Do please also bear in mind that there are numerous magnificent world-class vineyards that we can organise you visits and tastings at which are not 1st growths!
Will there be other people on vineyard visits with us? Only where specified and only with our GT ‘BESPOKE’ itineraries can there be a guarantee of partaking in privately-run vineyard visits. In cases where you are on visits with other people the maximum group size rarely exceeds 10 people and visits are always conducted in English. GT always strives to foster relations with vineyards that are not too commercial so you should never arrive at a vineyard at the same time as a busload of other people!
Can I buy wine at châteaux that I visit? Many of the top Châteaux do not actually sell wine from their premises (because they want to retain the best relationships they can with the négociants who sell their wines). Be aware that those who do sell directly often do not do so at particularly preferential rates – once again to avoid conflict with their négociants. Please also be aware that they are unlikely to offer shipping of any kind.
Can I ship wine? Yes we can introduce you to some very good wine shops (or better still the négociants themselves) who can organise reliable, insured shipping. Costs depend on the destination but are usually very reasonable if you are buying a minimum of 12 bottles. If you live outside of the EU then you do not need to pay the French 20% VAT, so often this saving alone, if you are buying 12 nice bottles, covers the cost of the shipping! Mixed cases are entirely possible so mix and match as you wish.
If I want to visit a particular Château or restaurant can that be organised? Tailoring is typically offered to our ‘BESPOKE’ itineraries, but in all cases please let us know of any particular requests you have.
Are prior appointments at vineyards really necessary? In short, yes. Unless you have an appointment prepare to be turned away. That’s how it works in Bordeaux!
Can I dispense with a tour of a vineyard and just get straight to the tasting? Thing operate differently in Bordeaux to Napa I’m afraid! The Bordelais just don’t operate in this way. They are proud of how they make their wine and they will want to tell you about that before they move on to the tasting. If you wish to taste a number of good wines in one session then this is best organised elsewhere than a vineyard and can be organised by GT for you in a ‘BESPOKE’ itinerary.
Am I restricted to set menus in restaurants where there are pre-paid meals? No, in short! GT operates in a different way to virtually all other tour operators in the region in that we choose not to demand a commission from restaurants. By taking this approach you choose what you wish to eat, rather than the restaurant choosing the simplest thing for them to give you. We set aside a budget that will enable you to select a nice menu. Exactly how you spend that budget though is entirely up to you – a sandwich and an expensive bottle of wine? The most costly delicacies from their A la carte menu? Anything is possible – you will just be asked to pay any excess balance at the end of your meal from the budget that has been set aside and communicated to you in your guidebook. Furthermore we don’t faff about with anything as vulgar as vouchers. We work closely with our suppliers and they will know when to expect you, and welcome you by name (yours not ours) and know what pre-payment has been made.
Do I need to wear a shirt and tie in Michelin-starred restaurants? We are pleased to say no! Of course if you wish to dress up you will not look out of place, however even the most exclusive of restaurants in our region do not have a dress code and smart casual dress is absolutely fine. The same goes for attire at vineyards visits.
I am a vegetarian or have some eating restrictions, is this a problem? No problem at all – just let us know your restrictions and we will advise the relevant restaurants in advance of your arrival there. Contrary to popular belief not all the French live on snails and frogs’ legs alone!
Can I take my own wine to restaurants? As a general rule of thumb it is best to assume that the answer to this one is no. There are a few exceptions, but even then it comes with certain stipulations. Ask us and we can tell you the local secrets.
Should I tip in restaurants? Service and all taxes are always included, by law, in the prices quoted at restaurants in France. Tipping is therefore not expected although if you have a particularly nice experience you may wish to consider leaving a tip. This can be anything from a few Euros and does not have to be a percentage of the total bill.