Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Goldring Travel Website Wins Travel Weekly Silver Magellan Award

I am proud to announce that Goldring Travel has been awarded a Silver Magellan Award for our website.

Travel Weekly is the most influential business-to-business new resource in the travel industry  "From design to marketing to services, The Travel Weekly Magellan Awards honors the best in travel and salutes the outstanding travel professionals behind it all."

The judging panel for Travel Weekly Magellan Awards included: Peter Greenberg, Travel Editor for The Early Show - CBS News; Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die; Marc Mancini, president of Marc Mancini Seminars and Consulting; travel blogger Johnny Jet; Rudy Maxa, PBS Host of Rudy Maxa's World; Lalia Rach,Professor/Founding Dean, NYU Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management; Burt Wolf, Internationally-Syndicated Television Journalist; and Bruce Beckham, executive director and CEO of Tourism Cares.

The Goldring Travel website has been developed to provide the consumer with truly relevant information on cruise lines and cruises, hotels and land experiences, along with the resources to research, educate and interact. The result, hopefully, is an online experience that gives you both the inspiration to travel and the confidence to use Goldring Travel as your travel agency of choice.

While it is, admittedly, exciting to win the award, what amazes me is that the Goldring Travel website isn't finished!  I am adding much more content to the Goldring Travel site, including photographs, videos and additional resources.

As with how I handle your travel desires, I want to provide the best experience and am always striving to do more things and to do what I do better.  I do hope you stop by GoldringTravel.com and then give me a call at (877)2GO-LUXURY, UK:   020 8133 3450AUS: (07) 3102 4685, Everywhere Else: +1 732 578 8585 or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Crystal Symphony - Patricia Riley's Review: August 22-September 2, 2013 (Lisbon to Dover) - Part VII (Honfleur, Trouville-sur-Mer and Some Final Thoughts)

The last port before my Crystal Symphony cruise came to an end was an overnight call in the quaint town of Honfleur, with a population of 10,000 and  located where the Seine River meets the sea.I am always struck at the different perceptions people have on a port or a shore excursion.  

My first impression of Honfleur  was  that it was as picturesque as any town could be.  Their old port is now home to a myriad of sail boats but the buildings around the yacht harbor are as they have been for centuries.  The new additions to the waterfront would be the dozens of outdoor cafes, with umbrella covered tables, which cover one end of the harbor walk to the other.

The town is full of cobblestone streets and half timbered buildings as seem on the picture below.  It is also home to the Eugene Boudin Museum.  Known for his landscapes and seascapes, Boudin was born in Honfleur in July, 1824.  While not as famous as his contemporaries such as Monet, Boudin's work was none the less highly regarded.  Fans of Impressionism should visit this small museum about a five minute, well signed walk, from the waterfront.

Also in the old town of Honfleur is St. Catherine's Church.  The most interesting feature of this church is the ceiling.  As Honfleur of the past was a town of shipbuilders, the church was built by these men.  Their experience was building boats, not buildings.  The church has a distinctive nautical flair as the roof takes its design from the hull of an inverted ship.

Of course, perception is reality, for that person.  I mention this because I did not think anybody could NOT fall in love, or at least be impressed, with Honfleur.  What I thought charming about Honfleur others that I spoke to on the ship found the town too crowded and too small.  

Those who thought that were lucky since they could spend their time in other places such as Deauville (famous for its film festival) and Trouville-sur-Mer, both easily within reach via public bus.  I do want to mention the most popular tours from Honfleur would be to the awe inspiring Normandy Beaches.  I 100% recommend these tours.  Visiting the beaches, museums and cemeteries is an emotional experience. It is both sad and inspirational.  

As these places must be, in my opinion, visited with a guide, and cannot be reached via public transportation I will talk about places you can visit by public bus from Honfleur.  It has to be by bus as there is no train station in Honfleur!

Many people overlook a valuable resource, the local Tourist Information Bureau.  Nearly every port offers one.  At the very least a representative usually comes onboard with maps and brochures.  Seeking out more information yields more information and local tourist boards offer a wealth of information.  In fact, had I not stopped by the tourist board I would have not known about the Sunday Marche in Trouville -sur-Mer and how to get there by bus.

The tourist office representative equipped me with maps of Trouville as well as Deauville and the schedule for the bus that would take me there.

Public buses depart from the very central bus station which just happens to be where the shuttle from the ship drops guests.  The No. 20 bus travels from Honfleur to Trouville in 26 minutes at a round trip fare of €4.80.  You can stay on the bus for another three minutes and reach Deauville.  The  drive is scenic.  If you didn't know you were in France you could have thought you were in rural England.  Thatched roof cottages peek out from the apple orchards that dot the countryside.  This is the area of France that is famous for its Calvados liquor, made from apples, and for its apple cider.

The market in Trouville is a typical Normandy market.  You can find everything from live lobsters to mattresses for sale.

The market stretches for about 1/2 mile along a canal that separates Deauville and Trouville but that is not all there is to see in the area.  This is a seaside town with a large beach, a casino, lots of antique shops and a photogenic jetty stretching along the beach into the sea.

As so many impressionists were inspired by the beach, the sky, the sea and the views, walking along the jetty you can see not only the views they saw, but also copies of their paintings.  The jetty is dotted with copies of works of various artists, including Boudin, who took inspiration from this area.  Below is an example of a work by Monet which is displayed on the jetty.

Trouville is more sedate compared to its brasher neighbor Deauville.  Trouville is antique stores, Deauville is chic boutiques.  In fact Deauville is where Coco Chanel opened her first eponymous shop.  Deuville has an air of sophistication that it has built its reputation on.  That being said, it's a pleasant town to walk around and like Trouville the beach is long, wide and beckons you to walk on the sand.  Be prepared though if you dip your toe in the water.  It's cold. 

All too quickly my 11 nights on the Crystal Symphony came to an end.  The experiences both onboard and ashore were excellent.  It also helped that for the most part the weather cooperated and the infamous swells of the Bay of Biscay were almost non existent.

The night before the cruise ended I dined on the best sushi and sashimi I have ever had, including my meals in Japan.  I love the fact that the Sushi Bar in the Silk Road Restaurant is small and is a first come first served basis (though the regular Silk Road restaurant is by reservation).  You can watch the chefs preparing and presenting the various offerings.  I started with the specials by Nobu, the celebrity chef that works with Crystal to create these epicurean delights.  

If you are dining at a table in Silk Road you can still experience the sushi as part of your dining experience. (By the way, Prego - the Italian specialty restaurant, like Silk Road, is reservations only and dining times start at 6:00 pm.)

Disembarkation was very civilized.  No unwanted announcements starting at the crack of dawn, no warnings to vacate your cabin by 8:00am.  Crystal has a "No Announcement" policy.  That goes for shore excursions a well as disembarkation.  The day of disembarking a full breakfast was available in the dining room and at the Lido Buffet.  I did not get a feeling that this was anything other than a regular day.  No harried waiters, rushing through a service so they can be somewhere else, no cut back in offerings.  It was lots of smiles and happy service experienced up to the last.

Passengers were advised when their transfers would depart and asked to be in the Starlite Club 15 minutes beforehand.  Disembarkation began from there.  As the Bistro Cafe was open I grabbed a green tea to go and I was, reluctantly, off.

Is a Crystal Cruises for You?

In my opinion (Eric Goldring's may differ) Crystal Cruises is perfect for the the person that wants an all inclusive experience combined with lots of choices for entertainment, activities and dining that only a large ship can offer.  While Crystal Cruises offers the traditional two seating dining for those that enjoy the same table, table mates and server nightly, for people like me, Crystal also offers the Dining by Reservation. The result:  You have choices and a luxury product should be all about choices:  Your choice.

While the stateroom  categories below Penthouses on the Crystal Symphony, are smaller than the suites offered by the other luxury cruise lines, I do not see this as a deterrent to booking a Crystal cruise.  No matter the category I am in, I am rarely in my stateroom; so having a well-furnished stateroom, rather than a larger suite, was a non-issue.  Of course, it may be different for you.

A luxury product is also all about service.  While I may not have been greeted as "Mrs. Riley", I was always greeted with a big hello and a smile.  To me that is as important as being addressed by name.

My cruise had an older demographic than usual.  That could be due to the itinerary and that many were staying on for the following sailing: a transatlantic crossing to Boston.  The average age seemed to be mid 60's.  I know it is younger for seven day itineraries and summer sailings.  I also noticed that formal night had a greater percentage of actual formal dress than I have seen in recent years.  This definitely has an appeal for many. 

The true success of a cruise is if it makes you want to come back again and I want to go back on Crystal Symphony again.  To that end I have booked my husband and I on the April 19, 2014 sailing of the Crystal Symphony from Bejing to Tokyo.  Will I see you onboard?

I hope you enjoyed my series on the Crystal Symphony's Aquitaine Tapestry itinerary.  I enjoyed sharing it.  If you have any questions on Crystal Cruises or would like a price quote please contact Goldring Travel at (877) 2GO-LUXURY or email Eric at eric@goldringtravel.com

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Crystal Symphony - Patricia Riley's Review: August 22-September 2, 2013 (Lisbon to Dover) - Part VI (A Tale of Two Cities)

I want to preface my comments with some background.  Having worked for various cruise lines for over 25 years I know that there is much planning that goes into making a cruise the best it can be.  It has always amazed me that most cruises are as seamless as they are with all that has to go on before the ship sets sail.

One of the critical parts of any cruise belongs to the Itinerary Planning Department.  Every cruise line has a different name for these people but their job description is basically the same.  They are tasked with finding ports that are attractive to their guests and balance that with the costs of operations as well as marine needs. A port can be included or excluded based on tides, docking facilities or tendering, costs or ground operators. (I remember years ago Seabourn was going to go to Libya.  While permissions were forthcoming a visit there showed that their tourism infrastructure left much to be desired.  While the destination held appeal (at that time) it was thought that any positives would be outweighed by negatives.)

This now brings me to my Tale of Two Cities.

My cruise on the Crystal Symphony continues with port calls in Lorient and St. Malo.  Both are in Brittany, France.  Both have a maritime history.  Both have fabulous seafood restaurants.  But that is where the similarities end.  For example,while both Lorient and St. Malo are seaports with large harbors the topography of St. Lorient does not make it especially scenic, while the harbor at St. Malo offers extraordinary vistas in all directions.

Lorient was, for me, underwhelming.I know there must be a good reason for Crystal Cruises to include it in the itinerary; I'm just not sure what that reason was. Lorient,actually L'Orient, in French, is where the first boat to serve the East India Company was built.  That was in 1666.  Their maritime link continued with an unfortunate detour in 1940.  It was in that year that the Nazi's began their largest construction outside of Germany:  the Keroman Submarine Base.  It was virtually indestructible and so the Allies concentrated their bombings on the city.  As a result Lorient is a modern town and the base is now a tourist attraction.  

 The best thing to see in Lorient is the Marche.  The Marches (markets) in France are obligatory in most towns or cities.  Sometimes, daily, sometimes, just on weekends, they always offer a taste of the area.  Fruit, vegetables, cheeses, fish and more are always on display and wandering with the locals gives you a real feel for an area and their cuisine.  Please remember most markets close by 1:00 p.m.

If you are interested in the history of the East India Company and its connection to Lorient, you can visit a relatively new museum dedicated to the two.    Both of these are out of town and the public transportation options are limited.  Taxis are the best way to get to these attractions and should be around €10.00.  If you don't take a shore excursion you can always spend time in the city center.  Though not especially noteworthy there are some nice shops and a pedestrian zone.   On the other hand, I would have loved more time in St. Malo. The harbor front at St. Malo looks up onto the ramparts of the old city.  It's a lovely walk within the walls as well as on the ramparts.  The pedestrian streets are lined with cafes and shops and of course there is the abundance of seafood restaurants featuring the local favorite, mussels.

St. Malo is best known as the gateway to Mont St. Michel but the town and nearby villages can be visited and appreciated in their own right.  As most people are familiar with the magnificent island known  as Mont St. Michel. with its famous citadel, now connected with a bridge to the mainland,  I will talk about other places to visit.  If you do decide to visit Mont St. Michel it is best to do it with a ship shore excursion or make private arrangements.  It's not an easy do it yourself destination. The harbor front also offers ferry service to the charming town of Dinard.   The body of water that the ferry crosses is the Rance River.  You have some stunning views back to St. Malo.  It's a nice trip as its a little bit off the main tourist track (most go to Mont St. Michel or stay in St. Malo)  and is only a ten minute crossing and is a bargain at €6.00.

Though Dinard saw its greatest popularity in the 1800's it still is popular.  It's attractions include sedate beaches, a charming town square and a casino you can explore, have a different aspect of the surrounding area and see something that others sometimes overlook, and still have time for a seafood snack back in St. Malo.  The views, no matter where from, are beautiful.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Crystal Symphony - Patricia Riley's Review: August 22-September 2, 2013 (Lisbon to Dover) - Part V- Things I Love About Crystal Cruises, Exceptional Service...and A Small Wish

Now that I am about half way through my cruise on the Crystal Symphony I thought I would list, in no particular order, some the things that I am really enjoying about my cruise and the ship:

1.  A Real Movie Theater.  The Hollywood Theatre has a full size screen, comfortable seats and offers both matinee and evening shows.  Though not first run movies they are movies that would be shown on planes and have come out on DVD.  Movies shown during my cruise included "Side Effects" and "Iron Man 3".

2.  Computer University@Sea.  Started in 1997, the Computer Center is staffed by Technology Concierges.  These guys are miracle workers and very very patient.  If you did not bring your iPad or laptop there are plenty of computer terminals in the center.  As most people have their own devices there were always seats available in the computer center for those that wanted to surf the web.  A learning center is part of the facility and I highly recommend signing up for some of the complimentary courses.  There is a three part series on iPad use.  You can take 1, 2 or all 3 of the modules.  I took the "Pictures with your iPad" class.  I didn't have time to take the other two courses but a cheat sheet is provided to bring home for those who could not attend in person.  For the truly ambitious there is five part course on film making.

One of the "Technology Concierges" is pictured below.

Crystal Cruises Provides Technology Concierges
3.  A Well Equipped Fitness Center that is very large...and offers lots of fitness classes.

I never did see it full, but there is a note by the four recumbent bicycles requesting a 30 minute limit use.  There is free weight area, treadmills, stair climbers and resistance machine

Crystal Symphony also offers a variety of complimentary fitness classes.  There are always four choices every day and include Pilates, Yoga, Circuit Training, Stretching and Abs.  There is also a Walk on Water class in the pool.

4.  An Elegant Spa.  Staffed by the great therapists from Steiner's the spa is open until 10:00 pm for treatments.  They range from the mundane, such a Swedish massage to the really unusual, for example, the Thai Poultice massage.  Prices are inline with other luxury cruise lines.  Specials are offered daily.  You can get a 50 minute experience consisting of two mini services for $119.00  An 18% service fee is added to your bill for all services.  Also available in the beauty salon are hair and nail services.

5.  Enrichment Lectures and Classes.  I am a firm believer that cruising should be a learning experience.  Its a chance to come back smarter from your vacation then when you left.  I think Crystal Symphony has excellent enrichment programs.  "Odyssey Art at Sea"  introduces to the world of painting.  Whether you are a beginner or experienced you will get a chance to hopefully improve your technique and have some fun, too.

Crystal is also renowned for the quality of their lecturers.  Whether the topics are history, wine, politics or anything else the people delivering these lectures are the best in their field and always interesting. My Crystal Symphony cruise featured award winning journalist Thomas DeFrank. A student of the Presidency, he was Newsweek magazine's senior White House reporter.  His lecture was full of interesting, behind the scenes, antidotes.

A destination lecturer, Dr. Larry Herson, gave the information needed to enjoy the ports and his information was background related.  He did not push tours, just offered information on the history and culture of our destinations.         

6.  A Real Casino.  Its so nice to see a craps table on a ship.  Even better is that the minimum in the casino on the Crystal Symphony is only $5.00 to get into a craps game.  That is less than the minimum at most Las Vegas gaming establishments.  There are tons of slot machines, video poker and card tables.  There are tournaments for poker and blackjack also.

The Casino is one way the Crystal Symphony combines the best of a traditional cruise experience, by way of amenities, with the outstanding cuisine and service one would expect to find on the smaller luxury ships.  It is really is in a class of its own and should be viewed that way.

7.  Formal High Tea.  The venue for the tea service is the Palm Court.  I think it is one of the most beautiful public rooms on any ship. High on deck 11 forward it offers sweeping 270 degree vistas.  It is waiter service at tea time and everything is presented to you.  There is no self service.  I like the table service as it adds a special touch.  The tea time music is played by the resident jazz band.

Crystal Symphony's Palm Court
So now that I have listed what I really like let me list my "Wish List".  This is what I would like to see be able to be done. Its a small list.
1.  The ability to receive bar service, by the pool or Trident Bar, after 6:00pm. We have had amazing weather and sunset is not until almost 9:00 pm.  If you are on late dining, or reservation only dining, after 8:00pm, its enjoyable to sit outside on deck and enjoy the remains of the day.  

As I previously mentioned I like to drink ice tea during the day.  Yesterday evening I was in one of the very comfortable couches by the pool.  It was 6:10 pm. I asked a passing bar steward if I could have another ice tea brought over. He looked at the clock and said as it was after 6:00 pm he would have to ask his manager.  The answer came back, "No".  I understand that there needs to be a cut off time for service and I would have liked to seen the steward, on his own, go into the Palm Court to get me an ice tea.  With a wink, he could have said that this was special for me.  As it was I got up and went to Palm Court to get me ice tea.  Was it the end of the world, no, of course not.  Was it an effort for me to get up and get it?  Again, no.  It was a chance though to provide not just very good service but exceptional service. That chance was missed.

Exceptional Service...And a Light Touch
I do have to recognize a person that has gone out of his way to deliver exceptional service.  His name is Marco; a 27 year old waiter from Venice.  I was seated at his table on embarkation day.  As my luggage did not make it to Lisbon with me and other assorted travel mishaps, I was not in the best mood.  When he asked him how I was I told him, honestly. He was wonderful.  He touched my shoulder and said that I should forget all about what has happened so far and he will make sure I am happy.
I only dined at his table one additional evening and yet every time he sees me he goes out of his way to speak to me, check that all is well and simply make me feel good.  I didn't see him at all yesterday and so today at lunch he ran up to me when he saw me and spontaneously I gave him a kiss!  He will go far with Crystal and I see him moving up to other positions in the future.

I'm writing this as I sit on my balcony in the harbor of St. Malo.  It's a beautiful sunset.

More about the ports of St. Malo and L'Orient later.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Goldring Travel and Celebrity Cruises: Co-Sponsors of Asbury Park, New Jersey's OysterFest - September 6-8, 2013

Goldring Travel and Celebrity Cruises are co-sponsors of Asbury Park, New Jersey's 2013 OysterFest right at the Carousel Building and the Boardwalk by the beach.

Last year 15,000 people gathered on the Jersey Shore to celebrate what, tongue in cheek, can easily be described as "Modern Luxury"...so it only made sense for Celebrity Cruises to join the festivities.

OysterFest runs the entire weekend:
  • Friday - 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Saturday  - 12:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
  • Sunday - 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
There will be live music provided by 20+ bands, great food of all sorts - not just seafood - from 25 of the best restaurants and purveyors in the area (including The Lusty Lobster, Mumford's, and Bacon on Wheels), cooking demonstrations, and 60 vendors selling art and a whole lot more.  (A $3.00 admission charge applies.)

Come by and visit our large booth and say, "Hello".  We will have some incredible offers on Celebrity Cruises, giveaways (sorry, no free cruises), and lots of cruise information.  Goldring Travel has sailed on almost every Celebrity ship, and has traveled all over the world, so come with your questions and we will provide you with the answers!  

And, for a very limited number of folks:  Access to the VIP Cocktail Party with champagne and passed hors d'oeuvers.  I can't tell you how you might score a ticket, but booking a group or a Penthouse Suite on a 2013 European cruise just might do the trick!

If you have any questions about OysterFest or would like to talk about booking a Celebrity cruise, call me at (877) 2GO-LUXURY (or +1 732-578-8585) or email me at eric@goldringtravel.com

Crystal Symphony - Patricia Riley's Review: August 22-September 2, 2013 (Lisbon to Dover) - Part IV - Bordeaux and St. Emillion

My cruise on the Crystal Symphony continues sailing up the Garrone River to Bordeaux, France where the ship docked at noon on Tuesday and would remain docked in the center of town overnight. In September 2012 Eric Goldring gave you a perspective on Bordeaux that focused primarily on wine.  My perspective, however, is on the other things that Bordeaux has to offer including fantastic architecture, history and art. With the benefit of our overnight stay in Bordeaux, it allowed me enough time to explore beyond the city center.

It is said of Bordeaux that the view of the promenade, the old city gates and the riverfront buildings one sees today would be much the same as the sailors on trading ships, sailing up the Garonne River,  had seen in the 1800's.

The stunning cityscape of Bordeaux is thankfully not marred by skyscrapers popping up among the original buildings, many dating back to the 1700's.  The tallest building is the Cathedral St. Andre, (pictured below) whose soaring spire is the third highest in France.   What Notre Dame is to Paris, St. Andre is to Bordeaux.

Cathedral St.Andre in Bordeaux, France
Bordeaux is rich with museums including those dedicated to the fine arts (Musee des Beaux-Arts), the decorative arts (Musee des Arts Decoratifs) and the history of Aquitaine (Musee d'Aquitaine).   There is also the Centre Jean Moulin which is dedicated to those who fought in the French Resistance.

Bordeaux also offers a large public garden (Jardin Public) to stroll thru.  A short walk from that park brings you to a beautiful square, fashioned in the English Garden style that has a very bloody past.  That square is called Place Gambetta and it is here that over 300 people lost their heads to the sharp blade of the guillotine during the French Revolution.  Another must see is the classically inspired Grand Theater which sits on the eastern side of a square, Place de la Comedie, and was built on the site of a old Roman temple.

Construction started in 1773 and was completed seven years later.  Its columned entrance would be at home in either Rome or Athens. The Place de la Comedie is also the starting point of Rue Saint Catherine.  Almost a mile long, this pedestrian street is lined with popular French stores, such as Galleries Lafayette as well as smaller boutiques.  Of course you can also see the obligatory McDonald's.   It's hard to get the correct depth perception on the below picture of the street but it is quite a walk .  The street is also one of the entrances into Vieux Bordeaux

The Vieux Bordeaux (old Bordeaux) is the most popular area of Bordeaux.  Though the pedestrian shopping streets and plazas are crowded, just a block or two off the beaten path finds quiet streets and less crowded cafes.

Getting around Bordeaux is easy.  For the most part it is walkable, but for the further reaches, such as the furthest point of the public garden, or the train station,  the excellent tram system will whisk you around to wherever you need to go. A ride is only €1.40 and you can get on and off as much as you want for a period of 60 minutes.   After that you need to purchase another ticket.

Ticket kiosks are located at every tram stop, but a word of advice: Have euro coins with you. The kiosks do not take euro bills. They do give change for coins though.  Be sure to validate your ticket upon boarding the tram.  The validation machines are near the doors of the tram.  If you don't have a ticket, or don't validate your ticket you can be fined by one of the random ticket inspectors!

The tourist bureau offers one hour walking tours of old Bordeaux, year round  at 10:00am,  except on Wednesday and Saturday.     If you would rather explore without walking a fully narrated open top bus tour operates every day.  During July and August there are 11 departures during the day from 10:15am until 6:30pm.  The bus tour is an hour and costs €11.00. The benefit of the bus is that it crosses the Garonne River so you can see some of the sights across from Old Bordeaux.    You also have a lovely view of Bordeaux as you come back across the Pont Pierre, a magnificent bridge with 17 graceful arches.

Rumor has it the reason there are 17 arches is to honor Napolean.  Napoleon Bonaparte  had 17 letters in his name.  Unfortunately I couldn't get all 17 arches in the picture.  

The next day the Crystal Symphony left for Le Verdon, at 10:30am.  Le Verdon is not a port per se.  Those passengers that did not stay in Bordeaux were not allowed to disembark in Le Verdon.  It merely served as a pick up point.  (Crystal Cruises has put in place a very flexible schedule where longer cruises can be broken up into very short segments, so you can put together some very creative itineraries even if you only a few days.)

As the Garonne River is tidal entries and exits into Bordeaux have to be carefully coordinated. As a result the Crystal Symphony had to leave Bordeaux but not the area.  Those who wished to stay and enjoy Bordeaux's charms a little longer were offered a complimentary shuttle to meet up with the ship.  It left at 3:00pm from town and it was a two hour motorcoach ride through the Medoc wine region to reach and rejoin the ship.

One of the most popular side trips from Bordeaux is to St. Emilion.  It's very easy to get to using public transportation.  From the Place de la Bourse Tram Station, across the street and about a 5 minute walk south from where the ship docks, you will take Tram C in the direction of Gare St. Jean.  It's a less than 10 minute tram ride.  To get to St. Emilion from Gare St. Jean is a 40 minute train ride.  Fares are anywhere from €6.80 to €9.00 depending on time of day.  Senior discounts are available to those over 60.  The trains are operated by SNCF and there are ticketing kiosks in the station.  Again, coins only.  U.S issued credit cards pose a problem as SNCF requires a signature for the transaction.  If paying by credit card you can complete the transaction at the ticket office.  There are ticket windows that are marked with a British Flag indicating that English is spoken by those agents.  They are very helpful.

Trains run once an hour at about 4 minutes after the hour until the 2:04 pm train.  There is a not another train until 4:04 pm. Always check the train schedules before setting out as schedule changes do happen, especially seasonally.  Trains back to Bordeaux go at approximately 19 minutes after the hour.  The last train is at 8:19 pm.

The areas around train stations are not usually known for their scenic beauty.  A walk from a train station into the center of town sometimes is not the most pleasant.  That being said, the walk from the train station into St. Emilion is a very pleasant stroll through vineyards.

It's about a mile or so, once you turn right on the street in front of the station, before you reach the beginning of St. Emilion.

What I am about to say may be surprising as one always hears about how wonderful St. Emilion is.  I did not like it.  To me it seemed as if it were nothing but wine shops offering complimentary tastings.  The wine shops seemed to outnumber the other shops 10 to 1.  Even if you like wine and enjoy tastings I don't recommend tasting more then 1 or 2.  The reason is that the walking in the towns' streets is treacherous.

The picture below doesn't do justice to the steep incline and slippery surface of the cobblestones streets spread throughout the town.  Navigating while sober is a challenge.  I don't know how someone could do it being even slightly buzzed.

The Streets of St. Emilion are a Challenge...
Even Without Wine Tastings

The town itself is quaint and can be covered, easily, without wine stops,  in an hour and a half.  You can stroll around and make your way to the highest point.  You'll be rewarded with a lovely view over the rooftops of St. Emilion and the vineyards beyond.  I like this view as you can't see all the wine stores!  
The View from the Top of St. Emilion
It is an Unesco World Heritage Site and has played an extremely important role in the development of wine in the area.  I am glad I went as I was able to see and judge for myself.  Honestly, with so much to do and see in Bordeaux, the next time I will spend all of my time there.