As I write this, we are on a Viking River Cruise longship in Bordeaux, France. The occasion was the naming of 18 Viking Ships as Cruise Addicts reported earlier. After that ceremony in Avignon, we stayed aboard a Viking longship to send back some ideas about what it is like to be on a river cruise.
On Viking River Cruises, a trip ashore with a local guide is included at every port. There are few options to upgrade and pay more and those are appropriate. In Austria, for example, concerts are held nightly to the tune of Mozart, Beethoven and others. That might not be for everyone, but for those that crave classical music, it does not get much better than that.
The included Viking tour gives an overall orientation of where we are with free time to explore on our own. In Bordeaux, a walking tour of the city redefined any preconceived notions that Viking guests might have had before arriving.
Before visiting with Viking, I associated the word ‘Bordeaux’ with a wine region of France, much like many others; a place were some of the best wines in the world come from. But after an included walking tour with Viking River Cruises, I know better.
Part of Viking River Cruises new Chateaux, Rivers & Wine itinerary, the city of Bordeaux lines the banks of the Garrone River and has seen a grand transformation in the last decade. “It was torn up for about 8 years,” said Christine our English-speaking guide, a UK transplant who enjoys dual citizenship in both Great Britain and France.
Now, Bordeaux is a contrast in time. Kids skateboard; couples enjoy time in the sun; walkers, cyclists, runners and strollers line the riverfront where our Viking River Cruises longship, Viking Forseti is docked. But a few minutes walk away is architecture dating back to the 1700’s among a bustling pedestrian shopping district, the longest in Europe.
The entire city a UNESCO World Heritage site, Bordeaux has gone through a restoration that brings visitors from around the world, and for good reason. The gateway to a travel experience with fine wines and great food, Bordeaux could be a stand-alone destination.
“There is always something going on here,” said Christine as we peppered her with questions about traveler safety, what to do and where to go while we paused in the middle of Bordeaux to drink in the scene. Ending our 90-minute walking tour on a street lined with wine shops, we got a taste of what we would experience in the region.
Much more than ‘get on the bus and visit the vineyard’ exposure to Bordeaux, Viking begins with an orientation of the area then adds background information to bring guests up to speed about what they are going to experience. Christine’s enjoyable banter with us as we walked was like visiting with an old friend; just that comfortable. Just that typical of what Viking does and much like the “I’m home now” feeling of walking on to a Viking longship.